Just before graduation, the seniors at my high school go on a retreat where they receive letters from their families. Parents, grandparents, and siblings write about how proud they are, how much they care, and what they hope for the graduate’s future. I read mine with tears in my eyes.

Bethany’s younger brother just had his retreat, and she’d asked me if I could think of any man-to-man stuff that might not occur to a big sister. I marinated on it for a few days, and figured I’d pass the results on to my younger brothers and to you.

  1. Everything will be fine in the end, no matter what.

    You’re unbelievably lucky to have a family that will always be there for you. Many aren’t so fortunate. You have the ultimate freedom – no matter what you do or where you end up, you know your family will help support you. That’s one less set of worries attached to each risk you take. You owe it to yourself and to them to make the most of it.

  2. Good stuff happens when you say yes.

    When confronted with an unexpected opportunity, I’m usually hesitant – maybe just for a split second, or sometimes the decision is harder, and I think about it longer. When in doubt, do it. I’ve NEVER in all my life regretted taking the chance and doing something instead of nothing. Keep in mind that good stuff happens not only outside your place, but outside your comfort zone.On another note, if making a decision is taking a long time, it’s because the options are roughly equally good, meaning you’re likely to be satisfied with either option. Go for the more exciting one.

    Also, think about how you’ll look back on it 5 years from now. Will you regret not doing it and wish you had?

  3. Don’t settle (in love or anything else).

    Many people end up entering or staying in relationships because they’re comfortable. Relate to as many people as you can so you have a good sense of what’s out there and what you want in the people around you. Do the same for situations, activities, anything.

  4. Life is a value exchange.

    Value may seem like a hazy concept, but it flows all around us as we interact with others. Next time you’re talking to someone, ask yourself, “What value is each of us getting out of this?”

    People hang out with you because you provide value, like an awesome attitude, a great sense of humor, or knowledge of the coolest events. You derive value from them too.

    Jobs pay you because you create value by working, and they provide value in the money and perks they provide to facilitate your lifestyle .Being conscious of this and trying to maximize the value you provide will help you be a better friend, teammate, partner, and person in general.

  5. Don’t be afraid to start small.

    I spend a lot of time online, and there’s always something I want that doesn’t exist. Being a developer, I can often just make it myself.

    All the mp3 players for blogs sucked, so I made a better one in a weekend. Now it’s been downloaded 60,000 times and people pay me (more than I make at my job) to customize it for them. I never imagined that would come from something so small.

    Jeff worked at a bulk coffee roaster where he received coffee shipments on pallets. The pallets would pile up, then he’d have to go out of his way to dispose of them, and he saw other companies in his industrial park had the same problem. He asked around and figured out he could charge a few dollars per pallet to remove them, then he could sell them to someone else for a few dollars more. The few businesses around his office would make him around $400 a month. If that situation existed everywhere, he could service a few areas and have a solid business. If it only existed there, he’d be one step closer to supporting himself independently with multiple little businesses.

    Maybe you’re looking for a club at school and it doesn’t exist. Start it! Shayen loves acrobatic yoga and juggling, so he started a “circus arts” get-together on Sundays behind Barton Springs in Austin. Now hundreds of people come, DJs spin, and it’s a huge party with all the things he loves.

    Starting small is satisfying in and of itself and can lead to big things. Also, not everything you’re going to do will be successful, so (like dating) it’s best to start getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t as soon as possible.

  6. Set goals, no matter how loose.

    Anderson was sleeping on the futon for a couple months while he saved up for a van in which he’d live and travel the country. Without concentrating on the timeline, he’d save a little here and there. He bought a van on the exact day he’d originally intended without realizing it.

    When I visited Rachel last year, San Francisco just felt right. Ready for a change after ten years in Austin, I half-decided to come out for a few months and give it a try. Though there was little conviction and no conscious effort, I eventually found myself speeding toward California exactly when I’d said I would.

    Your goals won’t magically manifest Secret-style, but you’ll subconsciously move toward the plans you keep in the back of your mind. Keep something good back there.