An Entrepreneur's Letter To His Son
As a father, I’ve taken to writing letters to my son in an attempt to document the lessons I’ve learned throughout my time as an entrepreneur.
So far, I’ve kept all of these private, but given the state of the world and some of my experiences as of late I thought it would be appropriate to share with my readers.
When you were born, I promised you that I would do everything in my power to guide you through life and help you to grow into a good man. I knew I would make mistakes along the way, but I held to the belief that by sharing my faults, fears, and hard-won lessons with you, those mistakes would not be in vain.
You’re only seven years old right now, and I know it’s unlikely you’ll read or appreciate this until life gets ahold of you and challenges your innocence.
Still, it is a sad fact of life that you never know what the future holds or how much time you’ll be given in this world, so I want to share with you a few lessons that I’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur.
It’s only fair that you benefit from what I’ve learned. Entrepreneurship takes a heavy toll on families, and you’ve had to endure your fair share of sacrifices as I’ve worked long hours, experienced incredible stress, and had to share my time with others.
There are three lessons that I want to share with you at this point in my life. While each experience is unique, there is one overarching theme that binds them together. That theme is simple: in life, character is king.
Lesson 1: True happiness comes from doing the right thing, not from money or success
As I’ve built BodeTree over the years, I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs. I’ve always done my best to shield you from the struggles, but sometimes I let the emotional roller coaster get the best of me.
In the short-term, business can seem like a zero-sum game. If you act with integrity, compassion, and empathy, odds are you’ll often find yourself on the losing end of the equation. I used to tell myself that in the long-run, integrity is rewarded, but I now know that isn’t exactly the case. Sometimes, the people who lie, cheat, and still end up coming out ahead, at least in a monetary sense.
If you find yourself doing the right thing because you think it will result in a reward of some kind, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The hard truth is that living the values you hold dear may result in material hardship. Don’t let this deter you.
The best things in life are, in fact, free. Integrity may not pay off in terms of money, influence, or power, but always remember that it is the one thing that cannot be taken away from you. The happiest people I’ve ever encountered draw their happiness not from what they’ve obtained, but rather from the inner joy that comes from being at peace.
Peace cannot come from external adulation, status, or any traditional definition of success. It comes from within, borne out of honesty, love, and integrity.
Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to show remorse
You’re going to make mistakes. There’s no way around that harsh fact. When you do, don’t be afraid to show remorse. Nothing is more damaging in life than refusing to acknowledge your faults and failings.
We are led to believe that remorse is a sign of weakness or an admission of guilt that will somehow be used against you. I’ve learned that it’s nothing of the sort. Remorse, it turns out, is the prerequisite to mercy.
Some of the most boneheaded, damaging decisions I’ve ever seen have stemmed from a refusal to recognize one ’s failings. Whether it’s in regards to a legal matter, business relationship, or anything else, I want you to have the courage to admit when you’re wrong.
As with integrity, self-awareness and remorse are not always rewarded. However, I promise you that these values will lead to an inner peace that transcends any of the trivial matters you’ll encounter in business.
Lesson 3: No matter what happens, strive to be a good man
Life is going to throw you curveballs. There will be times when bad guys win, and honor seems to be in short supply. You’ll experience the temptation to give in and start playing by the world’s rules. You may even suffer hardship and failure when you do the right thing.
Make no mistake, this will be painful, but do not give in. Surround yourself with people you trust, respect, and admire, and hold firm when the world gets you down.
Don’t strive to be a perfect leader, entrepreneur, or businessman; instead, I want you to strive to be a good man. Remember that no matter how difficult circumstances become, or how dark the world can look at any point in time, there is good out there.
We have no idea how much time we’ll be given in this life. It can be so full of twists and turns that in the long-run, no one circumstance matters nearly as much as we may be led to think.
However, if you focus on being a good man, you will always have the peace and strength you need to survive. Character is king. In fact, it’s all you have in this life. Everything else can be taken from you in an instant. Whether you choose to become an entrepreneur like me or something else entirely, the lessons hold true. It doesn’t matter what career path you end up picking; how you choose to do things will always be more important than what you decide to do.