For Teens: Sage Advice!

Trust yourself. Listen to your own inner voice. Nobody knows you better than you, so if you’ve got a dream, play it out. Destiny is often determined by our choices and actions, so give destiny a hand and take yourself in the direction you want to go. Give credence to the inner voice that you’ve been listening to since you were a child. It’s real. It’s you. And it knows a lot better than your conditioning exactly what you want to and ought to be doing with your life. You only live once, no matter what the eastern philosophies say. Take ownership of your freedom and create the life you want to live, not the life that might be expected of you or the life you think you have to live in order to get by, to be successful or to do it right.

Background: I come from a broken home and dysfunctional family dynamic. I grew up on both sides of the track, loved, tossed aside, treasured, pressured, ignored, poor and privileged. Rebelling in private school, I spent a lot of time on the streets, but I excelled in public school electives of psychology and music. I was blessed with a good head on my shoulders when I chose to apply it. Scoring in the top two percentile on my asvab’s, I was offered college tuition, officer’s candidate schooling upon graduation and my choice of station and job training in the US Army. I was an idealist, a romantic, a visionary, an adventurous spirit, a loner and a misfit. I had callings and cravings for the Orient, the spiritual and the exotic. I was pulled in several directions, with dreams conflicting aspirations, but ultimately when the fork in the road presented itself, on the day I graduated high school, instead of pursuing the road that would’ve seen me become an airborne ranger working towards a career in military intelligence and the CIA, I sold my car and left America for the deserts of Israel, my first stop on what would become an incredible journey of self-discovery.

Invest. Almost any path you choose in life is going to require money and nothing beats the power of compound interest to generate money. You probably know this; you’ve heard it all before. ‘Save 10–30% of your take home pay. Put it in a mutual fund or other’. It’s true. Do something to let your earnings grow for you. If you’re a reader, Tony Robbins has a book out called Money: Master of the Game in which he interviews all the modern wealth masters and condenses their advice for building fortunes and managing money, and what’s best about the book is it’s written for the lay person, the person without a lot to start with, as well as the person of means. Some big life events are coming down the line. You want to establish a foothold early. Beware of putting yourself into debt and start getting smart about how to set yourself up right. That means, for instance, for the price of a couple cups of Starbucks, $10-$20/week, you could get started on a variety of investment portfolios. Talk to someone who knows – maybe your parents, maybe a teacher, mentor or friend. Fast-tracking through crypto or day-trading is not for everyone. Beware of pyramid schemes. Index funds are a long-term safe bet. Research! 

Background: When I left the States it was without any safety net at all. There was no family home to return to. My particular circumstance saw a family unit that would contribute more to my instability than anything else and it was something I had to remove myself from if I was going to succeed at this thing called life. But literally, being passed between homes for 17 years, I really had no place to return to. I had no savings, no assets, no possessions of value. I had a backpack, $500 cash and a ticket to Israel, which by way of a much longer story, saw me on to Japan by the time I was 20 and the Himalayas by 24. That 4 years between countries was full of work and relationships and life in the Orient of my dreams. It’s the stuff that a life in pursuit of dreams is made of, a romantic, adventurous life of ups and downs, twists and turns. But in pursuit of the dream, for better or for worseI did not have my eye on the coin, and just a little foresight might’ve helped. Fast forward 26 years. I’m 50 this year. When my wife was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer nine years ago, I hadn’t saved a penny. It was the fire that got my ass in motion towards financial stability. Longer story short, I worked 5 jobs to help her through that, and she did get through just fine, with no chemo or hormone therapy allowing her to birth our child just a few years later. My attention firmly on financial goals showed me the path of entrepreneurship and lead me to study up on money making and has allowed me to finance a good home to bring up our child as well as give her parents a place to be in their last years. No 401k’s here in Japan, I’ve still found the right avenues to insure our retirement and have enough left over for baby’s own life events and a decent inheritance.

Love. Love honestly and fully. Express yourself to your partner. Don’t play hide and seek. Remember the inner voice – if the relationship is toxic, get out fast. Check yourself. Are you nurturing the relationship? Is it nurturing you? Are your needs being met? Are you meeting the needs of your partner? Are you communicating? Don’t be afraid to fight sometimes; open up and show yourself. Respect your partner. Listen. And talk. Control your anger by about 10% if you have a quick fuse. Understand the benefits of a time out sometimes. Touch. Remember how powerful your smile is. Assess honestly who you are with. Are the two of you going in the same direction? Is somebody giving up too much for the other? Don’t blow off your dreams for your love interest, but don’t suppose that your love interest needs to be blown off for your dreams either. Forgive, yourself and your partner. Make time for each other no matter what.

Background: I’m happily married with my wife now for twenty years. We dated and lived together for almost a decade before getting married; it was I who couldn’t commit due to my extended periods of stay in India. But eventually I settled down and realized the stability of life and roots that I wasn’t afforded growing up. In fact, that stability, warmth and security given to children in normal upbringings is a treasure in the firm foundation it offers and sends us off into life with strength and confidence. So if yours is one of those homes filled with love, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Go do your life, but remember to call home and go home to see mom and dad sometimes. They really do (most happily) give their life for you, a feeling you may appreciate when you have kids. And if your life hasn’t been rosy up to now, don’t let that be an excuse to keep you down. You are free to do and be as you will. Anyway, I digress. One point I wanted to make is that before my current relationship and circumstance, there was another woman. I left her high and dry when I met my destiny in India. And it might not have had to be like that if I’d had a bit more emotional intelligence at the time. Who knows? There was a lot of this and that to the relationship, but it wasn’t toxic by any means. Communication sucked, mainly because I was domineering and couldn’t share myself the way a healthy relationship demands. Looking back, if I knew then what I know now, things would certainly be a lot different. It’s not a bad thing that I left that woman at that time, but the hurt that I caused and the pain and confusion that I personally suffered could have been avoided if I had taken the time to open up and share my dreams with her.

Polish your skill. Whether out in the world or in the home, take pride in what you do and polish your skill. An attitude of professionalism and impeccable attention to your craft will reap as much benefit for the businessperson as it will for the home-maker. Study your art with deep interest. Master craftsmen polish their abilities until the day they die. Parents really start learning in earnest the day their child is born and if we’re alert, interested, watching and listening intently the degree of opportunity for self-development offered by the child’s innocence and honesty is tremendous. Out in the world, do your best to develop the trade or craft you were meant for. The way this world is set up, you need to have a trade or a craft that puts food on the table. If you’re not making money with your art yet, you must develop a parallel trade-craft that is going to see you attend to your life responsibilities. If you’re doing the life solo as a carefree hippie, that’s totally cool. I did it myself for a while. But even life on a commune or off grid in a camper comes with its own set of challenges, so the advice still applies. Polish your skill set.

Background: My overwhelming ambition in life was on the path of the spiritual and that took me finally all the way up into the Himalayas where I would embark on the path and life of a yogi. And my master would send me back into the life after a few months training and I would have to make ends meet before our next meeting. Like this, two decades passed. I could practice my art anywhere in the world; yoga is not confined to the mountaintop. So during my off time back in Japan, I turned to teaching, primarily because one, I had not mastered the language yet and, two, I had no interest in business. Perhaps it is because I was enamored with my own teacher in India, or the fact that among my high school teachers, several commanded my respect while so many others were really terrible, but for me, teaching soon became a sacred mission, to offer precision and value, support and knowledge. It was a vehicle to share a very great love. The more I learned from my Master, the more I became able to share in language relevant to the classrooms I taught in. I began to educate myself, putting myself through college and developing my teaching self to a level that soon actually became sought after. I took a great pride in my craft and my students’ feedback confirmed it. Now, I head up learning and development in a major hotel brand here with over 20,000 employees, and the master teacher in me still has places to go yet. I’m still polishing myself as I get ready to launch into the world of online education soon.

Life is a blessing. Being born free is a blessing. Being of able body and mind is a blessing. If you are reading this and have these blessings, I smile for you. And I wish you a very happy 2020s. May your vision and all your decisions be 20/20 these years and may love and blessings upon blessings carry you forward into your life.