Letter to my son (not that he’ll read it)

Okay, kid, I know you’re only 14, but it’s never too early to start thinking about what kind of man you want to be. As you know, I’ve let you have plenty of fun up until now, thinking it’s good for boys to enjoy their childhood without too much pressure, but now’s the time to start developing some positive habits that will help you.

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Adulthood will be here before you know it, and it’s not going to be easy to find a place in the world.
As a college teacher, I’ve seen a disturbing trend among young people: Girls in my classes are confident, ambitious, responsible, and focused. Boys often seem lost, awkward, disinterested or sad.
Times will probably get tough at some time during your adult life, and your community will need good, smart men to help lead it into the future.
So here are seven simple rules to guide you.
1. You’re special, but not that special. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no one is going give you money, raises and promotions just for being you — a funny, charming, intelligent young man. You’ll always be special to your family and friends, but to the rest of the world — not so much. What will separate you from the pack is not your natural gifts. It’s what you do with them. You can do almost anything you put your mind to, but not everything. You will probably never be a movie star, a famous rapper, or president, but the odds are pretty good that if you work hard enough, you can be happy and fulfilled as a businessman, teacher, mechanic, doctor, farmer, lawyer, nurse, engineer, craftsman or artist.
2. Everything in moderation. It’s best to avoid bad habits in order to save money and brain cells and make the most of your brief time on earth. If something with inherent danger brings joy to your life, use it within limits. Obsession is for boys, not men, whether it’s TV, video games, junk food, sex, gambling, sports, or drugs and alcohol. Know when to say when, and if you ever reach the point where you can’t stop yourself, get help.
3. Be healthy. Most people in our society get fat during their 20s and 30s. Don’t be one of them. Develop smart eating habits and an exercise routine that will keep you fit for life. Walk, run, swim, bike or play tennis. Golf counts, but not if you drive a cart.
4. Learn a skill. Every man should know how to build something, fix something, or produce something that has value. You also may need something to fall back on if tough times hit and you can’t get paid to dress in a suit and talk on the phone. Learn gardening, welding, carpentry, computers, mechanics, plumbing — or a little of everything. Raise chickens, make hay or cut firewood.
5. Make art. Everyone needs a way to express themselves creatively. Play an instrument, sing in a choir, learn to dance, paint, act or take good photos. Work with wood, or landscape your house. Never underestimate the importance of beauty.
6. Love women. Women are incredible, and their contributions to history and society are still overlooked and underestimated. Women are also beautiful, but that should never be their most important quality in your eyes. Love them, respect them, and admire them for all their virtues and attributes. If you marry one, put her first — not because she’s a woman, but because you’re a man. Do the same for your kids and your friends.
7. Follow the golden rule. Regardless of the religious beliefs and practices you adopt, one simple phrase will likely be part of it and will serve you well: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If the whole world ran by that simple rule, life would be better for everyone.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

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