Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough,
Welcome to 2016. This begins your eighth year with us. I think you would agree that at this point in time, life has been better than good. May it remain so.
Today, you are sowing the seeds for your future. Of course, nobody can predict what that future will be. Hopefully, there will be many good days ahead, but you can be sure there will also be some that will challenge everything you believe. Be grateful when the times are good and be sturdy when the going gets tough.
You seem to have been born with an insatiable curiosity — be it untangling multisyllabic words, solving math problems or gleaning some fact about the mysterious universe in which we reside. It helps that you have a family that encourages you to learn and applauds you when you do.
Continue to learn all you can about everything you can and never stop learning — be it in the classroom, at the dinner table or on your way to the grocery store. Never be afraid to ask a question if you don’t know the answer. The only dumb questions are the ones we hesitate to ask. Never take anything at face value if it doesn’t make sense to you. “Why?” is a good question and “Because I said so” is not an acceptable answer.
Whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities. Halfway is not an option. You can’t excel at everything, but you can make the effort. You will fail on occasion, but that is to be expected. The only people who don’t fail are the ones afraid to take the risk. When you do fail, consider it a learning experience and try not to make the same mistake twice.
Always dream big. One of my favorite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” Somebody dreamed we could one day land men on the moon. And we have. Somebody dreamed we would one day communicate instantly with people across the world. And we can. Today, somebody is dreaming they are going to cure cancer or become president of the United States or win the Masters. Why not? The future belongs to the dreamers.
Don’t waste a day. Live it to the fullest. The two things we can’t control are yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday has happened and we can’t get it back, and we don’t know what tomorrow holds. In fact, we have no guarantees that there will be a tomorrow. Yet we spend most of our time grinding over what has occurred in the past and fretting about what we think may happen tomorrow. Take each day as a precious gift and go to bed a better person than when you awoke in the morning. By the way, don’t go to bed mad. You might just wake up mad and you will have wasted two days you can never retrieve. I speak from experience.
Nothing you acquire in your lifetime will be more valuable than your good name. Take care of it. Everything you do — good or bad — will reflect not only on you but on your family as well. Don’t forget that.
Before you are tempted to make a questionable choice in life, trust your gut. Your inner self will always know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. The challenge is to listen. Don’t rationalize. Don’t compromise. Don’t go along just to get along. Be your own person.
Be confident in your abilities but don’t be boastful. Don’t exaggerate. If you are good at what you do, it will show and there will be no need to have to tell others. To me, there is nothing better than quiet confidence and nothing worse than false bravado. Let your actions, not your words, speak for you.
Trust in God. This universe didn’t just happen. There is a power larger than us at work. I believe that with all my heart. I hope you will, too.
Every year that I write this letter, I wonder if it will be my last one. I hope not. I am excited about your potential and would love to be able to hang around awhile to see how you do. From what I have seen thus far, I am very optimistic. Keep up the good work.
Happy New Year,
Contact Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; and online at dickyarbrough.com or facebook.com/dickyarb.