Letter to a Teenager
As I was praying this morning, I started to focus on our young leadership at the church. I am impressed with these young people who are growing in their relationship with God. They still do stuff that I am baffled by often. Yet, if I sit and talk with them, I am impressed. It is actually fun and talk with our students at SEU and staff who are under twenty. The future is bright.
I asked myself “What would I write in a letter to a teenager today?” Below is my letter:
As you read this, the world is moving in many different directions. Things that seem normal today have the potential to change. How you grow and adapt with that change is imperative to your future and those around you. Becoming the leader you are called to be requires development and maturity. This will take intentional effort, time and resources. The good news is that you have all that you need to do that. You are strong, smart and more than capable of accomplishing everything before you. Below are some principles that will help you in your journey.
Learn to ask questions and more importantly, the right questions that will be a catalyst for others to grow. A person who asks questions conveys a heart that is humble and seeking growth. This is essential to anyone who wants to excel and lead others. The ability to ask the right questions is that extra step that separates good leaders from dynamic, excellent leaders. In life’s situations, take that extra moment to think and ponder all that is involved. Then, ask the questions that will “laser in” on the best growth possible. You can do this!
Learn people’s names and stories. Every person you come in contact with presents an opportunity to grow and enhance your life. It doesn’t matter if that person is young or old, similar or different, likeable or challenging – you can learn from everyone. People appreciate when someone knows their name. Do your best and you will still be miles ahead of most people. In learning someone’s story, you can use this line – “Tell me 30 seconds about your life story.” If you start by using 30 seconds of your own life, you will be amazed what they share with you. And you will be better because of it!
Learn to celebrate other people’s wins. This was a hard one for me but I love seeing some tremendous results because of it. The more you can genuinely be happy for other people when they “win”, you will be able to enjoy your own wins even more. It is healthy and keeps jealousy at bay. The world is competitive enough as it is. Genuinely celebrating someone else is a great attribute for any leader.
Have hard conversations today. As you grow, you will encounter tough situations and people. It is a part of life and the sooner you implement this principle, the more you will enjoy freedom in your leadership. You cannot blast people out of the water with sarcasm, insensitivity or just being crass. You can honestly tell them what you observe and feel about a situation. When you are honest, people know exactly where they stand with you. To me, it shows great honor to someone when you are honest with him.
Understand that you can disagree with someone and still respect them. This is a big one in our world today. I am grateful that people have different views than mine and are willing to share them. If done disrespectfully, angrily or belligerently, I have a hard time engaging. When I can have a dialogue with someone who is open to discussing the topic, then it is a time of insight and understanding that brings a new perspective. Even if I don’t agree with their views, I now see a different side of the situation. The ability to see anything from multiple views allows you to build relationship with a great variety of people.
Be curious and explore as many opportunities as you can. Not the unhealthy ones that are destructive to you but the ones that open you up in new ways. There are so many ways to learn through classes, cohorts, symposiums, online gatherings and round tables. Culturally, there are plays, concerts, museums, festivals and athletics. Travel provides so many environments like the mountains, beaches, small towns, big cities, rural towns and landmark locations. The only thing stopping you in experiencing these things is you. Explore now and find out what you enjoy so you can do more of it when life gets busier.
Finally, own and grow your relationship with God. No one can do this for you and you cannot ride your parent’s coattails in this area. You are coming to a place where you will have to determine, “What do I believe?” Take some time to really pray and determine what your core beliefs about God are centered on today. You are entering a time where they will be challenged, and you need to know what you believe before the challenge comes. When it does, stand firm.
These things have the potential to give you foundational tools to develop for the rest of your life. You may already be doing some of them or moving in the direction to really do them well. I am so proud of you as a young person who impacts so many people already. I will be watching as God continues to empower you to grow personally and be a catalyst for other’s growth.
Go get ‘Em!