An Open Letter to My Younger Brother

Dear Roy,

You are just a few months from graduating and I can’t express how excited I am for you. It is also the beginning of a new year so it is a great time to reflect and start fresh.

This year I wasn’t able to buy you something for the holidays so I decided to write you a letter. The intent, however, is the same; to give you something that can be of use to you throughout the year.

As you finish up your college career, I hope that you begin to reflect on your experiences and really enjoy the last few months. Make sure you do something you haven’t tried yet like joining the Improv club, hosting a radio show, or taking a sailing class. I myself have only been out of school for about a year and a half but I can already tell you that the “real world” is quite a doozy.

I took the past few weeks to think about some of the most important lessons I learned during my last year at UC Irvine and up to today. I don’t think that by simply reading them that you will automatically understand them but I hope reading them is enough to nudge you in their direction. I chose the five that I think are most relevant to where you currently are and that you can apply to your day-to-day.

Take the following with a grain of salt, but if any of these ring true, do give them a chance to grow on you.

1. Develop a sense of gratitude

This seems like something that should be fairly easy to do, but it does require your daily effort. It is easy to say that you are grateful for something but much harder to sincerely feel a sense of gratitude. As for me, I’m still working hard to truly understand what this means but I can confidently say that I have come a very long way. Developing a sense of gratitude has helped me through many difficult times because it allows me to pause and realize how fortunate I am to be where I am today.

2. Be confident in your capacity to think for yourself

As I am sure you have read in many places, we live in a time with a lot of distraction and where everyone wants to get our attention (even this letter is trying to do that). Everyone wants to be at the top of your mind or at least make you aware of their existence. So, being able to develop this skill provides so many benefits in your day-to-day life. To me it simply means feeling confident in your ability to say yes or no to things based on your own conscious decisions.

3. Lead with your feet

When I was leading TEDxUCIrvine and doing work with different startups I began to notice something very interesting. People love to have the glory but they never want to take care of the terrain. I myself have fallen victim to this many times; I give an idea but then don’t want to do the work. It’s hard to look in the mirror at times and recognize that one is doing it. We also start to become very good at using our mouth and arms to lead and direct people instead of doing the work ourselves. If you can begin to hone in on your capacity to lead with your feet, as in, lead with your direct effort and contribution, you’ll develop the resiliency that will serve you well in the years to come.

4. If you are not curious, you are not living

Before starting my first year at UC Irvine I had the opportunity to listen to a great talk by Said Shokair, Director of UROP, during one of the freshmen welcome sessions. Essentially he challenged us to not allow ourselves to become robots that just take in inputs and produce outputs. He said that being curious would take us a long way and is the gateway to life long learning. After giving this challenge a lot of thought, I developed a motto for myself that I continue to use to this day: “If you are not curious, you are not living.” It reminds me to not become a robot.

5. Place your focus on developing transcendent skills

This one probably sounds a bit weird but it is one that I have only realized in the past year after being asked over and over why I was doing what I was doing. I’m a huge believer in the fact that your 20s are your time to explore and not conform to anything. In fact, I think it should be illegal to get a job in whatever you graduated in until you are 30 but that story is for another time. Anyways, transcendent skills are those that you can apply across the board in a multitude of disciplines and/or industries. Transcendent skills usually come in the presence of frameworks and mindsets. One of the reasons why I chose to get out of the civil engineering design job that I had was because I was having a lot of trouble identifying frameworks and mindsets as my work seemed so focused and repetitive. Mind you my impatience probably didn’t help, but I switched to sales because I understood it to have a much broader context. Every single business in the world needs to sell…not every business needs to know how to tie into a sewer line. It’ll be fun to see how this one plays out for me in the years to come.

As my little brother I have always loved to bother and tease you, but most importantly I have really enjoyed watching you become the man you are today. Even though you are taller than me, to me, you will always be the baby Roy that waved when asked, “What sound does Mickey Mouse make?”


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