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This is something I wrote for a family friend in the Spring of 09, upon his matriculation into a college-prep leadership program. The prompt was to give age appropriate advice, so I wrote what I wished someone had known to tell me when I was still in high school. My posting this was triggered by another friend’s recent issues with motivating her son. This is for a teenager, but feel free to copy, edit, revise, etc. and deliver any relevant portions of it to any young person you think could benefit from it. If it helps your purpose, tell them you wrote it.

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I’m writing you to wish you well and to congratulate you on the successes that have marked your path to this point. I also want to share with you an insight that for me was very hard won, which I hope will be of due service to you at this point in your life. I want you to pause here and take note of the fact that you are in a position to take advantage of opportunities that young men all over this country and all over the globe, of every race and creed dream of — you have the opportunity to live up to your potential. Far too often a trap that young people of your ability fall into is the snare of ego and leisure. When our gifts allow us, for example, to get an A or a B with less effort than our peers may have to put in to get a C, we can easily fall into this trap of self-congratulation, accepting grades (an external and often capricious measurement of your work) as a stand-in for the only real measurement worth a damn in this world, which is whether or not you honestly, truly invested yourself fully in the task at hand.

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