Thoughts from an Elder Millennial to His Younger Millenial Brother

A few weeks ago I watched my brother graduate from college. I remember when I graduated from college 13 years ago and he was still a little kid — how time flies. I’ve written some advice I shared with him as he embarks on the next exciting chapters of his life.

  1. Find the important people in your life.

Acquaintances and digital friends and social media likes aren’t the same thing as true friends. The important people in your life show up when you need them most. They challenge you; they celebrate with you, and they help you grow. Find those people who will lift you up when you are down, who will make time to listen and ask the tough questions, and who clear their schedules when you need to talk about something important. They’re the ones that laugh with you, cry with you, and call you out when needed. Find those people in your life who truly show up for you — and then hold on to them tightly.

2. It’s okay to cry.

When you were young, you were told, “Boys don’t cry.” That quickly turns into, “Real men don’t cry.” And both statements are wrong. Real men show emotions — which means not only are you allowed to cry, but it’s healthy to do so. We were given a range of emotions for a reason — don’t be embarrassed or afraid to show them.

3. Don’t believe the lies about what it means to be a “Real Man.”

This goes back to #2. Don’t believe the lies people tell you about what makes a real man. Being a real man doesn’t mean you have to consume lots of alcohol or drink your coffee black or be able to bench press a lot of weight or have a big fancy title at work. Real men are kind and thoughtful, they keep their word; they stand up for others, and they take responsibility for their actions.

4. Give back.

Focus on more than just yourself. In this day and age when it’s all about individualism — being self reliant and self-centered and pursuing one’s dreams — remember to help those who are in need. Give back, whether it’s by volunteering with a nonprofit, helping a neighbor, cleaning up a park, getting involved in your community, or making a financial donation.

5. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Learn where the other side is coming from and engage in healthy dialogue and discussion. It’s ok to disagree with people. And it’s ok for them to disagree with you. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of having your mind changed — even when you think you’re right.

6. Chase experiences, not money or things.

“Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die.”

— “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

There’s more to life than money. Yes, you need money to take care of yourself and save for the future and do some things you love, but experiences are the things you’ll remember. Think of happiest and most fulfilling moments from your life so far — I can almost guarantee it involves experiences with family and friends and things you were doing with people — and not money or having material possessions.

7. Move your body.

Whether it’s biking to school or work, running in the park, going to the gym, or flowing through a yoga class, move your body every day. It’s good for your body, mind, and soul. Get into a habit now — your older self will thank you.

8. Always learn something new.

Whether it’s learning the guitar, picking up a new language, learning how to cook, or learning to code, always challenge yourself to learn something new. And learning a new video game doesn’t count — just stop playing those.

9. Don’t get locked into the short term.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” — Bill Gates

You don’t have to build an app before age 25 or be a CEO by 29. And while your 30s and 40s may seem like they’re an eternity away, and you’ll accomplish nothing of significance when you’re ‘old’, don’t believe it. Since you’re an engineer, I’ll remind you this stat — the average age a scientist wins the Nobel Prize is 59.

10. Have tough conversations in person.

Whether it’s with a friend, co-worker, manager, or someone you’re in a relationship with. Don’t do it over video chat, or via email, or through a text. If you can do it in person, always do it that way.

A version of this post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Photo credit: Andrew Hutchinson