Empathy and Sports
My dearest Maya,
On International Women’s Day and as part of the Leaders and Daughters program, a dear friend of mine asked if I would be willing to write a letter to you and publish it to the public. I hope you don’t mind that I did this. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so I jumped at a chance to write this letter and share some of my thoughts with you.
I truly hope that by the time you enter the workforce in around a decade, the world is a better place. That you do not have to think about a world where there is a gender gap in wages for like work. I hope some of what your mother is trying to do with her Girls Will Be clothing line and my Trustee role with TechGirlz means that you enter adulthood in world that will not see you or your brother as a boy or a girl but rather as individuals with skills and intelligence and spirit and energy.
Like every father has for their son or daughter, I have so many hopes and dreams for you. Happiness, healthy friendships and a loving family are foremost. I hope that as a parent I have shown you each of these in the way I lead my own life. I have tried to balance living in the moment (too much living in the moment can be reckless) with an understanding that decisions we make today have ramifications in the future (the future is not guaranteed).
I think about how you interact with people in such an inclusive way as a pre-teen, and I know, at your core, that is who you are. I can see how amazing you will be with that as an anchor point as an adult. You truly are a friend to all, and I hope you realize how special that is and continue to have that level of empathy in life as you grow into a teenager, and then, a woman. Empathy is an incredible asset in the workplace and will set you apart. Seeing things from others points of view will help you become a colleague that people will want to be around and a leader that people will want to follow. The work place rewards not just smarts and hard work but also collaboration. Your natural proclivity to empathize with people will help you become very good at whatever you choose to do.
As a competitive athlete at a young age, you have seen competition and teamwork and camaraderie. You’ve lost some heartbreaking games and been part of some incredible wins. I watched you score 16 (or was it 18) of your basketball team’s 21 points in a two-point overtime win. You then played an even better game when you only scored two points in your team’s loss the very next game because you played great defense and rebounded the ball and passed the ball so effectively despite playing on a rolled ankle. If you show the fight, toughness, and bravery you showed that day (and so many other moments that likely only a parent ever notices) in your life, you will go very far.
I hope those lessons you learned on the sports fields stick with you through out your life whether that is on another field, in the classroom, or in the workplace. I hope you enjoy the camaraderie that sports brings throughout your life as I have. I hope you always strive to win while respecting that competition also means that you will lose too. I hope you win and lose with the same dignity and grace that I’ve seen from you in your childhood. It is ok to lose, and its ok to be sad when you lose. Just make sure you pick yourself up, do the hard work to push for a different result, and try again. There are few moments in my life where I have derived more personal satisfaction than after overcoming a loss or a mistake or worse. Persevering, working hard, and learning from my mistakes made me a better person, a better leader, a better father, a better friend, and a better businessman. I wish you have the same experiences in your life too.
I’ve learned in my career and in my life that you have to set goals. I will always encourage you to have a couple of audacious goals in your life. That said, those goals can not be fixed but must evolve as you grow. It is even ok if you never achieve some of the goals. But you must dream of doing big things and then making the effort to try to make those dreams a reality. It took me a long time to learn that it is ok to dream big and fail (and even with this knowledge, I still struggle with it). The journey is way more important than the destination and as long as you remember that, you will be ok.
I am so proud of you. I also expect a lot of you. I believe in you today and believe in what you will be as you continue to grow. So believe in yourself. The world will be a better place because of what you do and who you are.
I will always love you… no matter what.