What Would You Say?
All week I’ve heard about this article that Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrote to his 16 year old self. A CBS News project that aired September 12, 2012.
As reported by the media, other Nascar fans and friends, it’s a very moving insight from one of racing’s premier drivers. It reflects on relationships, worries, his career and it even has some humor tossed in for good measure.
It is indeed a very moving reflection from a man who is not comfortable with being in the limelight each and every time he steps through the door. And it made me wonder, if you wrote a letter to your 16 year old self, what would you say?
One of the most poignant lines in his letter that hit home for me was: “You’re there, worried about me here.”
It caused me to think about how much time we waste worrying about things that may never happen, scared to take the chance on that first step on our way to finding out what we can accomplish. One of my favorite things to tell people in my practices is: “We can’t go back and change the past, but we can change the way we allow the past to affect our present and our future.” That starts by living life in the now, to the fullest and without worrying about the failures that “might” cross your path. You will never grab the brass ring, if you don’t take the chance to reach for it in the first place.
Here is a transcript of Jr’s letter to himself:
“Now writing this letter to you is going to force me to think pretty deeply about my life, and you know thinking deeply was never one of your favorite activities. You always did and always will shoot for the C on your report card. Anything more than that is always going to be a surprise to you, right?
“You just got your driver’s license . . . your heart belongs to no one . . . and you’re going to spend a lot of nights in the bed of your S10 pickup truck out in the field staring up at the stars worrying about your future. Your father’s accomplishments on the race track already cast a pretty heavy shadow over your existence. He’s going to accomplish more in the years to come and your fear of living anonymously and forgotten — that’s going to grow.
“You don’t have much of a connection to your mother … your efforts in that regard are disappointing. In the future, she is going to become a consistent and prominent figure in your life . . . but you shouldn’t waste the years in between, because her love is the truly unconditional kind. You shouldn’t take it for granted.
“Living under your father’s roof doesn’t bridge the incredible gap between you guys. In due time, you will enjoy the most incredible relationship with him.
“One afternoon after an accident, you’re going to go home thinking your career is over. And then bustin’ in through the door comes your dad and he’s wondering what you’re doing sitting on your butt feeling sorry for yourself. And you are going to go out on the back porch and sit down and have a two-hour conversation that is the most influential conversation you’ll ever have with him. He is going to finally assure you of what lies ahead. It’s not the end of your career like you thought, it’s the just the beginning of a very, very long incredible journey.
“You’ll share laughs and triumphs at his side. It’ll be in your best interest that when these times come, you get everything out of them that you possibly can. I mean, when it is you and him, in that moment, you live it to the fullest.
“Now you want to be a race car driver, so let’s talk about the racing. As I look back on it as a whole, starting out from go-karts all the way to Cup today, it’s going to feel clunky and impromptu, and is going to be lacking in successes. But fortunately for you every weekend there will be another race.
“Now with that said, you’re going to be so deathly frightened of potential failure that you’re not going to realize just how much fun you’re having. You’re going to win a lot of races, and as painfully shy as you are you’ll overcome and accomplish in arenas not just limited to driving cars. You’re going to meet Presidents. You’re going to guest on late night shows. I mean, it’s incredible, but it’s true.
“That’s not too bad for an oil mechanic. Yes, you are going to change oil change for a few years — and it’s not as bad as it sounds.
“And I knew you’d want to know about your Redskins. Now your Redskins are goin’ to win another Super Bowl in ’91. But after that it’s a pretty rough road. But your support for them Redskins doesn’t waver one bit.
“Overall, you need to just be more sure of yourself. You’re going to do great things, man. You’re going to have an awesome life. You have a great heart and it’s going to stay with you throughout. So don’t be so timid and worrisome about the future so much so that you can’t enjoy the present. You’re there, worried about me here. You just need to have some fun, man. Jump in that S10, go down to Concord and cruise the strip. Because you’re going to be here … soon enough.”