Letter To My 18-year-old Self

My dearest Mphatso,

We turned 50 this year.  My, what a ride it has been!  We have experienced some significant losses but have also experienced poignant victories.  We have grown through the pain of experience and the wise counsel of others.  Our partnerships have brought precious life into the world.  We have grown into the resulting responsibility.  On the way, we have encountered and embraced our authentic self.  Each road of the journey has seemed daunting but walking in discrete steps that embrace the present has been a constructive way of being.  Our start was a minefield of comparisons and confused pathways.  Over time, however, we recognized the uniqueness of our creation and the singularity of our direction.  We grew in our ability to avoid denial and have faced our susceptibilities head on.  We shouldered the work of wellbeing.  We became vulnerable and connected.  We are learning to accept and love well.  Our centenarian awaits our arrival.  The story is not yet complete.  As you begin this journey do not be surprised when you encounter these lessons I am about to share.

  1. You own your life and its direction. No one else does.  Your destination will be your own doing.  As a result, you are the sole determiner of your life map and plan.  Make one now and begin to follow it.  It may change but it is your responsibility to make it, keep it and update it.
  2. At this point in time, being male is a privilege that comes with certain benefits. People will view you differently to a female.  You can either use your privilege for good or abuse it.  If you abuse it, the consequences will be rejection, desertion, and pain.
  3. You will require a courage that you have to develop yourself. You will be expected to face challenges even though afraid.  You will be expected to provide for and protect those who are entrusted to you.  You cannot fail at this.
  4. You will either be known as someone who is trustworthy, reliable, and honest or the opposite. The opportunities that are presented to you will reflect what people think of you.  You alone determine your reputation.
  5. Trust from others is necessary and must be earned. If trust is broken, it is close to impossible to restore.
  6. Life is hard and not to be avoided. If you take the easy route, then you will reach a dead end.  This will be of your own making.
  7. Leisure as a priority is a worldview that is short on growth and long on debt.
  8. Stewardship is learnt through ownership. Learning to take care of things means that people who love you will give you fewer things that are free.  It is important to learn how to steward what you have.
  9. Good relationships are few. You may have many acquaintances but relationships in which you invest heavily will be fewer.  You will need courage to be vulnerable.  You will have to acquire this courage on your own.  If you don’t acquire this courage, your relationships will be superficial and unfulfilling.
  10. Women are to be respected and treated as equals. You will have to put distance between you and any other man who thinks differently…no exceptions.
  11. There is no end to learning, acquiring knowledge, and educating yourself. Put distance between you and anyone who thinks otherwise…no exceptions.
  12. Do not expect a “thank you” for doing your job or taking care of your responsibility. If a “thank you” is offered, that is great!  Your responsibility is yours alone.
  13. Be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong. You will have to learn to develop the disciplines that produce this strength.  This strength will determine whether people follow you or not.  Find others who do this well and follow them.
  14. Vulnerability is not weakness. Crying is not out of bounds and revealing your authentic self to trusted others is necessary for survival.  Be part of a group that allows for healthy expression and revelation.  If you choose to walk alone, you will stumble and fall.  Getting back up may not be an option.
  15. You are not entitled to sympathy or an inheritance. These are at the discretion of others to give you.
  16. Help is given in direct proportion to effort. People will put distance between themselves and you the first time you contravene this rule.  That said, ask for help when you need it.  Don’t expect that even those close to you will know that you need help.
  17. Learn to forgive and release. This is hard but remember there is no “easy” way.  You will also have to learn to make prompt amends as soon as you learn that you have hurt someone with your words or actions.  Don’t wait.  Be the first to initiate your amends.
  18. The discipline of financial stewardship is important. Wealth is acquired by budgeting, saving, and delaying gratification.  If you fail at this, poverty is certain.
  19. You have susceptibilities that can become places of devastating struggle. Sex, gambling, alcohol and drugs are just a few of the more well-known places of abuse that await the person who is unaware.  Become aware and be accountable to trusted others.  This will save much pain.
  20. Create boundaries for yourself in which you define and rehearse responses to challenging situations. Over time, you will learn what challenges you.  In response you will have to create and practice your responses so that you avoid causing needless pain to those whom you love.
  21. You will have to establish your own family unit. The days of being primarily connected to your family of origin will come to an end.  Having your own unit means identifying and committing to a life partner, establishing your own base of operations, and creating your own traditions.
  22. Loss of people and familiar situations will occur. Learning to grieve well is accomplished mostly by following healthy examples. Find these examples and pattern yourself after them.
  23. Develop a very strong sense around your existential beliefs. Why we are on this earth matters.  Honor your belief and incorporate it into the way you relate with others and treat this world. In this way you will establish a congruence that enhances your transparency.  Respect that others will have different beliefs.

Mphatso, we are halfway there.  There is more to learn; more to apply.  Even if the past forebodes an uncertain future and your circumstances seem to exclude you from various opportunities, a path lies before you.  It is one characterized by the ever present duality of risk and reward.  There is, however, a signature of orchestration and providence that assures that all will be ok.


Your friend,



  • There is so much to unpack in this letter to yourself. I have read it thoroughly and cannot wait to reread it.

    Wallace H.
  • woo, there are so much wisdom of life, lessons learned, insightful and specific advices in this letter. Anyone, not just man, should read this, multiple times along the way. I sincerely appreciate Mphatso bravely sharing the dense concentration of life experience and learning that is well written in a such short letter.


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