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Sat, Dec. 14

Column: Play up strengths, forget fears

Here is the 12th installment of the Granddaddyisms I shared with my grandson a few years ago when he was a teenager.

* Dylan, many adults have a need to ask young people what they want to be when they grow up. This well-meaning question really seeks to find out what occupation you plan to pursue. Please know that your granddaddy is more interested in the question, "Who do you want to become as a person?" The quality of your life and character takes a higher priority than the work-life you select. Your choice of an occupation is important, but it shouldn't be an end in itself. It is the road you travel that enables you to earn a living. But the quality of your life is also predicated on the contribution you make in serving others and making the world a better place. This can be accomplished, of course, through your occupation. But a good life is also the result of who you are and what you do with all your gifts, abilities and skills. Fortunate is the individual whose work enables him or her to contribute to the welfare of society and whose non-work life is also devoted to making a positive difference in the life of others.

* Be wary of cocksure people; they tend to possess petrified beliefs and opinions.

* The longer I live, the clearer it is to me that one of the most important roots of love is forgiveness. And perhaps the most important lesson about forgiveness is that the opportunity to forgive is always before you. Not a bad lesson for someone your age either, Dylan.

* As you age, you're going to remember these years when you were living at home as a teenager. What kind of memories will you have? Pleasant ones? Unpleasant ones? Will they be memories that provoke you to wish you had done things differently? For instance, Austin is going to be your younger brother for as long as you live. Are you now building the kind of caring relationship that will make him want to be close and supportive of you when you are both adults? What about your relationship with your mother? Are you the kind of loving, caring son that will make you proud of yourself when you remember these years when you are 30, 40, 50 and 60? You don't get a second chance to make up for what you do or don't do during these years, Dylan. So try to get it right. Now.

* Try to understand that a little lie or a little cheating is like a little bit of pregnancy; it's there and likely to get bigger.

* The road to mental health is paved, in part, with coping skills and resilience, not with senseless worries. I recall, Dylan, when I was you age I worried needlessly about my physical appearance. Little flaws were exaggerated and gained an inordinate amount of my attention. How utterly useless and unnecessary were my concerns. Everyone else my age paid little or no attention to my perceived flaws because they were so focused on their own. So, learn this significant lesson: You are not the focus of their lives. Center on your strengths, try to minimize your limitations, but don't permit yourself to get worked up about them. Who you are is far more important to your friends than how you look. Your demeanor - smiles, interest in their lives, sincerity in communications, and self-confidence - will make you an admired friend and companion. Caring about people, along with not taking yourself too seriously, is the real basis for friendship. Try to become less self-centered, a tough challenge for someone your age, but worth the effort.

* Perhaps the best measure of a life is not what you have done for others, but what others have done because of you. Infusing a spark or your spirit or an idea into another person insures your immortality. Something of you lives on in others.

Dr. Ron Barnes is a retired educator and businessman.

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