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A Letter To My Daughter Gwen

This blog is typically about all things Agile, but I am taking a slight detour on this post in anticipation of my very first child’s birth.  Gwendolyn Reece Gaiennie is due to be born on October 7, 2010 and I wanted to share with her future self some things I have learned as I myself grew into adulthood.  And if you think that this has nothing to do with business, then you might need to read this yourself.

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Hi Beautiful,

I may not always be there for you, in fact, no one will.  Sad, I know, but you already know this.  But you will always be with you, and because I know you are an intelligent young lady, I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have learned, have been taught, or have picked up along the way.  Take these with you as you travel your path through life and look for bits of wisdom you can add so that someday you might also take the opportunity to pass along what you have learned to your own children.

Lead your life based on your values. By the time you read this you can trust that your values are there, you just may not know what they are yet.  That’s ok, so long as you place importance in identifying them as you venture into adulthood. Search for them, be relentless.  Know what you will stand for, and invest your spirit in knowing what you will not stand for.  Never seek to please another person in a quest to satisfy their values, for when you do, you will likely do so while sacrificing your own.  It took your father too may years to realize that a life lived based on anything other than your values is one spent in a futile attempt to gain acceptance from another person in an effort to validate yourself.  You don’t need to do this, it is momentarily satisfying and ultimately vacuous.  You matter, because you are you.

All existing means to your desired end are wrong. Another person’s path is not yours.  And only your path is right.  For you.  Cherish your originality.  Too much stock is put into fitting in, but the truly great ones among us seek to standup in the current, they choose to stand rather than simply float along with the drift.  I know the pressures to be accepted can be overwhelming, but never believe that simply doing what others do is the ultimate value to be had.  What do you truly seek in life Gwen?  It is a big question, but one worth asking.  And asking again.  I allowed too many years to pass before realizing that there is more to life than what can be bought with money.  Find what you seek and be open that what you want may not be easy or even immediately possible, but don’t allow that to sap you of energy.  This is the only life you get, spend it wisely.

There are no shortcuts in life. I wish this weren’t the case, but it is.  It just is.  The truly amazing things to be had on this earth are gained through hard work, driven by experiences, checkered with failures, but ultimately realized through perseverance.  There will be those that try to sell you the easy way out of your problems or the quick path to your goals, and they will be persuasive, but they will be selling you something that simply doesn’t exist.  Life is not meant to only provide enjoyable experiences, but also suffering, hardships, and pain as well.  But this is no mistake, it is by design.  A beautiful design.  These challenging experiences need to be valued as highly as your achievements, for without these you would not appreciate the magnificence of your triumphs.  Always remember that you cannot appreciate the mountains if you never experience the valleys.

Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside. As you grow up, you will be bombarded with the message that your value is contingent upon your compliance with another’s definition of acceptable.  I can only beg of you to not fall for this, it only ends in pain, anguish, and a feeling of being inadequate.  You are amazing, so long as you live your life based on the values that you define.  Nothing is so important as knowing which principles are worth standing for.

Avoid the boring people. Those people that like to play it safe have nothing to offer you, don’t waste your time trying to get them to feel your passion.  These folks value complacency and sameness as a means for security but in exchange must sacrifice the possibility of something better.  The possibility.  What beautiful words!  In fact, new rule, if you ever find someone that is perpetually afraid to do something different simply for the fact that it is different, share your view that there is beauty in risk, but don’t dwell on it.  If they can’t see it, move on.  Quickly.

Never do anything solely on the assumption that you will be rewarded for it. Your dad is still trying to learn this very valuable lesson.  When we act only motivated by the reward given by another, we give away all of our creative power to someone else.  Do what you believe is right.  And remember, the more talented, the more gifted, the more self-motivated a person is, the less they need the props from someone else.  You may be your biggest critic, but remember that you also must be your biggest cheerleader.   You will never need someone else to complete you.  You are already whole.

The most important lesson I could ever leave for you would be this…

You are responsible for your own experience. Gwen, I have seen too many people waste years believing that someone else is responsible for their happiness.  That someone else is responsible for causing their struggle.  These people have missed out on the opportunity to experience the beauty, and the challenge, of life.  All of the power on this earth exists in you at this very moment and it is unlocked by a simple decision.  The decision to take responsibility for your experience of life, for you.  Others might seem to upset you in life, but as you experience this pain realize that this is your decision.  No one can hurt you without your permission.  No one can ruin your day without your permission.  No one can make you happy without your permission.  I am not asking you to live your life without emotion, in fact quite the opposite; live your life through your emotional experience, but never allow emotion to have absolute meaning without you getting a chance to contribute to the internal discussion.  Never, ever give up this right to create the association of an emotion with a meaning that supports you and your values.  This is a powerful gift that the vast majority of people you will have in your life will have chosen to relinquish.   You are responsible for your own experience. This understanding is the greatest gift I could ever leave to another person, I hope you cherish it as much as I do.

There are many more things I am sure I will leave you, but these are good pillars on which to build a values-based approach to life.  And although you are not here yet, I look forward to all of the wonderful life lessons you will be teaching me.  I love you Gwen.  Always.  -Dad.

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  1. September 6th, 2010 at 07:34 | #1

    Awesome post. As an agilist and a soon-to-be father as well, this is fantastic! Congrats!

  2. Cindy
    September 6th, 2010 at 15:32 | #2

    This was a wonderful letter to Gwen. You gave her some sound advice and things to think about in the future. Keep a copy of this Bill. You can also grow from your own loving words as you enter other phases of your life. The lessons keep coming and we do keep changing. Congrats

  3. Frank Gaiennie
    September 7th, 2010 at 11:34 | #3

    Hi Bill, that is a great letter. I wish I had been aware enough to have been able to give you and your Sister some advice like that.

  4. Kestrel
    December 10th, 2010 at 12:28 | #4

    Bill! what a great post! very insightful and profound! This is great advice for people of all ages. Thanks for the awesome words of wisdom!

  5. Tamara
    June 25th, 2011 at 15:51 | #5

    Hi Bill, your daughter is very fortunate that guidance is priceless. Thank you for sharing your personal and most insightful life learned lessons to your daughter. It is the most eloquent lesson’s learned I believe I have or every will read! We are all better parents, project managers, mentors, etc for reading and applying.


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