The year was 1970. I was a young English teacher at St. Edmond High in Fort Dodge, IA when one day I overheard some of my senior students grumbling about all the ‘stupid rules’ their parents were imposing on them.
It gave me an idea.
"Today I want you to write a letter telling the world how you will do things differently when you have children. We will read them aloud in class."
Eager to do this assignment, they immediately began to write. When most were nearly finished I had a little surprise for them. "Here is an envelope for each of you. Put your own name on it with a note: NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL (that date in) 1990. In addition, please add some details on how you expect to be living at that time and what you expect to have accomplished in the past twenty years. Then seal your letter and put it someplace where you know you will be able to find it when you are thirty-eight years old."
I assured them that no one, including myself, would know the contents so that they could be brutally honest in what they wrote.
The assignment was such a hit that I continued to do it for the final seven years of my teaching career. It was great fun through the years having former students come up to me in restaurants, at the mall or after church and tell me, "I’ve still got that letter, Mr. Sheridan!"
Others confessed that they just couldn’t wait and opened it years ahead of schedule. Some, sadly, told me they lost their unopened letters.
The highlight of the project for me came at a class reunion in 1990 when three alumni stood up to open the envelopes in front of us and read their respective letters aloud. It was fascinating to see how their views of parenting had changed and to what degree each had reached various goals.
What does this little story have to do with you?
Simply this: I challenge you to write yourself a letter to be opened at some future date. I don’t care the time span…one year, five years, or twenty years. The sole objective is to tell the ‘future you’ what can be expected from the ‘present you.’ What work or personal goals will have been achieved because the ‘present you’ did what was necessary to achieve them? Will you look back with pride or regret? This could be a powerful tool as a small-business owner. You are making a promise to the most important person in the organization—yourself!
Based on my experience, you will be very happy that you did this assignment.
One final recommendation—tell one or two people whom you really trust that you plan to do it so you can be held accountable. Promise that you will open the letter in front of him/her/them and celebrate the victories that you except to achieve. It will be good for you and it will be good for your business.
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