“What five pieces of advice do you have for a man in his twenties?” asked David, a 25-year-old.
I was meeting with three young men for dinner. They are all leaders and will make a difference in the future of Uganda. David impressed me as a leader of leaders.
His question caused me to flash back to my twenties. Who was I, and what was I doing and thinking? Then I thought about all I had learned in the last 40 years. His question had me synthesize this learning into five pieces of advice.
“Life and opportunity are all about five relationships. The sooner you build them, the richer your life,” I answered. Here are the top five kinds of relationships and my assessment of how successful I was with each while I was in my twenties.
1. Develop a Relationship with God
I missed on this one. I turned my back on God the moment I left high school. I didn’t want anybody telling me right from wrong. I was a good guy with lots of friends. I knew better than God.
This turned out not to be the case. I discovered later that life is hard, lonely, and without purpose. After nearly losing all I had built, I sought God in earnest. This led me to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
I wish I had this crucial God relationship in my early twenties, if not before.
2. Invest in Close Christian Friendships
This was another miss for me. Now that I am part of a church community, I realize what I missed.
A church community not only would have helped me mature in my relationship with God, but there is a whole lot more.
I would have learned how to be a leader and teacher. I would have had a network which could have opened all kinds of doors to new opportunities and relationships. I would have had access to mentors who were five years my senior, and, if needed, 25 years my senior.
The church is rich in relationships and teaching.
3. Get Married, Buy a House, and Have Kids
I did do this. I was married at 23 and have been married for 39 years. It was the best decision I ever made in my life. I loved Kathy then and love her even more now. We are one flesh, as the Bible says.
This is how life and the economy works. Getting married put me on a path to maturity. When you are married, you are living life with a forever commitment. This relationship is like no other relationship in your life.
You can quit jobs, leave friends, stop talking to relatives, but you have to talk to your spouse…every day. This is how we learn relationships.
Kathy has been a wonderful advisor for me in all my other relationships. We have helped each other grow and mature, and we are still doing it even during this new age of grandchildren.
When you buy a house, you have to maintain it. You must make friends with neighbors. You then have kids and spend more money. After kids, you drop some old friends and move into new relationships with people who have kids.
This is what I mean when I say, “This is how life and the economy works.”
4. Find a Mentor and Stay Close
I got this one right. Right out of college, I was fortunate to find a great mentor in my first professional job. Jack Goldstein took me under his wing and taught me the profession and shared his life lessons with me.
This led to my first entrepreneurial opportunity and a great man and entrepreneur, Richard Brock. He taught me business from the ground up, which led to a sale of our company and my next two mentors in Jim Porter and Sterling Williams.
These were all great men who had a huge impact on my life. I admired and followed them, and they invested in me.
Seeking mentors builds lifelong relationships. This is my team of cheerleaders in life. Who wouldn’t want that!
5. Practice Being a Continuous Learner
I love to learn. I love new ideas. I love ideas which challenge my way of thinking. I love the search for truth. I actively seek wisdom.
People who are always learning are interesting and interested. These are the people others want to be around. This is a characteristic of great leaders. They not only stand in front of the room, but they have something worth listening to. Great leaders build relationships and build other great leaders.
Each of these practices builds a life rich in relationships. To keep these relationships on purpose and healthy, however, you must start with a personal relationship with God.
I lived life for 40 years without Him. And now I have lived 23 years with Him. These last 23 years have been absolutely amazing. Thank the Lord!
Also published on Medium.