A Dad’s Advice To His College-Aged Sons

I wrote the following email to both of my sons earlier this week. It’s about surrounding themselves with the right people. I think this topic applies equally well to mentors and networking in degree programs or at work. It serves as a good reminder which leads to happiness and overall success in life. I felt it was relevant enough to post it on my company blog. Below is the email I wrote to my sons. Please let me know if you agree, disagree or have anything to add.


As I become a father of young men, I often think about where both of you are headed. As my parenting evolves with older children I want to occasionally pass along some things I know. Note, I didn’t say “lecture” or give you advice on how to live. That’s mostly up to you now.

I am still learning and there is a lot that I don’t know. However, the following is something important I want to share that I feel will help both of you along the way.

You probably noticed that I have talked to you before about “finding pathways in life”. But, as I have experienced, and I’m sure you will find out, there are no perfect pathways. Sometimes you will pursue them; and often, at your ages, a path will just sort of show up and happen.

In either case, as you experience life and give pathways more consideration you will come to understand them as two-way streets of opportunity. So…where do you start? As you know from hiking and mountain biking, most good trailheads have some foundation. Foundations are like roads to settlements and cities in the board game Settlers of Catan. Roads are how to start to play the game.

Because one of you is a critical and the other a rational thinker, I’m sure by now both of you have figured out that a foundation can be a pathway. That’s basically right. A foundation can either lead to or actual be a pathway. But, let’s keep this simple. Here’s the main point I want to make and what I know about having a foundation. I believe the more experiences you have with more types of people the better. The people you know, or meet, will place you in a world of possibilities and help you find more pathways in life.

Do you remember when you were growing up and we quoted Will Smith? He said, “You are who you hang out with.” The updated version of this is, “You are the sum total of the five closest people you chose to be around.” I noticed the following in my feed this morning and thought it applied to this very topic:

Many successful people operate on a strict philosophy that you become like the people you spend the most time with. Ask yourself, “If you want to be happy or successful or make the most of your talents, who do you talk to?’” The normal reaction is, “Oh my gosh, I’m communicating with the wrong people!” Reid Hoffman and Tim Ferris are among the many experts who believe that anybody can develop a world-class network. “You have to realize that everyone who has a network now once didn’t,” Hoffman says. The key is starting small, making it important and being persistent. To keep his network growing, Tim Ferris recommends a weekly habit of surrounding himself with the right people.

Take it from the experts or your Dad and find five different, interesting people at college or work to hang out with and be around. You’ll be glad you did and I bet it will lead you to some interesting pathways.

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