My kid brother is a year and a half younger than I am, but despite our proximity in age, his experiences are very different from mine. I left the state I was born in when I was 19. He stayed. I didn't finish college until I was 39. He has an MBA and his own company. I seldom travel beyond the East Coast. He's been part of a traditional sailing voyage that has taken him around the world. I wrote a script that has yet to be sold. He made a documentary that's been seen by tens of thousands of people. I have no kids. He has a teenage son in prep school who is shaping up to be as stellar an athlete (water polo) as his dad. The list goes on. We won't even discuss the fact that he's 6-foot-3 and I'm 6-foot-0 — he's still supposed to be my little brother, right?
If it sounds like I'm comparing our lives, I am, but there's no moral dimension to the comparison. We're different people, different men who took different paths in life.
That said, there's plenty that I admire about him: his business sense, his general tenacity, his writing, and his ability to juggle things in his life are all just a few things that I have come to admire about him. Despite the fact that he's 18 months younger, there's plenty that I've learned from him about being a man and living life. Some of it came in the form of advice. A lot more of it came as an example. Here are just a few of those things.
1. Always give back.
There are plenty of people less fortunate in the world. There are plenty of people who don't have the opportunities that you do. Giving back is a way of acknowledging those facts and showing gratitude for the things you have by sharing them, paying them forward. Whether it's in the form of volunteer work, teaching, or helping someone who is struggling in their career or their life, giving to others honors those who helped you.
2. There are things you have to do and things you want to do: find a way to make the first fund the other or make them overlap.
Sometimes you've gotta go to a job you hate so that you can take care of the people you care about. Find some way to make that job take care of what you like doing. Better yet, find a job that will pay you to do the things you wanna do. If you can't find one, well, make one.
3. Invest in grown-up furniture.
This might sound ridiculous at first, but the reasoning is sound. Invest in things that are well-made. Invest in things that will last, things that you will keep. To be an adult — regardless of whether or not you're a man — you need to consider the future and the things you want in your life.
And yeah, I'm not just talking about couches. This applies to a lot more than dining sets and desk lamps.
4. Be a getter of things. Or know one.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, he describes a type of person that he terms "connectors."
Connectors seem to know everybody — they always know someone who knows someone. They can make a call and get what you need. They're the go-to guys.
My brother is a connector. He always knows a guy.
His ability to produce results at the eleventh hour is legendary. So legendary, in fact, that a group of colleagues once presented him with a custom shirt that simply said "The Getter Of Things."
Become a getter of things. How do you become a getter of things? Well ...
5. Relationships are everything — remember and repay every favor.
You become a getter of things by building and maintaining relationships. My brother never forgets a favor and never fails to repay one. He checks in on his friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. He shows an interest in their lives. He always shows his gratitude. He can talk to anyone.
Those qualities make people want to help him out when he needs it. They know that he's not going to forget them later. Those qualities will not only help you be the getter of things, but will put you into contact with other getters of things.
6. Family first.
Speaks for itself. Your tribe needs to come first. Before your job. Before your community. Before the world. Family comes first. Not always easy, but "not easy" is not an excuse.
7. Do what you do.
A few years ago, my brother and my best friend both gave me identical advice. I was unemployed and in full panic mode. I asked my friend what he thought and he said, "I'm not worried about it. You're just going to do what you always do: you'll go find a better job." My brother summarized it more succinctly. He just said, "do what you do."
Whether you're focused on a project underway or wondering what to do next, you don't need to panic. Just do what works. Do what comes naturally. Do what you're doing. Just do what you do.
It's a motto to really live by.