Letter #11 – Traveling with friends

Posted on 08. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #11 – Traveling with friends
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 8, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 8, 2001

Dear Brett,

Speaking of investing, let me tell you about another great way to invest: traveling with friends.

This is tougher in certain seasons of life. College is packed with classes and light on cash. 30s+ are filled with career and family. The season for traveling is in your 20s.

Traveling with friends is unforgettable. Money invested in clothes, furniture, and cars rings hollow–low ROI there. However, money invested in shared experiences with friends goes deep. And it produces memories that blaze, laughs that echo, and a bond with your travelmates that never goes away. Traveling with friends shatters the aquarium that you usually swim in together and ferries you to the ocean. And oceans create all new conversations–ones that would never have happened in the aquarium. Just ask Nemo.

Travel also busts open your view of the world. It brings an awakening and makes life rich. Check out this quote from Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Brett, you’ve grown up in a small Southern town surrounded by white faces. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with that. But you’ve got to get out some. From art to poverty and all points in between, there are things you need to see. The internet won’t do it. Those things will change you. They’ll recalibrate you. They’ll help you understand the rest of life better. And God too.

Brett, you won’t be able to afford to go all the places you want to go. But carve out some space in your budget for this. You can’t afford not to.

Remember this.

-Brett

P.S. Lookup a guy in Chicago named Steve Bartman. Call him and tell him to never go to a Cubs game again.

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Letter #12 – Brains, not couches: A lesson in investing

Posted on 07. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #12 – Brains, not couches: A lesson in investing
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 7, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 7, 2001

Dear Brett,

Investing is pretty irrelevant to you right now. You’re broke. But you’re in college so that’s okay. However, investing is important and there are a few things you need to know.

When most people graduate, money becomes the driver of life . It sits behind the wheel for most major life decisions–first job out of college, where to live, who to date, major purchases, and career path. But NASCAR money always wants to break the speed limit, causing Americans to spend more than they should. You’ve heard countless preachers warn against the dangers of materialism and getting to the end of life with a big pile of stuff that you can’t take with you. Lots of truth there.

But that’s not the point of this letter.

Brett, financial experts can teach you about portfolios and stocks and mutual funds. I can’t do that. I’m talking about a different kind of investing.

Investing in yourself.

From an early age, we were all taught to help others out. What we weren’t taught is to invest in ourselves. This can come across as a real self-serving idea, but hear me out. When most people graduate, they take the two great resources of time and money and waste them away. Time after work and weekend time is wasted in excessive couch time–TV-watching, video game playing, socializing, or beer drinking. Of course these things are harmless in moderation, but in excess they can rob life. Imagine what would happen if you invested half that time into developing yourself–reading, listening to audiobooks or lectures, learning from smart people over coffee, attending cultural events. It works the same with money. What if you took money that would be wasted on ROI-less couch time and invested in yourself–subscribing to a newspaper, going to conferences, technology that opens the world, or taking an educational course in your field. I know I sound like a total geek right now, but imagine what would happen if you did this for the next ten years. Imagine what would happen if you invested in your greatest asset–your brain. Heckuva ROI here. And you’d have quite the advantage over the couch-sitters.

Brett, invest in brains, not couches. It can make all the difference.

Remember this.

-Brett

P.S. This letter is particularly relevant for single people. Gonna be relevant for you for a while :)

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Letter #13 – Life of privilege

Posted on 06. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #13 – Life of privilege
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 6, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 6, 2001

Dear Brett,

We lost. It was ugly. I don’t wanna talk about it.

Important topic today. This hasn’t dawned on you yet, so let me speed up the process of self-discovery: You were born into a life of incredible privilege.

You had two well-educated parents with good jobs who provided everything you could need. Mom cooked dinner most nights, and dad was always in the stands. Christmases were good. Your parents always upgraded video game systems and juice boxes were always within walking distance. Mom and dad disciplined you well and embedded a pretty solid moral compass inside your brain heart. You’ve lived in houses that would be considered castles to previous generations. You’ve been on dozens of vacations. You went to a private school for 8 of your 13 years of schooling. You got a car when you turned 16.

I know, I know. You weren’t really that wealthy by American standards, and yes, you’ve endured your fair share of pain. Yes, the houses you grew up in were very modest, and yes, the car was your dad’s 1991 Mitsubishi Galant. But you’ve got to put all that in context, Brett. Context.

I wrote earlier about having to earn stuff. But you didn’t earn any of this, Brett. It was all given to you. You were born into a life of incredible privilege. If you don’t get this, you’re never going to view the world right. See, that privilege built a framework and a foundation for your life. Not everyone got that, Brett. The more you expect the world to see life through your privileged eyes, the more frustrated you’re going to be.

Can I be honest for a sec? Can I give you one example?

You’re prejudiced against some who don’t share this privilege–the homeless, immigrants, and the uneducated–to name a few.

Get a freakin’ job!”

“Get out of our country!”

“What an idiot!”

These may get a rise out of your buddies, but that doesn’t make it right.

You’re drowning in privilege, Brett. What should you do now?

Think about it.

-Brett

P.S. Sitcoms are out and reality TV is in. And this girl named “Snooki.”

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Letter #14 – Friend of truth

Posted on 05. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #14 – Friend of truth
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 5, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 5, 2001

Dear Brett,

In about 30 minutes I’m getting in a car and driving to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There’s a really big football game there today. Bama’s playing LSU, and it’s a #1 v #2 matchup. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Over the next few years, your love for Bama football is going to grow. When you graduate from college, you’re going to get very sentimental, and Bama football will remind you of dad. It will remind you of going to the games with him. It will remind you of Saturday’s as a kid, watching him jump around the living room and talking about how much he likes Jay Barker.

With your newfound love for Bama will come lots of time on Alabama football message boards. Not the ones that are open to anyone. I’m talking about the serious ones–the ones you have to pay for. The ones where grown men pontificate for hours over every tiny nuance of the program.

Now I could lecture you on how that’s a pretty big waste of time, but I’ll save that for my 40 year old self, ten years from now.

You’re going to learn a lot about human nature reading those forums. But there’s ONE secret about people that’s going to change everything. Here it is…

Human beings are severely biased and often incapable of seeing things objectively.

When a Bama player gets arrested it’s, “He’s a good kid. Just had a bad night. Hooray second chances!“. When an Auburn player gets arrested, it’s “Look at those Barners! I knew it! Team full of thugs!

When a Bama player gets a personal foul it’s “part of the game.” When an Auburn player gets one, he “has no class.”

Tuscaloosa is one of “America’s great college towns.” But “Auburn is a dump.”

When a recruit picks Auburn over Bama, “We didn’t want him in the first place. Good riddance!

But it’s not just a Bama fan thing. When I go to an Auburn site or a University of Kentucky site or a University of Texas site, it’s the same thing. Same attitude, just different logos.

So what? Sports fans are crazy and biased. Big deal.

But it’s not just in sports, Brett. It’s in everything–politics, religion, cultures, all kinds of stereotypes. Most people just believe what they want to believe, see what they want to see. What their parents taught them plays a big role in shaping those beliefs. Few people are really searching for truth, but everyone’s on a hunt for clues to confirm what they already believe. Like football message boards, they look for a place where they can find people who share their beliefs. And when those people get together and high-five and back-slap each other, they validate one another’s beliefs. Emotion takes the throne, and truth gets sent to the gallows. When you see oppression, prejudice, stupidity, and hate, this is usually where it began.

But Brett, I’m not really talking about other people here. I’m talking about you. Humans have this bent towards bias, and you’re a human. Truth’s a fight, Brett. You’ve must learn to suspend your bias, to see things as they truly are. Be a friend of truth…first.

Remember this, Brett.

-Brett

P.S. Your friends rolling those trees in Auburn: Tell them to enjoy it.

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Letter #15 – Lattice words

Posted on 04. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #15 – Lattice words
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 4, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 4, 2001

Dear Brett,

Hey amigo. Enough talk of work (we’ll come back to that next week). Let’s talk about people.

Just because someone is a good speaker doesn’t mean they’re right. They might be. Or they might just be a good speaker.

Just because someone is a good writer doesn’t mean they’re right. They might be. Or they might just be a good writer.

Just because someone can rattle people with tears or goosebumps or laughter, doesn’t mean that what they’re saying has any merit. It might. Or they might just be a good communicator.

Some people can conjure words that make men soar, but everything they say is utter crap, empty rhetoric. Fine-tuned communication is an X-man’s skill. The greats have it. But so do the maniacs.

We live in an age of compelling story-tellers, movie-makers, salesmen, and preachers. Some are saints, but some are charlatans. Brett, you’ve got to learn to tell the difference. You’ve got to separate the garbage from the gold. It takes a strong gut and an eye heavied by truth. And pray. Pray that God gives you eyes to see past the lattice work of words to what’s beneath. So many get deceived.

This is important, Brett. Remember.

See ya.

-Brett

P.S. Sorry. You’re not getting any taller. Only wider at this point.

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Letter #16 – Always a slave

Posted on 03. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #16 – Always a slave
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 3, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 3, 2001

Dear Brett,

Can we talk about work some more? Okay.

Work is a big deal. Remember, after you graduate most of your waking hours will be spent at work. That’s a big chunk of time. Picture your waking hours after you graduate as a pie. Four of the eight pieces are represented by work. You have to eat those four pieces, so you better make them good. You don’t have a choice. Eat up.

Work to find a job you enjoy. Work to find a company that stands for something other than money. But here’s the thing that most guys your age forget. You’re not owed this. The work force is one big zoo filled with animals older, smarter, wiser than you. The market is very competitive and it’s about to get a whole lot worse. Pray that God gives you a great job. If he does, remember,

That’s the easy part.

After that comes the real business of working. Work, when done well, should be hard. It should be unpleasant, frustrating, and utterly exhausting at times. If you’re not experiencing this on a semi-regular basis, check yourself. It’s entirely possible you’re not working hard enough.

Here’s a tip: On the first day of your job go tell your boss, “I’m here to be your slave, and I exist to make you more money.”

That’s a game-changer, Brett. Now, of course, if you don’t mean it then it’s just wind through some chimes—loud and clangy, but no real substance.

A lot of guys don’t get this, Brett. A lot. They want their boss—who got there by being someone else’s slave once, FYI—to lay down the red carpet, thank them for being the employee of the year, and serve up a 50k job on a platinum platter. This is craziness, but most—not some—most people your age act this way. Everyone wants to be king. No one wants to be a slave.

When you’re willing to be a slave, your boss will treat you different. He’ll give you more responsibility. He’ll begin putting you in situations where you don’t feel like a slave. He’ll begin expecting you to do unslavelike things—kingly things, maybe. But when this happens, fight the urge to feel like a king. You’re always a slave. I’m always a slave. We’re always a slave, Brett. Remember this.

Evenin’.

-Brett

P.S. How do you spell evil? S.U.B.P.R.I.M.E.L.O.A.N.S.

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Letter #17 – Kick the door in

Posted on 02. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #17 – Kick the door in
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 2, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 2, 2001

Dear Brett,

I wrote yesterday about special work as a slow roast process. It takes a grinding endurance and commitment to the cause even when you get tired. Let me qualify that a bit.

Though success is often slow roast, that doesn’t mean you work slowly. It doesn’t mean you sit on your hands waiting for that mystical day to arrive when all your dreams come true. It doesn’t mean you cuddle up with passivity. No, no. Be a warrior. And a good warrior is defined by his courage. A good warrior doesn’t knock on the door. He kicks it in. Though mission-driven, he locks onto what he wants and seizes it.

seize – take hold of suddenly and forcibly; capture using force

That’s not a silent process. If you sit back and wait for successfulness (yep…I made that up) to come running towards you with arms outstretched, you’re going to be waiting a while. Some Christian people talk about waiting on God. They’re right, and there’s truth there. There’s a time to wait, pause, consider, deliberate . But a lot of the time, this is just a smokescreen for fear. You actually use God as an excuse, and just keep timidly knocking on a door you know you’re called to go through.

Brett, there are times when Fear seizes you. You crack the door to your heart, and he kicks it in. And once he’s there, he pitches a tent and starts roasting smores. When this happens, you become scared of taking a chance, looking like a fool, proposing a new way of doing things. When this happens, usually you blame some other external factor.

“I don’t have enough information.”

“It’s too soon. I’ll decide next week.”

“What if it doesn’t work?”

Some people are natural door kickers. You aren’t, so you’re going to have to practice. But know the heel gets stronger with each kick.

Stop knocking. Stop waiting. Kick the door in. I’m not saying be an arrogant turd. Be humble. Be a learner the whole time. But my gosh, don’t be passive.

I think most successful people have gotten there from years and years of kicking in the right doors.

Remember this.

-Brett

P.S. I’m publishing these letters on my “blog.” You’ll know what that is in a few years.

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Letter #18 – Special work

Posted on 01. Nov, 2011 by .

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Letter #18 – Special work
From: Brett Trapp – Nov 1, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Nov 1, 2001

Dear Brett,

Howdy. Me again. I know you’re a couple years away, but let’s talk work. As in, what you’ll be doing for the next 50 years after college.

To understand work you’ve got to understand what’s coming. Crazy technology is on its way. Right now you’ve got high speed internet and Google and ebay and ebaumsworld (enjoy the latter now, while you can). You’re also saving files for school on floppy discs. In fact, you’ve got a backback full of those discs. Haha. You’ll laugh at this a decade from now. Technology is ramping up and so is the internet. Technology is coming that will compress the world, connecting everyone. Digital, fast, and instant is the future of everything. It’s pretty cool actually.

But there’s a problem. All this technology is fooling people. It’s causing people to think that the technology is the answer. It’s giving people a shortcut addiction. It’s immunizing them to the long, slow work of building something special. I call this special work—work that changes companies, lasts, and makes a difference. Special works requires time, collaboration, and grit.

Time.

Collaboration.

Grit.

Special work is rarely sexy, sometimes fun, always challenging. And there aren’t really shortcuts for that. Brett, you’ve got to learn now to tough it out. You’ve got to learn now to attack projects and stick with it. You think you know what hard work is, but you don’t. You give up too quick and you aren’t willing to humble yourself to learn what it takes to get it right.

Entire industries will be born around the idea of microwave success. Success is slow roast, Brett. Special work is slow roast. I still don’t have this all figured out. But I’ve figured that much out.

Peace.

-Brett

P.S. Sorry, no flying cars yet.

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Letter #19 – Devil on parade

Posted on 31. Oct, 2011 by .

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Letter #19 – Devil on parade
From: Brett Trapp – Oct 31, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Oct 31, 2001

Dear Brett,

Hey, man. Happy Halloween. Hope I didn’t turn you off yesterday. That wasn’t my intent, and I was just trying to be honest.

I remember what you were doing ten years ago today. I know exactly what you’re doing actually. Or not doing, rather.

ATO, your fraternity, has a Halloween Date Party tonight. Everyone’s going to be there, dressed in costume. They’re having it an old plantation home in the middle of a field out in Colbert County. Should be a lot of fun.

But I know you’re not going. You’ll be sitting at home. On purpose. And in the past week, you’ve been quick to remind people why you’re not going. You’re taking a stand against this event because you have a fundamental problem with Halloween as a holiday. You were taught by church, mentors, and your Christian high school that

“Halloween is the devil’s holiday.”

“Halloween has Satanic roots.”

“You open yourself up to demonic activity if you participate in Halloween.”

“On Halloween, witches in covens around the world sacrifice babies and cast real spells.”

Who knows…maybe some of that stuff is true. But I’d just like to ask you, Brett, why is this such a big deal to you? Of all the clear and present evils in this world, why are you digging in to oppose this one?

I’m pretty sure the devil’s on parade every day of the year, not just Halloween. The devil’s on parade in Thailand where women are bought and sold like cheap lawn furniture. The devil’s on parade in Haiti where little kids, restavecs, act as slaves to wealthy families. The devil was on parade last month when the terrorists struck. Heck, the devil’s on parade behind your fraternity house in west Florence. There are hungry kids back there.

Take a stand. Be a man of conviction. That’s great. But if you’re going to plant a flag and advance the kingdom of God, I’m not sure a party with college kids wearing silicon masks is the best use of your conviction.

Just a thought…

-Brett

P.S. Bama football: Hang in there.

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Letter #20 – On your toes

Posted on 30. Oct, 2011 by .

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Letter #20 – On your toes
From: Brett Trapp – Oct 30, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Oct 30, 2001

Dear Brett,

Bro. Hate to be the one to tell you this, but I don’t think anyone else will. Actually, I’m positive no one else will.

You’re really judgmental.

I know. I know. You think I’m a liberal now, but please don’t cut me off. Keep reading.

When you disagree with someone, you think they have a character flaw. You expect everyone around you to view the world through your eyes. You expect people to solve problems like you. You expect your friends to react in the same way as you. You’d never admit this, but you even think people should dress like you. And it just doesn’t work that way. People are wildly and categorically different. Their personalities are constructed differently. God–zany guy–decided to do different wiring jobs on people. He’s a master electrician, and he gets a real kick out of wiring the same “house” different every time. In that creativity, he protected us from a life of boring each other. He protected us from droid humanity–thinking, walking, and talking alike. He protected us from a life of shuffling about like bumper cars–different in color but identical in construction and ho-hum function.

Bump.

Bump.

Bump.

Blah.

Instead, he made bumper cars, Ferraris, Mack trucks, Dodge Stratuses, and big wheels. Each has a different form. Each has a different glorious function. And it makes for fantastic drama. It makes life fun.

Brett, the quicker you can understand this wiring diversity (forgive me…liberal word again), the better. And I’m not talking about compromising what you believe. I’m talking about flexing out of your way of thinking to meet people where they are. Seek to understand, first.

(read previous sentence again)

Don’t rush to assumption. Don’t rush to that script you use–and yes, that’s a script–to prove that you’re right.

Instead of getting pissed every time someone disagrees, try this: Close your mouth, furrow your brow, and lean in–on your toes. Because disagreeing with someone on your heels is a lot different from listening to someone on your toes. And this makes a big difference in life.

Until tomorrow.

-Brett

P.S. Brace yourself: You’ll live in Atlanta one day. (now breathe)

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