Advice to my 21-year old Self, by Bruce Wiessner


Bruce & Julia

1. When I turned 21 years old I was starting my junior year at the University of Minnesota.

By this time in my life I had already completed two years of service (out of a six year commitment) in the Minnesota Air National Guard as a medic.  I had, also, started my own business (Metro Legal Services) to help pay my way through school and was playing the violin in the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.  I also was starting my first year at the University of Minnesota School of Business Administration (now Carlson School of Management) and was active in and living in a fraternity on campus.

2. What did you worry about – what was that one thing that you feared the most?

My greatest fear at the time was being called to active military duty from the National Guard and dying in the Vietnam War.  The Vietnam War was a hugely unpopular war, by then, and protests were rampant on college campuses all over the country.  Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy had already been assassinated.  I can remember having to clear University Avenue of smoldering barricades made from bonfires started the night before in order to leave campus to get to National Guard duty on Saturday mornings. The University was closed down during the Spring Quarter of my junior year because of student unrest and protests.  This turbulent period made it interesting for me entering adulthood to attempt to “discover” myself.  This backdrop of unrest became the incubator for the new and emerging counter-culture.  As a result, traditional “American Values” were under siege and being challenged.

3. What did you hope the future held for you?

At age 21, I didn’t have much time to ponder the future.  Attending classes, playing in the orchestra, running a part-time business and serving in the military occupied my time.  I didn’t think about why I was doing it – I was too busy doing it!  In retrospect, I wish that I had taken more time to try to understand the consequences of these activities on my life.  Perhaps, I was a little bit like the Nike commercial, “just do it”.  I became a “jack of all trades, master of none” sort of guy.  This suited me because I had a lot of interests (maybe some ADD built in there, too).

4. How did you define what it meant to be a man?

It was expected, back then, that when you graduated from college you were on your own.  Becoming a “man” was a learning process and living independently on you own was one part of that process.

5. What advice do you give to that young man of yesterday?

Looking back with the wisdom of experience that I’ve acquired (I’m old), I would advise myself to take the time to reflect on and better understand my true value system.  Values are derived from multiple sources including religious, family and cultural.  I wish, in hindsight, that I had understood this better.  I would have been more grounded in that value system which would have helped guide my decision making.

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