Advice to my 21-year old Self, by Stuart Stephens

1. When you were 21-years-old, where were you living and what were you doing?

By age 21 I was in my second of three-years at San Jose State University in California. A year prior to that, I transferred from a community college near Sacramento where I was raised. Upon graduation from high school, my best option was community college. I had languished in the pursuit of even a high school diploma. I had little awareness of the consequence of that decision.

My second year at San Jose State was pivotal for me because it marked the time when I decided to become an architect. A light came on, so to speak. More importantly, by that time, I developed an appreciation for learning, so higher education then became a pursuit.

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

What I feared most? A dead-end life was my deep, unspoken fear. And time. The consequence time had on every aspect of my life began to unveil. The train was leaving the station and I wasn’t safely aboard. That sobering awareness began to knowingly and unknowingly influence my decisions.

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

I likened my time in college to a traveler on a journey who avoids putting down roots or establishing attachments that threaten mobility. At that time I hoped to become a successful architect designing prestigious projects, seeking adventure travelling the world through bachelorhood before settling down with a small family and a big house.

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

My religious foundation influenced some of my major decisions and perhaps kept me from serious offenses and jail. By no means, however, did I walk the straight and narrow path. In fact, I committed all too many selfish, youthful offenses that kept me hovering in mediocrity.

My concept of manhood was underpinned by the notion that I had such potential, opportunity and moral foundation, that I should conduct myself accordingly, or at least better than those who were less fortunate. This idea was flawed and misdirected but it probably kept me out of serious trouble.  It provided me the rationale for conducting my life with honesty, responsibility, accountability, kindness, and compassion. I had a belief system, and, for the time being, I could act with an undivided heart.

My advice to my 21-year-old self? Seek and search for what is right. Seeking the answer will put you in a position to do what you believe is right.

Advice for My 21-year-old Self, by Myron Hoskins


Myron's answers to his 21 year old self.

1. When you were 21 years old, where were you living and what were you doing?

I was in the third year of a 5-year undergraduate cooperative education engineering curriculum at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. I’d go to college for two consecutive quarters (Winter & Spring), then work full time (co-op) for two quarters (Summer and Fall). It was a good way to pay for my education while gaining valuable and relevant engineering work experience that gave me a competitive advantage over my peers in seeking full time work post-graduation.

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

Failure. I knew failure was not an option for me. I believed that if I fell short of obtaining my degree, that I’d return home humiliated with limited options and would probably end up getting involved with the wrong crowd. Remaining focused on my goal and maintaining a positive “can do” attitude when I struggled are personal attributes that helped me succeed when I witnessed others drop out of engineering.

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

Opportunity. The opportunity to fulfill my potential and make a positive contribution in this world using my God-given abilities.

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

A man had to be strong, both physically and mentally, keep his emotions under control, be disciplined, fulfill his obligations and keep his word.

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

Life will take you on a journey and present you with many opportunities, obstacles to overcome, bumps in the road manage, dilemmas you don’t completely understand, and some difficult decisions to make. Having faith in a higher being, maintaining high moral character, and helping others improve their circumstances will provide the roadmap to keep you on the right path in this journey with humility. If you strive to see the good in others, forgive those who have done you wrong, and lend a hand to assist others who are making the effort to improve themselves, you will not only be a man, but your life will also be enriched with love, peace and happiness.

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.