It might surprise you but I didn’t set out to write a book. In fact, I’ve never had any ambition to be a writer, per se. It just came out of the blue. As I sat down to write some last-minute advice for my son before he headed for college, the next thing I knew, I had a book on my hands!
So, naturally people are asking what qualifies me to write a book like this. (I think what they’re really asking is “Who are you and why the heck should we listen to you?”)
Well, first of all, I’m crazy about kids. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I adore my two and thoroughly enjoy others, too. I want to see them achieve all the success in the world and fulfill their amazing potential.
That’s basically why, at the age of 53, I left at the top of a 27-year investment career as Senior Portfolio Manager for Russell Investments. I traded it all in for a volunteer board position at a private school to develop a financial literacy program and teach kids all about money.
Some people are passionate in kids’ causes because they had it rough growing up. Not me! I’ll always cherish my modest, small-town upbringing by parents who were devoted to each other and to their family. They instilled strong values in me. They emphasized relationships and the simple things in life. The lessons I learned from them are universal and timeless.
I’ve also had remarkable exposure to some extremely successful people and environments. With BBA and MBA degrees in Accounting and Finance, along with a Chartered Financial Analyst designation, I was well-credentialed for my long investment career. Being employed by a company ranked as one of the top places in the world to work, serving in several senior management positions, and being trained by industry pioneers was an incredibly empowering experience. I evaluated thousands of top investment firms and learned from the best financial minds in the country. This allowed me to witness firsthand the qualities of successful leaders.
My spiritual life has also played a critical role in shaping the person I’ve become and the lessons I’m sharing with the next generation(s). Participating in a faith community has given me firsthand experience in helping the needy alongside extraordinary humanitarians. It’s also been a significant source of strength during tough times.
As a husband (28 years!) and father (for 21 years) who is still on a steep learning curve, I know firsthand the life lessons I want my children to have in order to become the best and most successful people they can. Even though I’m just a regular guy, I’ve learned some significant pointers which, unfortunately, aren’t all being taught to our kids. Not that other people haven’t learned these lessons, too. I just happened to compile them into a comprehensive book of life wisdom—wisdom I sure wish I had when I was 18!
Having just celebrated my 56th birthday, I could never have envisioned that this would be the most exciting and fulfilling time of my life. Although this is a rather bold declaration, it’s absolutely true!
The seeds of my current life chapter were sown some seven years ago. At that time, I was on top of the world. Our marriage was great, our kids were doing great, and I was at the top of my career game as the lead portfolio manager at Russell Investments. Nonetheless, I could sense that I was being nudged toward something different. I had no idea what that was at the time, but my instincts were telling me that a new direction was in the works.
I vividly recall telling God that if He wanted me to do something different, I was up for it. I did have a special request, though. After immersing my career in the stock market 24-7, I hoped that any new beginning would involve kids and relationships. It wasn’t a stipulation, so I figured it was okay. I always experienced my greatest joy around kids, and I hoped they would play a part in any new plan.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, two things quickly emerged. One was an opportunity to coach my daughter, Lauren’s, elementary basketball team. The other was serving as a Deacon at our church. Despite being incredibly busy with life at the time, I pursued both positions. I’m eternally grateful that I did.
Coaching Lauren’s basketball team from third through sixth grade was the most joy-filled experience of my life. We took a dozen exuberant rookies from one of the league’s weakest teams to one of the best in four short years. These amazing kids and their incredible parents were the best. This experience reinforced my love of mentoring kids.
Serving as a Deacon for our church shaped me in a different way. I was now surrounded by the most unselfish and servant-minded people of my life, and I knew I wasn’t remotely in their league. I learned a lot from them, most poignantly the joy of serving others. I knew I needed to build on that momentum.
A year later, I was nominated to the school board at Lighthouse Christian School, where our children attended. This was my third such invitation, but the timing was finally right. Little did I know that this would be a true life changer.
One of my assignments was to lead a project team to evaluate the course offerings for our upper grades. We recommended several new classes that involved leadership, life skills, and financial literacy. Once they were adopted with great enthusiasm, we would need to find an instructor, preferably one with practical experience outside of the educational realm. It was at that point that I knew that I was meant to teach them.
A year later, I retired from my 27-year investment career to be a volunteer instructor (and new Board Chairman!) at our school. With great excitement about this new chapter, I spent the summer of 2008 developing my finance curriculum. I completed this work in late July, with two weeks to spare before our Michael headed to college at Pepperdine.
I wanted these last two weeks to be filled with father/son bonding as he set forth on his new adventure. One night, I was led to an old stack of papers that had been piling up for years in our bedroom. As I fished through the pile, I noticed two sheets of notes I had written a few years earlier. They were my starter list of “life success pointers” for Michael before he left for college. They represented the life wisdom and lessons that I learned through the years and were meant to give him a nice head start. Trouble was, I had completely forgotten about them, and I had barely two weeks to go!
I made a beeline to the den to type them in a Word document. Finally, I was done—all 44 of them. Or, so I thought. I neglected to include anything about financial matters, and here I had just built my finance curriculum! I added some 15 new pointers, thinking that my work was now finished. Wrong again! I was now “in the moment,” and my mind was suddenly bombarded with one new idea after another. My fingers could barely keep up. Eventually, at the stroke of midnight, my mind finally went blank. I was now staring at a list of 100 life success pointers! I knew immediately that this was a book in the making, and I was destined to write it. After lots of preparation, I typed my first words on October 21, 2008.
Over the past two years, my life has focused on writing this book, as well as volunteering at school. It’s been an incredible learning experience, and I can’t wait to see where it’s meant to go. With hindsight now, I believe my life has been a preparation for this important work. Needless to say, I never knew it at the time.
Who says your most exciting times can’t be in your mid 50’s? With this incredible chain of events, I’m living proof.
Every parent wants the best for his/her children and we were no different. Easily, one of the most important milestones in the life of a parent comes on graduation day. It’s a time to reflect on how we’ve done in preparing our kids for independence. Wanting to give our son Michael our best, I decided to compile the most important life lessons I had learned through the years. This would give him the best head start I could think of.
When I stared at the 100 life success pointers on my computer screen, it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only parent in this same situation. I knew these success pointers would not only help other kids, but their parents as well. It was then that I realized I had a potential book in the making.
But, before proceeding, I felt I needed a reality check. I selected a half-dozen friends from various walks of life to confirm whether this idea made sense. Within a week, the results were in. Everyone said that I was meant to write this book and that it was sorely needed. With their encouragement and blessing, I decided to become an author—and this would be my first book.
Besides the personal benefit of writing this for Trittin family use, I began to reflect on why my advisors felt so strongly that this was a “book for its time.” Several things occurred to me:
- Too many graduates are facing difficult transitions and dropping out of college in their first year
- With more out-of-wedlock births and failed marriages, kids are increasingly growing up in single parent households and missing out on the benefits of having a father and mother in the home
- There is real confusion as to whether “real life” subjects like finance should be taught in school or in the home. Consequently, many life skills are falling through the cracks, with our kids being the innocent victims.
- Job opportunities are increasingly scarce for our high schoolers, preventing many from gaining real world work experience in their formative years
- Parents lack a definitive manual that describes comprehensive preparation for adulthood
- Everyone is too busy!
So, through no fault of their own, our kids are not receiving the life skills training they need to successfully transition into adulthood. They deserve better.
As I’ve progressed in this project, my personal mission has become crystal clear. It is to help fill the life skills gap that is interfering with the progress and success of our kids. I view this book as my first step in a long-term effort.
Will you partner with me?
When I initially developed my list of 100 life success pointers, I had no idea this was a book in the making. I simply went about considering every aspect of life that graduates either are unaware of or that are far more important than they can realize. I reflected on my personal mistakes and regrets and on the qualities and methods of the most successful people I knew. I chose not to write about the obvious (eat right, exercise, rest…), preferring to focus on lessons that come with experience and observation. I deliberately chose subjects that young adults would face in the near term (college transition) as well as issues they’ll face down the road (marriage). My goal was to reach kids before they face these important life decisions.
After brainstorming this initial list (and sharing it with my advisory team for feedback) I categorized them into themes or subjects. Most were easily slotted into various buckets, but some were more isolated in nature. These latter success pointers would comprise my “Miscellaneous” chapter while the other categories would represent thematic chapters.
Once the chapters were determined, my next step was to ensure that I “covered the bases” with the success pointers in each chapter. This led to some additional pointers in a few chapters.
The final aspect of the structuring of the book involved subject matter flow. I had ten diverse chapters that needed to be sequenced in some logical manner. This is why the first half of the book is more deep and reflective (life perspective, character, relationships, spiritual life and handling adversity) while the second half is more topical and life decision oriented (academics, career, love and marriage, and finances).
Now that I had the basic structure of the book designed, my next step was to write it! To that end, I simply prayed and reflected on the content that would most effectively reach my audience for each particular success pointer. In some cases that led to personal experiences or observations that would serve as illustrations. In other cases, it led to instructional methods of how to go about implementing a particular pointer.
Once my initial manuscript was written, my editor, Arlyn Lawrence, offered the excellent suggestion of ending each section with a list of reflective questions before readers proceeded to the next pointer. These will help form the basis of the leader and student guides we are developing for use in educational, small group, and workshop settings.
Writing this book was a deeply reflective experience for me as I scoured my life for relevant wisdom to share. It was incredibly gratifying because many of my life experiences (some of which were hard!) had new meaning—they could now be used to illustrate key life lessons for generations of kids and parents. What a wonderful, unintended pleasure of writing this book!
Some folks have asked this technological dinosaur why I’m blogging. The primary answer is that my subject matter naturally lends itself to interactive dialogue with my audience! I will be looking forward to feedback from readers on my book—which pointers resonated and which ones didn’t, where should I take my work, and how we can use this book and other resources to better prepare our kids for adulthood. Of course, another reason is to help get the word out about my book.
The initial phase of my work centers around the book and companion study guides that are being developed. What happens next will be influenced, in part, by audience feedback. For example, now that I’ve written a book containing success principles and life pointers, is the next step to:
- Write more detailed guides covering some subject matter (e.g. finance)?
- Solicit reader-supplied pointers that I neglected to include in this edition as preparation for the next version?
- Create a DVD series?
- Create a workshop or webinars?
- Write a book with parents as the audience?
Clearly, there are several different avenues I can take—the question is which will have the greatest potential value. That determination will guide my decision.
I look forward to your input and will take it to heart! Thanks in advance.