It’s been a little over a year since the release of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead, and I have to say there’s nothing like the experience of writing and launching a book. You put your heart and soul into it, not knowing how it will be received. Your hopes are high that readers will respond enthusiastically but the fact is, until it’s out there, you just don’t know!
My anticipation was even greater as two accompanying student guides hit the market a few months later. Now, What I Wish I Knew at 18 could be employed for both personal (teens/young adults and the adults who guide them) and institutional use (schools, mentor organizations, the faith community, etc.). Unbelievable opportunities began to open up. Testimonies started to pour in. The ride had begun—and what a ride it’s proving to be!
In fact, I’ve found this past year to be one of the most amazing and transformational of my life. All of a sudden I find myself with:
- A more purposeful life mission—what can be more fulfilling than sharing life wisdom to young people to help shape their futures? To provide resources that serve as a bridge between parents and teens, helping forge stronger relationships at this critical time of life? To support committed educators, who want to ensure kids receive the leadership and life skills needed to succeed? I find this far more impactful than managing tens of billions of dollars of assets!
- Providential introductions to amazing servant leaders—a floodgate of new relationships has opened up with influential people and organizations who touch the lives of young people. I’ve built new friendships with incredible leaders in the educational, social service, and faith communities who are on the front lines in equipping young people for life. I’m enjoying the goodwill of numerous ambassadors, many whom I’ve never met personally, but who have caught the vision and are helping to get the word out.
- Unforgettable and affirming responses by readers—this is clearly the most fulfilling of all. I’ll never forget the email from a 19-year old Indonesian girl sharing her heartfelt view that ALL young people need to read this book. Or, the story from the youth leader going through the book with a desperate, teenager with no father in his life and a severely alcoholic mother. “This book gives me a sense of what it’s like to have a dad,” the teen shared with his leader. Or, the father who shared that, through reading What I Wish I Knew at 18 with his college-bound daughter, he was having deeper, more meaningful conversations with her than ever before.
Without a doubt, though, my most memorable experience of the year was the opportunity to speak at my hometown high school in Kimberly, Wisconsin. The day began with an appearance on Green Bay TV, followed by a talk to 700 juniors and seniors. But, what really impacted me was what happened next.
I visited the classroom of a special program for high schoolers who have already experienced major life struggles. Here was my opportunity to speak life, hope, and practical wisdom to kids who arguably need it most. I’d never been in a context like this before and it was humbling, to say the least. It changed my heart toward kids who, despite some admittedly poor choices, have SO much to offer the world. These students were so engaged and had wonderful, heartfelt questions. I think of them often and hope my visit had as positive an impact on them as it did on me.
As LifeSmart Publishing starts year two, I find myself poised for what may be the most amazing opportunity of all: sharing our book and course throughout Indonesia. This country is actively seeking character-based resources to equip its young people to become leaders of strong character and integrity. To be honest, we didn’t originally envision our work going global, but it’s looking like that’s where we’re headed. Incredible!
I’ve always secretly longed to change the world if I had the opportunity. Maybe this is my chance. However that plays out, I’m eternally grateful for this new life chapter and look forward to what’s in store in the days ahead. In the meantime, it’s humbling to see the opportunities God has given me to change lives in the course of one short year.
Thanks for helping making this a great year—here’s to many more, and to a growing vision of changing the world through empowering a new generation of honorable leaders!