«Do not wait for Godot. And watch your thoughts. What we think, we become»
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NOT ALL DAYS ARE THE SAME.
I realized it on a cool summer night 9 years ago in San Francisco, when I woke up confusedly in the hospital. Brain concussion and a broken knee. And those words of the doctor: “We suspect a spinal injury.” A few hours earlier I was happily riding home on my 883 and now I was told I was in danger of paralysis. It matters little that the fault was not mine and that a car had run over me without seeing me. The new reality was that maybe I couldn’t walk anymore.
You who are reading me, will you ask yourself why I started with this story of life? Because, as trivial as it may seem, never assume that what you can do today can also be done tomorrow. Don’t wait for Godot. Do you like that girl? Ask her out. Do you want to see America? Get on the plane and go. Do you hate your job? Leave it, or even create your own business.
“Who goes slowly, goes healthy and goes far” is probably the most deleterious proverb of Italian popular culture.
I was riding slowly, yet my path would have stopped at that intersection between Van Ness and Clay. And I will never get tired of telling you: if you really want something, work constantly to get there now that you can. Maybe in the end the girl you like will say no, maybe America won’t be the legendary place you imagined, maybe your new job won’t meet your expectations. But it doesn’t matter. It will happen that you will no longer have regrets in the future: you will no longer wonder in your head: “What would have happened in my life if I had done this?”. And meanwhile you will have grown, and a lot, both in experience and in self-esteem.
Every now and then I look back.
As a boy I never imagined that I would create businesses, or that I would have the honor of modernizing INPS. And I realize how it was a gradual process, of constant growth, fearlessly coming out of one’s easy habits.
In my third year of High School I was shy, and I ran as a class representative: I didn’t take any votes. I could have ended it there, overwhelmed in embarrassment. Instead, I tried again the following year and was elected. These are the things that make dreams come true. Solve that problem at the university to which no one has answered, point out to the teacher that the slides he has been showing in his courses for 15 years contain an error, transform the technological infrastructure of one of the largest IT giants in the world in a few months.
These have been for me bigger and bigger pieces that have led me to gain more and more confidence and understand that, in the end, the limits to what we can become exist only in one’s own head.
And that’s what I invite you to do. You are young. So fly high and with courage. You will fail at something, indeed, you will surely fail at something. This is perfectly normal and you know what? In the meantime, you will discover that you have accumulated a real treasure: that is, the experience you will draw on next time for a better result. Do not fear criticism, also because you know who are the ones who are never wrong? They are those who do not even try, they are those who are paralyzed in the face of choices: the “indolents“, to call it like Dante. And don’t be like them. In the movie “The Iron Lady”, an elderly Margaret Thatcher makes this consideration:
«Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny».
What we think, we become.
And be wary of the “latinorum” (i.e., fancy erudite but meaningless words) of people closed only in their own think tanks. You will learn that personal education does not come exclusively from masterpieces such as “The Betrothed” or “War and Peace”, but also from great manga epics such as “Attack on Titan”, from an understanding of finance, from sport.
You will understand that the basis of true culture is the doing. So, get your hands dirty and learn without a priori fear of making a mistake. Continuously apply what you have learned. This way you will understand even better what your true passions are.
Will it be easy? Surely not. It will be tremendously difficult. But when you dedicate your life to something you love, you will feel fatigue much less. And it will be a life worth living. When you are 85, you’ll look back and you’ll think: “Did I do everything I wanted?”. Make sure the answer is a resounding yes.
Thanks to Eleonora Chioda for publishing this open letter to youngsters in the special issue of Millionaire of March 2021.