Dear Dude,

Just hear me out. I know the chances you're reading this of your own free will and volition are slim (your mom is probably making you do it), but try to keep an open mind. I'm going to try not to patronize, but I'm also going to be real with you.

I'm 24 years old. Looking back, those teen years were a lot tougher than I realized at the time. If you'll let me, I've got some advice that'll save you a whole lot of trouble. I guarantee you won't like some of it, but I also guarantee that if you follow it, it'll change the course of your life for the better.

Give Mom a break

I swear she's not paying me to write this. There will come a day (fairly soon) when you move out of the house. You'll cook your own food, wash your own clothes and pay your own bills. It sucks.

You'll realize how awesome your mom is. You'll realize how much she did for you (that you probably took for granted) and how much you owe her (but will never be able to repay). Here's what it comes down to:

If she says you're being a pain in her rear, you probably are.

If she asks you to clean your room, just clean it.

If she doesn't let you go to that sleepover, just be OK with it.

If I could get one message across to you in this letter it would be this: Always assume your parents are right and that they want the best for you. Sometimes that means you'll have to go mow the lawn (I hated that), but just suck it up. Don't be a punk.

Easy on the ladies, man

There are a whole lot of hormones raging through your body right now. Try not to let them control you. Learn to respect women, starting with your mom. If your parents say you're not old enough to date (and everything implied with that) then you aren't old enough. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. Be patient.

Speaking from experience, every part of you is telling you to rebel against that counsel. If that's what you really want, then go for it — but there are always consequences. Soon enough you'll be my age looking back, wishing you had done things differently.

Be the guy anybody can get along with

The emos, the jocks, the skaters, the hipsters — high school is a breeding ground for weird social groups. At one point I literally created a map of my high school commons area, illustrating where each clique liked to hang. Don't isolate yourself to one group of friends.

Be friends with everyone you can. But if you get the feeling that some of your friends aren't the best influence on you (or if your parents tell you), don't be afraid to make new ones. Very soon you'll graduate and none of the popularity, rumors and reputations will matter.

In time, most (if not all) of your high school friendships will shift from the real world to the digital world. Your Facebook feed will be filled with pictures of newlywed people you once knew so well, followed by newborn babies and apologies to parents for not taking them more seriously back in the day. Live each day of high school with that perspective in mind.

Don't worry about what other people think

Just be yourself, man. I know that sounds super cliché, but really, just do your thing. What does that mean? Find your own interpretation. For me it meant not trying so hard. It meant being able to be just as happy alone as I was when I was with my friends.

The teen years are when you're supposed to hash out who you are. If you don't quite know yet, don't worry. That's normal. Again, be patient.

Be nice to people

I'll never forget the day I was headed to my friends' table for lunch and saw a girl sitting all by herself on some stairs eating her PB & J. The thought occurred to me: You should probably go invite her to your table.

I didn't. I just kept walking. I regret it.

Talk to people. Compliment them. Smile. Learn their names. Say hi to them in the halls and when you awkwardly run into them at Walmart.

Simply being kind to people will be a huge step in your journey to figure out who you are.

Family matters

Stop treating your friends better than your family.

Your family is the one thing that will remain constant as you go throughout life. Your parents will always be your parents. Your siblings will always be your siblings. Treat them well.

I know that's easier said than done. Sometimes your siblings are going to drive you nuts, but once you're older they actually become some of your best friends. It's weird.

Learn to forgive your sister for eating the last two slices of pizza even though she knew you wanted one. It's just pizza.

Learn to work hard

If you can't do your own dishes now, how do you expect to be able to work eight hours a day for the next 50 years? When opportunities or obligations come along that require you to work, recognize the value in it. Use that experience to find what you love to do.

Remember that interesting work is much more fun than fun is. You'll thank yourself in a few years if you develop a strong work ethic right now. Those who succeed in life know how to work. Once you realize the worth of hard work, you get a glimpse of your true potential.

Take your life by the horns and become the man you've always wanted to become. Start today.

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