This picture almost didn't get taken. Let me explain.
My 1984 Ford Escort was stolen about one month before I was scheduled to go to college. When the police returned my car, I found the thief’s wallet in my trunk. In his wallet was his driver's license. I knew the guy. He had a reputation in my neighborhood for being a bully and staying in trouble with the law. I wondered whether he knew he was stealing my car, or whether he targeted me and stole it on purpose. In any case, I was angry. I felt violated. I wanted revenge.
So I walked to the address that was on his driver's license. I arrived at his apartment building, sat across the street on a bus stop so I could watch his front door. I was waiting for him to get home. I was going to make him pay for the pain he caused me, or, at the very least, for disrespecting me (respect is HUGE in the streets of Long Beach).
However, while sitting there on that bus-stop, several scenarios ran through my mind of what could happen if I confronted the guy. I wondered, "What if things get out of hand, and I accidentally hurt or kill him?"
If I hurt or accidentally killed him, I reasoned, I would probably go to jail, and not be able to enroll at Berkeley. But to avoid going to jail, I would need to go into hiding, and probably flee to Mexico or something. However, I quickly realized I couldn't speak Spanish fluently, I had no money, and, quite frankly, I didn't even know how to get to Mexico (this was before GPS). So I figured murder would not be the best way to handle the situation.
Then I started wondering if the guy who stole my car had a knife or a gun. If so, I would probably get stabbed or shot and have to go to the hospital, or possibly die.
If I confront this guy, I concluded, I will probably ruin my chances of ever going to college and building a better life for myself.
Is my car or my ego really worth losing my future? That question put life in perspective for me.
I got up and walked home.
One month later, I enrolled at U.C. Berkeley and began a new chapter in my life. At Berkeley, I fell in love with my college sweetheart and married her. After graduation, we went to grad school in Chicago and bought our first house. In Chicago, we started our family and our consulting business, which has taken us to 49 states and 5 continents.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I had confronted the guy who stole my car. I'll never know, but I doubt I would have ended up where I am today.
Had I confronted him, I would not have been able to talk to over 1,000,000 young people about dreaming big, working hard, picking friends, and, yes, decision-making.
Had I confronted him, I would not have been able to tell over 1,000,000 adults that even on their worst days, they can still be someone's best hope.
Had I confronted him, the Christmas picture above would not have been taken!
and, had I confronted him, I probably would have never met or connected with you.
I'm so glad that I did not confront him!
My friend, please keep riding with me on the journey ahead.
I hope the best years of your past are the worst years of your future.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
P.S. Even on your worst day you can be someone's best hope!