Don’t touch the thermostat (a letter from Dad)

Sean Williams

Sean Williams

6 mins read


Don't touch the thermostat. It is set at 68° and that's exactly where it's supposed to be. One day soon, you'll become an adult. You'll have a life of your own with more responsibilities, choices, and challenges than you ever had before. And you'll learn why finding the perfect temperature is so important.

In the meantime, I want you to know that you can always count on me for anything. I'm here to protect you and prepare you for the world. Lean on me and learn from me. I'm an old man with two lifetimes of experience, scars, and stories. I've had dozens of jobs and years of education, and I'm at your disposal. All you have to do is talk to me. You are my first priority in every situation we come across together, and I am completely grateful for that responsibility. The best, most fulfilling job I will ever have is being your father.

As such, I have some important missions for you, kid, a group of unending goals that will help you along your way. Please understand that not one of these objectives is finite, nor do they claim a destination on your timeline. They are ongoing endeavors where success is only found through application, steadfast dedication and consistent maintenance. I want you to trust me as the following collection of tasks is based on invoking true happiness in your life. I hope this inspires you to recognize the magic of who you are, and introduces you to the beautiful possibilities of who you can become. Just remember, when it comes to these goals, don’t aim for completion; you succeed by rising to the occasion and giving it your very best every day with your chin held high and your chest out, brandishing a heart of fire for the world to witness.

Here's my list:

Love yourself. You're an amazing person, borne of flames like your old man. You're incredibly talented, intelligent, and warm. You have an entire collection of people who love you just because you're you. So, go take a look at that stud in the mirror and realize that you are absolutely worthy of love and you deserve to be happy. You will always be special to me, but I want you to feel that fire yourself.

Be you. Be the person that you want to be. Don't try to fit in. Don't try to be accepted. Just be you, the real you, the happy you. Be the one who makes you feel right in your gut, the one who wakes up embracing the day. Don't worry about others. Once you find yourself, the right friends will find you too.

Learn. Every moment is a chance to gather information, specific or broad, major or minute. Pay attention to the lessons life presents to you every day. You will learn everything you need to know about yourself by learning as much as you can about the world around you. Your mind is your heart’s one true guide; my advice is to learn all the rules, absorb all the facts and formulas presented to you. This will help offset your fire and balance out your inexplicable emotions. I know, kid. I have them too.

Delay instant gratification. I want you to impress yourself with the notion that you are destined to be amazing. Take note that greatness doesn't happen in a day, ever. It takes hard work, resilience, and patience. You'll be faced with innumerous choices in life, some more difficult than others, and patience is especially important when the big issues come knocking. Here's a solid life tip: the most difficult path and the right path will most likely be the same choice. Be brave. If some triumphs or pleasures don’t happen immediately, it’s okay. Nothing notable occurs in an instant. The best victories are the ones for which you fight for days or weeks, or when earning a degree, years. But I promise you that it’s going to be worth it.

Maintain lifelong integrity. Keep your word and bring good to the world. Be honest and helpful, and always be polite. No matter what happens in your life, remember who you are and how important it is to act kind and just, especially when no one is watching. Be you, and be the man I know you can be. And never expect anything extra for being a good person. The opportunities to exercise compassion, generosity, and bravery are life’s secret rewards, clandestine achievements and accomplishments earned far away from anything resembling a limelight. Cherish these moments of virtue alone, no boasting or bragging. They are your quiet wins. Treat them like invisible trophies of which you should be proud. It’s okay to collect them. It’s not okay to show them off. Learn the word ostentatious, and then don’t be that.

Persevere, a beautiful word which means to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement. This word captures in its three syllables, life as we've come to know it. Discover your own ambition. Find yourself a reason to catch fire, something that empowers you, and creates hundreds of explosions in your heart. At some points in your life, barriers will stand between you and the thing you want most, and sometimes the only way around it is through. For example, my inspiration was and still is you. I am on fire because I wanted nothing more than to be a great father. And when I was told I would fail or I felt like I wasn't good enough, I remembered my purpose, backed up my ambition with confidence and courage, and I obliterated everything standing in my way. I demolished all my roadblocks just to be here to help you get through yours.

Remain calm. Life doesn't offer a pause button. It's up to you to take a moment, breathe, and cool your jets. Things happen fast and without warning, but you can be prepared for it. When life comes flying at you like a flaming meteor, heavy, overwhelming, and scary, stop everything and breathe. You have the power to freeze time. Most of our major choices aren't instantaneous. Take advantage of this and just hold the situation in your hands and view it from multiple angles before you make a decision. Chill. Calm the explosive stress by cooling it off piece by piece. You have control.

I hope this list helps you understand your feelings about existence a little better. I know it seems like these things won’t apply to you right away, but you’d be surprised how quick and reckless life comes barreling into you, typically on an otherwise peaceful afternoon. This world is unpredictable, and if my words can somehow prepare you, even in the smallest way, it was worth writing. I believe in you, kid. You’re literally a part of me, made of my bone and blood. I love you and I will remain by your side for as long as I live. You will do amazing things and bring greatness to the world around you. I have no doubts.

My final thought is this. Life is all about balance. It’s a challenging endeavor that requires juggling multiple everythings at once. If nothing else, remember this analogy. The heart is fire. It holds your passions, ambitions, emotions, and strengths. The brain is ice. It keeps your logic, awareness, facts, and common sense. All of these come together to influence your choices and behaviors which will define everything about you, creating the framework for the person you will become. Think of your attitude as a temperature. You always want to make that temperature as comfortable as you can get it. Here’s a quick exercise. Let’s give those aforementioned traits a value in ℉. Emotions are hot, a stifling 90℉, way too stuffy of an environment to operate productively. Untamed emotions are just chaos, bringing unnecessary stress and anxiety. Naturally, we add in some common sense at 15℉, creating a difference in temperature and your attitude, which affects your surroundings and motivations. You cooled it off a bit, but not much. We’re at 75°, and we can do better. Let’s take away some more heat by including some logic and awareness, each resting at 40°. Subtracting 80 from 75 and now, we’re at a blistering -5° and it is too cold to do anything, not enough warmth from the heart to get anywhere. Throw in some passion and ambition, which together add up to 116°, then balance that off with 43° of cold hard facts and chilling truths about your life and your goals, focusing harshly on how your heart and brain work together in unison as they bring to life the very man you are.

Now stop.

Take a breath and reflect, and then do the math. You will find yourself at a soothing, motivational temperature of 68°. And that, son, is why you don’t touch the thermostat.