A (Recently) Unopened Letter to Myself

When’s the last time you wrote yourself a letter?

On a couple of occasions in the past few years, I have written letters to myself. Specifically, to my past and future self. It was a challenge a friend gave me on my 31st birthday.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, write a letter to your 21-year-old self. What advice would you give yourself knowing what you now know?
  • Second, write a letter to your 41-year-old self. What advice would you ask yourself knowing what you do not know?

It is an interesting exercise in leaning into the natural tendencies of our mind to either: a) get stuck in the past, or b) worry about the future.

I wrote myself a letter 5 1/2 months ago.

This time, it was different. First off, it was at the end of a three-day a silent meditation course. Secondly, the instructor took my letter in a sealed self-addressed envelope and promise to send me my letter sometime in the future. Lastly, it was a letter to myself. Not my past or future self. Me, in the present moment. (Whenever that would be).

Would it be days, weeks, months? I do not recall how long after the retreat my letter came. I know I placed it on my desk. There it stayed there for 5 1/2 months.

After turning 33 this July, I opted out of writing to the 23 and 43-year-old Ambrose. Instead, I became excited to get home and open up the letter to my 33-year old self that was already waiting for me.

5 pieces of advice I told myself

Dear Ambrose,

Along your journey, you have to realize it is not a trip at all.

You have nowhere to be. You have nothing to do. You are.

After spending some time going inward — no reading, no writing, no listening, no watching, and no talking — here are five pieces of advice:

1. You Already Have All Of The Answers You Seek

It is okay to have mentors. It is good that you still get coached. However, don’t forget to coach and mentor yourself. Right now, there is no room for doubting yourself. Yes, you are a student and the technician. You are also the master. The answers you seek are within.

2. Desire Is Not A Bad Thing Unless It is Feverish

You should be able to take even your innermost burning desire drop it at a minutes notice , walking away from it, and picking up again if you so choose. Anything that you need and can’t live without becomes your bondage. Don’t be a slave to your desire. Freedom is happiness. Be content.

3. Opposites Are Complementary

This can not be intellectualized by your rational mind. In the mind, if this equals that, then there is no room for something else to be even considered. However, you know different. You have felt this difference. Remember everything is changing and nothing is changing. As you go through your go through, remember you are the eye of the hurricane – peace. You can’t change the chaos happening around you. Even when you get caught up in it, remember there is a place of you that is always still.

4. Work Hard And Live Well

This motto is becoming more evident every year. This is nothing wrong with being ambitious. The ego needs this. There is also everything right with being centered. This is the natural disposition of the spirit. You cannot have peace of mind all of the time. When you do – prepare. It is during times of war when the hero stands up. It is about how you capitalize on both of these times. Work like a warrior, preparing with diligence and honor, and live like a champion, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

5. Take Care of Yourself

It is the most selfish thing and the most important thing you can do for others.

Drink water. Eat healthy food. Be in good company with others. Laugh. Sing. Move. Play. Fight. Love.


Ambrose WB

Monday, February 15th, 2016
Wading River, Long Island, NY
Three-Day Silent Meditation Retreat

The advice I give to others rarely works

You may be thinking, “What the hell are you talking about?”

I know, I am a coach. My life’s purpose is giving people exercise, nutrition and lifestyle advice. If I’m honest, more people do not take my advice when I look at the bigger picture.

It’s okay. It is natural, we all do it.

By “it” I mean we are all bad at both giving and receiving advice.

In the last three years, I have worked relentlessly at this still. Communication.

As a fitness professional, working with clients online, I have grown and learn how to coach results my clients by saying less and expecting more. As a youth educator, I tell my students on day one, “I’m not here to teach you anything. We are all here to learn from one another.”

Research in the reactance theory says when you tell someone what to do and how to do it, there is another natural tendency – defiance.

Two things feel better than being right:

  1. Personal freedom
  2. Making decisions

Perhaps this is the reason this exercise always feels weird. Maybe it is why I do not know where those letters I wrote when I was 31 and 32 went.

Sure, there are ways to both give and receive advice. Personally and professionally, I am working on both.

However, there is something that you can do right now. You do not have to research or read any further than the next sub-headline and the summary that follows.

What works better than giving advice?


Research in observational learning says people will not listen to advice or instruction that’s unsolicited; they will follow behaviors. This is even truer when the actions (or beliefs) yield good and reinforcing outcomes.

If you want to be an agent of change, model the behavior that you want. Keep your advice to yourself.

I’m aware that this is advice. Ironic isn’t it. With that said: you have the freedom to make your own decision whether or not this advice will be good for you.


Work hard and live well.

Ambrose WB


Dwayne Bent | [108/366] Pen to Paper
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