In Developing Your Super Powers

This one is personal. It’s the letter I wrote yesterday to my 14-year old on her first day of high school. She’s been having those anxiety dreams, the ones where you’re lost, or you forgot your homework, or can’t remember anything you memorized for the test.  As I thought about whether it would be too personal to share on this blog, it occurred to me that if it helped even one other person take the time to write their own letter to someone to appreciate them, it would be worth it.  Building others up is a great leadership practice.  It builds positive energy, engagement, and confidence in the recipient.  It connects you as a leader more deeply with them. And you might just discover how great it makes you feel. Here is the letter.

“My Dearest,

Today is your first day of high school. I am feeling that working mom guilt for not being there for you when you get back from school.  As I sit on this long flight, I thought I would write you a long letter. It’s a bit sappy so buckle up your seat belt.

I know you’re nervous about going to a new school, adjusting to the rigor of a demanding schedule, and making new friends. I want to tell you how proud and confident I am in you – your kind and loving nature, your intelligence and wit, and your sense of responsibility and leadership. I can see how your friends, and even those people younger and older than you, see through to your inner goodness and depth – even though it comes veiled in a sassy, silly, and comical One Direction-crazy package. You bring so much light and lightness to my life and I love you so much.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far that I’d like to share with you as you think about navigating the next year in high school. I’m proud that you’ve set goals for yourself. I’m proud that your goals for yourself are ambitious. It’s always great to shoot for the stars. Know that there are some goals that you will reach. Take the time to celebrate those achievements and feel the gratitude for your strengths and for those who have helped you get there. There will be some goals that you will not meet. Celebrate them anyway. I know you’ll be disappointed – but a failure to meet a goal is never a failure of you.  Feel gratitude for the fact that you went for it. Feel gratitude for how you pushed yourself and what you learned in the process.  Failure helps you become stronger and more resilient if you choose to let it. So if you fail, try again. The only failure is the failure of not trying your best and learning from the experience.

I am glad that you put “make friends” at the top of your goals. Friends are one of the greatest riches we have in life. When I was your age “make friends” wouldn’t have been on the top of my list. You see, I was focused and driven and sometimes saw time with friends as non-productive time. I robbed myself of the riches of that experience and I’m glad you’re wiser than me.

I know we’ve talked about your taking short-cuts when you’re doing your homework. I know you’re not into the details. You find them tedious and boring. So do I, and yes I look for the short-cuts too. It’s a fine skill to have when applied judiciously (that would be a 9th grade word, look it up). I do hope though that through these years of high school you will take the time to explore in depth the subjects that interest you and those that don’t. Sometimes the in-depth exploration creates its own interest.  I hope you will savor the learning for the sake of how it enriches your being versus just helping you achieve a goal or get to an “A”. Whether it’s a piece of poetry, an elegant solution to a tough math problem, or creating something new, take the time to savor the experience. Lingering enriches our soul like no rushing through a goal will. So linger and fully experience the experience of high school (and no that doesn’t mean linger in high school).

High school can also be a tough experience, particularly when you have a bunch of kids with tiger moms all trying to compete. I know you are a hard worker and you will do well. Your high school gives you the opportunity to explore your passions through independent study programs. Feed your curiosity. Find what interests you and move toward that. Colleges want to have kids who are self-aware and tuned in to who they are and where they can best contribute to the world as adults.  Well, okay they are also interested in students who will best contribute to the college when they become alumni, so keep that in mind too.   Colleges want kids who are curious about life and not afraid to take risks to learn and to explore. Don’t go for the easy “A”. Go explore what you want to learn about.

Kids in high school can be cruel or hurtful sometimes. You’ll get hurt. Try not to take what they say or do too personally. Most people’s actions have nothing to do with you – only about what they feel about themselves. Choose to be the bigger person and forgive them. It will make you feel better than holding on to a grudge. Remember you can always choose to be who you are and let them be who they are.  No one can hurt or anger you without your consent (yes, I know what your answer to that is – sometimes it just feels good to give them your consent!).

I love the fact that you like to share your day with me – which teacher was really annoying and what happened during your favorite period (that would be lunch).  My hope is that we can create a sharing ritual where we talk about our day and maybe take a walk while we do that.  All of a sudden, I find myself waking up to the fact that you’ll be gone in four years. I find myself regretting the many years I was preoccupied with my work and not fully present to you. I remember you reminding me to at least look up from my computer when I’m half-listening to you.  Keep reminding me to do that. I’ll eventually learn.  Keep sharing what you have to share even if you think I’m only half-listening.  I’ll try my best to be more present.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young lady you have become. I’m proud of your strengths and also proud of your being open and honest when you’re uncertain, angry, or hurt. I love you and will be there for you regardless (just don’t plan on committing any felonies or misdemeanors, okay?).

Mom used to tell me that I could do and be whatever I set my mind to. I know that so can you.”

So now just take a few minutes to put this leadership practice into action. Write a letter to someone you appreciate. Be specific about what you appreciate. Not just what they do, but who they are. Tell them you have their back. I promise you, it will help bring greater engagement to your teams, your family and your community.

If this resonated for you, please comment, subscribe, and share with others.

Showing 24 comments
  • Theresa
    Reply

    A beautiful letter!

  • Debbie Perdue
    Reply

    Henna,

    This letter is beautiful. Thanks so much for sending it. Not only is this great for kids, there are great messages for adults, too!

    I forwarded this story to our internal newletter editor at King & Spalding. Do you mind if we publish this in our newsletter and cite you as the author?

    Thanks,

    Debbie Perdue

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hi Debbie – That would be my honor. Thanks for taking the time to comment and writing me this letter of appreciation.

      Henna

  • Rita Izaguirre
    Reply

    Henna thanks for sharing the wonderful guidance you give your daughter. You are both lucky to have each other. And we, your readers, are lucky to learn that you apply what you preach.

    Daring to express our love and support of others feeds our souls as much as theirs. Kudos for your courage to share and be vulnerable.

    Rita

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Rita. You’re so good at appreciating others, this comes naturally to you!

  • Ruchika Tulshyan
    Reply

    “Most people’s actions have nothing to do with you – only about what they feel about themselves. Choose to be the bigger person and forgive them. It will make you feel better than holding on to a grudge. Remember you can always choose to be who you are and let them be who they are.”

    This line resonated so much with me. You are a wonderful leader, mentor and mother. I hope you remember these words for yourself.

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Ruchika. Yes, after I wrote the letter, it felt a bit like advice to my younger (and now older) self.

  • Allison
    Reply

    I, too, have a 14 year old daughter (and 16) and your words resonated with all that I feel is true for my daughters to understand as they step into high school. It is the first ‘school’ opportunity to truly explore yourself in a sea of young adults, a world-wind of education, and a endless supply of opportunities. If you are brave and willing you may find both your passion and yourself in this experience called, High School. It is what I hope for both of my girls. I am going to print this and share this with my girls. THANKS!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hi Allison – Thanks for taking the time to comment. I love what you said: “if you are brave and willing you may find both your passion and yourself”…a good and worthy goal for high school – and for life!

  • Sharon Druker
    Reply

    Henna, this was great – my daughter (also a Directioner!) is 13 (14 in December, going on 35 some days and back to 5 on others. She started high school last year and although she had some trepidation and challenges the first days (finding her locker, migrating between classes and getting there on time), by the end of the first week, she felt completely at home and actually is happier in high school than she was in elementary. I also love keeping in touch with her during the day (she texts me at lunch and at the end of the day). She just came back yesterday from her first 2-week sleep-away camp experience, and although she was a little nervous (even though it was her idea), she had a great time. It was really odd for us to be out of contact with her over those 2 weeks (except for 2 letters home, 1 in the middle of the 2nd week and the 2nd one on the day before her return!), it was a great growing experience for us all. Your letter is a treasure for your daughter to keep always (make sure you keep a copy too!) but it sounds like you have done a great job and laid a great foundation so far so you can rest assured it will all work out!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Sharon for sharing your story and joining the conversation. Your daughter sounds like she is a confident young lady. Wishing you both well.

  • Adriana Avendaño
    Reply

    Querida Henna,

    This letter is beautiful! I shared it with my daughters, and when they finished to read it I saw they were crying, I am sure they felt identify with all the goals and dreams you described for your girl.

    Thanks!! Please receive you and your lovely daughter our warm regards.

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hola Adriana – Que gusto! It’s wonderful to hear from you and I’m glad the letter resonated for your daughters. I think as mothers our hopes and dreams for our daughters are so universal. Un abrazo fuerte para todos ustedes. I miss you all so much and remember our days in Mexico with great fondness. Please keep in touch.

  • Naghma Khan
    Reply

    Dear Henna
    You have taken all my unspoken words and put them so expressively on paper. Thanks for sharing

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Dear Naghma – Thanks for taking the time to comment. As mothers I am discovering many of our sentiments for our daughters are universal. I am glad this resonated for you.

  • Jorge Patton
    Reply

    Hi Henna.
    Beautiful letter, not only for Moms, for Dad´s too.
    My daughter Sofia is 12 years old, I promise I will share your letter with her.

    Thank´s
    Regards
    Jorge Patton

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hola Jorge – Thank you for your comment. I’ve never been a Dad (and don’t expect to be one anytime soon :-)) but I can imagine how Dads would have similar aspirations for their daughters. I’m sure you are very proud of Sofia. When you share it with her, but sure to add a few of your own words as well. My best to you. Un abrazo fuerte.

      Henna

  • Priya Abraham
    Reply

    Dear Henna,

    This is one of the most beautiful notes to a daughter. Thanks for sharing!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Priya for taking the time to comment. I hope you will also take the time to write a note of appreciation to someone important in your work or personal life.

  • Nabiha
    Reply

    Henna,
    What a beautiful letter so wonderfully executed … Like myself I am sure this touched a lot of people … Great advice not just for kids but for adults as well. And also like your daughter said … Look up and listen … I hope you can take the time to look up more often and spend some quality time together :) loved it

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Bina for taking the time to comment. I hope you’ll be writing your own letters of appreciation too!

      Henna

  • Sadaffe Abid
    Reply

    Henna,

    What a beautiful and thoughtful letter…. It reminds me how wonderful it is to commemorate and celebrate small and big milestones in our lives and of those we love. I am not a mom yet but your letter is very inspiring. It reminds me of my own mom and dad and their love and belief in me. It also gives great principles on dealing with setbacks, emotions and living life fully. Thanks for sharing.

    Sadaffe

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Sadaffe for sharing about yourself. Motherhood (like any other grand experience or relationship in our lives) is also a great way to know and grow ourselves. Given your depth I’m sure you will be a great mom.

  • Seana McNamara
    Reply

    Henna,

    This is a beautiful letter. I’m not so far away from high school that I can’t empathize. Conscious goal setting in high school is an auspicious start and I wish both you, and her, the best.

    -Seana

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