Pendleton Street Advisors


insight & investment commentary


Letters - the Power of Words

I've found that I learn best from biographical application; that is, learning from someone else's experiences.  A techie friend recently told me, "There is no compression algorithm for experience". While the particular example isn't in my wheelhouse, I think I understand the concept. To the extent that I can prime myself for experience though, I think letters help us look under the hood for how others have faced similar circumstances.

Farnham Street Blog (Shane Parish) turned me onto a book, "with wisdom and lessons seeping off every page". Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son, is a collection of fictional letters from John Graham to his son and is rife with wisdom, humor, and frankness on the dealings everyday of life and business. Since reading this collection, I've garnered a deeper curiosity for letters and the prudence they may impart.  I found the letter below to be striking and eerily similar to my own temperament and current station in life.


You are my sweet boy, and I've been mesmerized watching you grow over the first 16 months of your life.  Awestruck by my sense of pride in being and becoming the father of a son, I've felt compelled to write you regarding a thought that concerns you now- and is true of us both.

You have a tireless motion about you and are joyfully moving whether in someone's arms or scooting around the floors of our home- sweeping them as you go... I've begun to recognize and focus my attention on the same insatiable need to move in my own life. Physically, a little- but my mind races from one idea to the next only letting those ideas find their birth and infancy before I'm driven to the next by my own desire and curiosity. I must be quick to point out that this is not an innately terrible trait, but I feel constrained to convey a warning and a command- as much for myself as for you, my son.

Be forewarned- do not mistake movement for progress. All the world around you will be buzzing and full of hype concerning fallacious fads and trends that experience will prove to be vapors and vices and places to part with your money (and mine). You'll find that you will win much respect for setting your hand to a task and driving it to fruition, particularly if you have bootstrapped your way through it.  In your bones and your fiber you possess the ability to move and initiate this type of enterprising ability. It will serve to propel you past the majority- if you heed the command.

Master this gift, lest you be mastered by it. If you let it, this unending desire to move (physically or mentally) can cripple you and render your potential a real snare. Thus yielding a man who has no control over himself or any drive to direct his path.

The Lord bless you and keep you, Jack, he makes his face to shine on you, lift his countenance to you, and give you peace. My prayer, and my desire to master in my own life as an example to you- is to practice peace, even as I keep moving as he created me to.

I love you my son,


ArticlesMills Snell