Josh Kopel, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in San Diego, is a restaurateur, tech pioneer, and host of Full Comp, a podcast hosting thought leaders from Seth Godin to chef Wolfgang Puck as they chart the path forward for one of the world’s largest industries. As a Dad and entrepreneur, Josh shared his life lessons in a heartfelt message to his daughter:
My grandmother died from congestive heart failure in a slow decline. There’s something to be said for dying slowly: Time seems more precious, and she accomplished a lot in her final months.
She wrote a letter to everyone she knew. In my letter, she shared a lifetime of wisdom and her hopes for my future. I can’t think of a single document that has had a greater impact on my worldview. It was the greatest gift I have ever received.
And now I realize that I am also dying … slowly. In the same way that we’re all dying. I’m somewhere between the halfway point and the back half. I look at my three-year-old daughter and wonder, “What is the greatest gift I can give her?”
If I was to die tomorrow, what does she absolutely need to know about me, about us, and about life?
I wrote a letter for her to read after I’m gone, but I’d like for you to have it, too. As entrepreneurs, we’re a busy bunch–working hard to impact the world. But the greatest impact I’ll have is the life that I helped create. She is my legacy. My greatest wish for her, and for you, is to read these words, realize that you’re dying, too–and then live accordingly.
Here are five critical life lessons learned in my 42 years of life:
Every thought you think. Every word you say. Every interaction has meaning. I wish I had realized that sooner. You are powerful beyond measure. What you say and believe will manifest whether you intend it or not. My belief in my own ability to create my destiny not only manifested the career of my dreams, but it also gave me you. I dreamt of you a thousand times before we met. I had always wanted a daughter. I knew that there were countless lessons that only you could teach me. And you have. My belief that everything matters stems from my love for you:
- Your sheer existence gives meaning to even life’s most mundane facets.
- You are at the center of my every thought and action.
- You are everything to me.
I remember vividly every time I thought the party was over. The high school heartbreaks, job terminations, near-bankruptcies, economic meltdowns, a global pandemic–it always felt like the end of the world. And yet, the world continued, and I moved on. If gratitude is a superpower, then perspective is what fuels it. The near misses, victories, accolades, and abject failures: None of it matters. Every goal achieved transforms into a milestone on a much longer journey. The goal post will always move. I didn’t raise you to be satisfied; I raised you to be grateful. Measure your life based on your level of contribution: to your family, friends, and community. I’ve spent most of my life as a professional servant. And I hope I have served you and your mother well. They say you can’t take it with you, and for the most part, they’re right. Give this life everything you’ve got. Save nothing for tomorrow. Nothing matters.
Sweat the Small Stuff
I’m a big-picture guy. That visionary quality enabled me to build big things, but when I look back, the things I cherish most are small. The tiny moments I shared with you and your mom:
- Giving you a bath
- Dinner dates
- Long car rides
- Walking the dog as a family
Those tiny moments of intimate connection are fuel for the soul. Seek those out, and never take them for granted. Create room in your life to experience them daily. Those are the small spaces where you’ll feel loved most and find the capacity to love others without distraction. Those moments give life meaning. Find the magic in the mundane.
Be Here Now
Mindfulness is the key to everything in life. It has made me a better human. And yet, despite my best efforts, I’ve spent most of my life thinking about yesterday and tomorrow. The result was years of discomfort fueled by feelings that serve no purpose. I should have cared less about what other people thought. I bet that the folks and painful moments I obsessed over barely registered for the other people involved. Prioritize this moment, knowing that there’s nothing to be done about the past and you have little control over the future. Be here now. Building a better today does lead to a better tomorrow. Advocate today for your future self.
Burn This Letter
I am not here in these words or on this paper. This letter wasn’t written to explain my past failings or to reinvent the narrative of my life. My goal wasn’t to be prescriptive or to set expectations for your life. These are my lessons from my life. Your lessons will be different. Your life is extraordinary and exceptional in ways I could never imagine. You will find your way to your most authentic self.
You truly saved my life.
Now burn this letter, and go live your life to the fullest!