“Conversations Across Generations”
My Letter To My Great-Nephew, Jourdan Hamilton


Take a look at me, Jourdan! I’m enjoying a financially secure and personally rewarding retirement, 51 years after graduating from high school in 1969 in racially segregated Austin, Texas. I’m 69, and in this letter, I’m sharing what I’ve gleaned from looking back on my life. I’m sharing my life’s lessons with you, my great-nephew, so you can use what I’ve learned as a foundation on which you can build your life and grow and develop. I’ve stood on the backs of others. I want you to stand on my back, as well. I’ve learned from others. Also, I hope you will learn from me.

Dear Jourdan,

Take a look at me now!

I’m enjoying a financially secure and enjoyable retirement 51 years after graduating from high school in 1969. 

In this letter, I’m sharing my experiences, so they can guide you and provide you a foundation to build on and to grow and develop. I’ve stood on the backs of others. I want to stand on my back. I’ve learned from others; I hope you can learn from me. 



Seek Guidance: In retrospect, I didn’t have anyone to guide me as I finished high school, finished college, and started my career. For a significant part of my early career, I had to figure out “my path” while walking along it.

I’ve learned the importance of having a mentor.  Find one for every aspect of your life — educational, business, professional, or personal. Seek out someone willing to take you under their wing and give you advice in getting through life and your job (don’t just expect that everyone is helpful to fulfill this role or is even willing to be a mentor.) 

Plan: Also, as I look back, I see how vital planning was, and it still is. Make a long-range plan. Layout the things you want to accomplish. What is important to you about your career or status? Set goals.  With the help of your “mentor network,” layout what you need to do to realize them.

My father told me at a young age that “Anything worth doing is going to be difficult.” Again, short, medium, and long-term goals. Think of your life as a set of stages or a series of decades. Set goals for each decade. You have a high probability of living to age 120. Starting at age 30, that’s planning for nine decades.

In your plan, indicate how you will go about reaching the goals. What milestones will you use? I had set goals, and I achieved them: living on the East Coast, working in an office environment, advancing in the museum field, and buying a house, experiencing the things unavailable to me living in a segregated community.

Value Yourself: Don’t give away your talent. You have and will invest a lot of time and money developing your skills. There are lots of ways to build your skills: taking courses to earn certificates/degrees; on-the-job training, observing, being an intern, serving as an apprentice, participating in workshops

Be an Expert: Gain the skills you need to become an expert in your field (don’t make the mistake of thinking you can use your body to get ahead- youth fades). Acquire knowledge that has lasting value. 

Rules of the Workplace The workplace, specifically in an office environment, has generally accepted behavior that has been defined by law and office culture.  Learn the rules and abide by them.  Know what policies can be relaxed and which ones the organization strictly enforces.  For example, I joined the workforce, men working in an office wore a coat/suit and tie.  That was the “rule.” Over time, new rules arose. Today, it’s acceptable for men not to wear a tie or jacket, or belt. Male staff often don’t tuck their shirts into trousers; they may be “sockless” and may greet clients 

Be Confident, Yet Aggressive:  However, be honest with yourself. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can outsmart people; there are always people smarter than you are.

Dream: In your life plan, include a vision of your dream job. Outline what savings and investment will look like. (More on that later.) Include the image you have for yourself. (Again, more on that later).


Financial Independence/Freedom

Start planning early for your retirement: As part of your overall life plan, include retirement goals. Begin your life plan with “the end’ in mind. In your overall life and retirement plan, answer the following questions: What do you envision your life looking like once you reach retirement age?

Develop a Savings Habit: Avoid debt as much as possible. Any debt should be money for investing in yourself and your future. Don’t use debt to finance consumption. Don’t live your life using credit cards. When you have to use them, pay them off quickly.

Develop an Investment Strategy. If you haven’t done so, start investing now. Purchase real estate as part of your goal of financial freedom.


Life is about more than making money or accumulating things.

Be a life-long learner: Learn something new every day. 

Learn a language: I understood English grammar better once I learned a new language.

Continue to improve your communication skills (oral and written).

Travel:  By doing this, you will broaden your understanding of people and your outlook on the world. It’s essential to be able to see the difference and the similarities of people around the world.

Read: Form your own opinions and consult a variety of reliable sources.

Develop an understanding of human behavior: Keep in mind that people aren’t always the same. You can’t change the mind of an adult. (Every person is different)

Don’t be quick to trust people Balance this healthy hesitation while maintaining the belief that good exists in everyone.

Listen: We sometimes anticipate answers without hearing what someone is saying.



Take your health seriously: Eat right, get rest and exercise, and get your annual check-ups.

Nurture your spirituality:   Spirituality is a personal choice. But keep in mind that you’re not in control of the Universe. Neither am I. Nobody is.  Prioritize spirituality. When you do that, your priorities will all be the right ones, and your spirituality will deepen.  

Live with integrity: Be honest and maintain your integrity in light of witnessing others doing wrong. In this way, you’ll always be “authentic.”

Learn your family’s history: It will help ground you in the world and provide you with a strong self-identity.


Giving Back/Paying Forward

Citizenship: My grandmother always said, “help somebody.”

Mentorship: Once you have become established in your career, “reach back” and help someone “get a foot up.”

Value interpersonal interactions with honest people.

Surround or hire the talent you need:  You don’t have to know how to do everything. And allow your talented hires to do what you have hired them to do.


Wrapping Up

Even today, I have people I rely on to navigate my retirement. I’m planning my next four decades.  As I focus on my financial security, my thoughts turn to my grandnieces and nephews. Building inter-generational wealth has to become a priority if we’re going to increase our community’s overall economic and social conditions. I want my family to be one that is building inter-generation wealth for coming generations. While COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, I continue my self-help and volunteer activities. In every day and every way, I continue to deepen my spirituality. 

When you look at me now, I hope you like what you see. I did it, and so can you. And when you look 40 years from now, you’ll have noticed that you or no one in our family has to walk their life’s paths along. There are maps, and we are here to be their guides.


Uncle Louis

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