Mahalia Jackson, one of the most notable gospel artists of our time, pens the song “If I Can Help Somebody.” The last two lines in the chorus of this song are poignant and read as follows: “If I can help somebody, as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.”

Most, if not all of us, have had moments in our lives where we have said to ourselves, “If I knew what I did now, I probably would not have made this or that decision.” From these experiences, however, we have hopefully acquired more wisdom and knowledge to not become repeat offenders of our own poor decisions. Instead, it is from these same experiences that we learn from, grow from, make better decisions and then share our wisdom with others. My intent in writing this commentary is just that. As Mahalia says, helping somebody “as I pass along.” There are a plethora of things that I would tell a younger LeStan Hoskins, but due to space constraints, I will share just three things.

In my younger years as a high school student at DHS (Danville High School), my primary concern was excelling on the basketball court. I would spend countless hours in practice with the varsity team, improving on my dribbling and shooting skills individually at the local YMCA, and trying to implement various moves on the hardwood like one of my favorite players, Kobe Bryant. However, my priorities had been misplaced. I would tell my younger self that I’m a student before I’m an athlete. The adjective is just as important as the noun. I would put forth just as much effort and energy that I applied on the court, and translate that same effort and enthusiasm in the classroom attempting to reach my full potential as a student. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a professional athlete, but we don’t have to limit ourselves to just that. We, too, can be lawyers, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, and even a pastor, like myself.

Secondly, I would tell my younger self that nothing that is worthwhile in life comes easy. If what you desire and plan to accomplish is significant, there are no shortcuts to success. You have to put in the work. Period! To achieve that sculpted body it takes work, to achieve an above average GPA in school it takes work, to be a good friend to someone else it takes work, to be the best version of yourself it takes work. In my younger years, I didn’t understand or grasp this truth, but now I see it ever so clearly. Marriage, fatherhood, and obtaining a graduate degree has taught me that.

Lastly, I would tell my younger self that being different or peculiar for the right reasons is commendable. Moreover, I should make peace with being alone sometimes because it comes with the territory of being a leader. Peer pressure is real and when one does not swim down the current of conformity into what’s “popular”, “in style” or “cool” it’s hard and hurtful sometimes. Be prepared to be isolated and excluded from certain events and groups of people. Know that it’s okay and stay true to what you believe is right. It will be worth it in the end.

As you look at your life, what are some of the things you would tell your younger self? I encourage you to share that wisdom with someone.

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