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Letter to My Daughter: ‘Make Your Own Choices, Live Your Own Life’

By Joe Echevarria • June 14, 2013

Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria with daughter Nicole

Baby Cane (yes, I know you are 19 now!),

I’m looking forward to spending Father’s Day with you – it’s one of my favorite days of the year.  I remember all the Father’s Day cards you have given me over the years, from hand-drawn masterpieces to ones that blast out tunes.  This year, I want to give you something too.  Yes, another one of my “speeches” you hear often.  Think of this as an electronic card with three pieces of advice I hope will guide you, not just now while you are in college, but for many years to come.

I’ve been fortunate to spend time with the most renowned executives, government leaders, not-for-profit innovators and inspiring people, including some that work in the home.  There is a common thread – the best and most interesting lives are led with passion – women and men make their choices, follow their hearts and seize the opportunities that result. Regardless of what profession you choose or how you spend your life – do it with a sense of purpose and design, or risk cheating yourself.  So pursue journalism.  Or fashion, that I know you love. Or even a job that hasn’t been invented yet.  But do it with passion and you’ll always feel fulfilled.

Second, be flexible as life unfolds. Valerie Jarrett, who is a senior advisor to President Obama, told me recently that early in life, she set specific personal and professional goals with firm deadlines. Married by age 26, first baby by 30, law partner by 31.  And here’s the thing:  she accomplished all of those things. But she was miserable.  In a recent speech at Wellesley’s commencement ceremony, she told graduates that “By 30, I was separated from my husband, and the same year I clearly remember sitting in my lovely office with a magnificent view, staring at a very lucrative paycheck, and bursting into tears because I was just miserable.” She did a gut-check, and changed course. She entered public service, where she hired a bright young attorney named Michelle Robinson whose fiancé was some guy named Barack Obama. The rest, as they say, is history. But more than that, it was her life – her choices, her willingness to be flexible, her talent, and her drive.  So, Baby Cane, have goals but know that they are not written in stone.  When you see something that you know is right, pursue it too…even if it means a change in direction.

Third, and finally, the only comparison you should make in your life is to the life you want to live, not the lives of others.  This is probably the most important insight of the strongest and most accomplished women such as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Valerie Jarrett.  I’ve learned one of the keys to happiness is recognizing that the only life you control is your own. Make your own choices, choose your own dreams, live your own life.

One last thought – ok, two:

I’ve always been impressed by your mom’s passion, flexibility and courage.  She’s successfully juggled a career and family (not to mention my crazy schedule) and is a role model for sure.  Seek out advice and learn from the many around you; including those who are different from you.

And, remember, it’s not what you are given or not given.  It’s what you do with it that’s important.

I’ve tried to follow this advice my entire life.  When I did, not only did I succeed, I was always incredibly happy.  I wish you the same happiness in life Baby Cane – and, I am proud of you!

Love ya, Papa

Joe Echevarria is CEO of Deloitte LLP

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