Conversations With My Uncle

Uncle Phil: Lets talk about goals, Im not talking about your major or graduating college but I’m talking about what you really want, I’m talking about life goals”

Me: My goals are to be great”

Phil: “Awww shit, like Lebron James?!?

Me: “Ya like Lebron James!”

Phil: That’s a dream, that’s not realistic”

Me: How’s that not realistic? I don’t have to be a basketball player to be great. Maybe I am trying to figure out what I am great at”

Phil: I’m not suggesting to ever be pleased with mediocrity but you have to have realistic achievable goals, not dreams. You can’t be Lebron, but being successful at something is realistic.”


During the summer of 2013, my Uncle Phil and I started canoeing on weekends. We started just for fun, but eventually began training for the Great Race, a 2 mile triathlon in Auburn, NY. As we practiced with each other we learned we had good chemistry with one another. We are similar body types, similar height, weight and strength. My uncle and I were a good match. We developed a game plan for the race and stuck with it. Our goal was to stay afloat, stay straight, stay calm and to stay focused. Overall we finished 28th overall.

The most important part about canoeing this summer were the conversations that we had. My uncle is a lawyer and past judge. He told me about his upbringing which he described as rough. He learned to never be satisfied with anything. He never believed he was good enough, whether it was all-state in football or going to law school. However, I believe Uncle Phil is very successful, although he would never tell you that himself. I respect his insight and the wisdom that he has to share about the world and his experiences. He is a family man, a husband, and a father. 

The focuses of our conversations were about goals. As a college senior, the future is both very exciting and scary to me. I have ideas but no real future plans, or even a career route to follow. It scares my parents and family as well, so I understand why he would want to enforce the importance of being goal oriented.

Uncle Phil gave me an assignment, which was to write down 10 short-term and 10 long-term goals. After showing him my list the first thing he noticed was that my goals do not coincide with one another. Goals may be different than priorities. Goals such as to see the world, help people, live through exciting experiences and even to pursue higher education clash with goals such as, to become financially independent, owning a house, starting a career , and providing for a family.

Uncle Phil told me stories about when he was in college and partied. He was in a fraternity and did not stay focused all of the time on academics. He told me that he wished he had focused more on success down the road. He knew he wasted time, but also told me of people in his fraternity who seemed like they were going nowhere and wound up becoming very successful. In college, my uncle wanted to help people and became focused on peace matches for the war. It was one of the first times he felt very passionately about something. He decided he wanted to become an educator, in order to help others. One day a student asked him deep questions and sought his help. Uncle Phil realized how naive he was. How could he help people when, his life was not in order?

His father (my grandfather) was a politician and wanted him to become a lawyer. Uncle Phil went to law school and worked his ass off. He hated it. He told his dad, “I just want to travel and not study all the time.” My grandfather assured him that those parts of life came after and that he needed to put in the hard work first to get where he wanted. My uncle passed the bar and although he never went on to travel as much as he would have liked afterwards, he continued to work hard to help people in the court of law.

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