To My Young Friends
by Daisaku Ikeda
Youth is a time of rapid change, from day to day and moment to moment. It can also be a time of confusion. You may feel as if you are standing alone in a wasteland or on a battlefield. Sometimes you may think you can’t believe in anyone, that no one loves you, or even that you have no reason to live.
Grades at school or university are probably not your only worries. You may have problems at home, with money or health, with how you feel about your looks, with members of the opposite sex, or with friends. From feeling confident and upbeat one moment, you may be overwhelmed with insecurity, frustration or apathy the next.
You may have fundamental questions about yourself and your identity: Who am I? What should I do with my life? It is quite natural to feel unsure about the best way to proceed. If you haven’t yet decided on your future course, I feel the best thing is just to concentrate your energies on what you need to do right now, and gradually your full potential will emerge.
The most important thing is not to give up on yourself when you are young, giving in to negativity or cynicism. Don’t compare yourself with others. Be true to who you are and try to cherish and feel content with your own irreplaceable life. Even if you’re sometimes laughed at, or people let you down, keep going forward and never let yourself be defeated.
Setting yourself targets is a good idea. Even if you have the tendency to only stick at something for two or three days, just keep renewing your determination. When you’re studying and you think, “I can’t do any more; I want to go out,” you may decide to challenge yourself to keep going for just another five minutes. People who can persevere even this much will achieve great things in life. Youth is the time for building your foundation in life. You can’t build a tall building without first making its foundations solid and secure. In the same way, if you neglect study or shy away from hard work while you’re young, you can’t really build yourself a great future.
A smooth, easy life in which everything goes your way may seem great, but you won’t be able to develop your character if everything always works out according to plan. You may even become spoiled—a person who can’t think about others and who is no help when things get tough.
If your parents are poor or lacking education, or they’re always quarreling with each other, try not to think yourself unlucky. This is a truly human situation that will help you develop as a person. You may feel it would have been better to be born into a rich or successful family. But often people who grow up in such a world act like well-behaved automatons, bound by formality, tradition and appearances, lacking genuine warmth and spontaneity.
There is no such thing as a whole life of smooth sailing. Therefore, you do yourself a favor by taking on difficult challenges, forging and strengthening yourself in your youth, while you’re healthy and strong. I hope you can see all difficulties as the material that will enable you to develop a big heart and become people of depth and substance.
Try to be as active as possible. Just by being young, you possess a treasure more valuable than power or fame. To be young is to have hope, passion and freedom. Your whole life lies ahead of you, brimming with possibilities.
Rather than a life of blank pages, it’s better to live a life crammed full of memories of struggles and wonderfully varied experiences. Not to make waves, not to leave behind any history, but just to grow old and die, is a sad way to live.
Do not wait! While still in your youth, you can become the main actors in the human drama unfolding around you, the shapers of history. Even if you feel powerless, that it is difficult to believe in yourself, please try not to be easily swayed by the views of others, and hold true to what you know is right. Try to believe in yourself.
I hope you will develop sharp powers of perception, then lead the way in breaking through the apathy and stagnation of society around you. So many people are complacent, thinking, “Out of all these people, surely someone will do something.” Such cowardly people avoid facing problems, assuming that everything will somehow work out in the end.
Please challenge the injustices and corruption you see around you—speak out and fight against any abuses of power and authority that you see. Confront and challenge every situation with the full force of your character. Live with honesty and integrity, and produce results. Set your sights high and fight to achieve your goals with your whole being and spirit.
Edward Whymper was a young nineteenth-century English mountaineer who set out to climb the “unclimbable”—the Matterhorn in the Alps. Since ancient times it had never been scaled. At 21, Whymper determined to succeed where no one had succeeded before. His first attempt failed, but he resolved not to give up, and year after year he pitted himself against the mountain. On one attempt he got within 430 meters of the summit, but he slipped and fell 60 meters and was seriously injured. Another time a rockfall forced him to descend. Seven times he was defeated, but he did not give up. On July 14, 1865, on his eighth attempt, at the age of 25, he finally made it to the top.
Like him, by challenging a great goal, you can break through your limitations and realize incredible growth.
It all comes down to you. I hope you won’t rely on others or wait for them to do something. Try to develop such a strong sense of responsibility that you can stand up to the fiercest storms, confidently proclaiming, “I’ll do it. Just watch me!” Please confront reality, look it squarely in the face, and with guts, wisdom and strength, challenge everything that lies ahead of you!