Dear Justin -
I'm a grandfather. I've got six grandsons - can't believe it! One is almost your age.
So when I read about your speeding trouble and saw you in a jail jumpsuit last week, my grandfather's heart was sad.
I know you've gotten it all from people. Affection. Attack. Sympathetic. Snarky.
I know you've been blessed with a tsunami of success. Man, who knew? When you were shooting those little YouTube videos, who could have imagined all the massive hits you'd have, all the fans going crazy over you?
And all the choices you'd have because you could do and have anything you want. That's a pretty heavy backpack for a 19-year-old guy to carry.
With all the people slamming you and all the people sweet-talking you, I thought you might be ready for a couple of big ideas from a grandfather's heart. Let's say we're taking a slow walk on a long beach. Here's what I'd want to tell you...
Big Idea #1 - You're choosing a road, not just something to do.
One time, I was driving from northern Arizona, straight south to Phoenix to see my little grandson in the hospital. When I got to Flagstaff, I picked a ramp. Two hours later, I wasn't seeing Phoenix. I was seeing signs for California! Little did I know when I got on that ramp, I was choosing a road that would take me where I didn't want to go.
Life has a lot of "ramps" like that. Deciding to hook up with someone. Picking friends to hang out with. Partying like you want because, hey, "I'm young, I want to have some fun...what's wrong with that?" Trying stuff that helps you feel good or forget feeling bad.
But what we don't realize - until it's too late ("why am I in California?") - is that we're choosing a road we'll be on for a long time. And if it's the wrong road, we're going to end up where we never meant to go. Like in a courtoom, in trouble, in rehab. Or just looking in a mirror and saying, "What happened to you, man?"
I don't want that to happen to you.
Big Idea #2 - The calculator's always running.
Temptation says, "Forget the consequences." Reality says, "The bill's gonna come." Or, as the Bible says, "Whatever you sow, you will reap." The harvest may not come immediately. But it's gonna come.
We may not see it. We may not feel it. But the calculator's always running, adding up the bill.
Big Idea #3 - You're made for more.
When millions of people are freaking out over you, it's easy to start believing you're the "sun" and everyone else are the "planets" who revolve around me.
That's not how it's supposed to be. You've probably already discovered that a world that's only as big as "me" is a world that's too small to live in. Yeah, being a celebrity may allow you to act like you're bigger than the rules and more important than everyone else.
Ain't so. "Me" living leaves you lonely, empty and hurting. As the old saying goes, "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside."
No, man, you're made for more. You've been blessed with a lot. You're 19 and you've got so much influence. So whatever road you're on, other people follow you there. If it's a road to a "make a difference" life, you'll lead other people there. If the road goes over a cliff, they'll crash with you.
I read somewhere that you recently added a tat of Jesus - on your calf, I think. If you want a hint of the "more" you were made for, take a look at that picture. He showed us how to really live.
I'm thinking you're at a crossroads right now. There's a lot riding on which road you choose. As my favorite poet, Robert Frost, wrote: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the road less traveled. And that has made all the difference."
I'm hoping and praying you'll choose that road. I like happy endings.