Courtesy Russell Simmons

I’ve got a confession to make. The other day while we were doing our daily morning meditation session, I opened my eyes and snuck a peak at you two.

I’ve always said keep your eyes closed once you’ve started repeating your mantra, but I had to cheat just a little bit. Even though we meditate every day before I take you to school, sometimes I just need a moment to look at you both and appreciate just how blessed I am to be your father.

It took me a long time—many decades, in fact—to learn how to operate out of a sense of stillness. To see you two accessing that part of yourselves when you’re still barely in your teens is amazing to me. These are the years that can be filled with so much noise. From hormones to cell phones, there are going to be lot of distractions trying to knock you off center. You’re not going to be able to avoid every bump in the road, but as long as you stay mindful and centered, you’re going to get wherever you need to go.

When you were little kids, I had a very distinct vision for what you guys would “do” with your lives. I was sure you were going to be businesswomen-turned-philanthropists. I wanted you both to make a lot of money fast and then spend the rest of your lives giving it all away.

And you still might. Aoki, today you happen to want to be an investment banker and I think that would be a wonderful choice. The world needs more brilliant African-American woman in positions like that. Your stepdad Tim Leissner is one of the brightest minds in that world and could teach all you need to know.

Ming Lee, maybe you’ll go a slightly different route. You’re already such an incredible artist and have been blessed with the same creative gene that your uncles and cousins have. That even your Mommy and Daddy have a little bit of. You could make people happy by being a singer, an actress or a comedian. Or maybe even all three.

For now, all that I ask is that you two continue to work hard at school (a school in L.A., Aoki!) and keep getting bringing home great grades. I never graduated from college and even though I don’t believe it defines a person, I’d love for you both to get a degree. You both have the type of academic ability I never possessed and I’d love to see where your studies take you.

After that, I’m excited for whatever choices you might make. That’s because I know whatever they are, they’ll be made from clarity, not distraction. From humility instead of ego. From compassion instead of selfishness. I might act like I know it all sometimes, but trust me I’m learning so much from you two about clarity, compassion and humility. You’ve been my greatest teachers.

Whatever you beautiful young woman decide to do with your lives, just know that I’m going to be there with you every single step of the way. I might have a lot of jobs in this world, but there’s none that I’m prouder of, or that bring me any more joy, than simply being your father.


Simmons is a best-selling author, entrepreneur and activist

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