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James Vilson

Vilsons are supposed to brag.

Aside from the lasciviousness (which is how we ended up with so many siblings on my father’s side to begin with), the Vilsons are often considered to have an unusually high swagger and a disregard for life’s rules without surpassing the boundaries of “cool.” They’re not prone to jumping out of airplanes, but they’ll certainly race down a Miami highway at 100MPH and slow up just before they know where the local police hide with their radar guns. We’re a crazy lot, and certainly offspring of our father, whose charisma and grave-tinged voice still charms far too many people.

I was probably the last of the Vilson siblings to get any of these exalted characteristics. That is, until I met the eldest of us: James.

I probably shouldn’t do this to him because he just became a naturalized US citizen not too long ago (and damn proud of it), he’s actually got a great job with a great apartment, a nice car, family who actually cares about him, and he just celebrated another birthday recently. So when I tell you that his most recent theme song is Kanye West’s “Runaway” with an emphasis on “… let’s have a toast for the assholes …” please believe he intends for all of us to raise our glasses to him.

As such, he’s probably taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned: if you don’t promote yourself, who will?

After he told me, it haunted me. Do I get a .com? Do I enter into the intense debates that mattered to me most under my name? How do I escape my past egos (and ids for that matter)? How do I evolve? What am I even doing? Who do I think I am? OK, maybe not that much, but you get the drift. Whereas before, I was anywhere from dabbling in confidence to drowning in braggadocio, lessons like his made put much of what I did then (and do now) into proper perspective.

There is no greater tragedy than the person whose talent is wasted on their own ideas of humility and self-preservation. The greatest disservice a writer can do for themselves is say that their stuff isn’t good enough to express their emotions, even when at their best, they can do it better than they possibly imagined. The worst concept a teacher blogger can have is to think that they have to sound exactly like the more successful teacher bloggers to be successful like those teacher bloggers. The most negative aspect of anyone who has a great idea to promote is thinking that the idea doesn’t require the person to be as bold about the idea as them for that idea to grow.

The best possible thing for any of these entities is simple: confidence. Bull-headed, forthright, disgusting amounts of confidence mixed with equal parts hard work and dedication. If you have a goal, go for it. Have a strategy, but go for it as hard as possible, never once doubting your steps. If you fail and you made it out alive, you’ve won. Speak up, because if no one else is talking about you yet, no one will know what you’re talking about. Or even if you’re talking.

You don’t have to be a jerk, a hater, or an asshole about it, though in our different settings, that’s a Vilson quality we revel in as well. But if you ever get that one great e-mail, that one awesome comment, that one dap on the street, or that hug just because of that one thing you said that stuck out above the rest, then you’ve done a great job.

Here’s a toast to you.

Jose, who totally didn’t get his brother’s permission to do this. Total Vilson.

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