I was reading a book at my favorite beach-side coffee shop when an 18-year-old kid sat down next to me and said, “That’s a great read, ain’t it?” So we started chatting.
He told me he was getting ready to graduate from high school in a couple of weeks and then immediately starting his college career in the fall. “But I have no clue what I want to do with my life,” he said. “Right now I’m just going with the flow.”
And then, with eager, honest eyes, he began asking me one question after the next:
“What do you do for a living?”
“When and how did you decide what you wanted to do?”
“Why did you do this? Why didn’t you do that?”
“Is there anything you wish you had done differently?”
I answered his questions as best as I could, and tried to give decent advice with the time I had. And after a half-hour conversation, he thanked me and we parted ways.
But on the walk home I realized the conversation I had with him was actually quite nostalgic for me. He reminded me of me ten years ago. So I started thinking about his questions again, and I began imagining all of the things I wish someone had told me when I was 18.
Then I took it a step further and thought about all the things I would love to tell myself if I could travel back in time to give my 18-year-old self some advice about life.
Here are 18 things I wish someone told me when I was 18:
1. Commit Yourself to Making Lots of Mistakes. – Mistakes teach you important lessons. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re too scared to make a mistake. So don’t hesitate – don’t doubt yourself. In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work. Most of the time you just have to go for it! And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win. Remember, if you never act, you will never know for sure, and you will be left standing in the same spot forever.
2. Find Hard Work You Love Doing. – If I could offer my 18-year-old self some real career advice, I’d tell myself not to base my career choice on other people’s ideas, goals and recommendations. I’d tell myself not to pick a major because it’s popular, or statistically creates graduates who make the most money. I’d tell myself that the right career choice is based on one key point: Finding hard work you love doing. As long as you remain true to yourself, and follow your own interests and values, you can find success through passion. Hard work ain’t hard when you concentrate on your passion.
3. Invest Time, Energy and Money in Yourself Everyday. – When you invest in yourself, you can never lose, and over time you will change the trajectory of your life. You are simply the product of what you know. The more time, energy and money you spend acquiring pertinent knowledge, the more control you have over your life.
4. Explore new ideas and opportunities often. – Your natural human fears of failure and embarrassment will sometimes stop you from trying new things. But you must rise above these fears, for your life’s story is simply the culmination many small, unique experiences. And the more unique experiences you have, the more interesting your story gets. So seek as many new life experiences as possible and be sure to share them with the people you care about. Not doing so is not living.
5. When Sharpening Your Career Skills, Focus More on Less. – Think in terms of Karate: A black belt seems far more impressive than a brown belt. But does a brown belt really seem any more impressive than a red belt? Probably not to most people. Remember that society elevates experts high onto a pedestal. Hard work matters, but not if it’s scattered in diverse directions. So narrow your focus on learning fewer career related skills and master them all.
6. People Are Not Mind Readers. Tell them what you’re thinking. – People will never know how you feel unless you tell them. Your boss? Yeah, he doesn’t know you’re hoping for a promotion because you haven’t told him yet. That cute girl you haven’t talked to because you’re too shy? Yeah, you guessed it; she hasn’t given you the time of day simply because you haven’t given her the time of day either. In life, you have to communicate with others. And often, you have to open your vocal cords and speak the first words. You have to tell people what you’re thinking. It’s as simple as that.
7. Make Swift Decisions And Take Immediate Action. – Either you’re going to take action and seize new opportunities, or someone else will first. You can’t change anything or make any sort of progress by sitting back and thinking about it. Remember, there’s a huge difference between knowing how to do something and actually doing it. Knowledge is basically useless without action.
8. Accept And Embrace Change. – However good or bad a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing you can count on. So embrace change, and realize that change happens for a reason. It won’t always be easy or obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.
9. Don’t Worry Too Much About What Other People Think About You. – For the most part, what other people think and say about you doesn’t matter. When I was 18, I let the opinions of my high school and early college peers influence my decisions. And, at times, they steered me away from ideas and goals I strongly believed in. I realize now, ten years later, that this was a foolish way to live, especially when I consider that nearly all of these people whose opinions I cared so much about are no longer a part of my life. Unless you’re trying to make a great first impression (job interview, first date, etc.), don’t let the opinions of others stand in your way. What they think and say about you isn’t important. What is important is how you feel about yourself.
Watch out for Part 2 of this write up.
This post has been edited by rehoboth: Sep 14 2013, 03:03 AM