What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

I read an article that quoted Dropbox CEO Jeff Houston listing his 5 favorite job interview questions. One of the questions was If you were able to sit yourself down 10 years ago, what advice would you give your younger self?

It would be unfair to expect an interviewee to be able to answer this on the spot. Not because it was hard. I tried it on myself and found a string of things I would have loved my younger self to have known. The list got longer and longer and I decided to turn it into a post.

Come to think of it, the younger me would probably refuse to listen to me spew advice on things that have not happened to myself/her yet (see #25) but I think this is an exercise that is worth doing for your own self development just to see how far you have come in 10 years.

  1. Time is one of your most valuable resources. You use time to make money, but the time will come when you will need to start using money to buy yourself time to do the things you want.
  2. Adults are hypocrites. They will tell you smoking is bad for you while puffing on their 5th cigarette of the day. The moment you realize they are hypocrites is when you can figure out for yourself what is good or bad for you.
  3. Older adults may carry opinions that are racist by nature, carry a tinge of bigotry or misogynistic elements. They grew up in different times with different societal narratives. If the things they say make you uncomfortable, it just means that the times have changed, for the better for you.
  4. The older people get, the "lazier" they become. It could be due to burning out from excessive work, it could be because they like to pull rank, and it could be because they are no longer fearful of being viewed as someone who is lazy.
  5. The overrated "Life is too short" quip is ridiculous. You have a lot of time to do a lot of things but only if you plan ahead, and plan properly.
  6. Being able to plan is symptomatic of adulthood. Some people who are adults (but only physically) cannot plan beyond what to have for breakfast. Practice planning for stuff as soon as possible.
  7. You will eventually be responsible for something: your children, your aging parents or grandparents, paying off your house or car, running a whole company, striving for a dream or your children’s dreams etc. Don’t freak out or worry, things will fall into place in due time.
  8. The difference between an adult and a child, is being responsible for their actions. As an adult, you need to clean up your own sh*t and possibly other people’s sh*t.
  9. Talent is overrated. If you don’t add hard work, grit, courage and patience into the mix, your talent is as useful as your appendix. Luck is the thing that really gives someone that edge for success. If you can read this, you are already considered lucky.
  10. Be it at work or in school, no matter what beef you have with someone, always give that someone a way out. A cornered dog with no way out will have no choice but to fight back, and that means biting you just to get away.
  11. Always give yourself a way out. And have the courage to take it.
  12. Practice moderation in whatever you do, be it in your food, the cups of coffee you take a day, the sort of car to buy for your first kid, down to the exercise regime you subscribe to.
  13. In every company there will be a person who can get things done faster than the CEO. Sometimes asking them for help will make things move faster than the point of contact you were given.
  14. If the world seems chaotic and out-of-control, then do your part to right the wrongs – hold the elevator door, give up your seat in the tube, be patient when a parent is struggling with his or her kids, tip your cabbie or waiter – or quit complaining. Be part of the solution.
  15. Don’t be afraid of having an opinion, even though you are in the minority. Just because someone is loud and obnoxious, doesn’t mean he or she is right.
  16. Don’t worry too much about missing the mark. Very few professions require you to be an ultra-perfectionist. Most of the time, what you worry about won’t matter one or two weeks down the road.
  17. Don’t disrespect other people’s time by being late to a meet-up, causing a whole flight to be delayed because your tardiness, cancelling on a date last-minute, preparing poorly for a presentation, not honoring deadlines etc.
  18. Adults use weird notions they pass off as reasons for doing ill-advised things, all the time. Just because they are older, doesn’t mean they have it all figured out.
  19. No matter the profession, some adults have no idea what they are doing. So if you are in this category, know that you are in good company.
  20. After you leave an employer stay in touch with people in the company. This allows you to keep your options open and who knows, you might and could go back some day, but to a position that is higher up the ranks.
  21. There are two sides to every story. Real life is not a story book: no real person is 100% good or 100% bad. A stepmother could be kind while a biological mother could be the spawn of Satan.
  22. If an issue is important to you, you shouldn’t let your knowledge of the issue be at headline level. Know everything about the issue, inside out, top to bottom, from skin to bone. The more you know, the easier it is to understand why things will stay the same.
  23. If you are not good with your finances, you have to start. The sooner the better. Read books, listen to lectures, read finance blogs, magazines or newspapers. No one can better handle your money than you yourself can. No one should.
  24. The awkward side of life dictates that people you love could hate something or someone with an ugly vengeance. I personally think that hate drives someone just as much as love does. The only difference is no one writes about hate being a source of motivation.
  25. All forms of advice should be taken with a grain of salt (including what you read here). Different circumstances require different types of advice. There is no one size fits all answer. Don’t take advice that has been given to you before the giver understands your situation completely.
  26. Too many people let one or two incident in their lives in the past, determine how their life can continue in the future. Understand where they are coming from.
  27. If you can avoid an argument, avoid it. Opt to resolve issues instead, in a calm and collected manner. Remember though that some people may need a slap on the face with a steel chair.
  28. When spending time with children, be at your best behavior. Doesn’t matter whose kid it is. Every kid you meet today will be an adult one day aka a part of the society you will be growing old in. Don’t want youngsters then to be an ass? Don’t be an ass today.
  29. You don’t have to solve other people’s problems for them. Some people are "happy"being "miserable". Others do stupid things out of love. They might not need the help you think they need. In all cases, ask before you offer help.
  30. When children need help, step in. So long as they come to no harm, everything will be fine. When adults need help, call the authorities.
  31. Stop offering to do menial tasks just to prove yourself as a trustworthy employee. Lest you want to stay an employee forever, then by all means, do it.
  32. Marry someone who has your back, not someone who wants to hog the wheel and will never let you drive.
  33. Some people need a little push. Others need a lot of mothering just to get simple stuff done. Still others need you to turn into a drill sergeant. Everyone responds to their own version of "motivation".
  34. Read good books. Watch good movies and documentaries. Listen to good podcasts. Always aim to learn something new and fascinating every day. Life would otherwise be a bore. And we can’t have that.
  35. Older people will tell you not to rush things, younger people will tell you not to procrastinate. I say, it depends on the situation. Procrastination when you are not sure is sometimes better than rushing into it because of external, less important factors.
  36. Learn about all religions to understand how and why certain followers think and behave the way they do.
  37. Romance stories give us a single definition for happiness. Truth is, even after finding "the one" you still need to find happiness in the other aspects in your life. Life is an adventure, not a single line that rhymes with "and they live happily every after".
  38. Choose to sound smart, rather than sound stupid.
  39. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Pffft, look at me falling back on a cliche. I meant, pain makes you stronger. In the process of getting rid of the pain, you learn to treat yourself better, make better health choices or stop doing stuff that is bad for you.
  40. The best thing about us will be the one thing we devote the most time and effort in. It could be playing an instrument, your children, your art, your company, your personal well-being, your love of dance or cooking, or your blog. Keep at it.
  41. The more people try to conform to a trend on the hottest thing this season, the more the world needs people who are comfortable in their own skin. The latter may become the trendsetter for the former, if you think about it.
  42. Invest in what you will spend a lot of time in. If you sleep 8 hours a day, invest in a good bed. If you love cooking, make sure your kitchen is top-notch. If you have to drive a lot, invest in a good car or at least comfortable seating for long drives.
  43. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as (1) we make up for what damage the mistake caused, (2) we recover from that mistake and (3) we learn from it. If you want to beat yourself up because of it, it’s not necessary but feel free to do so if it will make you achieve the above 3 things.
  44. The idea that we can and should have it all is pure bull. If you are at the peak of your career or business, have a loving spouse and beautiful family, and the essentials that makes life comfortable, you already have enough. Stop being miserable or depressed because your life isn’t magazine-perfect. It rarely is.
  45. Many people think that just because they are right, they have the right to be loud and brash. To these people, the best retort would be, "You’re not wrong, you’re just an assh*le".

If you have great advice you’ve heard from someone else, or advice that you have used to help you make life decisions, do share with us your words of wisdom.