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.
So after a few cups of coffee and a couple hours of deliberation, here are 18 things I wish someone told me when I was 18:
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.
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. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t wake up several years later working in a career field you despise, wondering “How the heck am I going to do this for the next 30 years?” So if you catch yourself working hard and loving every minute of it, don’t stop. You’re on to something big. Because hard work ain’t hard when you concentrate on your passions.
Invest time, energy and money in yourself every day. – 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.
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.
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.
But above all, laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change. Life is short, yet amazing. Enjoy the ride.