Sue was recently reading ‘The Last Lecture’, co-authored by Randy Pausch about a series of lectures where academics are asked to think about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical ‘final talk’. It got her thinking what practical advice she could offer her younger self.
Imagine if at 22, you receive a letter/email from a 50-year old offering you advice and life lessons. How tempted would you be to dismiss it as sanctimonious preaching from an old fuddy-duddy who had no understanding of your young life? If you were told it was from your future self, how much more tempted would you be to eagerly devour its content?
I’m sure my tendency when chatting to my younger self would be to give broad brush strokes of advice: go travelling more, it expands your understanding of others and their cultures; family is more important that you realise, cherish everyone individually and don’t stress about the small stuff, it genuinely doesn’t matter. Although all of this is true, it doesn’t feel personal or individualised to me.
As I want to be more practical about the nitty gritty of my day to day life, I’d focus on 3 key themes.
Firstly, I’d focus on work: people matter so much more than just the task in hand. Your dream job can become a nightmare if you’re not working with people who have a mindset that complements yours and who all want to work together as a team. When you’re in your 20s, try to balance being confident in suggesting innovative ideas with not being seen as pushy and outspoken. If you’re honest and hardworking, your natural talent will shine through but be aware of those who will dent your confidence because they’re afraid you’re better than them and try to undermine you. Don’t give into this self-doubt. Have the confidence and self-belief to speak up. If you don’t get on in your current role or don’t feel like you’re working for the right person, it really is ok to change jobs, or careers and start again. According to Gallup, over 75% of people leave their jobs voluntarily because of their boss so you wouldn’t be on your own. Trust your instinct, seize the initiative and do what you know is best for you. Working long hours won’t make you any happier, it’ll just give you less time to have fun, chill out and be happy. These things are so much more important than you give them credit for.
Secondly, I’d focus on money. Regardless of those who say money doesn’t matter, it does. It’s important. It’s a key part of your life, but not to the detriment of all else. Be sensible and money-wise. I’m sure you will be; but don’t scrimp and save too much for the future and not spend money now to enjoy life. Saving is great if you can, but saving and not spending money on the things you enjoy such as socialising, travelling and having fun (though don’t spend too much money on wine!!), can just make you cautious, lonely and alone. Money is not worth this much…ever!
Thirdly I’d focus on you. You’re great at helping others (work, family or friends) but you need to put the time into you and being happy and content. Work out what you really want from life and then work out how you’re going to achieve getting there. This includes all the ‘small stuff’ as well e.g. hobbies and what to do in your spare time. Spend time planning for now, not just planning for the future. An old saying I heard decades ago stands the test of time: “man plans, God laughs” (though the feminist in me even now is saying, “why man; why not woman?”)
Would my twentysomething self listen? Maybe, maybe not. However, with the benefit of age comes wisdom (well so I’m told anyway!), and at least my younger self would have a heads up on what may occur!
What advice would you give your younger self?