What I Wish I Knew When I Was Young: Part One

Story by Amazing Perspective @amazperspective

You ever wish you could go back in time just so you could have a conversation with your younger self to let her know everything you know today? Ah, if only I could turn back time to teach her all the things I’ve learned up until now: the things I wish I knew when I was young.

But unless someone invents a time machine today or tomorrow, the best we can do is pass on the advice to our children, and apply these nuggets of wisdom to our lives today. Whether you’re a 20-something starting a new career, a 30-something going through the ebb and flow of this thing called life, seeking advice, or confirmation that you’re not crazy, this guide will help you find your way.

It’s a three-part series that began with just one idea. I was frustrated over something that happened – I don’t even remember exactly what it was about now. All I know is, it didn’t work out the way I originally planned it. And I remember thinking, if I had known or gotten this advice sooner, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Well, about 4,500 words later, I guess I had a lot more to say. That one idea spiraled into a three-part series on all the things I wish I’d known sooner about preparing for life – every area and every aspect of it – making decisions, being a good friend, falling in love, and building a career.

I’ve learned these priceless lessons (some the hard way) based on copious life experiences that span the spectrum of: love and heartbreak, family structure and upbringing, career and professional development, failure and disappointment, and my observation of how that history and those experiences impacted my life.

Perhaps my life may have turned out completely different. And certainly, knowing these things sooner would have made life so much easier, but then again, I guess that’s what life is about: to learn the lessons and grow from them. But if/when I decide to have children, here’s what I would want them to know (and the things I keep in mind to guide me everyday):

Confidence is key

“The secret of making dreams come true can be summarized in four C’s: They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy; and the greatest of these is confidence.” ~Walt Disney

Confidence is just one of those things you need to thrive in life. Confidence is believing in yourself and believing in your abilities. This includes knowing what you’re good at and capable of, believing in the value you provide, and delivering on that value. Embodying confidence will create opportunities and take you places you never even dreamed.

Travis Bradberry, author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, says, “truly confident people always have the upper hand over the doubtful and the skittish, because they inspire others and they make things happen.”

But loving yourself is the magic that unlocks doors

“When a woman becomes her own best friend, life is easier.” ~Diane Von Furstenberg

Loving yourself is the absolute foundation for being able to be, do, achieve, and go after anything in life. Love improves your self-esteem. Love cures heartache and pain. It is your bedrock to a healthy and fulfilling life.

Cardiologist, Dr. Cynthia Thaik says, “Self-love is key because when you love yourself, you are much more likely to engage in activities that contribute to better nutrition and physical fitness, and less likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Love [also] encourages your body to produce oxytocin, the “feel-good” or “love” hormone. Love also causes the production in your brain of norepinephrine and dopamine (both hormones associated with adrenaline), which leads to increased feelings of joy and pleasure. Love really is your best medicine.”

Self-awareness will take you even further 

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~Lao Tzu

Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It’s like the sister of confidence and self-love – they all work together for your greater good.

The more you pay attention to and are aware of your thoughts and emotions, the better you’ll understand your actions, why you do the things you do and how you work. The more you’re aware, the easier it becomes to choose your thoughts, speak words of empowerment, and improve your habits.

Victor Lipman, founder and principle of Howling Wolf Management Training LLC, wrote about a study emphasizing the importance of “self-awareness” as a critical trait for successful leaders in his Forbes article “All Successful Leaders Need This Quality: Self-Awareness.” The study examined 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion.

Lipman says the research examined a number of executive interpersonal traits, but the one that resonated with him the most was this: ”Leadership searches give short shrift to ‘self-awareness,’ which should actually be a top criterion. Interestingly, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.” He also went on to say, “Self-awareness isn’t one of those big marquee leadership qualities like vision, charisma, strategic thinking or the ability to speak eloquently to an audience the size of a small city… but it’s a quieter ancillary quality that enables the high-octane ones to work. To use a chemistry concept, it’s a psychological catalyst.”

Genuine relationships (aka your network) will open doors

“Your network is your net worth.” ~Porter Gale

I wasn’t aware of the importance of building and nurturing a solid network until I moved to New York City three and a half years ago. I thought I had to do everything alone, in my own silo. But since starting Amazing Perspective, I’ve learned that a solid network leads to fruitful opportunities, rewarding friendships, and personal and professional growth.

The key is to establish these relationships as early as possible to give yourself time to build quality connections with people who can help you in your career and life in general. In my interview with Lisa Skye Hain, co-founder of the wellness-focused shared office space Primary, she discusses the importance of your network, and how her network led to her founding her award-winning company she’d dreamed of starting several years prior to opening its doors.

Tom Farley, president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), wrote about the importance of networking in this Fortune article,“When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking. In fact, my current role is the end result of a relationship that began with a business meeting in suburban Atlanta in 2001 with the current Chairman of the NYSE, Jeff Sprecher. When I walked out of that meeting in 2001, I made a conscious decision to find reasons and ways to stay in touch with Jeff. At the time, Jeff was the founder and CEO of a fledgling commodity-trading marketplace and there wasn’t necessarily an obvious benefit that I would receive from continuing my relationship with him; however, networking is about collecting relationships with interesting or influential people irrespective of the immediate benefit of these relationships…If I had not spent five years after that first Atlanta meeting staying in touch with Jeff, through emails and phone calls, there is no way he would have considered me for president.”

Mistakes are okay

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep” ~Scott Adams

Mistakes cultivate character and can lead to incredible opportunities, because they teach us lessons we need to thrive and survive. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not living life. And the purpose of life is to explore and experience new things. Mistakes are an inevitable, but crucial part of life that add substance to our lives, help us grow and become better people.

Paul B. Brown, Forbes contributor, ghostwriter, and co-author of Just Start, wrote in his article “Repeat After Us: Mistakes Are A Good Thing. Mistakes Are A Good Thing. Mistakes Are A Good Thing. (Darn it.)” that a proven path to success is broken down in seven steps – it’s called the “Act. Learn. Build. Repeat approach” – where you’ll for sure make mistakes in the process:

  1. Determine what it is you really want to do.
  2. Take a small step toward that goal.
  3. Pause to see what you learned from taking that step and
  4. Build off that learning.
  5. Take another small step.
  6. Pause to see what you learned from step two.
  7. Build off that learning….

Mastering self-confidence, -love, and -awareness; cultivating relationships; and embracing your mistakes is the foundation that prepares you to build a bomb ass career, and get just as much out of life as you put into it. Next week in part two, I’m digging in further to break down more ideas to think about so you can actually enjoy life, create and take part in amazing experiences, and make the best decisions based on your own needs.

What do you wish you knew when you were young?