We've all sat back at times and said to ourselves, "If I only knew then what I know now..." and pondered what we could have done with that knowledge.
I was thinking about this topic recently and had a few realizations.
First, I would not change a thing. All of my decisions, good, bad, unsure, and unknown have led me to this point in my life. I think back that If I had decided not to go on that trip at the last minute, I would not have met my wife. And if my wife and I did not go through our life exactly as we were supposed to together, we would never have found Hannah. Every decision we make, leads us to something truly great - if we are willing to be open to it. Even in the worst of times, there is something for us all.
Sometimes it is hard to keep this perspective when life kicks you around. But, I've learned to find a sort of peace and tranquility in the chaos life brings. Over the years, I have conditioned myself to thrive in it. In a way, to welcome it when it comes, as a right of passage. Finding or a figuring out a way through leads to the next chapter or breakthrough in one's life.
As I've thought about this, aside from the lessons learned above, I have thought about what I would tell my younger self that would really make a difference. What could I go back in time and tell my 25 year old self that would have had an enormous impact, but not have changed the future so much that things would be drastically different today? The true answer is nothing as no matter what, my life path would be greatly altered. But then I think, what if that advice could help others that are younger or just starting out?
Approaching it this way, there are 3 pieces of advice I'd give to my younger self.
1.) Don't Take Yourself So Damn Seriously
I have always been driven...maybe to a fault. In my younger days, at times, I would let this drive for things totally consume me. I would be so maniacally focused that I would tune out everything around me, including friends, family, counterparts, etc. It wasn't meant to be mean or to give the impression I didn't care, but I know it sure made people feel that way. I didn't have balance and I thought that was normal.
Did this help me? Sure financially, but that is only one leg of the stool. If I could go back, I would tell myself to live more fully. Sure, stay driven, even keep the healthy obsession to reaching your goals, but also make it part of your goals to enjoy life. Make more friends and spend time with them. Find a hobby or two outside of work related things and make it a point to spend time in it. Self-educate on more than just topics related to success and business.
My thought back then was, "I need to work so hard that I can retire in 5 years, so I can spend the best years of my life enjoying things while I am young and can do them, not after 40 years of work when I am old." And there is some truth to that, but not at the expense of missing the life around you as you strive to do it. The experience is the adventure. Stop and think a little. Don't take yourself so damn seriously and realize that all of life is a journey that offers amazing and different adventures along the way.
2.) Don't Make Huge Decisions During Emotional Highs and Lows
Life is a rollercoaster. As Frank Sinatra sang, "That's life. That's what people say. You're riding high in April. Shot down in May. But I know I'm gonna change that tune. When I'm back on top, back on top in June."
There are peaks and valleys, ups and downs - sometimes to the extreme. One lesson that I learned the hard way and that I would tell my 25 year old self, and anyone for that matter, is to make sure to not make huge decisions at the extremes. For example, don't make big money, investing, and purchasing decisions while you are riding a high. They almost always come back to haunt you.
I bought a piece of investment real estate at one of these extreme highs when I thought I was invincible and it was a bad investment. Heck, even the terms at signing to close were different than what was discussed to the point where I called the broker I was working with and asked him what was up? His advice was "If you don't like it, don't close." Those words have served as a lesson ever since. I went through with it anyway because I had fallen in love with the deal that it could be, not what it really was and ultimately lost. I did this because I was riding a high at the time. Things were going really well. I had just made a large pile of money and thought I was unstoppable.
Same goes for the valleys. Don't make major decisions when at a low. It will haunt you as well, because things are usually not as bad as they seem and you can screw everyone's life up.
The hardest thing to do is bring logic to an emotional high or low and center yourself before making a big decision, but your must strive to do so.
3.) Things Will Never Go Exactly as Planned
My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn't go as planned and that's okay." - Rachel Wolchin
No matter how much preparation you do, how much thinking goes into it, and how many variables you try to account for; things never end up going exactly as planned. Sometimes they go BETTER! Sometimes they go worse. My advice to my younger self is to learn to roll with it. When I was younger, I had trouble dealing with this and would question myself and my abilities when plans did not work or did not happen as they were supposed to. As Rachel says above, "It's okay!"
I go back to the beginning of this post to where I discussed the peace and tranquility that lies in the chaos. It took many years to realize this extremely important life lesson. Things aren't going to go as planned, but the opportunities and growth that come out of the chaos are what makes life so amazing and create the journey that is life itself.
If there is one thing you can plan on...it's that things will not go as planned and once you embrace this, it will make life and success so much easier...and sweeter for you. Enjoy the ride!