As those of you who have been following me know, I have a nineteen year old son. I am constantly amazed by how certain he is of EVERYTHING. I had forgotten what it was like to be that age and so totally adept at deciding how the world should be and do. As I was contemplating all of this the other night, it occurred to me that I wish someone had told me some things when I was that age. Not that I would have listened, but... Maybe it would have a changed some things for me....or maybe not.
Here's my top ten list:
- Decide today to make as many mistakes as you can. - Don't become so afraid to make the wrong choice that you make no choice. Every choice has an outcome and every outcome is a lesson learned. Remember, Thomas Edison said he didn't fail 10,000 times. He knew 10,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb. No failures; only lessons learned.
- Invest 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.
- People are not mind readers. - People will never know how you feel unless you tell them. That cute girl you haven’t talked to because you’re too shy? Why would she talk to you if you act like you don't have the time of day for her? In life, you have to communicate with others. And often, you have to open your vocal cords and speak the first words. You have to tell people what you’re thinking. It’s as simple as that.
- Make quick decisions and take measurable action. – Either you’re going to take action and seize opportunities, or someone else will first. You can’t change anything or make any sort of progress by sitting back and thinking about it. Remember, there’s a huge difference between knowing how to do something and actually doing it. Knowledge is basically useless without action.
- Accept and embrace change. – However good or bad a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing you can count on. So embrace change, and realize that change happens for a reason. It won’t always be easy or obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.
- Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you. – For the most part, what other people think and say about you really doesn't matter. When I was 18, I let the opinions of my high school and early college peers influence my decisions. And, at times, they steered me away from ideas and goals I strongly believed in. I realize now, many years later, that this was a foolish way to live, especially when I consider that nearly all of these people whose opinions I cared so much about are no longer a part of my life. Unless you’re trying to make a great first impression (job interview, first date, etc.), don’t let the opinions of others stand in your way. What they think and say about you isn’t important. What is important is how you feel about yourself.
- Ask lots of questions. – The greatest ‘adventure’ is the ability to inquire, to ask questions. Sometimes in the process of inquiry, the search is more significant than the answers. Answers come from other people, from the universe of knowledge and history, and from the intuition and deep wisdom inside yourself. These answers will never surface if you never ask the right questions. Thus, the simple act of asking the right questions is the answer.
- Always be honest with yourself and others. – Living a life of honesty creates peace of mind, and peace of mind is priceless. Period. And lastly...
- Be who you were born to be. – You must follow your heart, and be who you were born to be. Some of us were born to be musicians – to communicate intricate thoughts and rousing feelings with the strings of a guitar. Some of us were born to be poets – to touch people’s hearts with exquisite prose. Some of us were born to be entrepreneurs – to create growth and opportunity where others saw rubbish. And still, some of us were born to be or do whatever it is, specifically, that moves you. Regardless of what you decide to do in your lifetime, you better feel it in every fiber of your being. You better be born to do it! Don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires.
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!