Saturday, January 21, 2012

Advice to my 16 year old self

Oh, to be 16 once more...

I was talking with my good friend Kevin last week (my friend for 25+ years now) about what advice I would have given a 16 year old me with the benefit of hindsight. I can't say in fairness that at 16 any of this would have made sense to me but I'm going to try anyways. If this helps you then please feel free to share it. 

1. To thine own self be true
Self, it is human nature to want to please people. It's normal and expected to want to be one of the herd and to be accepted. It's normal that when your friends are publicly into punk music, for example, to want to emulate this. In fact, at times you can delude yourself into believing that you do in fact like it.

It's easy to get in the habit of following trends and following the direction of a group. But trends change, groups are formed and reorganized, and at the end of the day being honest with yourself will lead directly into being honest with others.

2. Treat people better than you'd like to be treated
Self, it's always easier to treat people negatively and to assume that people are very different than ourselves. But they are not. If you don't understand why someone is acting a certain way then almost always it's because you don't have all the information. Maybe that girl who is acting a little bit emo had a family member die recently. Maybe that jock who is bullying kids is getting beaten at home every night.

I'm not going to say do unto others as you'd have them do to you because it's too easy to be hard on yourself as well. Treat people better than you think you'd deserve.

3. Believe in (positive) karma
Self, if you are honest with yourself and others, and if you treat people as good as you can, then the universe will respond in kind. You do not bargain with the universe, however. It is not a giant adding machine where one good deed in causing another good deed out. But overall good people have good things happen to them.

My dad used to say "everything is connected to everything". The person you do a favor for today could be the person who hires you in five years. The girl who you help with your homework could introduce you to your wife someday.

4. Let your freak flag fly
Self, one of the best things you can do for yourself is find the things that you are passionate about. It can be many things from the big to the small - perhaps some obscure style of music you love, a hobby for black and white photography that you think is silly, or enjoying the fine details of fly fishing. When you find things that make you happy, pursue them with all your energy. Passion can lead you to some amazing places. And if you're honest with people about it you will find that like-minded people gravitate to you.

Your set of passions in life are part of what make you unique. No one else loves the exact set of things you do exactly like you.

5. Tomorrow is tomorrow
Self, there's nothing wrong with having a plan for where you're going with your life, but understand that every day is a new day and things can and will change. Take your career dreams right now. Were they the same when you were 5? Or 10? So what makes you think they will be the same when you are 20 or 25 or 30? You might find that girl of your dreams and start a family young. You might run into an opportunity that is too good to miss. You might find that your expectations on what working in a field is like are far different than anticipated.

Dream your dreams and make your plans, but don't be discouraged when life changes them for you. The only constant in life is change.

...less deep thoughts
There are no guarantees in life but if you look at the overwhelming odds:

  • You will find a girl of your dreams
  • You will start a family
  • You will find a job that fulfills you
  • Whatever drama you feel this moment will pass
  • What seems life or death important now will not matter in the future at all
  • Your sense of priorities will change. The acid test is always "did this matter so much to me five years ago? Will it matter to me so much in five years time?"
  • If you're not sure whether something is right or not, trust your gut. If you're debating it then usually it's not right. Doing what's right feels right.
  • Coolers are garbage, don't even bother.
  • Also, drinking is not as much fun as you think.
  • Smoking is a gross habit.
  • If you're having sex, do it safely, else it will haunt you forever. Lots of your friends will end up with kids too early.
  • You have a lifetime to experience life. Don't do stupid things that will screw that up.
  • If you don't feel like you can handle life then ask for help. We all go through this.

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