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Advice I’d Give My Younger Self

21 pieces of life advice for young adults

By Jamie JacksonPublished 2 years ago 16 min read
Advice I’d Give My Younger Self
Photo by Harman Sandhu on Unsplash

Someone recently questioned what advice you'd give your younger self. I was curious of my answers. I'm now in my forties and changed a lot since I was young and learned many lessons along the way. Therefore, I’m going to dispense some worldly advice as if I was talking to my 17-year-old self (which feels very recent and not the gulf of time it might seem to some of you youngsters).

Here is the advice.

1. Time flies as you get older

Your life will go quicker than expected and as the years progress, time will speed up. Everyone says this but when you're 17, summers last forever and a year is a huge expanse of time.

As you age, a year becomes a smaller amount of time relative to your life already lived. What's more, each year becomes less packed with new, formative experiences. Therefore months blur together and time gallops on. Believe this to be true and make use of your time. Blink and you'll be 40, wondering what has happened.

2. Accept all lives are hard

Some lives are just harder than others. Not in the sense of backbreaking work or living through abuse or addiction (though life can be hard in that way too) but instead there is a daily struggle with ourselves.

If you want to achieve anything worthwhile or realise your potential, you will need to learn how to deal with varying levels of anxiety, depression, self-doubt, jealousy, lethargy, temptation and an array of other human emotions.

Some paths are easier than others but there is no easy path.

You must not allow your emotions to rule and dictate your life. This is a life's work but the more you're able to consciously push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more you will be able to have the life you want.

Discomfort is your greatest fuel for growing into who you can be.

As Will Smith said, you can't conquer the world if you can't conquer yourself.

3. Be open to new information

Be a hypocrite or stay the same person forever. Don't get too attached to an identity, a belief system, or an ideology. Life is full of contradiction so you too must embrace contradiction.

As Neil Strauss wrote:

"Wisdom includes the ability to hold contradictory ideas in your head."

For example, you must kick your arse and love yourself simultaneously.

Treat yourself the way you'd treat a best friend; be strict where needed but don't beat yourself; push yourself but go easy when you screw up; love who you are but allow yourself to change when necessary.

Embrace your evolution.

There is no shame in changing. Don't sacrifice growth for an opinion. Be malleable and open to new information, even if it contradicts what you believe. Life is easier when you stop thinking you know it all.

"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." – Muhammad Ali

4. Embrace failure

You will be bad at things. People will reject you. You will feel humiliated. At times you will feel useless. This is unavoidable.

Accept failure will happen so it doesn't floor you when it arrives. Instead, be ready to learn from it. Analyse it. All failure carries clues, Do not allow failure to put you off pursuing the life you want. Everyone is a white belt at something; learning how to love, learning a new skill, learning to understand yourself, are all complicated and ongoing processes. You cannot help but fail.

Failure means you showed up. Allow it to accelerate you to places you never thought possible. This is way harder than it sounds, but the older you get, the easier it becomes to accept failure is the price for success.

Being brave enough to embrace public failure is crucial to getting the life you want.

"I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." – Michael Jordan

5. Be self-disciplined

Yawn, right? I know this sounds boring. You picture eating salads and studying 14 hours a day. Well no. It's much more simple than that.

Just do what you know you need to do.

Discipline is freedom. You get what you want if you don't allow lethargy and procrastination to win.

Self-discipline helps you follow through on the promises you made to yourself and you must do this because you will be habitually disappointed and bitter if you can't even count on yourself.

Self-discipline is a straight-up superpower. It will enable you to get the things other people can't have. You can be a person other people aren't able to be.

Life is mostly you versus you and self-discipline can is a great ally.

You won't always want to do the work but discipline will help you. It's your key to a better life. Don't look down on it. Love it.

6. Happiness is a choice

There will never be a time in your life when everything is perfect. There will always be something to be down about. Always.

You have to accept perfection doesn't exist and instead, choose to be happy.

Happiness is like 9/11,  it's an inside job. You can be happy right now.

Look for things to be happy about, there's plenty of them.

It's wise to choose happiness because when you're miserable, the only person who suffers is you. Most people don't know or care if you're miserable and there is always something to be miserable about.

Conversely, there is always something to be happy about too.

It's your life's work to find happiness every day and not give in to the entropy of negative thought. A good start is to be grateful. It is impossible to be grateful and miserable at the same time.

Gratitude is happiness.

7. Ignore the naysayers

People offer up commentary on your life at all opportunities. Do not worry about what they think or say.

It's your life, live it to your standards, not the expectations of others.

I am old enough to realise people talk a good game. They boast about achievements, plans, confidence, relationships and happiness. They offer up advice just to make themselves feel better (perhaps like I am doing now, though I write this advice to remind myself also).

Everyone will have something to say about the choices you make, but the perverse truth is nobody cares. They just want to air their opinion.

You will be judged if you do something and judged if you don't. So you may as well do it.

Our egos are fragile and when everyone goes "Oooh you're doing well" because you've bought a nice car or house, it makes us feel good. Even if that car is on a repayment scheme and the mortgage is huge and unpaid.

Don't listen to the ego. Don't feed it. It lies and skews focus.

Live how you want to live and block out the noise. Chances are, people will secretly be jealous you're trying your own thing.

So stick to your guns... or change them. Just make sure it's you telling you what to do.

"You would be so much further ahead if you just stopped worrying about what everyone else thinks." – Eric Thomas

8. Forgive

Simple advice that's very hard to implement, but carrying around hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It's toxic. It will bring you down and turn you to dust.

You don't think bitterness is real? Bitterness will bury you.

So forgive, whether it be a person or the universe. Let that shit go. It's not easy, but it's possible. As much as gratitude is happiness, forgiveness is freedom. Take the weight off your back. There's a whole life out there waiting for you after you've unshackled yourself from the past.

9. Follow only your heart

The reality of this well-worn sentiment is so foreign to most people they will go to great lengths to tell you why it's mad or wrong.

Every film, song and book preaches the mantra of authenticity, but perhaps because it is so ubiquitous, almost nobody lives it. If they did, there wouldn't be people falling out of school into university, then falling out of university into corporate life, to then falling out of corporate life into retirement.

Following your heart is tough because we severe the direct line to our desires when we are young. It is bred out of us. But trust me. I've had decades to realise only you know you. You are your own best guide.

Practice listening to that voice. Try to align your life to that voice. The inner compass. The gut feeling. It takes practice to hear it but it's the best guide there is.

10. No one is coming to save you

Society owes you nothing and will not be forthcoming with giving you anything. No one s coming to save you.

It might sound crazy but on an almost subconscious level, I felt that one day I wouldn't have to be a responsible adult anymore, that somehow life would suddenly become easy, full of nothing but fun and hanging out with friends.

That's not the case. No one gives a shit if you're struggling or your life is hard.

"If you're having a hard time 80% don't care and 20% are glad it's you." – Les Brown

This doesn't mean love or compassion are absent in the world, they're not. It's just everyone has their own shit to deal with. Your struggles are yours to sort out. Just you.

There is no medal for being a victim, no reward for being hard done by. So get working improving your life or get dying.

11. Your partner is there only to be loved

This is a counter-intuitive idea but your partner is not there to make you happy. As mentioned, your happiness is your responsibility.

People can feel unhappy and then look at their partner and think "Well you're meant to make me happy so this must be your fault." It's not. Make yourself happy. You can't love someone until you love yourself. A relationship is always going to be 50% you so you need to be on board with who you are. Taking responsibility for your happiness makes it easier to love someone else but crucially, you also become more lovable.

12. Embrace heartbreak

You're going to get heartbroken and it's going to suck. Welcome to being human. You'll love someone who doesn't love you back or they will want you out of their life. It will be as much about them as you. Most people go through this process and while these people may stay in your heart and mind, you will move on.

"Rejection breeds obsession." – Tony Robbins

Rejection can have you chasing ghosts, trying to heal an emotional wound. But you will love someone who no longer exists, they have moved on and you will eventually move on also. Time is a great healer.

It may feel like the end of the world, especially when you're a teenager because nothing burns like teenage love,  but those pains are growing pains.

You're being forged into someone wiser and more resilient and one day that hurt will be a pillar that holds you up.

Heartbreak is an oddly beautiful part of life that hurts like hell. But we all have the choice to push back against the pain. It doesn't need to define you. You define yourself. Your worst days can often turn out to be your best in the long run.

13. You will be clueless about life

You're going to spend a lot of time not knowing what the fuck you're doing, who you are, what you stand for and even what you want. That's OK. It's more than OK,  it's perfectly normal.

"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished." – Dan Gilbert

Instead of panicking about uncertainty, embrace the mystery, it's an adventure, not a failing. You're not meant to have all the answers. It's OK to be lost. It's OK to be wrong. It's OK to not be OK.

14. Action over words

You will be judged a million times more on your actions than words. Your life will also be an accumulative sum of your actions, not words.

We cannot achieve anything through words alone.

When you look back as the years tick by, it will be your actions that tell the story.

Sitting on the sofa talking about how to set the world alight does nothing but give you a dopamine hit by tricking your brain into thinking you're doing something. You're not. Action over words. Always.

15. Don't take things personally

This is one of the Four Agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz's book of the same name.

Don't take it personally when people are vindictive or screw you over. That's a problem in their life, reflected out into the world. The world is full of difficult people so stop taking everything personally.

Or, as my late father eloquently put it: There's a lot of shitheads in the world, don't be surprised when you meet one of them.

16. Don't be afraid of difficult conversations

Life comes with confrontation built-in. As Tim Ferriss says:

"A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have." – Tim Ferriss

These conversations will happen. You might have to ask for money you're entitled to from an unwilling client, you might have to confront an angry boss to explain he's wrong, you might have to tell a partner they need to stop drinking or confront a parent who is needlessly interfering.

Going through life without upsetting people is impossible.

You must respect your right to speak up else you'll miss out on opportunities and emotional healing.

It's difficult I know, but speak up when required. You'll be able to respect yourself if you do.

17. Create a purpose

Set goals. Big goals. Huge, silly goals that scare the life out of you.

People complain their lives are boring because they don't have a plan. They drift along with no purpose. Life becomes exciting if you feel you're on a journey. So set huge goals and see what you can get away with.

Remember, goals aren't about an ending, they're about creating purpose and measuring progress.

Progress is happiness.

This is how the brain works. Goals give you a way to measure progress. They are about the person you become as you pursue them. They're furnaces to grow. Goals are a positive driving force, use them.

18. Find an empowering story

Nothing drives your life like the story you tell yourself about you. Everyone has a story they tell themselves and you will too. This sounds inconsequential but it is maybe the most important point of all.

Your story dictates your life.

So make sure it's an empowering story. Don't be "I'm the guy who never gets the girl" or "I'm the ugly girl who knows her place" or "I'm poor and always will be."

Your story steers your life. It's the hidden driver behind all your decisions.

Be hyper-aware of the story driving you. Change it where needed. It will seep into everything you say, do and believe. You must work at being conscious of your story and adjusting it where required.

"The strongest force in the whole human personality is this need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves." – Tony Robbins

19. Work out your mind like you work out your body

People believe they can read a book or watch a TED talk and suddenly be happier or more productive. This is a fallacy. Just like one gym session won't make you fit, one book won't keep you mentally in shape. You need consistency.

"You must stand guard at your thoughts every day." – Jim Rohn

Your mind will slip back into negativity and feelings of helplessness as a default state unless you work on it, as that's how we're wired. It takes conscious effort to remain in an optimistic state.

How you train your mind is your preference. Reading, audiobooks, motivational videos, meditation, incantations all work. Exercise also works well, as the mind and body are intrinsically connected.

Nothing is silly if it works. If you have to look in the mirror each morning and say you love yourself then great. Find whatever is effective.

Working on your mindset is an ongoing task just like staying in shape and building muscle. Do not neglect working on your mind. It is your greatest, most powerful tool.

20. The only way out is through

The only way you get to be more confident is to put yourself in situations where you have to be confident. The only way you succeed is to try and fail. The only way to be good at finding romantic partners is to get out there and chat with them.

There are no shortcuts to becoming strong, clever, confident or wise. You have to do what it takes.

The universe will give you anything but you have to show it you want it. Scared of public speaking? Then do it. Afraid of the gym? Then join one.

I know this isn't what you want to hear but it is the inconvenient truth. The sooner you accept it, the quicker you will become who you want to be.

If you do only easy things your life will be disappointing and hard. If you do hard things, you will build resilience, skills and your life will open up and become easier. You will end up operating at a level where you can achieve what you want.

Avoiding difficult situations and running from discomfort is robbing yourself of growth, opportunity and self-respect.

Do you want to be comfortable or do you want to have the life you want?

You can't have both.

21. Help others

Finally, help others. Give your money away. Give gifts. Give people your time. Love is spelt T-I-M-E,

There is a weird sense of connection from helping others. Humans are connection machines. We all crave real, deep connections for a sense of affiliation and belonging. The quality of your life is dictated by the quality of your relationships. No man is an island.

Sacrificing your time and resources for others seems counter-productive but it pays dividends. In other words don't be selfish, if only because, ironically, it will hurt you the most.

Final thoughts

These are only some of the points that come to mind, these are the things I'd drum into my younger self. Essentially, none of them are about money, careers, or prescriptive measures but instead are about finding peace, happiness and love.

This comes from ruthless self-examination, letting go of excuses and deciding to enjoy the ride.

Life is a challenge to be met head-on. Why play the coward when you can be everything?

Work at making yourself into someone who can deal with challenges without getting overwhelmed.  It's well within your powers. You are capable of amazing things.

So sure, there is no easier way… But really, would you want there to be?


About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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