3 Pieces of Advice I’d Give My 18 Year-Old Self If I Could

Lockers

Once upon a time…

At 3:45pm Friday afternoon, the corner of Fermor and St Mary’s was a busy place. The intersection is dominated by Glenlawn Collegiate, a brown brick complex that happens to be my alma mater. It’s one of the division’s two high schools, virtually unchanged in the eleven years since I graduated except for the addition of red LEDs on the sign outside.

I happened to be passing by right at that time for no particular reason.

The teenagers in the giddy mob at the bus stop looked a lot younger than I remember being in high school. At the time I figured seventeen was about a year away from being a proper adult, but these kids were definitely children. Loud and aimless. Maybe we were too.

The number fourteen and the number fifty-five rolled in one behind the other, brakes whining, and most of the mob funneled in. When the light changed, both buses pulled away, and that’s when I spotted him.

His identity didn’t register for a moment, but his hurried, self-conscious gait appeared so shockingly familiar to me that I froze. He was wearing grey, baggy cargo pants with ragged bottoms and a drab green t-shirt that was too big for him. His hair was a half-messed mop of gel-hardened spikes.

He was walking towards me, looking over at the departing buses, and we almost collided. When he caught my bewildered stare, I realized who he was.

It was me. At eighteen.

He was stunned too, but clearly knew who I was. Suddenly I felt a lot older than my twenty-nine years. Knowing him, I knew I would have to take the initiative here. I recovered, and smiled. He didn’t.

“You missed the fourteen.”

“Yeah I know.”

“We’ve got twenty minutes or so till the next one. We should talk,” I said, hopeful.

“Sure.”

***

Imagine if you had a golden opportunity to talk to your eighteen year-old self.

Really picture this younger you. Think back to who you were in high school — what you wore, who you were friends with, who you thought you were, what place you felt you had in the world. The more details you can summon, the better. You are sitting across from this young person at a diner, and they’re all ears. For twenty minutes.

What would you say? What advice would you give? And knowing how this person thinks, how would you say it?

(If you aren’t yet twenty, then imagine talking to your thirteen-year-old self. If you are thirteen or younger and you’re reading this blog, then you definitely don’t need any help from me.)

If I only had time to drill him with a few important points, here’s what I’d try to get across to my younger self:

1) Spend your time and money on things that make your life better, rather than things that make you feel good.

“It’s Friday. What are you going to do when you get home?”
“Play Civilization 2 on the computer.”
“Where will that get you in life?”
“If I’m lucky I can eradicate the Aztecs by suppertime.”

I grew up in a fairly comfortable environment. Not a lot of crisis, but regular ups and downs certainly. Like anyone else, I sought things that made me feel good and avoided things that didn’t make me feel good.

When it came to things like work or challenge, I dropped them categorically in the “things that don’t make me feel good” column. Anything in that column was to be avoided when it could be avoided, and endured when it had to be endured.

Not that I’m blaming society for my troubles as a young adult, but nobody ever seemed to have a very good explanation for why I actually might want to work hard and challenge myself. Not “have to”, or “need to,” but “want.” The reason was always, “It’s just something you should do,” or “You’ll be glad you did when you’re my age.”

Whenever I found myself working hard, or butting up against something that was difficult for me, I found it quite unpleasant, so why would I ever do those things when I could avoid them?

And man could I avoid them! I grew to be a very cunning bullshitter and effort-avoider. Work, planning and challenge took on the roles of necessary evils in life, rather than the voluntary paths to fantastic, glittering prizes I later learned them to be.

Even in my mid-twenties, once I learned how to avoid the worst of the woes that a gratification-based existence could create, I still was primarily concerned with feeling good as often as possible. This meant senseless overeating, avoiding any truly strenuous form of exercise, excessive drinking, video games, buying stuff I don’t need, and otherwise indulging myself while staying well within my comfort zone.

I never went into serious consumer debt, but I certainly squandered all my disposable income on various ways to feel good, none of which left anything useful in my life, or put me in a better position to take on the rest of it.

If I could have back all of the thousands of hours I spent playing video games alone, I could have learned several languages, built several businesses, saved a fortune, become a killer guitar player, and built the body of a Roman demigod.

It was a rainy afternoon in 2008 when I realized, “Holy crap! I’m boring!” I had never really built anything in my life. I made no determined attempt to get better at anything, to increase my earning power, to develop skills and relationships, I just spent my time and money on whatever promised to keep me feeling all right. In old-adage-speak, I was eternally buying fish, instead of learning to catch my own.

This is one of the most important things I ever learned, not that anyone ever flat-out said it to me. If only my 29-year old self showed up after school one day, bought me a milkshake, and slapped some sense into me, I’d be light years farther down the road.

At eighteen, young David doesn’t know what’s in store for him. He is still unaware of a smarter way to live, and is about to experience five or six years of fruitless pleasure-chasing and ailing self-esteem. In terms of new skills, assets and capabilities he will have little to show for it by age 25, just some real hard life lessons.

So, teenage David: Always try to get a decent return on investment for your time. Use your time and money to build assets and leverage in your life, not just to get to the next bit of time.

***

2) Every single day, get better at meeting people and developing relationships

“Why don’t you go out and meet some people tonight, instead of fighting the Aztecs on the computer?”
“I don’t like meeting people I don’t know.”
“Well you never know them when you just meet them. How will you make more friends?”
“I have friends.”
“But there are so many people out there who can teach you things and open doors from you.”
“Leave me alone, ok.” He appeared to grow impatient, and looked over at the door.
I waited till his eyes caught mine again. “Be careful what you wish for.”

These days I often describe myself as a “recovering introvert.” Comfort was the north on my personal compass, and talking to people I didn’t know was due south.

I was very much dependent on my existing friends to fulfill my social needs. I rarely took the initiative and made the plans. That I left to everyone else — because it entailed zero risk on my part.

Sticking to behavior with zero risk is a real tragedy, because it means there is no discomfort, and no discomfort means new ground is seldom broken. With that habit, social skills develop extremely slowly, because there is no need to learn anything you don’t already know how to do.

Yearbook

Teenage David, please don’t only do what’s comfortable! That’s a perfect recipe for mediocrity. The older you get, the greater will be the gulf between what you could be and what you are, and the more sorry you’ll be.

When it comes to meeting people, it’s easy to avoid it because they’re only strangers then. You can always write off a stranger as irrelevant to your life, as you know it right now. But you don’t realize that that stranger could have been your best friend, your mentor, your key to a fantastic opportunity, or even your wife. Everyone you know now was a stranger once.

A new person in your life can open a new chapter. They can lead to new lines of work, new passions, new insight about the world and a broader, more colorful identity for you.

Most of my life, I resented people with connections. I hated that I had to resort to cold calling to find a job lead, while other people could just drop a friend an email. Of course, I didn’t see that this doesn’t happen by accident.

I always waited for others to take the lead in social situations. I would always defer to somebody with more skills or more guts, and soon I began to identify myself as a second, a subordinate, a beta personality. Clawing your way back from a subordinate social role is a hell of a battle, and the later you start the tougher the climb. Don’t let yourself slip that far.

Again, teenage David doesn’t know what’s in store for him once he leaves high school. His high school friends will move, marry off and become otherwise irrelevant. He’ll always have some friends, but he’ll depend on them for a sense of identity and for social fulfillment. It will be ten years of sheepishness and dependence before he realizes what’s happened and makes a point of becoming socially independent.

So, teenage David: Be a figure in a lot of other people’s lives, and keep bringing new people into your life. Meet people every day. Initiate conversations. Don’t shrink away.

***

3) Don’t work for anyone else

“What are you studying in school?”
“Uh, computer science.”
“Why do you like computer science?”
“Well I don’t, but there are lots of jobs in that field right now.”

Oh teenage David. Look at me. I’m twenty-nine and currently hatching a plan to escape from my second career. It’s not horrible, I just don’t want to spend half my waking life helping rich land developers get richer. I never did, though I didn’t always think I could do better.

Before you sign on for a chunk of college loan debt so you can learn what others say you should, hear me out.

What is normal in our society is to sell your time (customarily, forty hours of it per week, in five eight-hour stretches) for an agreed-upon flat rate. This is what most people do and what most people will tell you to do.

This is your time on earth. We’re talking about sizable pieces of the only life you’re going to have, sold to a company that — and let’s be honest — is probably not doing for the world what you’d like to do for the world. Do you really want your role on this planet to revolve around smoothly-running data entry systems? Insurance policies? Widgets?

But most people don’t see another way. The standard way to make a living is to rent yourself out for the better part of five days a week to achieve someone else’s purpose. In the time that remains, the weekends and the fleeting hours of the evening, you can live your life, or at the very least recover from your workweek. Sounds like a regular deal with the devil.

Rent out your forty hours like that, and somebody else gets to decide:

  • When that forty hours is (right through the prime daylight hours, almost always)
  • How you are to be spending that time, and why
  • What you are allowed to wear, do and say during that time
  • When you can take a vacation
  • Who you work with
  • When you deserve more money
  • What your purpose is, at least until 4:30
  • Whether to continue to supply your income or not

Once you’re playing this game, the main strategy is to make a lot of money for your boss, and over time they will share a small fraction of it with you in the form of incremental bumps in your salary.

You may luck out, of course. Some people do find that their own purpose matches the purpose of the person they sell their days to, so there’s no conflict there. But that’s not reality for most of us.

Don’t get mixed up in this racket.

What can you do instead? Do what your would-be boss is doing. Create something of value, and find the people who value it most. A service or a product that people value, and that others aren’t delivering as well, or at all.

If you need help to produce it, you will certainly be able to find a lot of people willing to sell you their time for a flat rate. If you need a method, there are hundreds of established, tested models in the library, online (yes, online), and at the bookstore. Pick one that speaks to you and see what happens.

The idea of running my own business always sounded preposterous. I fell for one of the biggest entrepreneurial myths: that you must risk a large sum of money to start a business venture. I think I came under that impression by watching an episode of Roseanne in which a financial advisor tells her she’d never heard of anyone starting a business for less than fifty thousand dollars. I missed the part where they said they were talking about restaurants.

I’d heard most businesses fail within five years (or something) and of course I pictured myself becoming part of that majority, ending up penniless in a green shack at the corner of Baltic and Mediterranean.

No, I dismissed any entrepreneurial ambitions long before I was done high school. I knew that such an uncompetitive, unambitious soul would always have to work for someone else. That was just reality.

So I jumped on the lucrative professional field du jour, computer programming. Four years later, I’d racked up some debt, run my self-esteem into the ground, forgotten everything I’d learned about computer programming, and started again in the engineering industry.

Now it’s another six years down the road, and I’ve left my job to travel abroad. When I return, I’m devoting as much time as it will take to create a bossless income. I’d rather work twelve hours a day for myself than eight for someone else.

Without this advice, teenage David will be entering a cycle of employer dependence he may never know he’s in. He’ll go to school, rack up some debt, and get a job. He won’t exactly hate his job, but he’ll still dread the fleeting, final hours of Sunday evenings, and he’ll still think Friday is necessarily a better day than Tuesday. Over the decades he might eventually trudge his way up to high five figures, possibly even topping out at the low sixes. He will always depend on others for his income and will only be able to travel in two-week stretches for the first sixty years of his life.

So, teenage David: Don’t sell your time to someone else’s purpose. You can do better. Be poor for a while if that’s what it will take.

***

When I finished my spiel, he said “Thanks,” as if he’d understood, put his earphones in, then trotted out to catch the bus.

I suspect he went home, jumped on the computer, and proceeded to make every one of the mistakes I needed to make to be able to give him that advice.

Good for him.

R

***

What would you tell your eighteen year-old self if you had the chance?

Update: Looking for more life lessons? This post has been featured with over 40 others on Abubakar Jamil’s Life Lessons Series.

Photos by foundphotoslj and John Steven Fernandez


***

{ 156 Comments }

Jay Schryer February 11, 2010 at 7:20 am

Very, very cool.

This is my favorite post of yours, yet, David. I love the practical advice wrapped in a story. That’s how I try to write my posts, but I don’t think I’ve come close to anything this powerful. Really and truly, you’ve blown me away here. Kudos to you, great warrior!
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..The P.I.T.A. Scale, and How it Will Change Your Life =-.

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David February 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Wow, thanks Jay. I actually had some serious technical difficulties with WordPress last night, and published it quite frustrated, without giving it a thorough edit. It is extremely long and I wondered if anyone would even want to read it the whole way through. Once you’ve been working on something for hours it’s kind of hard to know if it’s readable or not.

So what would you tell teenage Jay if you could? :)

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Positively Present February 11, 2010 at 7:51 am

I agree with Jay. This is the best post I’ve ever read by you! I LOVED it! It’s so creative and had me hooked right from the beginning. It was great to read what you would tell your 18 year old self, but also inspiring to think about what I’d tell my 18 year old self. Thanks for making me think about that!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..9 positive aspects of love =-.

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David February 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Hah, you and Jay have swept away my doubts about this post, Dani. It was fun doing a bit of dialogue, I may do more of it.

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Phyllis February 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

Oh, what a cool post. The thing is I did the best I knew how to do at that time in my life with the information and people I had. Expecting any more such as the knowledge I have now is too much. Anyways, I like to think I will get ‘wiser’ every day, which means growth :)

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David February 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Hi Phyllis. Yeah, all of us only could have done what we knew how to do at the time. I’m glad I did eventually learn these things, even though I really could have used them ten years ago, of course.

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Lisa February 11, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Echoing everyone else here and saying great post! There’s so much I wish I could have told adolescent Lisa!

I love the term recovering introvert, because I consider myself that too. Everything good I have has come from taking a risk, and yet I still don’t take very many, oddly enough. Especially with meeting new people, although I am much better now than I was in high school. For some reason I can only think of the negatives that could occur if I try to meet someone new, such as the conversation not going well or being uncomfortable, rather than the positives that I know are more likely.

Oh well, I’m a work in progress, thank you again for a great post!

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David February 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I hear you when you say “Everything good I have has come from taking a risk.” Those words will stay with me, I hope, as I make big decisions :)

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Tim February 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Good. I approve of speaking to yourself, both past and present. Just don’t let people see. They might think you’re crazy. Or do, whatever.

I look at my past self and much advice comes to mind. I look forward to my soon-to-be self and wonder what advice he would give me. If only I had a time machine… If only.

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David February 11, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Good thinking Tim. I wonder what my soon-to-be self would say. He doesn’t exist yet, that’s why it’s so hard to be sure…

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Lindsey Petersen February 11, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Really great advice for anyone, especially 18 year olds!
Lindsey Petersen
http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

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David February 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Thanks Lindsey. I did have a habit of ignoring advice from my elders when I was that age though, it may not have had an effect ;)

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Cole May 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

one 18 year-old here, i graduate high school in a couple of weeks, and this article gave me shivers. Luckily i am already following most of your advice: i have decided to leave off from college for a “gap year” (what a convenient, socially acceptable phrase, brought around to legitimize the illegitimate (by their terms)) most of my peers are heading straight to college or already are in it, and in lack of true direction have chosen a “lucrative field” in which to sell their life. in terms of social interaction high school can be a minefield, but you do learn about relating to others, you have no choice. i also have a girlfriend from whom i learn new things about myself and others everyday. But…spending money and energy on things to better your life, phew, that’s a tough one ill probably be working on my whole life. you, so helpfully, however have reminded me not do spend it all on comfort and happiness. “#9: never directly pursue pleasure” thank you for that and the boost you have given me that i might be headed in the right direction.
peace
-oh and i have no idea what i’d tell my thirteen year old self…
wait id tell him- if you like a girl, just kiss her. :)
all the best

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westwood February 11, 2010 at 11:42 pm

It’s very cool when you find a random blog and it turns out to be a fellow winnipegger.
.-= westwood´s last blog ..Habermas in your bedroom =-.

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David February 12, 2010 at 12:07 am

Yes it is! I’m actually nowhere near Winnipeg at the moment. I’ve escaped to New Zealand to roam the countryside for most of the year. I have missed the old Peg, a little.

I have checked out gapingwhole and I’m loving it. You have a new subscriber.

Wait, you aren’t TROY Westwood, are you?

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Erica February 12, 2010 at 12:26 am

As an 18 year old, I’m proud to say that I’m doing pretty well at following this advice. Although I did play civ 2 as a kid; that game was awesome.

That’s not to say I have huge glaring faults that I would desperately love to advise myself against upon the oppourtunity. But your advice did make me proud about some things in my life.

Also, don’t beat yourself up, you seem to have turned out ok.

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David February 12, 2010 at 12:33 am

By the sounds of your comments I’d bet money you are way ahead of where I was at 18.

Yes Civ 2 was totally awesome. Too awesome, that was a part of the problem. I got lost in that game.

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G October 11, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Would it be evil of me to suggest Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri? They don’t abbreviate it to SMAC for nothing.

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Marcus@ Parent Notes February 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

A good way of getting some valuable points across!
I’d tell my 18 year old self to stop being concerned with what you’re going to do in the future and just let your interests take you where they will! Be fully involved in the present and new opportunities tend to crop up!

{ Reply }

David February 12, 2010 at 3:25 am

Hi Marcus. That was my argument whenever people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. The problem for me was that I was not interested in anything that was going to take me somewhere good. I was most interested in what I found gratifying in the moment, and a few years down the road I hadn’t progressed in any perceivable way.

I envied the kids who had a clear interest in something they wanted to do with their lives. A career direction or an ambition. Designs on a future of some kind. I just didn’t have any place in my mind I wanted to get to, and in hindsight I really could have used one.

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Marcus@ Parent Notes February 12, 2010 at 3:58 am

I see what your saying… that’s what I wanted too! I just spent too much time concerned with what my interests and direction should be leaving less time to actually develop them. A bit like spending time looking at a map, wondering what places to visit and not taking time out to actually go and visit them!
Humankind…. we’re a complicated lot!
.-= Marcus@ Parent Notes´s last blog ..5 Ways To Get your Child To Eat Vegetables ~ Quick Tips =-.

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Dave February 12, 2010 at 3:05 am

Thanks for an enjoyable article, and your regular booster shots of positivity! I like your writing style, it reminds me of Cory Doctorow. Keep living the dream.

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David February 13, 2010 at 1:14 am

That’s the plan, Dave!

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Christopher Kabamba February 12, 2010 at 3:35 am

This is a beautiful post David. I identify with number 2 and number 3 but because we certainly cannot go back, this is “advice” that we ought to be giving ourselves now when it is still called Today.

Thanks for such a valuable post.
.-= Christopher Kabamba´s last blog ..Why Commandments are NOT for Conscious and Intelligent Beings =-.

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David February 13, 2010 at 1:17 am

Hey thanks Christopher. You got that right, today is the only day we can really adjust.

Great thoughts on commandments, too

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Christopher Kabamba February 13, 2010 at 3:13 am

great. thanks.
.-= Christopher Kabamba´s last blog ..Why Commandments are NOT for Conscious and Intelligent Beings =-.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) February 12, 2010 at 4:41 am

I really liked the story-style at the start. Very engaging. And yeah! We are alive !!! Break those mind shackles.

Meanwhile~

Going back “in time” to talk to myself I think would be pointless. Not that I understand M theory, but it comes close to explaining what I want to say, in that all possibilities are occurring for me. So somewhere, out there (yes there is a rainbow too) my 18 year old self is doing whatever it is I have gone back in time to tell another one of my selves to do.

I like where this particular self is at; it was hard and often very lonely to get here, but this particular me would not be here as I am if I had made different choices (rather than leaving that to the one of my other selves).

As I am a firm believer in past-present-future existing in the one moment, I often chat with my younger selves who tend to be revealed during times of stress, loss or disappointment.

My future self/ves are awesome~ I get too jealous to chat with them for very long (and one is a complete b**ch~:-)

“If only my 29-year old self showed up after school one day, bought me a milkshake, and slapped some sense into me, I’d be light years farther down the road.”

Besides the use of violence in your example to get yourself to see the world your way,

Remember that story of the butterfly hatching, and the person tries to speed it up, and the butterfly dies because it doesn’t develop in its own time…?

Or the lotus needing crap to grow in to bloom…?

And all those gorgeous reefs that fill us with glory cause they are on the edge where they are often hammered by waves~it’s the peaceful lagoons where coral is dull and fish variety low.

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David February 13, 2010 at 1:23 am

Very philosophical of you, Char :)

Time travel gets pretty hairy when we start to imagine to mechanics of it.

All these ‘selves’ are happening at once. My 18 year old self is only a thought now, and is only now. That’s why I’m writing this now — not to wish things had happened differently but to allow me to see what adjustments to make now, and maybe to give my younger readers a bit of unsolicited advice.

{ Reply }

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) February 13, 2010 at 1:59 am

I try ~

Allowing to see where to adjust, I can relate to. This was a really good post David, maybe you could try the creative writing more often, whether you share with us or not

{ Reply }

Nick December 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm

“Remember that story of the butterfly hatching, and the person tries to speed it up, and the butterfly dies because it doesn’t develop in its own time…?”

That story may have been told in many different cultures, but I remember it the finest in Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek.” That book had a huge influence on my character development, and I highly recommend it to anyone in a philosophical bind. Splendid book.

David, I too was a gamer in my younger years and still go back for a little rampaging from time to time. Online games offered competition in different realms. FPS’s offered the test of acute problem solving and reflexes, along with strategic placement of yourself in a changing environment. RPG’s offered a relaxing experience comparable to reading a book. You participate in characters’ development and learn that grinding can be positive. MUD’s teach you type fast, think on your feet, and illustrate the powers of language. Puzzle games challenge your problem solving abilities and can lead to thinking of situations more abstractly than friends who don’t play them. While not every game is constructive and excess leads to ruin, video games are not all bad when you change the frame of mind that we view them with. Megaman (Battle Network, specifically) was probably what drove me to be more interested in electrical engineering and software in my youth.

While I am constantly fascinated with the world that we live in, no subject has grasped me enough to attempt make a career working for someone else. After studying higher mathematics, electrical engineering, and then graduating with a degree in Humanities, I ended up with a fascination of software. Mostly due to Moore’s Law, I found that the engineering fields are locked in to their trajectories. Software plays off of these other fields and has the opportunity to make machines smart.

That being said, going back to school to have some old fellow lecture me on software engineering principles is not appealing. The degree speaks to employers only, and the real innovation is happening among the internet (depending on where you look).

Currently my job amounts to your third point, despite it being technical and paying a decent wage. The hurdle is to find that idea that you can mold into your own business, and to overcome the “yes-sir” mentality that professors have drilled into you over the years.

Software is not for everyone, but after much arguing with a good friend I believe that the act of creating it is an art form (he convinced me). That form has been perverted into exactly what you mention (“smoothly-running data entry systems? Insurance policies? Widgets?”). These systems are naturally occurring though, and cannot be avoided as they are necessary and efficient for the modern corporation.

Those who are fascinated can participate in the large machine making a company’s widgets, smoothing out networked devices, maintain information systems, or take a different path. It would be one of creating your own software that contributes to the world, or at least creates personal wealth on your own schedule.

That last part is what I have the most trouble with. The giants are hard to spar with. At times I have dreamed of using my knowledge for Robin Hood acts, hacking the giants for personal gain etc. However, I think the more noble path would be to beat them at their own game and enjoy being a creator of something original.

Since you seem to be into software, and I seem to be tired of persuading software companies to pay me to make their widgets, what are your thoughts here? My recent solution is to move away from the hectic location where large corporations incubate their plans, move my life near the ones I love and care about, work any job I find, and then pursue what you write about. My mind becomes fatigued with the current day job and working a simpler job would allow a sharper mind after the grind. The 40/week has drained the adventure out of life, and the 18 year old version of me may not understand but surely would not want the work life I have lived for two years.

Thanks for this.

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Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Brilliant, stunning, wonderful! Just loved reading this.

When I was 18 I spent the summer working in Yellowstone National Park, and it was a truly memorable adventure. If I could go back to me then, I would say, “Remember this. Pay attention. This is who you are.”

But here’s the weird thing: I visited Yellowstone 25 years later, and it was a somewhat surreal experience. At every turn, I expected to encounter my 18-year old self. I knew a part of her was still there. And I thought it would make an interesting book.

I’ll probably never write it though. But you could. You could take what you’ve started here and make it a book. I sure would read it.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..What the Super Bowl Taught Me About Life =-.

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David February 13, 2010 at 1:27 am

Something amazing happens when we visit places from out past. They have a different character, but it really does seem like bits of our personality rub off on them.

That’s a nice thought in your second paragraph. Where you go and what you do with yourself really is who you are. I’ve been trying to tell myself something similar as I wander around New Zealand. This trip is who I am now, but before I know it it will only be who I used to be.

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Eves February 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I’ve been a lurker for a bit, but this one just rocked my socks!! So many times I’ve envisioned grabbing younger Eves by the shoulders and shaking the crap out of her, and telling her how her choices at 18 are going to map the course of her life (and for the most part, not for good)!!

Thanks for this :) Just fantastic!

{ Reply }

David February 13, 2010 at 1:45 am

Glad to draw you out of your lurk, Eves! I hope the sock rocking continues for you.

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Adam O February 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

This is the first long random post I think i’ve ever read. Im 23 now and thats about how it is for me. Its good to hear that someone thinks like I do. I recently entered college after being out of school for years. I’m going to major in art. I dont want to make the rich more rich. Thanks for your thoughts.

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David February 13, 2010 at 1:46 am

This is a particularly long article, even for me. I finished it late at night and couldn’t believe the size of it, so congrats on getting through it. And on doing with your life what you want to do :)

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Jess February 13, 2010 at 5:07 am

Great post David.

My 23 year old self can’t think of anything I’d tell my 18 year old self, except maybe to worry less. In fact, that if I didn’t worry less, I could expect an angry visit from my 50 year old self,
the bearer of unnecessary wrinkles due to a youth spent worrying about trivial, unimportant things.

Because surely, if anyone is slapping their younger selves, it’s got to be the person explaining the cause and effect relationship between worry and wrinkles! ;)

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Josh Hanagarne February 13, 2010 at 10:51 am

David you crazy cracker, I would tell my 18 year old self his chest would not be as concave as a cereal bowl forever, and that one day he would become a gigantic dinosaur which is its own sort of awkwardness.

When you come back, I’m coming up to visit you. Mark this.
.-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..My Unexpected Lunch With Seth Godin =-.

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David February 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm

You sure make Seth Godin look like a much smaller dinosaur.

Well I’ll go ahead and take your word for it; you are a man who does what he says he will. It will be good to see you.
.-= David´s last blog ..3 Pieces of Advice I’d Give My 18 Year-Old Self If I Could =-.

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David February 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I hear ya on the worrying less. Whenever I feel myself get uptight about something, I can feel the lines in my face, and the unease in my heart. I can feel the wear and tear happening in my body and mind.

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Kylie February 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Hey David,
I have only recently come across Raptitude but it’s quickly become one of my favourites. Thank you for this amazing post.

Ah, my 18 year old self… it’s a while ago (I’m 37). This sounds a little cliched, but true for me I think: I would give her a hug, and tell her to be kinder to herself. At that age I felt like I was a bit defective, missing out on some vital piece of something that everyone else was in on. So I’d say ‘Relax, you are OK just as you are’. I would also encourage my 18 year old self to meditate, even just 5 minutes a day. I once read that meditation is like chiropractics for the spirit – this has definitely been the case for me, re-aligning me in subtle but profound ways. Very good stuff. Finally, I would encourage her to dream big, work hard and have a go (what’s the worst that could happen!).
I’m not sure how much she would listen, but I’d give it a shot…

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David February 14, 2010 at 1:08 am

Hi Kylie. I had that same feeling that I was missing some small important piece that everyone else seemed to have. I wonder if none of us had it :)

And that’s just it… teenagers don’t listen anyway.

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga February 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

If I could tell my 18 year old self just one thing it would be to follow the guide of that inner voice, even if my choices would be out of alignment with the vision others had for my life.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..What Love is Not – A Life Lesson on Attachment, Infatuation, and Lust =-.

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David February 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

At 18 I don’t think my inner voice was all that strong, or else it was giving me some bad directions! I never had any intuitive feelings or internal compass, like I feel I have now. I was seriously confused.

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Drew Tkac February 13, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I like your choice of topics, they make me pause and think. This topic is of special interest to me because I find myself doing it allot. “Ahhh if I only knew back then what I know now.”

The advice of the elder you is really about the state of your current self. That is: where I am now, whats important to me now, what I am striving for now, what are my goals and aspirations now.

Framing this topic as a journey back in time is really a reflection upon regret and lamentation. Something that the zen masters tell us is useless. “We cant return we can only look behind from where we came.” Is one of my favorite lyrics from Joni Mitchel’s “Circle Game.”

What about the younger you? I believe that advice is all around us. We only see and hear the advice for which we are ready. “When the student is ready the teacher will be there.” So how useful is the advice to our junior? It was probably there for the taking, all we had to do was reach for it.

As the circle continues then, what advice are we blind and deaf to now that we will regret in the future?

Useful advice transcends the younger, current and older manifestations of ourselves and is non-temporal. In the words of Ram Dass, “Remember, Be Here Now.”

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David February 14, 2010 at 1:14 am

The advice of the elder you is really about the state of your current self. That is: where I am now, whats important to me now, what I am striving for now, what are my goals and aspirations now.

You got it Drew. This post isn’t about lamentation or regret or do-overs. It’s about where to go from here.

Great insight as usual.

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Brenda (betaphi) February 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Whenever you invoke young David, your writing soars. So I disagree with Drew. If we listened only to the zen masters and focused only on the present, story would disappear. For me that’s too great a loss. Writing about young David IS a form of meditation taking place in the moment. Give me grey baggy cargo pants with ragged bottoms and an over-sized drab green t-shirt and a messed-up mop of gel-hardened spikes anytime! (minus a few hyphens) :)
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..The Future =-.

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David February 15, 2010 at 1:50 am

Hah! Thanks Brenda. Young David might just make a few more appearances, since he’s so popular :)

You’re totally right, reminiscing about the past is a present-moment activity. There is something to gain here and now from examining the past.

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John February 16, 2010 at 9:43 am

David, you and I are quite alike. The very same problems you’ve talked about are the very ones I’m dealing with right now. I feel like you’re speaking directly to me (19 yrs of age) and all the other young adults who seek advice. I’m actually on my way meeting people. Trying to create connections. In response to wanting to build a business, I’ve been itching to do that for a long time. I’m starting small by trying to sell swords (I think they’re cool). Haven’t sold one yet, but I plan on redesigning the website.
The work I’m doing in college isn’t at all fulfilling. There’s just nothing I’m passionate about. I love networking, writing posts and interacting with you and everybody else here. It makes me feel alive, like I’m actually affecting someone in a positive way. This piece of paper I’m trying to attain doesn’t feel like something worth all the pain I’ve been enduring. I’m constantly stricken by boredom whenever I study. Phrases that pop up in my mind usually revolve around, “Why the hell are we doing this?”
It matters not anymore. I’ll just have to keep going with my head high and shoulders back. It’s time to make the most of my time here, instead of drowning myself in constant study. All work and little play is pissing me off.
Thanks for this article. It drove me to share my thoughts, caused to reflect on my own life, and acknowledge that everyone has the same problems. I am not alone.

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David February 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

John, from what I can tell you are light years ahead of me. The too-busy and too-afraid schoolmates you describe in your High Risk High Reward post are like me at 19, while you know what you want, and you’re already building it. I know you’ll get figured out everything you want to figure out, because you’ve already trying to figure it all out! Somehow I thought I was done all my figuring by then.

I feel a sudden sense of urgency now that I’m barely six months from the end of my twenties. I am effectively starting again, except this time I have an extra decade of experience and soft skills, not to mention that I finally know what I want.

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Patrice February 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

This is a wonderful post. I’m always telling myself how I would have been a more successful adult if I’d known the things I know now back then when I graduated high school. One thing I would have told myself was to be more social and interact with everyone, as oppose to letting my differences get the best of me.

Thanks!

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David February 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

That’s where I’m at, and I’m making up for it now.

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Simon February 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Hi David,

I love coming to your site, there’s always something good. NZ is fab isn’t it?

I think you’re hard on yourself. I’ve spent the last two decades making your mistakes, although I never over did it on food or drink or playing games, I’ve wasted time on other pointless pursuits and I’m 9 years older than you.

Life’s hard and some people take longer to work out what they want from it and how it works and how they fit in. I’m still getting there.

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David February 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Yes, I’m loving NZ.

Sometimes I am hard on myself. But when I think about it, the biggest mistake I made over the last decade was expecting too little of myself.

I think it would be much harder on me to continue to take the easiest route at every juncture. I believe I’m treating myself better by insisting on doing more.

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Sarah February 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Hi David,

I often wonder if I could have saved myself some heartache if older me had sat younger me down for a stern talking-to. Probably not, its the experiences I’ve had that have helped me navigate my personality and its place in this world.

I would have liked to have been there as a guardian angel though – “Younger me, everything is going to be fine – one day you will graduate and get a job you love. One day you will meet someone just for you, one day you will sorely regret some of your fashion decisions of the early 90′s”…Or something like that.

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David February 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm

That’s what I figured too — I needed to do everything exactly like I did it to even know what I want from myself.

A “reassurance angel” would have been
nice!

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Sunny February 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Wow, what a perfect article!
I get so embarassed sometimes looking back at my high school self, or reading old note from high school. And even though I’m only 22, I find myself looking down at high school kids as highly immature, annoying, shallow and in general, LOUD.
But it also makes me want to apologize to my waiters and waitresses that had to deal with me and my entire high school band every friday night. I can’t even imagine how loud we were.

#2 really hit me, and I never would’ve realized it myself, but connecting with strangers is so important! Making new connections, and sharing things with each other’s lives. I was, and still am extremely shy, my friends from a small town grade school were my friends in high school, and outside of high school I had a rough time adapting for awhile. But the thing that really made it easier for me, was making a list of things that make me amazing, and silly facts about myself. Taking this list, I’d look at it and think “wow! I’m pretty diverse!” and then, “wow! I can only imagine what all the other millions of people in the world are like as individual people! They must have so much to bring to other’s lives!”

and to Josh Hanagarne, your comment brightened my day =D haha, I think all people should view themselves as awesome dinosaurs!
.-= Sunny´s last blog ..Homework Assignment 2-ish =-.

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David February 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Hi Sunny.

Yeah I cringe when I read stuff I wrote in high school (or even last week sometimes :) ) but I guess that’s pretty normal. I read one of my high school essays a few months ago and it looks like I was a really angry teenager. It was about censorship and it was quite venomous and over-the-top. All part of growing up I guess.

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Brad February 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

I would have taught myself to meditate a little each day or just to do some relaxation exercises. And I would have introduced myself to freelance writing.

Anyway, that time has come and gone. I feel like I am old enough now to know what advice to give myself (at 26)…but I guess that is always the fallacy.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Impetuous Drivers =-.

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David February 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Good call. A little mind work would have gone a long way.

Or maybe it wouldn’t have taken at all…

I feel like I am old enough now to know what advice to give myself (at 26)…but I guess that is always the fallacy.

Hah! Exactly.

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Martin February 23, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Great writing and great advice David. I wish I started to think about these things when I was in high school. But it is never too late and am happy to be on the right path now, even if it is a long way from where I would like to be.
..I was a bit of an introvert, and guess I still am. But I think your advice is on the money. Nothing good comes from staying in your shell, no man is an island. People need people to do big things.
Keep up the good work.

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David February 24, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Thanks Martin. Never too late!

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Mathieu D March 11, 2010 at 10:42 pm

It’s simple, everything I’ve learned past 18, I would tell my 18-year-old self.

Especially about some career choices, perhaps? :o

BUT one thing we should remember, is the past happened whatever way it did for a reason (or many), and we should be glad that it actually led to where we are now.

Now, what will our 60-year-old self tell our present self?… Probably a whole huge many things, too!

So long as we keep trying hard.

Let’s do it!
Mat
.-= Mathieu D´s last blog ..4 Tips for Iron-Hard Relentlessness =-.

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David March 12, 2010 at 12:08 am

Haha yeah but you don’t have time to tell him everything. You have twenty minutes.

I’d love to have access to my 60-year old self right about now. If nothing else he could help me pick the right football games.

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Ngothien March 25, 2010 at 5:58 am

When I was reading this post I was reminded of me. I often waste time chasing fading pleasures and I’m practically afraid of meeting new people. Seeing it in another person’s perspective made me realize that I have to make an effort to better myself and enjoy life.
I’m still very young so I have time to change.
Thank you for the post, it opened my eyes.

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Aoife March 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Oh what a brilliant post. Really enjoyed it. God, you’ve given me a lot of think about!

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Emilie April 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

Being only 16, this post relay helped me realize hat I’m practically wasting my life. Not that i play computer games, but I usually end up doing absolutely nothing rather than getting a useful task finished or doing some extra studying. That’s an area in my life I am currently trying to change, and this post inspired me to really try and be the best I can be!

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spiderlgs April 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I love it. If I ran into my 18 year old self, I would tell her…

1. Ask yourself, what’s the best thing that could happen… forget the worst, it never comes to fruition.. for real.

2. Forgive yourself for every mistake you make, your actions are not who you are.

3. Spend your money on travel, not things. No object feels as good as seeing the places you’ve read about in books.

Then, I know my stubborn 18 year old self would act super cool like i already knew that… but she would go home and write it in her journal. I love your advice. I love the wisdom that only comes with time. At 27, I am finally understanding why everyone says that their 30s are fabulous, because this decade has had so much shifting and changing… but I can’t be mad. Like my mom says, the best sense is bought sense.. people can tell you the same thing again and again, but it’s through experience that we truly understand.

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Cheryl April 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

It would be great wouldn’t it, and when you get to 45 will you have pieces of advice for your 30-year-old?

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Darren April 28, 2010 at 3:24 am

If I ran into my 18-year old self and gave him the same great advice, he’d smile and nod, and continue on his merry way. Then I’d have to abduct him and show him how much time I’ve wasted, how everything I’ve has done was for naught and how much almost all my friends are miserable following the “American Dream” (even though we live in Canada). Hopefully my young self would see how 1990-2008 was such a wasted period and that will scare him into embracing his passions and getting away from a life of mediocrity & stagnation much sooner than later. I’m glad I came to that realization as I’m still fairly young, but I wish it had happened sooner. Oh well, everyone needs to go through the “dark night of the soul” in order to grow and appreciate the light. That “dark night” lasts longer for some than others.

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Abubakar Jamil August 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm

David,

Honored to include your insightful post in the Life Lessons Series.

Thank you for your support and contribution.

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Farnoosh August 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

David, the 18-year old would never listen, would he? I know that I wouldn’t have – not even to my older self. But it’s a sweet and rewarding exercise and 29 is a great age. For me, the best years of my life started at 29 when I finally decided to take some time for myself, to live fully, to travel my rear off and to do as I please and not as my parents wish for me to live. Life has been fabulous ever since and I know you have much happiness ahead too!

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Adam - Tropical Nomad June 23, 2013 at 3:58 am

Totally agree. My 18 year old self would tell me to go p*ss off and keep doing what he was doing.. Much wiser now but hey, thats a good thing!

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alex - unleash reality September 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

:)

“Imagine if you had a golden opportunity to talk to your eighteen year-old self.”
– i’d like to imagine i could bitch slap the younger me too. guess an upper cut of pep talk is the same thing though :)

“1) Spend your time and money on things that make your life better, rather than things that make you feel good.”
- this one tickled my thoughts a little. i’ve been staring at this comment box for a good five minutes trying to decide exactly why it made my brain ooze and squirm in indecision about my stance towards this. okay. five minutes up. game time. I guess the reason it made me stop and think is because i really believe that our single goal in life is to feel good (in the at peace and completely at ease with life kinda way) right now. feel good right now. single goal in life. but when i went into it a lil more, i realised that i mean that in a completely “dive the fffff into life as much as possible” kinda way. the “feel good” from playing civilisation 2 right now isn’t it. doing things that make life better is. different grades of feeling good. the second option being completely organic and preservative free. and i think that when you’re doing things from that place of “how can i live more right now” – that makes you feel good. but in the real way. civilisation 2 makes you feel kinda good because you can shy away from the possibility that you’re not good enough to make your dreams happen. and it massages all those yuck paradigms and beliefs that you’ve picked up. but it’s fast food feel good. not real feel good. like a forced laugh. as though we ignore the things that we don’t want to do because they challenge that limited paradigm of the world, the collected bullshit that we’ve taken on. and it feels good to affirm that limited world view. but not oozingly good. not the good that comes when you stop takin it seriously and grow the ff up.

“2) Every single day, get better at meeting people and developing relationships”
- i’d tell the teenage me this won too. we can tell our respective teenagers to hang out. they’d prolly get along :) …really think that being able to make people comfortable and smile with you is the most important business and life skill. evar.

number 3 needs no adding to.

super respect man. post made me think. a lot. and laugh. a lot.

hope all’s well.

keep it real and in touch
alex

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Sarah August 27, 2012 at 4:49 am

I know Exactly what you mean Alex, thanks for putting it like that!
and David, I hope things start looking up for you soon. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts like this. They help.

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Rachna January 9, 2011 at 3:19 am

This is the first time in a long time that I got to the bottom of a blog post! Loved it! :-)

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David January 12, 2011 at 7:06 am

Congratulations!

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wilatabz April 16, 2011 at 6:25 am

OMG….i really need that number 2

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Pavel April 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Thank you for this wonderful article. I recently found Raptitude and absolutely love it for the refreshing perspectives on life. I’m 18 so this article especially, is quite helpful for me. I’m at a very tense and transitional period of my life where everyone I know is heading off to college, eager to start their prospective majors and kickstart their careers in the field that they “think” they love. Don’t get me wrong, I think college provides a wealth of opportunities, a chance to meet new and interesting individuals and to grow as one. However, I believe I have a lot of years in front of me and don’t think that I need to rush into anything that I may regret by being lost and starting out my new, independent life in debt. That’s why I’ve decided to take a gap year. I’ve saved up some money working and will move to Spain to teach english. The reason why is because I want to dive into a different culture and become more aware of the world around me. I think college is right for some people but not enough people explore their passions, or explore to find out their passions I should say.
College provides a safe and secure feeling for people, that they’ll be guaranteed a job afterwards. This is not always the case, especially in today’s economy. People don’t need to feel like their somehow stuck in this single path, they need not be afraid to jump into the unknown and see for themselves what makes them happy!

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zalika April 30, 2011 at 4:04 am

I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and this one is definitely one of my favourites. Mostly so because right now I have to choose between being poor and working for something I don’t like and having a monthly income. But this post reinforces my faith thats its all going to work out fine with time. Thank you.

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Todd May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

David, your article hit very close to home with me. I made mistakes in all 3 categories above: I could have spent money on exercise equipment or a gym, I could have learned to socialize in high school and have cool friends, I could have learned to be an artist or an entrpreneut; but I did not. I chose to play video games, I chose a degree in Computer Science in hopes of getting into the gaming industry, and I ended up working for a company that makes me question where I went wrong. But when I think of the situation back then, is it any wonder I was the way I was? I grew up in a household where we were not allowed to make mistakes, we were not allowed to have aspirations, we must take the “sure bet” path, and we were not allowed to take risks. I’ve been trying to start fresh from 27 – I’m finally losing weight, reading books on how to socialize, and I am going back to school to get a degree in a specialty I actually like. You said above in response to a commenter: “This post isn’t about lamentation or regret or do-overs. It’s about where to go from here.” But in your article, you sound so critical of your 18 year old self! When you present it this way, doesn’t it seem very depressing to you? When you wrote this article, did you feel confident towards your future, or were you reflecting back on your mistakes? Most of the people who commented above say they are inspired by your advice, but I feel depressed because I know we CAN’T go back in time to talk to ourselves.

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David May 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm

It really isn’t a lamentation — it’s about where to go from here. Obviously there are no time machines. The point is that since you can’t talk to your 18-year-old-self frankly, you will have to talk to your present self instead. And that opportunity is right in front of you.

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Avi July 15, 2011 at 3:25 am

I’m 16 years old. I read this article about a month ago and it has inspired me to be more active and daring to learn new things. I have drastically cut down my time playing video games, started exercising daily, giving blood donations, earning money as a check-out chick and learning guitar… I also want to start learning piano in the near future.
This article has given me a new direction in life. Thank You

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Georgia Smith August 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm

That was an amazing post, David. I just found your site tonight and this was one of the first posts I saw, and I’m blown away. I’m 18 and this one just highlighted everything that I’ve known was wrong with my life but was too lazy or careless to overcome. Seeing it in such stark, life-long terms has made me realise what a waste of time it really is watching Gossip Girl over and over, even though it may be comforting. Thanks for this one. It’s definitely given me a motivational kick up the butt!

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Rob September 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

Awesome article…. I Stumble!d onto the nietzche article, and saw this… this is frighteningly accurate, I’ve owned all of the civ games I through V, and had that exact thought, ” I could know a couple languages by now with the time I’ve spent on this game” I guess the one thing I have managed to do is avoid the 9-5 by taking jobs overseas, but I’m currently “job-hunting” and this article has helped give me the nerve to try to work for myself, thanks man!

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Brian AKA Hamlet September 18, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Hey David,
Stumble upon took me here the other day, and I’ve been in enraptured ever since. Fantastic post, but if you don’t mind my asking for some advice, I’ll explain my situation: I’ve just turned 20, and I’m furiously working on #3. Basically, I have changed majors 5 times (Anthropology, International Business, Philosophy, Poly Sci, and now a double major in Poly Sci and Economics), and to be honest, I still have no idea what the **** I’m doing. I want to enter Poly Sci because I enjoy politics (though I hate what happens within the system most of the time) and I feel like I’m in this privileged position to make a difference. I’m taking Economics because I think it will really benefit me should I decide to enter politics. However, I cannot be a career politician. I will not be the scum adhering to other’s philosophies simply for a vote. I won’t make any money as a politician either. So what do I do? I love a lot of other things (music, reading, writing, some sports, learning in general), but I think that if I took up another of my passions as my major/ eventual career, I would be seriously selling myself short as far as potential to make changes in the world that I truly desire. But if I enter law school and become a lawyer (which is what my next move is looking like), I may not enjoy law. Maybe I could do law tailored to things that I want to do? What is it, the thing that you’re doing itself or the goal which you’re achieving in doing it, that you must enjoy to enjoy work? Should I just bag law and become a psychologist to be happy making small progress in the world? Or should I bear the slings and arrows in order to enact the big changes I see necessary?

Even if you don’t have any advice, this has made me think and simply typing this out has been helpful. Thanks!

Did I mention I like your blog? No? Oh, okay. Well, I do.

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Sorby October 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I love this.
I have finally started, at the age of 40, to work for myself and I am FREE!!!!
Hard work has never felt so good.

Thank you for your wisdom. I have passed this on to those who need it.

xx

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Alexei Goudzenko November 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I feel terrible about myself because I’m 18 and this is exactly what I’ve realized and it always annoys me how I’ve wasted my 18years of beautiful life doing nothing. I feel like starting now is too late.
I wish I was just reborn or something.

Anyway super article, looking forward to seeing you in toronto

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David November 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Too late??? Nonsense! You’re 18, not 81. Eighteen is young, young, young. You can do whatever you want. You can be a ten year veteran at *anything* you choose by the time you’re 28! And you’ll still be super young. None of it is a waste, don’t think like that.

People everywhere would kill to be “reborn” at 18, and you have that right now, for free. Make use of it.

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Lauren December 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I think we are the same person, I’ve been kicking myself since I started college for spending hours in high school watching reruns of crappy shows (like Roseanne) instead of developing some talents. I’ve just stumbled upon this blog and it’s really fascinating. My problem is I realized these things at a young age but I can’t motivate myself to act on them, and my fears of failure get in the way.

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Donald December 15, 2011 at 1:36 am

I can relate so much with what you are saying in this article. As a 22 year old, I can say that I am less shy than when I was 18. It wasn’t until college that I realized that the friends that I had in high school eventually moves on from my life, except a few. Now I feel lonely most of the time because my social life depends on the few real friends from HS, and man you were spot on with about the beta-personality because I feel like that’s me. I also like your third advice because it wasn’t until recently that I decided I want to be an entrepeneur-currently studying graphic design. You gave me a new perspective and reason to meeting new people and building relationships. I respect your way of seeing life, it is very inspiring. Thank you :]

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Holden December 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thanks David, I like points 1 & 2, can’t say I agree with #3. Not all of us are cut out for, nor want, to own our own businesses. And somethings you just can’t do in an entrepreneurial career because they require the resources of a corporation, e.g. develop an iPhone. I’ve made a very good living working at large companies, enjoyed the work, and will retire financially secure. That seems like a pretty happy ending to me.

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David December 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

Yes, I agree. The advice is applicable to a lot of people, but it is meant for one particular 18-year-old…

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Suraj Neupane January 31, 2012 at 4:28 am

much realistic article.i am just 20, and i feel i need change.

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Stephen Blunt March 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm

My life changed today, March 1 2012. I have been searching for so long for a person to address the topics you do, and with such insight, intelligence, clarity, and practicality, to name a few intangible nouns. I sometimes consider myself decent at expression through writing, but the magnitude of these revelations feels indescribable. At least for the time being. Hopefully. I can’t thank you enough, sir. You’re my inspiration.

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Kelly March 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

OK 18-year-old Kelly, listen carefully:

#1 – You can. “They” don’t have anything you don’t have. Other than the very few born with talent, most of “them” worked at it until they could do it. If “they” can do it, you can do it, no matter what the “it” is.

#2 – You can’t change anyone else.

#3 – Go out on the USS Lexington!

(I had an opportunity to be an extra for some filming of a miniseries on an aircraft carrier out in the Gulf of Mexico. The first day of filming just happened to be on my birthday, and it just happened to be my first birthday with a new girlfriend – my future ex-wife. She convinced me to not go on the Lex, since she had “something special” planned for my birthday. That first instance of me putting aside something very, very important to me to satisfy her needs/wants set the tone for the next 25 years. NEVER set aside a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Life’s too short.)

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Michael Calkins April 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I’m incredibly touched by this story I’m 20 and building a business for myself but I’m missing the first 2 of the 3 pieces you mentioned and honestly I think it’s sort of making me a tad bit miserable.
1 & 2 are sort of the mentality boost needed to make 3 successful. With this advice I’m going to make myself an even better person than I was just 10 minutes ago. tyvm!!!

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Diane Hughes April 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

David,

I truly enjoyed reading this post, and it reminded me of a similar post I wrote for a recent project (link below). I also like your use of the term “life lessons.” It’s a phrase I use frequently on my own blog. And we’re never too old to learn a new life lesson. :-)

http://www.dianewordsmith.com/1/post/2012/01/a-message-to-my-20-year-old-self.html

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Sangita July 6, 2012 at 5:05 am

I’ve been surfing your blog and this one made me subscribe to it! Priceless!

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Sukeey July 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I’m 16 going on 17 right now. I agree with everything you said. I’ve already thought about this before and I agree completely. I wish that one day I’ll find myself out of this trap where I’m living and I’m looking forward to the battle it would take to free myself. But I think I’m facing what I think is a huge problem, apart from going to school and doing as I’m told, I don’t really know what to do with my life, I don’t have any idea on what kind of “business” I would like to run. And so far this ignorance has been torturing me. Any suggestions about how can I get to know what I would like to do with my life ? Or how to get to know myself better ? Can you tell me a little bit more about how you came to find your life purpose ? maybe I could learn something from your personal experience if you don’t mind.
Thank you so much for this post, I really felt it.

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Lassie July 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

If I could give MY 18 year old self some advice….

1) Do not start smoking.
2) Do not drink to excess, or out of boredom, or because all the cool kids are doing it. It’s a LOSING GAME and it will catch up with you much sooner than you think.
3) Do not get romantically involved with what you KNOW in your heart is a loser. Druggie. Bipolar. Bad boy/girl. You cannot change them, you cannot save them, and they will drag you right down to the ground.

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Zoe August 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

I feel good that at 19 I have discovered these things already. And even better that I found such a great blog with down to earth, real topics that need addressing in our modern society. Absolutely awesome, keep up the good work!

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David August 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Thank you Zoe.

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Jim August 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm

David,

I was just turned onto your site today from a co worker. your blogs strike a chord man. You just described me to a Teeeeee!! Im sitting here at this shitty job, 29 years old and nothing to show for anything except credit card debt and school loan debt. Sitting at a dead end job answering phones. Man oh man Im gonna dig in to this site and change my life!! Thank you!

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Frank the Dane September 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hi david,
I found your site via a link on The Friendly Anarchist site, and this post just blew me away. I think that the biggest obstacle to being your own boss is getting the right idea for a business. And the next one is how to get there without being saddled with a mountain of debt. I have been employed in various unskilled jobs my whole life and the advice about not working for someone else is right on the mark.

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Jasmine November 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm

This post is awesome! I’m 16 and found it very helpful/inspiring. Thanks for writing:)

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arhcamt November 26, 2012 at 6:08 am

goodness david, i can relate so much to this! i spent way too many hours playing video game also and i didn’t feel the need to socialize and get to know people back then. and i also chose IT for my college major because everybody and my parents said how amazing the job opportunity is even though my real passion is art. thankfully i decided to take a chance in pursuing what i actually want to do than what i should do after i graduated. now i’m blessed with a job that doesn’t make me despise monday.

if i met my 18 year old i’d probably tell him to… try being in a relationship. take a risk in having your heart broken. you won’t like the feeling but you’ll appreciate the lesson. don’t let yourself feel that you’re better off alone because you’ve been too comfortable being single. it’s stupid and it’s sad.

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Ana December 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm

You sir, are the most brilliant blogger I have ever read into. I’m 18 and and all of what you’ve mentioned here discusses everything I’ve been tihnking about lately in this confusing part of my life. You are truly and inspiration to me and so many others, and I’m am forever grateful for your time to share your wisdom and advice. Even those older and younger will benefit from what you’ve had to share with us. Thank you.
-Ana

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Francisco Miranda December 9, 2012 at 3:01 am

I went to my google search bar and typed in “i’d give my life to be in college again, where it was safe..” at 3:37 am, Sunday morning, and then I found this post..
I was supposed to have been some kind of writer.. I majored in English and, honestly, those were the best years of my life. I made a lot of friends.. most of them were dead, tho. Shakespeare, Melville, Jack London, Dostoevsky, Miller, O’Neill — I re-visit them from time to time but, every time I do, it sometimes hurts; they always remind me of someone I could have been but never got to be..
Unlike some people my age at the time, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do, I knew EXACTLY where I wanted my life to go — but faith in myself is what I lacked, and still do..
Today, 26 years, 5 months, 14 days, 3 hours and 51 minutes later (I keep count of every minute), I’m in-between jobs interviewing with Big City Law Firm A and Big City Law Firm B and I guarantee you if my 18 year old self saw me now? There would be no advice.. just disgust.

I admire you, David. And I envy you. You’re lucky, whether you know it or not: the difference between you and I is a question of progress and loss of it. You progressed, friend. You were lost and then you found your way. You know exactly where you’re headed and you’re doing it on your own terms. I KNEW where I wanted to go.. but I’ve since lost my way and I’m afraid I’m so far lost I can’t tell whether this “Point of No Return” is a new point in a long line of similar points or it’s the same damn point and I’m just walking around in circles over and over again, doomed to the same point.

Good Luck.

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Hrishikesh Sharma December 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

A very good post indeed.Specially the last advice , where you mentioned about selling our own precious time , to help others get rich.

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Shanghost January 4, 2013 at 4:18 am

this is actually exactly what i needed. Life’s synchronicities are amazing and im at that point in life where folks are starting to want to mold my direction even harder, so to come across this is amazing. Thank you

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Jay Owen January 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I’m a 17 year old reading this and I can say for sure that I’ve thought long and hard about some if not all of these ‘experiences’ you have described here as they have started to become increasingly prevalent in my life. Spot-on writing.

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sing4two January 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Great post! I’m 46 and a mother of two almost-teens. Your post made me reflect on a great deal, including how I might parent better. Here are the things that came to mind as I read . . .
Explain the “whys” – give voice to them. Don’t believe for a second that teenagers don’t listen at all. Parental words, for better or worse, sink into childrens’ consciousness more than we realize or would sometimes like.

To Todd’s comment above – allow risk-taking and mistakes in our home.

Just say no to video games and mind-numbing TV except on the weekends. Insist on kids developing the use of their imaginations to combat their boredom.

Give the gift of the classic Dale Carnegie book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s still pure gold. Net: be interested in others. Knowing a few conversation jump-starter questions that you can use again and again with friends-to-be is better than money in the bank.

Inspire a love of travel by traveling with my kids. Seeing the world alters views and perspectives like nothing else. Travel is the best education!

Learn by Doing. Role model and offer my children opportunities to try new things (dance, gymnastics, martial arts, art & music classes) without having to “commit” to them because discovering what they like and where their talents/interests lie begins early (and never stops, IMHO).

Talk with my children about the topics in this post. Listen and be present for them. Remind them they are loved no matter what! :)

Thanks for being the catalyst, David, for so much reflection.

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Whammer January 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm

I’m old enough to be your dad, and this is very wise. I admire your perspective and wish I had the same wisdom when I was your age.

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Peter J January 12, 2013 at 12:39 am

Hi Dave,

I’m a little older than 18 at 20, but this is really good advice. I stumbled across this post because over the last 2 years I have understood the importance of reflection every day and with a little sister was wondering what I advice I would give her. This is exactly what I needed for myself, particularly the entrepreneur section. Thanks for the great advice!

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Bobby February 2, 2013 at 2:31 am

I wonder what would happen to society if everyone followed the advice to not work for another person. You can look at working for someone through a different perspective: You are giving them the gift of your time and effort. And in exchange, they are giving you purpose, money, and other benefits. I like your post about gratitude: not focusing on problems you have (or had) but on problems you don’t have. I gather that your thinking about employment stems from thinking about problems you had.

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zizor February 3, 2013 at 4:40 am

What an amazing blogpost,I felt engaged from beginning to end,felt it with my heart,truly.I’m 18 myself and as someone mentioned earlier I also feel that it’s “too late” to change even though it propably isn’t.I also think of the way society wants me to become a “drone” for someone else’s will and purpose,as you speak about at the part of not working for someone else.The fact that the post still is being brought up by people to date,I think,indicates that this post is valuable and contains good advice.
thank you very much,hopefully I can use the lessons despite my feelings about my situation.

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Alima February 11, 2013 at 4:33 am

You know David I was quite surprised to realize I haven’t moved anywhere from where I was when I was 17. I’m still wondering which direction in life should I take – the one that is money promising, stable and successful, or the one that would make me happy. The only difference is that now I have 3 diplomas and into my very well growing career in the field different from what I want to do. So, I have nothing to tell that girl. I’m still wondering should I leave my yuppie lifestyle and do what I want to. Actually, the question is “When should I? and how to best do it?”
Nothing has changed over past 6 years, so this is something for me to bear in mind. Thanks for your post.

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Alex February 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm

The first piece of advice is great advice but I think the framing could have been a bit better, and to be fair this could have to do with my semantic understanding of the word “better”. When I hear better, it’s a term that has been co-opted by societal standards; ie how do I measure up in the rat race.

F*ck the rat race.

Joseph Campbell summed up what you’re trying to say in three words, “Follow your bliss”.

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mike crosby February 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm

David, I’m almost 60 and though I’m happy with the way my life has turned out, how I wish I could have gone back and talked to that 18 year old man.

For one thing, this 18 year old man was not a man, but still a child. Protected in a wholesome middle class environment in which I’m thankful, but a child none-the-less.

I gravitated to friends from the dark side. Looking back, I’m ashamed for taking the easy way out. But that’s how I’m programmed, why take the hard path when there’s an easier way before me?

If I could talk to younger Michael, I would tell him he’s a good person. To trust in himself. But I’d be practical too–Don’t smoke, do drugs or drink alcohol. Watch TV sparingly if at all. No showing off, live below your means.

What I am proud of is that over the years I’ve made decisions that has gone against what my parents have said and others in authority. I hitch-hiked around the US to see where I wanted to live. I became self employed. Last year I bought myself a very fast motorcyle and there’s hardly a person who tells me that I shouldn’t take my planned cross country trip this summer. I know it’ll be one of the richest experiences of my life. What I’m saying is, one thing I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. That’s been one of the biggest gifts I’ve given myself and through the years I’ve become more trusting of my instincts, even when it goes against the majority. ( Case in point, I’m vegan. It might be somewhat more popular now, but 20 years ago, most did not even know what that meant.)

What interests me now is what will an 80 year Michael wish he tell a 60 year old Michael. Life is wonderful my friend, and I appreciate your post.

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David S February 24, 2013 at 5:50 am

It occurs to me that the 3 things we find we can’t go back and tell our 18 year-old selves becomes the things we put on the list to teach our children ‘so they don’t make the same mistakes I did’.

I wonder if my parent’s 3 things are the same as mine. If so I shouldn’t have been staring out the window instead of paying attention.

This is the first time I’ve commented having only discovered Raptitude in the last week or so. Keep up the inspirational work, it’s much appreciated.

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Prashanth March 1, 2013 at 11:35 am

It would be interesting to see what a 51 yr old David would advice the 31 yr one! (You must be 31 now right?). Too much of an ask?

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Faithe March 5, 2013 at 1:19 am

Hi David. My name is Faithe, and I am 18. Today I came home from a hard work week and I thought about every easy way out I could take for my school work. Lately I’ve been doubting myself, and everything I feel about life. It just moves so fast and I don’t know what to do with myself half the time. I looked up “the truth about life”, and I read your blog with the 88. It brought me here. Thank you so much for writing this. I needed this more than ever.

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Terry March 8, 2013 at 5:37 am

Very nice, but I didn’t like the negative connotations you attached to being an introvert. As though it goes without saying that being an introvert is a bad thing or some disease. You should have a read of Quiet by Susan Cain.

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David March 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I agree with you. When I wrote this article I used the word introverted more or less interchangeably with “shy.” I am an introvert and always will be and there’s nothing negative about it. Shyness, though, for many people, is fear-driven and very painful and limiting. I’m no longer shy, and I am so grateful I was able to overcome it. But my introvertedness is still here, and I love it.

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Candide March 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hi David, I personally really liked the article and would recommend it to any 13 year old I know! I’m 15 and always welcome any advice I can find, thank you for the article, it’s great help.

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Luana March 9, 2013 at 7:58 am

I teared up at the last sentence. That was exactly what I was thinking

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Craig March 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I don’t think this article is actually helpful; it is essentially empty. While it tells you what to value, it doesn’t teach you how to achieve it.

For people who already know these things are important, no guidance is provided for making them reality.

For people who don’t already know these things are important, the absence of guidance for making these things reality acts is glaring evidence that they’re a futile pursuit. Because if they were possible, you’d tell us how to do it.

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henrique April 9, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I’m afraid I agree with that. Or at least I’m wondering what it even means to do something “will make your life better”. I don’t think it’s being richer or powerful. I think it has to do with knowledge, which is strange because I do think a wise one will harvest wisdom from everything, including even video games.

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Tom March 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I noticed your wrote and posted this in February of 2010. It is now mid March of 2013. How about an update? I’m specifically curious about the be self-employed advice. What are you up to; how are you earning a living?

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KJ March 25, 2013 at 10:04 am

I’d remind myself that you can never really know what’s going to happen — for instance, you could have three strokes at the ripe old age of 24 and be unable to work anymore, and when you finally get pregnant at age 28 you may learn that the baby is unviable. At 23 weeks.

So, to my 18-year-old self, I say: don’t take your books when you go skiing. Ski the whole day away!

I’d also say calm down around your boyfriend. It turns out he’s a keeper, so you don’t need to pick a fight twice a week. =)

Enjoy life!

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Jeremy March 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I can relate a lot to the first piece of advice. The hours spent playing video games could certainly have been invested more wisely, and it wasn’t because I liked them… it just made it possible to avoid other things that I liked less.

I would have advised 18-year old me that the people that you choose to be close to should want what is best for you as much as you do, that social skills are some of the most important skills for building a life you enjoy as well as overall happiness, and that the world is a place of abundance, giving always results in a better life and often you end up with more than you expected

I just found your blog today. You are a wise man and write beautifully. Thank you

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Kurt Hodges April 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Haha I am 16 year old me, fortunately I already knew these ideas were good advice so this article wasn’t as helpful to me but it did provide an interesting perspective. I love your writing man, the stuff on quietness, anxiety and relationships are a great help to me.

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Chris Goldsberry April 5, 2013 at 3:54 am

David, I ran across your article on Stumble upon and loved it. It’s very similar to what I write. My kids are grown up and now I enjoy writing articles for my husbands newspaper. It’s both a release for me and way to pass along my ‘insight’ into what helps me get through the day. I totally agree with your way of thinking. Thanks for sharing your views with us. Keep sharing!
Chris

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Cecilia April 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I once read somewhere: “life is like learning to play the violin while you’re walking onto the stage”. I can only agree.

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Allea April 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm

First piece of advice I would have given myself:

You are allergic to fructose and it’s making you bi-polar-like. (and that wasted a lot of my time in being sick and horribly confused and depressed).

You need to track down your worst fears and systematically walk with them or defeat them.

And finally, you don’t need to be so suspicious of everyone, you have good instincts and your suspicions make you doubt yourself as much as anyone. If you like someone and they act like an ass, then it really is they’re loss, because you’re a good person and a good friend.

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Mike April 17, 2013 at 8:48 am

David,

My daughter turns 18 next week and I was in the middle of writing a “here’s what it means to turn 18 and become an adult” when I thought I’d add 5 things you really, really need to remember as you march forward. I did a search for some inspiration and came upon your blog. I’m 56. Your bit about work is soooo true. For years I worked for the man; unhappy and robotic. At 37, I got laid off. Some little voice said screw this, I can do it better. Almost 20 years later, 4 small businesses, including a dot com home run, I now work as a independent business analyst/consultant picking my gigs and my rate. Without a college degree, I don’t make it past the automated HR scan of my resume. I have to blaze my own trail. My daughter says she’ll never start her own business. At 18, the thought never crossed my mind either. I’m going to include your insight on this matter. With age comes wisdom. Never say never. Great post!

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Fal June 1, 2013 at 11:54 am

Love this post and I could relate to the things you’ve talked about especially the part on being bossless. It’s only in recent times that I’m opened to this perspective of being my own boss. Here where I live, there is this constant dogma that is being perpetuated in schools (and households) that one should study hard, get a degree and get a good job that will take care of their monetary needs for life. Notice how it’s all very materialistic? Paper chase, career, money. If only I was told the things that you mentioned in your post at 18! Well, good luck to you too in crafting the path you desire in life.

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Caleb June 1, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Great article! I’m turning 18 soon and need as much advice as I can get. I’ll be moving out and working toward my own cause instead of my parents’. I’ll try to take this advice to heart, I can tell it’s genuine and well thought out! Thanks!

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Velvet June 17, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Oy. Does this ever hit home. I would tell my younger self to never chase someone, especially someone who treats you poorly. Never put off your own dreams for another person’s desires. Figure out what you are good at, instead of subsisting on fluorescent lighting while trying to convince yourself that you can’t do anything else, this is as good as it gets.
Last- never be a secretary. Never. Don’t do it. You are not good at being a doormat and people will decide that you are so well organized they don’t want to lose you and you’ll never be promoted. Start higher. Dream bigger.

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Adam - Tropical Nomad June 23, 2013 at 3:54 am

Well written David. I would tell my 18 year old self

*Choose who you hang around with more carefully
*Stop smoking
*Don’t drink so much
*Meditate
*Do Yoga
*Go travel. Screw college. It was 3 years to get a degree I haven’t used once and I hated most of the course. Move to Spain and travel Europe!
*Everything is connected. Karma is bitch… Behave!

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Vaibhav Mule October 19, 2013 at 12:21 am

I like which you have said that “Go to Travel”.
But I did not get that “Everything is connected. Karma is bitch… Behave!”

Thanks,
Vaibhav Mule

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Free Netflix July 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
It’s always useful to read through content from other authors and practice a little something from their websites.

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relationship guide July 17, 2013 at 9:35 am

Poor weight loss aids come cheaply. He hasn’t treated me well, which I stored on my hard drive. Healthy weight loss aids are based on unconditional love. The person on the other side. Here are some strategies to help with starving them out and breaking silent treatment. The worst thing of all is that we become blind to the people around us and for business.

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Steve August 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I am 16 and I feel that I am lost in life. I have no clue what I want out of life except for that I know I want to want something. Recently I have been scouring the internet to give me answers to what I want but I’m wondering if I just need to figure out the answers for myself. All adults agree that teenagers do not like to follow advice but yet everyone was once a teenager. What would they be if they HAD heeded the advice given to them? David, where would you be if your 18 year-old-self HAD heeded your future self”s advice? Should I listen to the voices of elders or do I need to find my own way somehow?

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Tom D August 31, 2013 at 8:15 am

What a great post.
Halfway between fiction and fact. Very thought provoking!

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Vaibhav Mule October 19, 2013 at 12:17 am

Dear David,
I really love those three things which you have shared.
I’m going to be 18 in few months and I will be taking care of things which you have told,

Thanks,
Vaibhav Mule

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Louis October 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I want to speak with 50 year old David ASAP.
Great articles and I’m glad you’re still writing them.

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Aurora Jean October 25, 2013 at 8:16 am

Hey David,
I just stumbled upon this site for the first time today, but I just wanted to let you know that even though you posted this article maybe three years ago, it’s still having a positive impact. As a 20-year-old myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Perusing through your other articles, I am both inspired and in agreement with much of what you say. Thank you for taking your time to write your thoughts down and share them with the world. It really is making a difference.

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Asbel October 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Thank you for this. It was definitely worth the read. This spoke to me, spooked me too… I am studying computer science and feeling pretty overwhelmed with how competitive it is…

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Megan November 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm

David, based on this article, I really think you’d be interested in this business opportunity I have going for me. I’m only 20, but I know for a fact I’m going somewhere, especially since every point you hit was relatable to what I believe now. I stumbled upon your article from a friend that posted it, and it could be a game changer for you. Email me if you’re interested in checking this opportunity out.

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Scott December 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

This is brilliant. I’ve often imagined having a similar discussion with my 18-year-old self. Thank you.

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Jeff December 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm

This was a little painful to read. I’m years and years down the road and still haven’t mastered everything here.

My problem was knowing EXACTLY what I wanted out of life and being confronted with almost an entire world going in EXACTLY the opposite direction. I’ve made a very few friends who had other friends, so I have a decent number of people in my life, but even my friends tell me I need to Compromise A Little (which generally means “do what *I* want and you’ll get a morsel or two”).

But if I could give advice to my 18-year-old self, it might run like this (besides what you’ve already written):

“1. Join someone else’s cover band; don’t try to start one from the ground up with your friends. That’ll get you into the community of musicians (and who knows where that might lead?), and it’ll give you the performing chops you’ll need when you want to make your own music. Just make sure you’re good enough to get into someone else’s band. And then you’ll have a bit of money to spend on going to clubs instead of not going to clubs because your job doesn’t pay well enough.

“2. Have a space for your own music. It doesn’t HAVE to be all selling out and playing crap music for peanuts or all basement tapes made for no one while burning the midnight oil. Just *plan* a bit.

“3. No one out there in the adult world knows that you were massive fun to pick on in school. People *generally* aren’t gonna be jerks on *that* level, so you can stop being afraid of everybody.

“4. Do what you can with what you have. If that means using your banks of keyboards to make original music instead of your dream prog-rock glam-metal power trio that comes across like Cirque du Soleil playing Bartok, then do that. (Understand, that’s a dream I’ll never abandon.)

“5. Major in music. You might as well, because the major you go for as a *compromise* isn’t really going to do you any good besides just having A B.S. Degree.

“What it comes down to is: If you can still be the person you want to be, TAKE THE BIRD IN THE HAND. It might set you up for later. I know you think you don’t have the time because you’re seeing 20-year-olds getting their big break while you’re still 18 and nowhere, but DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. There’s no sense worrying. Most of all, DON’T THINK YOU’RE A FAILURE JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE A RECORD CONTRACT. Don’t even think you’re a failure because you can’t make a living doing what you love, which is nearly impossible anyway if what you love is music. Just be the person you aspire to be and do your best work.”

Of course, wanting to be a musician at all kinda throws a spanner in the works to begin with, so I don’t know how this applies to others.

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Jennifer January 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I wonder if it would be worth it to write down the questions/thoughts your current self would ask/tell your future self?

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April March 28, 2014 at 3:09 am

Wow. Just that one thought of my 18 yr old self and I could just feel the despair rolling in like the tide. I was absolutely broken, I thought beyond repair. I’m just going to tell my 51 yr old self the same thing I would tell my 18 yr old self. I am worth it. Thanks :)

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Natalie BoJingles April 4, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I don’t know how I got to this page.
Random searching and late-night delirium; avoiding university coursework. Avoiding any hardwork and effort really.

I’ve been so inspired by your post, I’ve just wrote a 2 page manifesto to myself about why I am at university and what I need to do to get my arse back in gear.
I’m 25. Got myself back into studying at 24, after a few years working shit jobs and smoking pot. I do love the instant gratification.
But the long-term hardwork for gratification is what its about. I want to work for myself, I have ideas and experience now to actually make it work, if I invest energy and don’t give in to the easy laziness and fear.
(I want to be part of a community centre teaching music, hulahooping, yoga, meditation, gardening, sustainable energies, ecological principals etc)

Thank you for reminding me.

I hope you’ve had wonderful adventures on your travels and are suitably inspired to work hard for yourself.

Good luck!!
(with love and gratitude also)

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