Recently I was tagged by Jason Ivers, who runs the excellent blog A Miracle a Day, to write a blog post about what I would tell my younger self if I could go back and do so. I thought the idea had some real value for my readers, so I decided to participate.
Many people have said that if they could go back and do it all over again, that they would do things differently, and I saw this as an opportunity to explore that concept.
If I could travel back in time and give my younger self some much needed advice, it might go something like this:
Sometimes it is necessary to play their game
I have never been, nor am I now, the type of person who plays by the rules. I'm more like the kind of guy who will do something the hardest way possible just because I want to do things differently than everyone else is doing them.
I take great pride in that personality trait, and I even encourage others to do the same. However, at the same time, sometimes playing by the "rules" for a short period of time can ultimately get you to your goals faster than cutting a new swath through the underbrush.
If your goal is the pile of gold at the top of the hill, and the corporate citizens and other followers of the world are willing to give you a ride, don't be afraid to catch a lift with them rather than walking up the side of the hill. However, only do so as long as you can do it without compromising your integrity or losing sight of your own raging fire of individuality, and know when it is time to jump off and go your own way.
Junk food really WILL make you fat
Did anyone have parents who didn't tell them not to eat junk food? Look around at some of the kids today and that question might be answered differently, but when I was growing up in the 70's and 80's, my parents (especially my Dad) were constantly on my case about eating candy and other junk.
There was a corner store exactly one mile from where I grew up, and if we could scrounge up even 50 cents or a dollar, me and my friends would walk up there and buy Bazooka bubble gum, tootsie rolls, blow pops, etc. Back then, a dollar would net you a big pile of candy, and even the 1 mile walk there and back wasn't enough to completely melt off all of that raw sugar.
Even after working out off and on since I was 15, including working for 3 years as a personal trainer, I am still carrying around a small amount of the bodyfat that I put on back then. Now, at a muscular 5' 8" (5' 9"?) and 180 lbs, I'm hardly pushing maximum density. However, if I had listened to my parents back then, workouts like this one would have had me in even better shape than I am now.
Don't do something just because you can
Most of us were taught in school to follow our "aptitude". In other words, to focus on the things that we were good at. Well, at face value, that isn't a bad idea. We tend to be good at things because we enjoy doing them.
However, some people also have a natural aptitude for things that they really don't enjoy all that much! For example:
– I have a natural aptitude for math, so I spent many years both as a U.S. soldier as well as a civilian working in factories and warehouses. Not bad work if that is your thing, but with the exception of driving a forklift – which is a lot of fun – I never really had any desire to work in that environment. Nonetheless, I spent years of my life doing so just because I had those skills.
– I have a reasonable amount of skill in designing and coding web pages. Twice in my life I used those skills as a primary business model before realizing that I didn't really enjoy doing it for other people, but rather just enjoyed working on my own websites and projects.
– When I first moved to Florida in 2002, I used my knowledge of computers and Microsoft office products to get a job working in the estimating department for a large and successful construction company. After a year of working 8:00am to 5:00pm indoors, I found myself wondering why I moved all the way to Florida just to sit in an office all day every day…
Those are just some of the examples of times when I did things in my life simply because the opportunity was there to use my skills in any given area. In truth, I have only been truly satisfied with my career choice over the last year or so. I'm coming up on 38 years old, so it took me 37 years to find my path.
After reading through examples of how I would help my younger self to find success faster and more efficiently, the bottom line is this:
Even if I had the chance, I wouldn't change a thing.
As my buddy Lyman Reed says in this post, at any given moment, each of us is doing the best that we can at that moment. Our triumphs as well as our pitfalls are all the result of us doing what we thought was right at that time.
My experiences have taught me what I needed to know along the way, and by saying that I was willing to go back and change them would be the worst conceivable violation of my personal integrity.
No, my life is wonderful, thank you very much. Every bump and bruise along the way has been worth it because now I am fully armed to make the future an amazing place, while still enjoying each moment for the glorious moment that it is.
What would I tell my younger self?
Prepare for a hell of a ride!