June 04, 2021

We’ve all been there. Something happens in life, and we think, “Wow! I wish I had known this when I was younger!”

Or, maybe more accurately, “My mom was right about that.” (Insert dad, grandparent, coach, teacher, etc.)

The point is, everybody has these moments when they realize that what they were told (and probably ignored) when they were younger actually turns out to be true. I’m pretty sure that’s a generations-old thing.

As we age, we have more life experiences which give us varied perspectives on the events that shape our lives which gives us more experiences...it’s sort of a circular logic where each item influences the next.

There are some pieces of wisdom that don’t age well. And there are others that wouldn’t have even been a consideration for previous generations. But here are some main concepts and what I would love to be able to tell my 18-year-old-self about them – and just hope that she would listen to them!


sad young woman crossed  fingers  for her  face in crisis moment

What’s “right” can change.

This is probably the number one thing I would like to get across to 18-year-old me, fresh out of high school, looking at colleges, wondering what path to take, and hoping that I made the right choices.

Sometimes the right choices turn out to be wrong. And that’s okay. It’s what we learn from the choice, including why it is no longer the right choice, and what we do with that knowledge that makes this so important to learn.

It’s okay to fail.

This is a correlation to the previous tidbit. Failing at something doesn’t mean total failure. And it doesn’t mean that something was the wrong choice. As I have mentioned in past blogs, learning from failures and building on them is a key driver in the path to success.

Judgment and opinions

Don’t get caught up in what other people think.

This would be a tough sell to any 18-year-old. At that age, just about everything is tied up in what our friends think. Sometimes it’s easier to survive if we just go along with the crowd and don’t cause waves.

I’d love to be able to tell teenage me that one of the best things to have, something that will help throughout life’s challenges, is a strong sense of who you are and the confidence to be yourself regardless of what other people think.

Honestly, things like who wore what clothes, or who liked who – things that are the meat and potatoes of high school life – don’t matter even a year after graduation. Once out of the pressure cooker of high school, real life kicks in and minutiae is totally forgotten.

Trust your instincts.

Teenagers have the tendency to avoid rocking the boat, and that’s totally understandable, as they probably haven’t had a lot of life experiences to prove whether or not their instinct was right or wrong. So, they take the easier path.

But we have instincts for a reason. If something doesn’t feel right, sound right, look right…chances are it probably isn’t right. And if you feel that way, it’s a good thing to not go along with it.

Confidence matters

This is sort of subset of trusting your instincts. If you’ve determined that something isn’t right, having the confidence to say so can make a difference. Real leaders don’t bully people into going along with something. They state why something is bad (or good) and lead by example.

Speaking up and being confident in your convictions and actions will help you blaze a much better path than being a follower ever could.

Technology is not always your friend.

Computer Keyboard with two speech bubble showing Socail media

Here’s one that our grandmothers never really had to worry about it. Social media has irrevocably changed the way we interact with people, and teens are the most vulnerable to the pitfalls – especially ones they can’t see.

Not everything has to be posted.

Sure, those selfies you took with your besties were fun in the moment, but will they still be funny five years later?

To put it another way, if you’ve applied for your dream job and they mention that they look at social media to help determine if you’re a fit for the company, is there anything that you or friends posted that could back up on you?

With cancel culture running rampant, even the most innocent of posts can be misconstrued and used as ammunition against someone. It’s just not worth it. Your personal life should be just that…personal.

True memories keep longer.

If an event isn’t posted to social media, did it actually happen? (The answer is yes).

Those photos and posts might be great (and yes, the internet really does live forever), but the memories you have created in those moments will stay in your brain regardless of whether or not they were posted to Instagram or Snapchat.

Personal interactions matter the most.

Know when to put down the phone.

Here, I’m piggybacking on the previous section. It’s not just about the selfies and posts to social media. It’s about talking to and interacting with the people around you. Those are the moments that will truly make a difference in your life.

Talking with grandparents, aunts, uncles, people you meet in social situations are all important building blocks that can shape your future. You’ll miss so many opportunities if your nose is in your phone the entire time.

No regrets

This one pretty much sums up everything. Each of the previous things I’ve mentioned can lead directly to this simple piece of advice. Live your life in a way that allows you to have little to no regret about how and what you have achieved in life.

I know, it’s much easier said than done. But if I had heard this (and really listened) when I was 18, I think I could have made different choices in some situations.

Hindsight is 20/20. As I mentioned at the beginning, experiences are what shape us and allow us to see what was really important and what was trivial over the course of our lives. But being in the moment, having the strength of conviction, not putting so much emphasis on what other people think, and accepting that failure is an acceptable outcome at times are just a few things that I’ve learned.

The next trick would be figuring out a way to make sure that my 18-year-old self actually heard and learned what I had to say. But getting teenagers to listen is another blog post for the future!

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