If I had a time machine, the last place I’d visit would be my younger self. Who cares about me in braces? There are so many better things to experience. Even hypothetically speaking, I dislike the notion of giving my younger self advice. If I give him advice I would deprive him of the many events that make up who I am today. I wouldn’t want to do that. I wonder if that’s why I’ve yet to receive a visit from my future self. Time will tell.
Regardless, let’s pretend I had to go back to a younger version of me. Let’s pretend I was forced by some cosmic entity to return to a previous day. To where I was tasked with bestowing advice to a fresh-faced Corey. There are many things I could say. But more importantly, there are four things in particular I absolutely wouldn’t say. Sometimes, the words left out are just as important as the ones left in.
I have this recurring nightmare. I’m back in college. Taking a bunch of classes I find disinteresting. Wanting nothing more than to leave. When suddenly it dawns on me, I still have one full semester left before I graduate. It’s excruciating to think about. And then I wake up. Clearly, traditional school wasn’t my thing. But for sake of argument, imagine you went back to the third grade. You do school all over again. Except this time, you know just how much is required of you each step of the way.
You know of the upcoming book report in March. You know of the brutal math assignment the following November. And you know of each painful science project for the next decade. With that in mind, one thing I would never tell myself is the sheer amount of work I am to face. Of the tasks – both in school and outside of it – that will be needed to get to where I am at present.
Instead, I would tell myself to focus on what must be done today. Results come with continual effort. Don’t worry about the forest. Instead, move past one tree at a time.
About that first business…
I started my first business at 20. It failed at 22. I started a second business soon after. It failed within months. And I followed that pattern with my third and fourth as well. I honestly stopped keeping track after that. It wasn’t helping my morale at all. That said, I would never tell myself about the amount of pain I am to go through. That would only serve as discouragement.
No good would come from me sharing the many times I screamed, cried, scream-cried, and otherwise felt like giving up.
Instead, I would tell myself to find something to be grateful for each day. Appreciate the wins as they show you’re doing something right. Further, appreciate the defeats as they provide lessons to learn. Today I practice just that. For five minutes, five days a week, I think of anything and everything I’m grateful for. From the heat of the sun to the roof over my head. It helps me maintain a positive mindset.
Don’t hold your breath
“If I don’t become successful soon, I’m never going to make it. All the greats achieved something amazing well before they turned 30.” This was a conversation I once had with my wife. I was coming off another entrepreneurial flop and was feeling low. I felt that I needed to strike gold fast, otherwise mediocrity would swallow me whole. That considered, I would never tell myself about the amount of time things will take. I wouldn’t want myself to lose hope that tomorrow may just provide the big break I need.
Instead, I would suggest that I pick up a biography or two. Books of well-known people who the world deem a success. To notice when those people finally start to “make it.” It might just be later than originally felt necessary. And with some real-life examples to go off of, room to breathe will come flooding in. Here are a few books I suggest:
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
- Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell
- The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
See for yourself
I ran along the beach. The sky was clear. The ocean sparkled. And I looked like a crazy person with a huge grin on my face. I had much to smile about. My wife and I recently had our first child. My business was growing. I had a generous paternity leave through my day job. And we even had one of the grandparents sleepover the night before. Consequently, my wife and I had a good night’s sleep (which was rare at the time). Things were coming together.
That said, I would never tell myself about the amount of fulfillment I would soon encounter. I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of experiencing it first-hand. Even more so when viewing it against the backdrop of my previous struggles. Struggles all too necessary to undergo. Instead, I’d tell myself to keep going. The urge to quit won’t go away. The self-pity won’t disappear. However, though I wouldn’t elaborate to myself, I’d say that so long as you keep going, so long as you keep learning and trying, you will get to where you want to go.
Moving forward with life lessons
I’d rather not tell my past self anything. I’d rather let him experience life on his own. But assuming I’m forced to, there are four things in particular I absolutely wouldn’t tell myself. Those being about the amount of work, pain, time, and fulfillment that lay ahead of me. Instead, I’d suggest that I:
- Focus on the work of this moment.
- Spend time each day being grateful.
- Begin reading (more) biographies.
- Keep going, even when the urge to quit is at its greatest.
Now with that handled, I can finally travel to someplace I’d actually like to visit. I hear the Mesozoic Era is nice.