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pexels-photo-26135This morning I was reading a book at my favorite beach-side coffee shop when an 18-year-old kid sat down next to me and said, “That’s a great read, ain’t it?”  So we started chatting.

He told me he was getting ready to graduate from high school in a couple of weeks and then immediately starting his college career in the fall.  “But I have no clue what I want to do with my life,” he said.  “Right now I’m just going with the flow.”

And then, with eager, honest eyes, he began asking me one question after the next:

  • “What do you do for a living?”
  • “When and how did you decide what you wanted to do?”
  • “Why did you do this?  Why didn’t you do that?”
  • “Is there anything you wish you had done differently?”
  • Etc, etc, etc…

I answered his questions as best as I could, and tried to give decent advice with the time I had.  And after a half-hour conversation, he thanked me and we parted ways.

But on the walk home I realized the conversation I had with him was actually quite nostalgic for me.  He reminded me of me ten years ago.  So I started thinking about his questions again, and I began imagining all of the things I wish someone had told me when I was 18.

Then I took it a step further and thought about all the things I would love to tell myself if I could travel back in time to give my 18-year-old self some advice about life.

So after a few cups of coffee and a couple hours of deliberation, here are 18 things I wish someone told me when I was 18:

    1. Commit yourself to making lots of mistakes. – Mistakes teach you important lessons.  The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re too scared to make a mistake.  So don’t hesitate – don’t doubt yourself.  In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance.  You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.  Most of the time you just have to go for it!  And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be.  Either you succeed or you learn something.  Win-Win.  Remember, if you never act, you will never know for sure, and you will be left standing in the same spot forever.
    2. Find hard work you love doing. – If I could offer my 18-year-old self some real career advice, I’d tell myself not to base my career choice on other people’s ideas, goals and recommendations.  I’d tell myself not to pick a major because it’s popular, or statistically creates graduates who make the most money.  I’d tell myself that the right career choice is based on one key point: Finding hard work you love doing.  As long as you remain true to yourself, and follow your own interests and values, you can find success through passion.  Perhaps more importantly, you won’t wake up several years later working in a career field you despise, wondering “How the heck am I going to do this for the next 30 years?”  So if you catch yourself working hard and loving every minute of it, don’t stop.  You’re on to something big.  Because hard work ain’t hard when you concentrate on your passions.