A post on LinkedIn by Inc. columnist Jeff Haden has been making the rounds. In it, Haden reflects on some of the things
he might have told his younger and less experienced self. He makes some strong points that would likely sound jaded to his younger self, including #14: “Don’t expect to get back what you give.”
Haden ends by asking “What would you tell your younger self?” Not an easy question to answer.
I’m not sure that I’d want to be able to offer advice to my younger self. Because part of growing up means letting go of everything that you think you once knew and much of what you held important. It means holding onto your core self, values and passions while discovering and excavating your long-term self. It means learning from those awful, painful life experiences that you thought would crush the life out of you, but never actually did.
During a bout of end of year office cleaning, I found a now worthless stock certificate for a company I’d helped co-found during the height of the initial Dot-Com boom. I did a double take at the number of zeros after the initial 1,4 and 7. And then another. Because well over a decade after the fact, that piece of paper isn’t worth upwards of a million dollars, but more like a great big round of zeros.
So my best advice to myself right now? Let life change you, but don’t let it break you. If I’d have known at 25 that I’d be capable of building great things that would then fall mercy to the vagaries of the business world and stock market, I might never have tried to build anything at all. And I’d certainly never have learned how to be smarter and more resilient both personally and professionally. Had I warned my 25-year-old self not to fall head over heels in love with the wrong men, I’d never have known the qualities to look for in the right one. Had I warned my 25-year-old self that I might face not so subtle sexism and overt racism and repeated condescension in a work place and world that claimed these things no longer existed, I might have given up instead of continuing to move forward. Had I warned my 25-year-old self that I’d fail more often than I succeeded, I might not have realized or appreciated the caliber of my success and just how sweet it tasted after facing ongoing adversity. And had I known just how hard it all was and continues to be, I might have despaired and given up.
So I’m not sure that I would have told my 25-year-old self much of anything.
Or maybe just one thing: Don’t ever lost your optimism.
And I haven’t yet.