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The Problem with Giving Advice to your Younger Self

hand press on expert advice button on virtual screen

Oh to be 18 again. I had no idea then, the difference I could make in the world. Man, if I had known then what I know now, wow, I’d be like a millionaire probably. I’d be so popular too! I’d have never wasted all that time mastering the art of evading police capture on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. And what was I thinking going out and having fun every Friday night?!

We can only make great changes if we accept where we are, what we’ve done and plan for the future from there. However, what seems increasingly more common on social media these days, is the phenomenon of asking what advice you would give to your younger self. It was even the number 1 trend on Twitter over the weekend #WhatIWouldTellA15YearOldMe.

You can’t give advice to your younger self. But even if you could, do you really think it would change anything? No, it wouldn’t. I say that with great confidence. And the reason it wouldn’t is because all the wisdom you have gained in life, was available to you at 15. The problem is it meant nothing to you then, and you probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I must have heard over 100 times before I was 15 that ‘you get out of life, what you put into it’. I hated it then and only grudgingly accept it now. Of course it is true to a large degree, you will reap what you sow. But it took me another 15 years to really understand and appreciate the sentiment.

You are wiser now because you have had to go through life and learn all those valuable lessons. It does not mean much to be told them. You have to experience them. For instance, people skills aren’t developed by telling someone to listen well, to not be intimidated by others and to talk in terms of their interest. These are all sound techniques to develop people skills, but they have to be learned by experience. The advice was always there, but there was nothing connecting you to it.

So do yourself a favour. If you take all the things you have learnt in life and want to give advice to a version of yourself, give it to yourself TODAY. It is the only version of you that counts. Today you are the 15 year old version of you, the 18 year old, the 21 year old, the 30 year old and so on. You are everything you have been through and learnt. Don’t wish to be able to give advice to your younger self, when the advice you give yourself today is the only advice that can change things for the better. Your 15 years from now self will thank you for it.

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