15 things I wish I would have known back when I knew it all

Don’t worry, this is not some boo-hoo my life sucks kind of thing.

This is not about regret.

This is not about looking back and wishing that I would have done things differently in the past because I do believe that every experience both good and not-so-good has an important lesson to share as long as we’re willing to listen (and not constantly repeat them).

Now having said that, there are still quite a few days that I would love to hop into my Delorean time machine and smack around my younger self a bit for acting like such an idiot.

I thought I would take this opportunity to start organizing my thoughts so when that day finally comes I’ll be ready. . .


15 things I wish I would have known back when I knew it all:


1.) Who you were in high school is not necessarily who you will become

Back in high school everyone was assigned a role to play.  We were either brainy kids, art freaks, dumb jocks, band geeks, drama weirdos, goths, preppies, burnouts, or whatever other label they wanted to assign us.  For whatever reason the adolescent mind likes to create divisions and exclusive cliques so we can feel misunderstood and it’s us against the world.

Once we leave the self-contained fishbowl of high school, however, we discover that the roles we were previously assigned is not necessarily who we actually are. The hierarchy that we have lived under for so long suddenly collapses and we are set adrift.  The sooner you stop looking to define yourself, the sooner you will have the opportunity to discover who you really are.  Resist labels.  Resist pigeon-holing yourself into your comfortable little niche. Expand your yourself and your friendships. Never miss the opportunity to really connect with someone new even if they may appear to be outside your social circle.


2.) Sooner or later you’re going to have to stop eating crap

I know that right now you can eat that giant Chipotle burrito after school and wash it all down with a pint of Ben & Jerrys, but eventually eating all of that stuff going to catch up with you.  Right now maybe you’re still growing, maybe you’re involved sports, or maybe you’re just lucky enough to have the metabolism of a racehorse but trust me this is all going to change soon.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day you are going to wake up and and face the fact that it’s not the dryer shrinking all of your clothes.


3.) Your job is not your identity

Your job will come and go, but it’s not who you are.  When people ask what you do, it’s not the same thing as who you are are, or perhaps more importantly, who you want to become. You need to make a focused effort to find your passion and your reason for getting up in the morning. It’s not about earning a paycheck or being able to pay your cell phone bill every month.  It’s about finding out what gets you fired up.  It’s about finding your unique niche and your place in the bigger picture. Having a job may provide you with the money to pursue your passion, but a job is simply a temporary situation until you can find a way to make money by doing what you love. But first you have to find out where you passion lies.


4.) Stop wasting your time playing  xBox and watching hours of YouTube

When I was growing up it was the Nintendo 64 and bad cable television, now it’s Playstation 3 and Hulu but the result is the same.  Time is precious and trust me, all that free time that you have now to fritter away staring at the screen you’re going to desperately want back someday.  Start and explore your passions now while you still have the time to make mistakes and reorganize.  Someday when you finally get married and have kids, you’re going to be kicking yourself for not making better use of your time.


5.) The people you meet are more important than the things you do

Everything good that happens in your life will be the direct result of people you have connected with along the way.  Accomplishments are great, but it’s the relationships that you make along the way that will ultimately determine your level of happiness. You’ll discover that it’s the people you know who will get you that next job or that big break, and not what you know or the things you’ve done.  Remember to nuture your relationships both old and new.  Don’t wait until you need something from your friends. Always be the first and last to give something to the friendship even if it’s nothing more than a smile or a simple word of encouragement.


6.) No matter how busy you think you are, don’t forget to follow your passion

Find your passion, and then make the time to pursue what you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you can dedicate eight hours a day or fifteen minutes a day to following your passion and creating your dreams.  What’s important is that it’s a part of your daily life. Focus on what really matters to you.  Do something to feed your creative soul every day. Don’t live your life on auto-pilot.  Get out there and push yourself a little further each day.


7.) You will not meet the love of your life in a bar at 2:00 a.m.

Love will find you when it finds you.  It’s an irony of life that those who go out looking for love will never find it.  The more you try to pursue love, the more it will continue to elude you.  Nothing scares off potential mates like the putrid scent of desperation.

Instead of spending your time and what little money you have hitting the clubs, spend some time working on yourself so that when you finally meet this special person you’ll actually have something to offer them.


8.) Take some time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go

Right now you are so busy that it seems absurd to even think about slowing down.  However, unless you’re being chased by a bear, blindly running around as fast as you can is only going to make you tired.  Don’t worry about what your parents or your friends expect you to be. Find out what’s really important to you and make sure that you are heading in that direction. You also have to realize that your priorities will change, and what may be important to you at 18 will probably not be the same things that are important to you at 35. Always be willing to readjust your course if necessary.  Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to.


9.) Learn about managing money from someone who’s not trying to sell you something

Get a credit card to establish a credit record but leave it at home and lock it away somewhere far, far away from the computer.  If I could offer you just one piece of advice on using a credit card, it would be to never buy something that you can wear, eat, or drink.

Start saving for your retirement now even if you don’t think that you can.  Set up automatic withdraws into your retirement accounts because you are never going to feel like you have enough money to start saving. Don’t wait until you get a “real” job, get married, or when you have kids.  Believe it or not, you’re going to have even less money then.  Save something.  Start now.


10.) Insure you crap

Unfortunately, we live in a society where people and their blood-sucking lawyers can take not only all the money you have, but also all of the money that you may earn in the future as well.  Shit happens. Be prepared.


11.) Learn to play an instrument

Any instrument.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the guitar, the piano, the cello, or the kazoo — learn to play an instrument and then practice at it regularly.  There’s nothing quite like the instant feedback and satisfaction of creating music.  Even it’s just noise.  Play your music.  Sing your song. You are the only one who can.


12.) Stay away from Jägermeister

Don’t be seduced by it’s lovely green bottle, exotic name, or idiotic friends who may try to convince you that it’s not the devil’s own juice.  Seriously. . . Worst. Night. Ever.


12 1/2.) Never rent a wet-and-dry vac from a grocery store located next to college apartments.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.


13.) Don’t join a gym

I know that right now you may think that you’ll go every day, work out for three hours, and not be the lazy coach slug that you are. . . but you won’t.  Trust me, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll end up hating yourself even more when you’re sitting there writing out the check every month. In fact don’t buy any exercise device you see on TV or online.  If you really feel like you want to get back into shape, put on your shoes and run a lap around the block and the feeling will soon pass.


14.) You are far more likely to regret the things that you haven’t done than the things you have done

Experiment. Get outside your comfort zone.  Don’t allow yourself to get stuck into a rut.  Keep the wheels moving and try to do something new every day.  It doesn’t have to be something big and dramatic, it just has to challenge you in a new way.  You don’t need to bungee jump or go skydiving.  You can simply read a book, take a class, explore your neighborhood, or talk to someone you’ve never met. Make a point to expand yourself in some small way ever day.

Having said that, I would still avoid Jägermeister at all costs!


15.) Chances are you’re going to ignore all of this and do whatever the hell you want to do anyway

Even if you’re sitting there nodding your head in agreement, let’s face it, five minutes from now you’re probably going to be back on Facebook talking about who said what to who, and why that person is such a you-know-what.  I don’t blame you.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m probably still there.  After all, I’m the one who ignored every piece of good advice I received for the first thirty years of my life.  So I’m not about to sit here and point the finger at someone else. . .

But just in case I do get the chance to go back in time, I’ve already packed a backpack with this list, ten feet of rope, and a fifth of Jägermeister. . .


Would you like to smack around your younger self?

What if I let you borrow the keys to the Delorean for the day. . .

  • What would you like to go back and say to your younger self?
  • What would you do differently and what wouldn’t you change even if you could?
  • What’s the best and worst piece of advice on life that you ever received?
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About the Author


Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His new book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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