In Good Company Blog

3 more lessons for my 18-year-old self

life lessons entrepreneurship

Last week I had fun thinking about the lessons that I’d want to share with my college-aged self. I talked about femininity and female friends among other things. Here are 3 more lessons for today.

4. Protect the personal

If you like what you do at all, it’s very hard to leave enough time to take proper care of yourself and to tend to your personal life. In college, I made time for two things: parties and papers. I spent way too much time on the first and not enough (in the beginning) on the second. So back then, I probably would have laughed at this piece of advice. But the truth is that moderation is always your friend. Once I started taking school and work seriously, I poured myself in and rarely gave myself a break. The only thing that has slowed me down (ok, crippled me at some points) has been having kids. Toddlers just don’t appreciate the “go hard or go home” kind of work-style. But I wish that I had done more for myself when I still had a “life of my own.” Sure, I have dreams of missed travel opportunities and all that exercise that I probably wouldn’t have done anyway but in a more mundane way I wish I just had made more time to turn off and read for pleasure, see a friend, take a walk – nothing extravagant, but important nonetheless.

It’s no one else’s job to take care of you and the older you get the more responsibility you’re likely to inherit. Learn to take care of yourself and exercise work boundaries while you have the freedom to do so. It’ll be great practice for later.

5. There is room to be nice in business

There’s a difference between being nice and behaving in a way so that people will like you. Learn the difference. Then realize the very valuable role that “nice” behavior has at work. Again, saddled with concerns about female stereotypes I was worried about the right level of “nice” to strike professionally. How much should I smile? How many explanation marks are permissible? Does offering to help allow me to be included or make me a doormat? Did I seem serious enough? So much energy spent thinking about things that were not productive or helpful.

Being nice is not the goal, but it’s also not bad. Being yourself is what’s important. And so is treating people with respect. Consider what behavior feels right to you rather than what you think the other person wants to see in you. Doing the right thing is what matters most of all, nice or not.

6. Progress is about finding an answer, not having an answer

In school having the answer gets you points. But in life that’s not necessarily true. Life is about the meaning of the journey. If your happiness or satisfaction is tied to having the answer, you’ll never be satisfied. But if you can find joy in the pursuit of the answer, then life will be full of goodness. It’s easier said than done though. After 18 years of “learning to be a good student” (the one with the answers), I had to get comfortable realizing it was OK to say “I don’t know” and “I’m exploring” and “I’m working on doing…” My well-trained student self would have dismissed these comments as evidence of not working or caring hard enough. It was a hard pattern to break.

Be a confident work-in-progress. Proudly proclaim and follow your interests without first determining what a successful outcome looks like. Share your process and your uncertainty with others. It will strengthen your relationships and expand your opportunities.

So it wasn’t the only one thinking about what messages to give 18-year-olds this week. Ashton Kutcher gave a heart-warming and inspiring acceptance speech at the Teen Choice awards in which he summed up the three things that he wants today’s youth to know. Click to watch the heartthrob version. Or read below for the skimmer version here:

  1. Opportunity look a lot like hard work
  2. Being sexy is about being smart, thoughtful, and generous
  3. You have to build a life that’s worth living.



Pic via a great blog post with other lessons to a younger self. 

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