Recently, Inc. Magazine pulled an O Magazine contribution from respected public figure Michael J. Fox – a true force for good – about life or career advice he’d give his younger self. It got me thinking, what advice would I give a younger me?
It’s me, your older self. I hope when you find this – stuck between the pages of your current favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird – it makes you smile and doesn’t freak you out too much. Before you roll your eyes, give me a minute and read on. I know you’re confident you have all the answers about your future. Since I’ve been there already, here are a few things I wish I’d known when I was where you are now. They would have helped. A lot.
Finishing junior high will be rough. You’re not a child, although you still like to play. Your body’s changing in ways that preview the adult packaging that’s to come (which is taking some getting used to). Your friend groups are shifting. People you thought you knew have become almost like strangers. You’re constantly being asked about your future . . . how you feel about moving to a new high school . . . if you’re going to play sports . . . what kind of career you want . . . if you’re going to college . . . the list goes on and on.
Shut down the noise. Take a pause. Focus.
Here’s the first secret to life I want to know: You are enough.
And here's the second: You already have within you what it will take to get through everything life throws at you.
I know this is hard to believe right now. But trust me, you’ll see it for yourself many, many times. Some moments will be planned, and some will catch you unaware. You’ll overcome a challenge. You’ll reach a goal. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll solve a problem. You’ll get in trouble. You’ll see something clearly for the first time. You'll celebrate.
If you’re not quite ready to believe in yourself unconditionally like I do, that’s okay. Here are a few steps you can take now to remind yourself that you're ready for anything.
Be true to yourself. You aren’t ever locked into someone else’s definition of your story.
Choose authentic ambition. Be proud of your achievements and view them as an ongoing series of victory moments that make up the circle of your whole life. They aren’t individual endpoints that finish sections of it.
Embrace accountability. Look yourself in the mirror straight on every day, even when it’s hard. You may not always like yourself and you won’t always be popular, but the act of accepting personal responsibility is a true north you can come back to each time you lose your way.
Nurture your mind-body-spirit connection. Your well-being is non-negotiable. Learn new things. Eat healthy food. Believe in something greater than yourself.
Accept that failure is normal. You don’t have to be good at everything. You don't have less value as a person when things don’t work out the way you or others expected. Failure is a sign that you tried something different. Move forward.
Seek help when you need it. At times, you’re going to feel all alone. You’re not. Your trusted circle will change over time and that’s okay. What doesn’t change is that you always have a tribe ready to help. Ask them.
Be kind, always. Defend the person not in the room. Be a champion for fairness.
Love with your whole heart. Loving others with reservation is like asking a plant to grow without sunshine. You may get hurt, but don’t put off expressing how much others mean to you.
Now, enjoy the ride. You’ve got this!
Me (or You, as the case may be)
It’s easy to look backward and offer advice based on a life lived. I don’t know if I would have paid attention to a letter like this when I was a teenager. Sometimes the last thing I wanted was more unsolicited advice from an adult, even when it was the thing I most needed. Maybe the point of this kind of letter is to remind me that I’ve made it through – smile lines, battle scars, and all – and have what it takes to keep going forward. It feels like a well-deserved pat on the back. I like that. It's something we don't give – or receive – enough
What would you write in a letter to your younger self?