June is the month of “Dads and Grads.” In my opinion, grouping the celebrations of our graduates and the Dads in the family on Father’s Day, is wise, economically speaking, and practical, for those of us who have both grads and dads to celebrate in May and June. However, just for today, I would like to single out the Grads.
If I could go back-way back-in time and talk to my 21 year old self, there are some things I know now, that I didn’t know then, that I would want to share with my younger self. Before you know it, that 21 year old is staring down 42, and 52 and 62. Time flies.
As I think back about my 21 year old entrepreneurial self, I realize there were so many mistakes I made, but also there were amazing lessons along the way. During this 20-something phase in life we see people go in all different directions in life. Some make good decisions; some not so good. While I realize we all need to forge ahead at our own pace and in our own way, there are some timeless pieces of advice that can make the journey a tad bit easier.
Here are 21 things I would tell to my 21 year old self.
- Dream! Those whispers and passions are there for a reason. They won’t go away, despite parties, jobs, moves and a family. Hear them.
- Follow that dream! Now is the time to see where that dream might take you, before family and marriage and children and work take front and center.
- Start at the bottom and work your way up. Be willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill # 1 and #2 above. I did not start out owning stores. Oh no! I vacuumed store floors after 11pm closings and showed up the next morning at 9am to monitor the dressing rooms.
- Be grateful, thankful, and humbled. Respect and trust is earned not given. Kindness is power. The customer is always right. Not the other way around.
- Trust your instincts. If things are “not flowing,” and your gut is screaming at you, reevaluate your decision(s). If something feels bad, it probably is.
- Take very good care of your skin, health, teeth and bones. It will be (very) important later. For those of us in retail, high heels = varicose veins.(trust me!)
- Not much good happens after midnight. Seriously, get a proper amount of rest-especially if you have work in the morning. Night is basically day, only darker. Sleep.
- Count your blessings. Write them down. While it feels like you will never forget them, you will.
- It is really okay if you don’t have it all figured out right now. Your older self won’t necessarily have everything together either and that’s okay too.
- Start a savings account now and put away money as often as possible. It will become handy when you want to buy a house later or get married.
- Speaking of marriage-you will find your soul mate. Relax.
- Your hometown is okay and you will miss it when you are gone. Trips home are good medicine for the soul, but travel is more than a trip back home. Get out there. Travel. See the world.
- Books are not boring, despite the flashy instant gratification of a smart phone.
- Making lots of money is not a prerequisite to having a life. Instead, figure out what you love to do and do it to make money.
- Learn from your mistakes. If you do not learn, the mistakes will keep reappearing until you learn. Some people need to be “hit over the head with the proverbial two-by-four,” before they learn. Don’t be some people.
- I can’t say this any better:
- Appreciate your family more. You are going to lose a few over the years and it will be hard. Spend time with them now.
- A trip to Wal Mart for toothpaste should not cost you $75.00. Stop spending all your money. Don’t get caught up in credit. You are going to need credit to start your own business, buy a house, and sometimes, even secure that coveted job position.
- It is okay to fail. A lot of young people doing startups today are obsessed with the idea of creating a billion-dollar company overnight. Believing this causes them to give up after early failures. Looking back, I wish I would’ve understood the actual life of an entrepreneur better.
Business owners rarely get it right the first time. It takes tons of failures and speed bumps to reach your goals. There are so many lessons that you learn along the way. In truth, it’s an entrepreneur’s ability to learn from failure that makes him/her successful. From failing over and over again, I learned that entrepreneurship is about grit, not a get-rich-quick scheme. If I’d understood this earlier, I would have dealt with early failures much better.
20. Be careful what you post on social media, watch who you hang out with and look up from the phone. You do not really need to answer that email at 4:00 in the morning. Go cell phone free sometimes, camp off grid, hike the mountains, walk on the beach. Refresh, renew, regenerate.
For those who are just starting out in their careers, Arianna Huffington hopes success will no longer be defined “by who works the longest hours, who goes the longest without a vacation, who sleeps the least, who responds to an email at midnight or five in the morning.”
- Superwoman is a myth. So is Superman, guys. You cannot do it all, have it all, or be everything to everyone. Something will suffer.
And one last “wish” to grow on:
Work to live, not live to work. I know many 21 year olds love working, and have many great ideas for company growth, but it’s okay to live too. You are only 21 once.
We get out in the world and we think the life we dreamed of as a teen should be here-right now-but it is just beginning. The twenties are a perfect time to build a good foundation, a good attitude, plenty of relationships and the best time to learn life’s lessons.
And, most of all, I hope you dream.
“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey
Living the Dream,