The other day my girlfriend asked me what advice would I give young Peter if I could go back in time.
Surprisingly, it was a hard question to answer.
There is just so much advice I wish I had gotten or listened to. Looking back, what would have made the most difference for me?
Here are the top five picks for what I would tell young me if I could travel back in time:
As a teenager it’s so much easier than when you’re an adult. The mastery of something at an early age gives the confidence that other things can be mastered, and the proficiency in the thing(s) mastered can pay unexpected dividends later in life.
Jamie Fox often talks about how his Grandmother’s advice, helped him be the success he became. For example his following her advice to master the piano helped him win an academy award for playing Ray Charles.
As a kid, being able to push people’s buttons through speaking, writing and art never occurred to me as a skill I could learn; especially an important one.
You can’t do anything big by yourself, and you certainly can’t fulfil your ambitions on your own. Being able to produce an intended emotional reaction in people will directly (as in sales) or indirectly (as in politics) earn you money, and provide tremendous personal satisfaction.
Study some form of writing e.g. speechwriting, scriptwriting, fiction or non-fiction, and learn to speak publicly. Acting is a great way to not only speak publicly, but also to learn how to influence moods in others and in yourself. A very valuable skill.
Practice selling a product or service by taking a sales job. Selling is great persuasion practice, and perhaps the biggest immediate payoff is that you’ll become immediately aware of when people are trying to influence you.
3.Hard work & failure are your friends
This was missing from my early education. Young Peter was deathly afraid of failure, of looking bad in front of his peers. He also thought that being smart was an anti-dote to working hard.
No one explained to me the role of failure to success, how enduring disappointments, humiliations, and setbacks is necessary to success and accomplishments.
My mother did her best to get me to master an instrument and a language, but unlike Jamie Fox I didn’t follow her advice. I think one reason for that is because I didn’t relate to failure as a teacher, and hard-work just didn’t seems sexy to me.
This to me is the most important lesson a young person must learn and the earlier they get it the more successful they are likely to be.
4.Don’t follow the herd
A young person’s desire to fit in and belong is so strong that they will risk their lives and do terrible things to each other. Yet the marketplace rewards the ones who take the road less travelled. Everyone taking a particular course of study may be enough reason to NOT do what they are doing. This builds leadership skills and has people identify you as a leader.
5. Follow what interests you
I see many, many people—especially kids who have no idea what they want to do with their lives—fearful of making bad choices for school, degree and class. They really believe in a life-ruining wrong choice. Don’t worry about making a mistake, just choose the path that interests you, and pursue it fully. You may find that it’s not what you want but there is value in knowing what you don’t want, and you will have learned skills that may help you in ways you won’t realise.
When he was at Reed College, Steve Jobs had no idea what he would use calligraphy for, but years later his having done that course allowed him to differentiate the MacIntosh computer from everything else on the market.
The whole idea of life-ruining choices is silly when you consider that young people today will change their career many times during their lifetime. Also, you’ll be in a better position to choose again because of your new knowledge and experience. People only make mistakes when they either don’t make choices, or more commonly, don’t commit to their choices i.e. they spend their time second-guessing their decisions and never fully commit to their chosen course of action.
What advice would you give?
I could actually list more but what fun is that? The fun is trying to think of what are two or three things that would have made an impact on having your life turn out the way you may have preferred. Not that there is anything wrong with the way it’s turned out.