Basking in the glow of my flickering birthday candles, I identified five messages I’d hope to convey to my younger self:
School is Overrated
My high school years were consumed with doing “all the right things” to land a spot in an Ivy League school--National Merit Scholar, ACT & SAT scores, AP Latin, volunteer projects. But you know what ended up being the most (and maybe, only) valuable experience in my high school years? Working the walk-up window at Kline’s Dairy Bar, for it was through that minimum wage paying experience I learned the power of pleasant communication, necessity of organization, and the value of money.
Formal education is overrated. Don’t get so caught up in academic exercises that you miss out on developing the soft skills necessary for success. In the “real” world, no one cares about your rigorous curriculum, 4.0 GPA, and stellar standardized test results; all that matters is what you can DO.
Never Know Unless You Try
At eighteen, I was terrified of making the “wrong” decision. Everything seemed to have major, long-term implications—the school I went to, the major I picked, the sorority I rushed, the guys I dated. My “decision-maker” was often paralyzed by the sheer magnitude accompanying each progressive step, leaving me looking like deer in headlights, frozen in the highway of young adulthood. Consequently, I look back as a 25+ year-old, wondering how many of the “leaps” I was afraid to take, would have turned out. You’ll never know unless you try, so TRY.
Everyone makes mistakes, and that “everyone” includes you. Recognize mistakes as just a part of the learning process, and don’t get bogged down in the “shouldn’t haves” and “wish I’d…”. Move on! Investments that didn’t pay off, relationships gone sour, unforgiving financial obligations—forgive yourself, and keep moving forward. Recognize that such “failures” provide you with valuable intel necessary for success in future pursuits. Developing the ability to “roll with it” is essential for one to consistently encounter success. Chalk up “setbacks” to experience, and look forward to making sounder decisions in the future!
Don’t Apologize for Your Age
Yes, you are young. No, you know “as much” as a sixty-something-year-old entrepreneur, but no one says you have too! Don’t let your youthful inexperience prevent you from pursuing your dreams. Sometimes that youthful naiveté is just what an ingenious business idea needs. Life has a way of teaching you what you “need” to know; take the leap of faith and be willing to “learn as you go”.
Start a Business NOW
Sure, I’ve lost money. And yes, I’ve made dumb decisions, and not all of my “amazing ideas” turned into successes. However, amidst the many challenges I encountered as a young (and inexperienced) entrepreneur, my only regret is that I did not start my own business sooner. Don’t put off launching your dream machine until you “know more”, are “financially secure”, or “better supported”. These idyllic seasons in life are simply figments of the imagination. There will ALWAYS be reasons to not start a business. Forget the myth of “perfect timing” and cease the day with starting your company NOW. There is never a better time than the present.
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