I’m a bit late for the New Year, but here are things I would tell my younger self. I got some of these right and some of these wrong. I’m still working on some of them!
Get health insurance. Having the worst-case-scenario covered allows you to take greater risks.
Get disability income insurance. You may need it someday, and when you can no longer get it, you’ll be grateful that you already have it. See above re: covering the worst-case scenario.
Don’t major in something impractical, unless you double-major in something practical.
Don’t go into student debt. It will constrict all of your life choices. Top colleges will pay a large part of your tuition if your family’s household income is below a certain threshold. Try to get admitted there. If you don’t, go somewhere cheap and supplement your learning with free online courses.
Be self-motivated in your work and education. No one else will make you be successful.
Start a company while you’re in college. As long as you don’t flunk out, this is a virtually risk-free option on your future.
Learn to program. It’s the lingua franca of the 21st century. Learn how to explain what you’re doing to someone who doesn’t know how to program.
Learn to write. It will serve you well in any career.
Learn to sell. Many unknown artists were just as talented as the famous ones. Maybe more talented. But does anyone care now?
Even when you don’t think you’re selling, you’re selling.
Most people are bored most of the time. Try to make their day a little more interesting, and you’ll be a great presenter.
Understand that the five minutes you spend stopping by someone’s office to say hi are more important than the five hours you spend on a presentation that no one sees if no one knows you. Human connections are the heart of LIFE. And of business.
Have compassion. Allow the possibility that the only difference between you and someone else may be circumstances.
Don’t be afraid to love. In the end the people you love, and the people who love you, are one of the most important things.
Do something important if you feel the urge. This is the other most important thing. Don’t permanently suppress your desire to do good to fulfill your desire for money. With persistence you may be able to have both.
Don’t put everything on Facebook or your blog. There is no “I Forget” button.
Keep a little bit of yourself to yourself.
Be generous with your time in helping others, but stay focused at your core.
You can do a lot of things one thing at a time. You can’t do everything at once. Multitasking is bullshit. Procrastinating productively, on the other hand, is not. A second project can help you complete both projects.
Sleep the number of hours you need almost every night. It makes you more productive and often happier.
Don’t eat crap. In the U.S., most processed food, meat and dairy are crap.
Give thanks for who you are and why you’re here. Then get it done.
Don’t give up easily. Keep at it until you solve the problem, for as long as you feel you can solve it and a little bit past that point.
Listen to yourself, not other people, on the decisions that really matter. Taking a job to please someone else is never a good idea.
Don’t do risky things that aren’t worth the trade-off (motorcycle riding, if you’re a neuroscientist).
Jump bravely into low risks that are masquerading as high risks (leaving a job to try something new, investing during a market crash, telling someone how you feel about them).
You can be yourself while still learning who you are. Just be willing to adjust as you go along.
Creativity and persistence combined are the greatest force on Earth. Use them well and wisely.