Advice to My 18 Year Old Self

Thom and Chris Brogan
I really love that the Asymmetrical Press released a book called “Advice to My 18 Year Old Self.” I love them, period, but this is something that’s on my mind all the time. I wish I could go back and talk to myself when I was 18. It’s such a great way to think about what you know now. To that end, here’s some advice to myself. And then? I want you to write yours to yourself. (Oh and buy this book!)

Advice to My 18 Year Old Self

Dear Chris:

You are smart and clever. Stop worrying that people don’t think you are. Your confidence will be far more useful than trying to prove how smart you are.

Make mistakes all over the place. Do it faster. Evidently, you don’t learn well by trying to read or follow the advice of others. You learn by trying something you thought about or read about and seeing how it breaks when you try it.

Here’s a quote I said once that suddenly was everywhere all over the Internet. I’d tell my 18 year old self this, too:

don't settle

Chris, you are going to mess up with women for decades. You would mess up less often if you were wide open and honest about who you really are, even when it makes them not like you, this will go sooooooo much better than when you try to conform. Just be you. It’s so sexy when you do it right. For some people.

Who you say you are isn’t interesting. What you do is everything. Just do things. That’s way better. Do, and then you’ll never have to tell people who you are. They’ll know.

Serving a community will be your everything. The more you learn how to speak for others, the more you’ll gather people and empower them to speak for themselves. If you started this earlier, you’d be so much less worried about “finding a job.” Man, your life would be more fun sooner.

Finally, Chris, know that all that you do for the world is great, but that the sooner you catch on that your humor is the best way to warm people up to the real lessons you want to teach, you’ll see that everything goes better. It’s like that great philosopher said, “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Humor is how you’ll remind everyone that they will inherit the earth.

You turned out okay, but I’d love to save you some misery. Either way, you’ll get there, Chris. Promise you will. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Raul Colon

    Super one of my favorite Mary Poppins quotes :)

  • Doug (Terp) Terpening

    That brown leather jacket brings back OLD memories of high school. Great letter to your 18 year old self and me.

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  • Charles H. Green

    Brilliant. You speak for all of us, and to all of us in our 18-year old incarnations. (And maybe older. Some of us. Who didn’t get the memo at 18).

    • Chris Brogan

      Most of us, I suspect.

  • Marcie_Hill

    I wrote a message to myself and ended up in tears. I would be so much farther along in life and with my dreams had I not been afraid. Here’s the bad thing: I couldn’t tell you what I was afraid of. Now that I know better, I’m doing things a lot differently.

    • Chris Brogan

      But here’s the best part. You’re not afraid NOW. You’ve got lots of years ahead. Tell yourself this message now. : )

  • Geralyn Miller

    Love this. I shared it this morning with my teenaged daughter – made sure she knew I don’t consider her me but told her if someone had shared something like this with me then – well – just maybe I’d have taken some of that advice. No regrets… and advice for the ages for sure. Thanks Chris

  • Steve Woodruff

    Ironic. I just had breakfast this morning with my 18-year old son, about his future. Part of my message: get out and DO. Work. Who you are will emerge (it just takes a lot longer than we think sometimes!) I totally did not understand this at age 18 – so tied up in internal angst and measurement-against-everyone-else, with no confidence that the real Steve Woodruff would, over time, eventually stand up!

  • Dave Delaney

    I love this idea. One thing I am passionate about, but don’t do enough is travel. I mean outside of the US and Canada. However, I have had the good fortune of living and backpacking abroad for years. In retrospect, I did everything ass-backwards. :)

    The good thing though is I have an incredible wife and best friend, who I had never would have met were it not for me moving to Ireland. This is why I stress to people that they must travel, especially younger people who have less (or no) responsibilities. Get up and go! Do it on a budget if you must, but do it!

    Traveling was a good thing my younger self did. I also made a lot of mistakes growing up. I’m going to get started on that letter today. Thanks Chris.

  • Jon Loomer

    Hell, this could be a message to my current self. Good stuff, Chris.

  • Meredith Laskow

    Looking back on life is always bittersweet — what we could have done, if only we had the knowledge of experience. Still, we’re the person we are today because of the life we lived and the experiences learned.

    My advice to my 18-year-old self:
    1. You live on a planet 20 bazillion light years away, but there’s a whole universe happening right under your feet. Get in your space ship and visit once in a while. While you’re here, learn to speak the language of the natives.
    2. You can’t fight every fight, nor should you. Many fights are stupid and petty, and will eat your soul and suck you into the mud. Learn to walk away.

  • Kim Court

    I did this same type of exercise two years ago on the eve of my 41st birthday. Not sure why 41 was such a profound age for me, but I wrote this in just under 15 minutes…my typing fingers couldn’t keep up with my thoughts :)

    41 Things I’d Tell My 21 Year Old Self

    August 30, 2011 at 11:31pm

    In no particular order, here are 41 things I’ve learned (so far):

    1. Although it may not be obvious at first, everything happens for a reason.

    2. The book is always better than the movie.

    3. Flowers are never necessary to send, but they’re always nice to get.

    4. If a baby is squirming, brace yourself. Something is coming out from one end or the other.

    5. Motherhood is the sweetest gift. Dads have it good – but moms are incredibly lucky.

    6. Setting every clock you own ahead ten minutes doesn’t guarantee you’ll be early.

    7. A calm mommy makes for a calm baby.

    8. Constantly worrying, obsessing about pleasing other people is absolute bullshit.

    9. You don’t need anyone’s approval to live your own life.

    10. Marriage takes work, focus and commitment – it’s not a really long date.

    11. Ferris Bueller was right – life moves fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

    12. Confidence – really believing in yourself – is the key to everything.

    13. Travel every chance you get.

    14. Have goals. Have a plan. But live in the moment.

    15. Laugh as often as possible.

    16. Trust your gut.

    17. Even though you know the secrets, still keep the magic of Christmas.

    18. Sex is good. Really, it is!

    19. No need to be a “little Hercules” with the weight of the world on your shoulders…put your mind at ease.

    20. Just like yoga, life is about the practice – not perfection.

    21. Everyone has a story, a challenge, a need to be loved – so judge not!

    22. It’s better to have a really good healthy fight than to walk on eggshells just to keep the peace.

    23. It’s OK to enjoy being a girl – you’re not letting down the feminists.

    24. Republicans aren’t so bad :)

    25. Glinda the Good Witch was right – you had the power all along.

    26. There’s nothing more annoying than a “yes” person at work. Dare to be bold and express another viewpoint.

    27. There’s something to this visualization thing. Read “The Secret”, get a vision board and go with it.

    28. Mothers really do sleep with one eye and ear open and walk around with their heart on their sleeves. It’s infinitely exhausting, but wildly

    29. Happiness is a choice.

    30. Words are powerful.

    31. Don’t spend more than 8 hours a day at work and don’t bring work home.

    32. Never burn a bridge – it simply isn’t worth the satisfaction.

    33. Get a good camera and when you don’t have it handy, take lots of pictures with your heart.

    34. Own your own personal truth and get rid of skeletons in the closet.

    35. Empathy is one of the most important virtues.

    36. Things aren’t always what they seem – don’t jump to conclusions.

    37. Forgive.

    38. Talk to your children honestly, clearly and in plain English – don’t babytalk and don’t gloss over important things.

    39. Never sweep anything under the carpet; deal with everything openly and honestly.

    40. Have your husband’s and your kids’ backs at all times.

    41. You are stronger than you know.

  • Darlene C Cote

    Gosh, this question is a great way to figure out what to do “Now”. The trick for me would be trying to keep away from the internal “regret – mental gymnastic – haggler roommate “and instead, realize all the experiences from 18 years to “NOW” can be used to enhance those thoughts into action.

    Pushing the pedal harder, if I had to write an obituary on myself by myself or through the eyes & hearts of loved ones – What would that say? How would I be remembered?

    That’s quite a list Kim Court. And this is a super exercise to use NOW. Thanks Chris

  • Gerry Sandusky

    Chris. I love it and I agree with it. Like you I have a book coming out soon, it’s called Forgotten Sundays. It’s about growing up on the sidelines in the NFL (my dad was a long time coach). While writing the book, I had a lot of time to reflect on my 18 year old self too. Like you, I wish I knew then what I know now. Fortunately, it’s still not to late to learn and to put what we learn to use. Good luck with your book.

  • Lynn

    “The more you learn how to speak for others, the more you’ll
    gather people and empower them to speak for themselves.” I think when I stop asking myself, ‘but how’ then I can write a similar letter to my current self. Thank you for this :-)

  • John Wall

    You bastard, I so wanted that leather jacket.

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  • Rebecca

    Love, Love, Love your blatant honesty and the way you get to the heart of the matter. SUCH a breath of fresh air with all the pretentious crap that is on the internet! lol. I’m a fan.

  • Mike Gonzalez

    Hey Chris,

    Just wanted to say this post inspired the idea for my first blog post.

    Thank you for being awesome.

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