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Ask HN: What one thing would you tell your younger self?
56 points by thomasfrank09 on July 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments
Hi guys, just came across this crowdsourced social experiment Twitter account: @AYoungerMe

There were some really cool Tweets of lessons people would tell their younger selves. However I thought the HN crowd is so smart that I’d like to hear what all of you would tell your younger self, if you had the opportunity.

If I could talk to my younger self I would say: "All of the things that you care about are completely meaningless. The school assignments, girls, money for the weekend...none of it matters, not even a little bit. Gather knowledge on how to make things that help people. Start now and never stop."

This question leads to another...why don't people tell these things to their kids?

"You don't have to wait to grow up to do great things. Do something now."

"Embrace the mistakes. They eventually pay off."

"What makes you "different" makes you AMAZING!"

Parents NEVER say these things. Parents say "do your homework", "practice the piano", "be nice to your sister". If, god forbid, I ever have a child I will have a very difficult time resisting the urge to tell him or her what life is really about. If I knew then what I know now... how could I keep that same valuable knowledge from someone I care about?

I think most parents don't tell that to their children because it's so demoralizing. How do you feel when someone tells you that everything you care about is meaningless? When I've heard that, it makes my life feel meaningless, like I should just give up now.

The rest is directly countered by teachers and classmates in public school. You're told you can't do things until you're older, and mistakes and differences are punished.

This is very relevant to me. As someone who's doing the SV startup thing full time, spending all of my waking hours on learning / doing stuff / meeting people, am I seriously not going to regret taking a dump on my 20s in 10 or 20 years? Am I not going to regret missing out on youth, girls, fun and so on, if I spend all of these years working on achieving my dreams?

Make a commitment to balance. I partied very hard in my teens and 20s and regret nothing. Some of my friends worked on professional degrees and are now late 20s early 30s trying to recover what they can of their youth. Another set of friends still pour their energy into partying but worry about money. For energetic people, the most important thing is balance. Work effectively, party hard, don't listen to too many people, be brave and don't make their concerns yours.

Some people do tell these things to their kids. Really.

Assuming you mean some general life advice sort of thing, and not something like "The Giants beat the Patriots in the SuperBowl, bet on the G-men" or something, then I'd say:

"Don't overvalue the whole 'good things come to people who wait' thing. Be really f%!#ng aggressive in going after what you want, life is short, don't wait around."

or something to that effect.

I wouldn't tell myself anything. My life is far from perfect, but I wouldn't exchange it for some unknown life as a result of receiving some cryptic advice from future-me. I know that sounds like a cop out, but I honestly feel that way. I value the mistakes I've made as much as I do the triumphs. I don't think you can "advise" away mistakes in a way that provides the same value.

This won't apply to anyone else.

Ignore almost everything anyone else tells you unless you can independently verify it, especially your parents. In fact, just divorce your parents now. The correct answers always come from within your own head. Your first impulse is always wrong, but doing the wrong thing almost always turns out well. You're almost always the smartest person in the room, and everyone knows it, so calling yourself "stupid" is calling everyone in the room stupid, even when true. Confidence is key. Talk more slowly. You can't be anyone other than who you are, but you can be the best "you" that can be. Nutrition is entirely applied physics (calories consumed - exertion = weight), so count calories. Yes, you'll live to see 85, and yes, life gets better at 30.

"The adults in your world are lying to you. Yes, I said lying. LYING. The reason why they say what they say is to make their lives easier, not yours. They don't care for you as much as you think they do. They don't even care for each other as much as they say they do. They are lying. Even if it seems true, they aren't. They are just very good at lying to you and themselves.

The world is big, huge, and interesting. Don't think its as small as the adults want you to think it is. Don't even think its as small as your friends of the same age say it is. They are are just repeating other 'cooler' adults are saying. 'Cooler' adults are still adults. Chances are they too will end up being just like the adults who are lying to you right now. Stop thinking about them, go out there & explore!! See what's really out there.

And if you feel like giving up after exploring, don't. Stop staring at the ground, look up, open your eyes, and see the wonderful scenery your in. Will it be painful to try to look up? Of course! However, if you can overcome that pain and actually look up, you will see a marvelous sight that few other humans can see. A sight that is worth all the pain and troubles you will face in reaching it. Only then can you see the truth that exists in this world. Only then can you truly start your life as well.... you'll see :)

P.S. If it's not painful to try and look up, stop pretending your exploring!! Go out there and explore for real!"

Oh dear, you're not a parent are you. The reason adults lie is because we want our kids to experience the life we dream of, not necessarily the one we have. Or at least, the best bits of what we have, without the pitfalls that we know are there, drugs, debt, etc. We understand some of the things we did and do wrong, and what we do right, and we want to give them the tools to avoid making stupid mistakes and focus on things that will bring them success. Sometimes that means being the boogeyman in order to force them to study or whatever, sometimes makes us appear naive by painting an idyll. But we do it for our kids, not for ourselves. You'll understand that when you have kids. But, your advice to "question everything" and "explore" is absolutely right. I would temper it with "some things just have to be done, and done the hard way. Grit your teeth, get it done, feel good about getting it done, and move to the next thing".

Wow, in this case, I stand by my statement 'The world is big, huge, and interesting. Don't think its as small as the adults want you to think it is' even more strongly now.

"pitfalls that we know are there, drugs, debt....study or whatever"

Congratulations! Out of the infinite amount of things in the world that are good and the infinite amount of things in the world that are bad, this parent just taught the kid to worry ONLY about drugs, debt, and homework.

If there's one thing about children I can say without a doubt is that they are the ultimate copy machines. The thing they are completely focused on desperately trying to copy? Their parent.

So in reality, the best possible way for a parent to teach their children their dreams they want is to personally live those dreams. However, for 97% of people in this world, this so hard that they don't want to do it. Thus they choose the easier alternative - lying. This, ironically, then teaches the kid this technique as well since kids, well, copy them.

It's like the guy said in "The Graduate" when asked for career advice: just one word, "plastics".

For my younger self, the word I'd use would be "smartphones".

Read what a Skinner Box is. Realize that playing Runescape (I know, I know) is disturbingly Pavlovian.

Compile your first program earlier, because from there the slopes keep getting better, and the peaks have nicer views.

Grades and external validation (from school, parents, friends) don't matter that that much. Concentrate on doing what you enjoy and learning what you are passionate about.

I am 21 now, but I would tell my 18 year old self to spend less time reading reddit/digg and start building more stuff.

And also, finish your projects and focus!

Your future self asked me to tell you to spend less time reading HN and start building more stuff.

And also, finish your projects and focus!

Hah! I knew someone would post this. And that's very true, I should spend less time on HN. That's why I have it blocked in my hosts file on my PC. So I can only access it from my phone :)

Most, by far, of the stuff you think matters really doesn't.

Acquire the habit of finishing stuff, dammit.

Finally, not only is life short, it's shorter than you think.

To my sixteen-year-old self: You're not a jock even though you've got a letter jacket. Be who you are rather than who you look like.

To my eighteen-year-old self: That girl that sits on your lap sometimes before class? She probably likes you. That one that always finds a way to stand next to you? She probably likes you, too. Maybe think about asking one of them out.

To my twenty-two-year-old self: Experience matters. Pay attention to what the successful forty-year-olds in the office do rather than spending all your time with the other recent grads. Watch how the partners handle clients.

You don't need to be a billionaire or a boddhisattva, just live a simple life and be of service to others. A man is paid in proportion to the value he creates for society. The best way to help humanity's precarious situation is working on yourself first and doing work that inspires others to do the same. No lasting change can happen unless it starts within, no lasting happiness is possible unless it starts within. Fulfillment comes from within, not from external things.

Sex, drugs and rock n' roll is all fun until you realize the emptiness inherent in all of it. Freedom, love, truth, and peace are more than just flowery overused words; they are all that matter in the end. Make these values the pillars of your life and all else will fall into place.

Never stop asking questions. Never. Challenge every institution and learn where you really stand, not where others would like for you stand. Shine your unique brilliance unto this world and take no ownership over what you accomplish, everything is a group effort.

Help out around the house a lot more, you are not a king.

Social skills are the most important skills. Strive to improve them. A well-connected likable person goes farther than a skilled one.

Great Idea!

"Don't be afraid of being different - What seems now like a curse will be your biggest gift in some years"

There is no more joy in this world than that which is found in the eyes of your child.

It's not just about how hard you work, it's about the decisions you make.

Also - don't be impatient.

My parents encouraged me to be active and do interesting things, but every time I really started to get into something they seemed to get scared of me really committing to anything. It's like they were scared that if I tried really hard at something and failed, I would feel bad.

I would tell myself to go all in on whatever I was interested in, no matter how young I was. I would tell my parents to let me go hard at whatever I was interested in.

"The cake is a lie."

I'm not quite sure I would want to tell my younger self anything that may inevitably change the outcome of the future. We all knows what happens when people travel back in time, the future gets all screwed up. But if there was one thing, perhaps to not look for validation in what you're doing from other people who don't do what you do.

I would watch and draw inspiration from Steve Job's 'Vision of the world': http://youtu.be/UvEiSa6_EPA

'Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own thing that other people can use'

and 'What would you do if you weren't afraid'

Be quiet. Listen more. Your dad is not a jerk.

(Some of these are specific)

- Stop wasting time watching TV.

- Instead of taking BS classes in highschool, go to a CC and get some college credit so you don't have to kill yourself taking 18 credit semesters just to graduate in 4 years with two majors.

- Stop procrastinating. There are things you'll have to do and doing it sooner is almost always better than later.

You don't have to impress anyone. You don't have to 'be' anyone. Be a Cynic, a Hedonist in the Epicurean sense.

Be weirder.

Avoid all business dealings with ____ and ____. It will spare you from foreclosure, personal bankruptcy and the destruction of your family.

If you don't mind "taking one for the team", consider bringing a taser and a tree chipper to that meeting you're about to go into. Be sure ____ goes in feet first.


Your future self.

Nothing. I would not say a thing, because I would not understand. The reason most adults don't give out advice to younger people is that they lack the experience, scars, and wisdom to understand it. Plus, the person I am today is the result of the person I was back then.

Don't live near where you are born just because you feel like you should. Do your research and move to a city that fits you. It doesn't matter how far away it is. Don't stay somewhere just because you feel tied to that place.

I wish I had realized that 15 years ago.

Thank you for saying this! from a soon-to-be recent grad deciding where to move after college

Get the book "Who's your city". Don't just move somewhere because that's where you find a job. Spend a good amount of time and effort on finding the right city for you (the book explains why this is important). I so wish I had done this long ago - I've lived for 15 years in cities/towns where there is very little to no tech community, and it has been soul-crushing. My next move is a well thought out, planned and researched move - basically so i can be with more people like me.

"You're consistently wrong and stupid. The Internet is forever, if what you're saying feels wrong or stupid, it probably is. Mistakes always seem worse in retrospect."

Among other things that I don't feel comfortable saying in a public forum.

Be excellent. Worry about yourself. If people don't like you, it's not about you, it's about them. Just focus on being the best you can be and you will be successful, happy, and have a ton of friends. Just be excellent.

"Don't waste time on stupid shit."

I'm 46 now, and there are so many things I wanted to do with my life that I don't think I can start now. Some I have tried anyway; banjo, bass guitar; but some I think are going to be forever gone.

Learn more of/from the people you love, they won't be around forever. Get out of broken relationships of any kind sooner. Do more social sports. Make a bit more of whatever, rather than learning more about it.

Things don't need to have a huge scope to be good, do smaller projects and make them good. Flash isn't so bad, just use whatever is easiest to develop in. It'll make you happy, comp sci isn't for you :)

It is good to fail at things.

When you fail, smile, because you realize that you pushed your boundaries, you grew, and you learned something. And then either try again or try something else.

Learning is NOT dependent on school. I am in charge of my education.

Take the initiative and recognize that the stuff worth learning takes tons of work, so stick with it and don't give up!

"Every moment you spent with your family and friends has made you happier. Only some of the moments you spent at work did. So re-focus, why don't you?"

Someday Apple stock is going to be less than $5 a share. Buy lots of it and hold on to it until you have the ability to talk to your younger self. :)

1) Strive for excellence and not success.... it shall follow 2) Don't take anything at face value, question it ...

But, i doubt a younger me would listen ...

Save everything! I still cannot believe I don't have the full backup from my BBS and that I threw away my Entex Adventure Vision....

You know how you are the only one of your friends who knows how to use img tags on myspace? Learn web development and quit myspace.

Dont be a fucking idiot and coast through college. Dont drop out of computer science because youre a lazy piece of shit.

Don't compromise your physical health. Ever. Without it, everything else is harder, perhaps not even possible.

Stop wasting your time in school and build a website for people to "poke" each other. Name it... Facebook.

23 now. I'd tell my 15 year old self to just commit suicide already because it doesn't get any better.

I'm really glad I didn't act on these same impulses when I was that age. It's really hard to keep going sometimes, but when you do, I think you'll look back and be very grateful that you never made that mistake. A lot of things seem or appear insurmountable, especially when you're younger, but I promise things work themselves out in some way or another. You just never know what the next day will bring. Even if you don't really think you will ever commit suicide (or even if you do), instead of wasting time thinking about it, do something that will get you out of your routine, even if it sounds stupid or boring. Many times something as simple as this has helped me shake feelings of hopelessness etc...

Having been this low myself, I can tell you that it can always get better, but fundamentally you have to want it to.

"Don't stuck in relationships just because is it comfortable." and "Don't stay in second tier cities."

Kiss her now!

Your mom?

Stop underestimating yourself.

Likewise, never stop learning.

I'd tell him a lot of things but that idiot wouldn't listen to any of it.

HAHA no, you're not gonna love her forever, you silly horny little kid.

Don't spend so much time titting about on the internet when you are at work....

Oh :-(

Oh, and having kids is THE most completely awesome thing you will ever do, so don't be afraid of it.

And sleeping tablets and laxatives are not a good combo.

The criteria you use for judging other people is completely wrong.

Don't buy that house!

Don't be complacent, either in work or in pleasure.

Spend less, much less. Invest more, much more.

You don't change people, even loved ones.

Travel, it will build your character.

Learn from success, not failure.

Don't live for yourself

Save more money.

Read more.

Grow up.

Current self would tell younger self the exact opposite, except that I was lucky enough to learn that at an early age.

You may have to get older, but you don't have to grow up.


> Buy AAPL

I'm sure they mean "What advice would you give to a youth similar to yourself today?"

But hey if that's legit, then "February 18, 2006: 15, 17, 43, 44, 48, Powerball 29".

Study physics, get lots of women, gamble, produce good science, travel, party hard, math first, don't listen to too many people.

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