I was speaking to a group of college students this week, and during part of my presentation, I did a Q&A. Lots of questions were coming my way, and all them were more or less thoughtful and intelligent questions. But my favorite question was this: “Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?”
I didn’t skip a beat. Here is what I rattled off:
First, time management. I would tell my younger self that so many of us waste so much time, and therefore, it is imperative to be mindful of my time, to stop squandering it, to manage it to my advantage. It is one of the most important skills we can develop.
Second, I would have urged my younger self to surround myself with people who are accomplished and much smarter than I. To have mentors in my life who might help to shorten my learning curve, and enable me to learn from their mistakes and their success.
Third, I would advise myself to select my friends very carefully. As with mentors, to surround myself with peers, friends, who are good and true, and who are bent on accomplishment, and who are going places. To avoid having people in my social circle who are not motivated, to steer clear of people who are not curious, to not fraternize with people who traffic in or abuse illegal drugs, and to shun people who are lacking in integrity or decency. I have recently come to realize that I have kept some friendships for about 40 years that I should not have maintained – and have since ended. Why were we friends in the first place?
Fourth, and finally, I would urge my younger self to commit to reading books on a regular basis. I would point out that if I started the process at, say, age 24 and continued it to age 89, at a rate of 4 books per month, I would read something in the neighborhood of 4,608 books in that time frame. In fact, while I am somewhat voracious reader, even at my age today, were I to recommit myself to such a pace, I could still put away about 1,100 more books.
This is what came to me in that moment during the Q&A. I hope they took notes. More importantly, I hope they take action. And even more importantly, I hope you take action.
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