22 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self
From celebrities to scientists, doctors to artists, we asked some very successful people to share what they wish they had known when they were younger. You and your kids get all the great advice—no time machine needed!
One bad decision will not ruin your life (even if it feels like at the time)
Courtesy Catherine Bosley
“If there’s one piece of advice I’d give the younger me it would be to understand that success in life is about your body of choices as opposed to one good or bad one. In this day of digital everything, it can feel like everyone is watching you and one wrong move can derail the entire trajectory of your life—but in reality, actions are cumulative. I learned this the hard way when some pictures I thought were private ended up online, sparking a national controversy, humiliation, and cyber-bullying. I thought I was finished. But then I found the strength to rise above it and fight back. I found that mistakes can force you to make other choices that can open up bigger opportunities. On the other hand, one “good” choice, does not mean “good” is here to stay. It takes mindful and constant decision making, failures, and achievements, to acquire overall success and happiness. This means lamenting or celebrating any one choice as if it is the ‘end all or be all’—like I’ve done too many times in my life—is a waste of energy and time.” —Catherine Bosley, veteran TV anchor and reporter and TEDx speaker
Try new things, especially if you think you won’t like them
Courtesy Sharief Z.
“If I could go back in time to my younger self, I would demand that I step outside of my comfort zone more often! I would encourage myself to take part in activities and adventures that my initial reaction is to avoid. Eat new foods! Travel to different countries! Meet people different than yourself! During the times I’ve felt the most discomfort, I ended up learning the most. I was able to absorb the best lessons and knowledge from a different perspective. This is why traveling is so important, it helps you see and learn from an unknown, and also appreciate what you’ve taken for granted previously. ” —Shervin Roohparvar, tech entrepreneur, producer and TV personality on Bravo TV’s Shahs of Sunset. Sounds like good advice to achieve Warren Buffet’s number one measure of success.
‘Done’ is better than ‘perfect but unfinished’
Courtesy Tanya Sam
“Growing up, I would perseverate over making things perfect. I come from a very academic and medial family which meant everyone had degrees to back up their expertise and opinions. Because I didn’t feel as qualified as they were, I would hold myself back and decline opportunities. I finally learned that there are different kinds of smart and that having a drive and will to get things done is just as important. Half the battle is just raising your hand and sticking your neck out there with something—anything. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just make it happen.” —Tanya Sam, Real Housewife of Atlanta personality and Director of Partnerships at TechSquare Labs. These 9 clear signs mean you’re a perfectionist.
Stay away from alcohol
“If I could advise my younger self, I would tell her to be very wary of the lure of alcohol and to educate herself about the realities of addiction. I’ve learned that some people are more genetically prone to alcohol use disorder and after researching my genetics and family history, I discovered I’m one of those people. I struggled with alcoholism for ten years before getting sober in 2009. I also wish I could tell her to refrain from drinking before her brain is fully developed as drinking prior to that can also lead to developing alcohol use disorder. This can be hard, especially for younger people, so I would encourage her to seek out relationships with people who live healthy lives and who love and respect their bodies.” —Claudia Christian, TV actress and founder of C Three Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness for treating alcohol use disorder
Define yourself by your actions, not your title
Courtesy Carol Lempert
“I wish I could tell my younger self that a happy life isn’t about becoming a noun—’actor,’ ‘vice president,’ ‘CEO’—it’s about living life with as many verbs as possible. What I mean by that is that I find so much more meaning from things like helping, learning, and serving, than I ever did from being an ‘actress’ or ‘entrepreneur.’ Being able to see myself as more than my title helped me transition from a career I loved on television to a new and exciting career as a leadership development expert because my identity was based on things I did, not what I called myself.” —Carol Lempert, actress, speaker, author, and leadership consultant
Don’t be afraid to take big risks
“I started my career 25 years ago as a middle school math and science teacher. I loved my job but I wanted to be able to help more students, beyond those in my classroom. I took a risk and decided to go into educational administration, becoming one of the most successful ‘turnaround’ principals in California. The current thought of holding teachers and administrations accountable for everything can make some people afraid to take risks, choosing instead to stick with the status quo. And I definitely made mistakes! But with each risk I took, I learned from it, adapted, and grew. I knew I had the potential to transform classrooms and bring more opportunities for our young people so the risk was worth it. It’s not about doing crazy things; take calculated risks by setting clear, visible goals and holding high expectations for yourself and others.” —Kristyn Klei Borrero, Ed.D., CEO of CT3 and author of Every Student, Every Day: A No-Nonsense Nurturer® Approach to Reaching All Learners
Believe in yourself first and then others will too
Courtesy Liz Jeneault, Faveable.com
“While I’m confident and secure with myself now, I definitely wasn’t that way when I first started out as a news anchor and show host. I would second guess myself all the time! When I first started doing live shots as a reporter, I would get so nervous that it would make me mess up more. I even forgot what I was saying while live on air a couple of times. I was so worried about letting people down or making a fool of myself. I really found my groove after working in the news industry for about four years. At that point, I felt comfortable on the anchor desk and didn’t fear interviewing high-profile politicians anymore. I realized that I got to that point by believing in myself. It may sound a bit cliche but there’s real power in telling yourself ‘Hey, you got this!’ It’s easy to worry about what others are thinking of you and get wound up in that. Focus on what you can do, remember what you’ve learned, and trust your instincts. Because, hey, you got this!” —Liz Jeneault, Emmy-nominated former TV news anchor and show host and VP of marketing for Faveable.com
Just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s good for you
Courtesy Allison Bruning
“I spent a lot of time when I was younger being frustrated that things didn’t always work out the way I wanted them to. As I got older, I began to realize that I couldn’t always see the bigger picture and learned that just because I wanted something didn’t mean it would be good for me (or others). I would tell my younger self to slow down, take a deep breath, and look at every situation through the eyes of everyone involved. Sometimes, we can become so frustrated and closed off to the world that we miss the blessings. And sometimes we don’t understand why something we had wanted right then wasn’t in our best interest until years have passed and we can look back on the situation with fresh eyes.” —Allison Bruning, MFA, author, screenwriter, and publisher
Doing the right thing won’t always feel good. Do it anyhow.
Courtesy Adam Cole
“When I was younger, I had a lot of anxiety and I took that as a sign that what I was doing wasn’t the right thing. Since then I’ve learned that I can’t let my fear or worry stop me from doing things. I’m always going to be anxious, that’s just part of who I am. Instead of trying to structure my life so I’m never worried, I’ve learned to adapt. I wish I could tell younger me, ‘Hey, your anxiety isn’t going to go away when you do the right things. Instead, you’re going to get better at living with it. Don’t think you’re a failure when you still feel anxious, because the sense of failure will only make the anxiety worse. You’re doing great!’.” —Adam Cole, jazz musician, and author
Say “no” more often
Courtesy Dr Froswa' Booker-Drew
“I used to be a yes (wo)man. I said yes to relationships that took more than they gave. I said yes to business partners who cheated me. I was so into saying yes to people, that I even helped people who didn’t ask for my help! I thought my assistance would make a difference to all these people but eventually, I realized they didn’t really want my advice, they wanted to use me as a crutch. I’ve learned that it’s okay to trust my gut, put myself first, and say ‘no’ sometimes!” —Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D., author of Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last and featured in the documentary Friendly Captivity. Here is some advice to help you say no without feeling like everyone is going to hate you.
It’s okay to have “unrealistic” dreams
Courtesy Raz Rogovsky
“When I was doing my Master’s degree in college, I first picked communications because I absolutely loved it. But then people started to tell me it wasn’t a good way to make a living and very few people actually succeed in that field. I came from a family where people had ‘real’ jobs and so I decided I needed to pick something more realistic. I changed my major to psychology, eventually getting both a master’s and PhD in it. But when I started my career I was drawn back to what I loved: communications. Now I spend my days doing research, teaching, and attending conferences where I meet really smart people. And I’m quite successful and happy! Had I dared to follow my dream in the first place, I could have skipped some hardships along the way.” —Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., CEO of Buddy&Soul
It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know
Courtesy Carole Lieberman, M.D.
“When I was younger I would prefer to study or work on projects by myself. It was just easier not having to deal with others! But I’ve learned that in the real world, being able to work with and collaborate with others isn’t just nice, it’s an essential life skill. I would advise my younger self to pay more attention to reaching out and making friends, learning how to establish and maintain good relationships.” —Carole Lieberman, M.D., celebrity psychiatrist, Emmy-nominated TV personality, radio and podcast host, author and speaker
What you hate about yourself now may end up being your best quality
Courtesy Riyadh Riyadh
“When I was younger, I absolutely hated that I was gay. That breaks my heart now because accepting my sexuality and living authentically has lead to all this amazing stuff, including incredible life opportunities, love, romance, and mind-blowing experiences I never imagined before. I wish I could tell younger me to just live unapologetically and stop resisting the real you. Stop trying to conform to what you think is ‘normal.’ Bleed life dry for all it is worth, laugh and play and experiment and explore and own your identity. Walk through those corridors with your little gay head held high knowing that you’re so original, so different and so destined for greatness.” — Riyadh Khalaf, journalist, LGBTQ+ advocate, and author of Yay! You’re Gay! Now what?
Don’t get bogged down in the daily grind
Michael Walker/Courtesy Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D.
“Several years ago I was working as a psychologist and loved TED talks. I wished I could do one but you have to be invited and it seemed like such a big dream and so out of reach! Then I decided to just do a TEDx Talk, something anyone can do. My Talk became so popular that it made it on to TED’s website as a TED Talk. That single achievement opened many career doors for me. It wasn’t until my 40s that I thought to reach for such opportunities. I was so bogged down in my current work responsibilities that I didn’t carve out time to pursue bigger dreams. I wish I could tell my younger self to not get so caught up in the little daily stuff that I forgot to aim for bigger dreams.” —Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D., author, lecturer at University of Cambridge, keynote speaker, and columnist for Psychology Today
Start saving young
Courtesy Adrian Dolo
“As an adult, I understand the importance of savings; as a kid, I loved blowing my cash. I wish I could tell my younger self to save most of the money I got from birthdays and other gifts and put it in a savings account. After it has compounded after five to seven years then I would be able to use it to invest into all the dreams and ideas I had when I was younger. A savings account means you don’t need help from others to achieve your dreams and no one will ever believe your dreams as much as you—at least until it becomes reality.” —Adrian Dolo, entrepreneur and host of the podcast Hipster: The Mid-Night Hour
Don’t compare yourself to others, your journey is your journey
Courtesy Allen Klein
“Ever since I was seven-years-old and saw my first Broadway show, I wanted to be a scenic designer, the person who made those pretty stage pictures. I thought I’d achieved my dream when I got into Yale Drama School to study stage design but after a year, I was asked to leave. They basically told me that I had no talent. I was devastated. I left Yale and went back to New York City where I learned my craft working on off-Broadway shows, apprenticing in summer stock, and failing my first attempt at passing a very stringent union test. It was so frustrating seeing others succeed at my dream while I struggled so much. But I kept at it and passed the second time and I got into the scenic design union. Shortly after I was hired by CBS television where I embarked on my decades-long career. I got to design many TV shows including Captain Kangaroo, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Jackie Gleason Show. Then I realized that while I—the kid who had ‘no talent’—was designing shows on national television, my fellow classmates were still at school designing college productions. I would tell myself to keep trying, don’t compare yourself to others, and everything will work out for the best.” —Allen Klein, aka “Mr. Jollytologist”®, scene designer, TEDx speaker, and author
Focus on being successful, not looking successful
Courtesy Daisy Jing
“Ever since I was young, my dream was to have a designer handbag, like the ones you always see celebrities carrying. They can be thousands of dollars but they seemed so glamorous and a symbol that you had really ‘made it.’ So after my business took off, I decided to finally buy my dream designer handbag. As soon as I got it I realized it definitely wasn’t worth the price. It was pretty but so hard to maintain and ever since then I decided to stop buying things for their external value. I would tell myself that a lot of times things that seem prestigious or fancy don’t really offer any value beyond being a status symbol—and I don’t need status symbols to show I’m successful. My work speaks for itself.” —Daisy Jing, Founder and CEO of Banish skincare, vlogger, and one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30”
Your body is your greatest gift, take care of it
Courtesy Mimi Guarneri, MD
“Too often we are tempted to put our health on the backburner, putting it behind all of our other responsibilities but that can have serious consequences—something I see regularly as a cardiologist. I wish I could tell my younger self how very important it is to take good care of your physical body: eat a plant-based diet and practice yoga and meditation daily. I do these things now, but it would have been even better had I started them at a younger age.” —Mimi Guarneri, MD, Integrative Cardiologist, author, and President of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine
Hard work is so much more important than talent
Courtesy Jill Fairchild
“Being an artist was my dream as long as I could remember and as a child I drew, painted, and created things in every spare moment. But then, as a young college student, I went to a student art showing and was blown away by the sheer talent of the other artists. I thought their work was so beautiful and they were so much more talented than I was, so clearly I could never be a ‘real’ artist. I changed my major and pursued other interests. Then, a few years ago, I decided to take up painting again, just for fun. I had a huge realization: Sure those other artists had talent but I was only seeing the end result of what was likely hours and hours of hard work, not to mention years of honing their skills. I could make beautiful things too, I just had to put the work in. I started painting three times a week, no matter what, then every day. I started my own painting business and now not only do I get to do what I love but I get to help others discover their own beauty. I wish I could go back and tell younger me to stick with it—talent doesn’t make you an artist, it’s what you do with your talent that makes you an artist.” —Jill Fairchild, artist, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast
You won’t always have the luxury of time, so make the most of it now
Courtesy Dundas Media
“Being young gives you the luxury of time but because you’re young, you often don’t realize what an amazing gift that is. When you’re living at your parents’ place, with next to zero expenses, that is the best time to try any idea that comes to mind. You have the freedom to do whatever you want, you have little risk, and plenty of time to bounce back from failure. Also, if most of your friends think your idea is wack, then this means you’re onto something great. Ideas come to us all the time, but once you are stuck in the grind of ‘life’ there is no time to try and execute them. Go hard!” —Jason Dundas, special correspondent for CBS’ Entertainment Tonight, television presenter, and director of Dundas Media
There will always be a solution but it may not always be obvious
Courtesy Kyra Bussanich
“After being diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease, I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet. It felt devastating as I wanted to have my cake (and other baked goods) and eat it too! Over time, I made it my mission to make food that would be every bit as delicious as gluten-heavy items, not just adequate substitutions. In utilizing my Le Cordon Bleu degree, I found a way to do just that and opened my own bakery, Kyra’s Bake Shop. I also had the honor of participating in and winning the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars (which, notably, is not a gluten-free competition). I wish I would tell my younger self that a ‘setback’ is just a state of mind, and can lead to new, incredible opportunities.” —Kyra Bussanich, four-time winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, professional chef and owner of Kyra’s Bake Shop
Stop to think before acting
Courtesy Elena Stokes
“Kids are notoriously impulsive—I sure was and probably still am. It’s likely part of how I got on Tru TV’s Impractical Jokers in the first place. But as I’ve gotten older, some very smart people have taught me a few life lessons that I wish I knew when I was younger. The big thing is to take time to think about all aspects of a problem before rushing in. Ask yourself three things: 1) What is everybody presuming to be true here? 2) What is the framework within which everyone is operating? 3) What are the unspoken rules to which everyone is adhering? Answering those questions trains you to think differently to solve anything life throws at you. The second thing I wish I could tell my younger self is to treasure your hair! Because, as they say, hair today, gone tomorrow.” —James Murray, TV actor, producer, and author of The Brink