6 Things I Wish I Had Known at 18

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1.) Failure Isn’t Final

When we’re young we tend to see every setback and failure as something permanent or as much more serious than it really is. We see todays difficulties as long term issues. We find it hard to see the bigger picture. I have failed at many things in my life for a variety of reasons. It takes some reflection and perspective to see that setbacks will occur, often. Life is challenge. The most interesting stories involve challenges and obstacles. If life was plain sailing we would have no need to grow and evolve. Often the big things when you’re young become small things as you get older. Embrace failure as feedback and something temporary. Then dust yourself off and get back out there.

2.) The Importance of Time

As you get older you start to realise just how quickly time goes by. You also will likely start to become more accustomed to death and just how fragile life can be. Friends, family and people you know will sadly pass away. Let their passing be a lesson that you only get one go at this. Don’t waste it on empty things or on people that don’t make you happy. Work and career are very important aspects but always remember to make time for yourself, your friends and loved ones. The amount of time isn’t as important as the quality. When you’re with people – “be with them” – do you want your last memories with someone to be that you were sitting staring at your phone or half-listening to them while you watched TV? Being present and being a good listener are rare skills in our world full of distractions. I’m not trying to be morbid but let the knowledge of limited time with others guide your actions. Never take anything or anyone for granted.

3.) Effort and Consistency

When we’re young we can get by most of the time without major consequences. We can coast through school and other aspects without needing to put 100% in a lot of the time. We have our parents as a safety net and we’re not subject to a lot of wider pressures. As we go through our lives in further education and employment – you can no longer get away with being lazy or operating on autopilot. You need to give your full attention and effort to tasks consistently or you’ll end up facing the consequences. A lot of tasks in life aren’t about how smart, talented or skilful you are – but how much you commit to something. Let the fable of the tortoise and the hare sink in. Many times those that achieve the most aren’t always the most gifted or talented – they’re the ones that work hard. You reap what you sow. There are consequences to your actions or lack of action.

4.) Small Habits = Big Returns

When you’re young you can get away with a poor diet or not exercising as much, particularly when you’re young and quite active. Once alcohol, lack of time, poor diet and sitting in a chair for several hours a day start to become the norm in your life – each day of small habits – good or bad – starts to compound. You pay the price tomorrow for your choices today. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself or let your hair down. I’m not an athlete or a holistic health expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I have learnt the hard way that what you do in a single day on a regular basis will have long term consequences. I was once advised before starting a job with lots of travel to watch my health and diet by someone who had worked in a similar role years before. 6 months and 24 additional pounds later, I was walking proof that it was solid advice. They spoke from experience and I failed to heed the warning. This works both ways – positive habits have big positive returns. Negative habits have big negative returns. See each day as an opportunity. Slowly chipping away at producing big outcomes. I lost the 24 pounds by flipping those negative habits. Shares in fast food companies likely suffered as a result.

5.) You Need To Learn From Your Mistakes or You’re Doomed to Repeat Them

Mistakes are part of life and growing up. You have to get to used to that idea. Many of us fail to grow accordingly because we fail to reflect on those mistakes. We ignore them through ignorance or possibly not wanting to look at ourselves too harshly in the mirror. Let’s move on. Never mind. While it’s important to not wear your mistakes like a weight – if we . For all of my good intentions when I reflect back on the number of mistakes I made in my 20’s – not once but several times – I realise how I failed to have honest conversations with myself. At times I let my emotions take over from my head. Or I was too naive or not emotionally intelligent enough to pick up on things.

6.) Curiosity is your greatest asset

Curiosity killed the cat goes the saying. But curiosity is your ally on your self-development journey. Children adapt, learn and explore. Somewhere along the line we stop with such “childish notions”. My nephew asked me a few years ago how hot air balloons work. I gave him a basic explanation i.e. hot air rises. But it made me realise something – children usually ask “why?” quite a lot. They’re comfortable at admitting they don’t know something and want the answer. We become ashamed of not knowing as we get older, perhaps we don’t want to seem “stupid” or “incompetent”. We have never been so fortunate to have so much information and knowledge at our finger tips. We can get the answers to so many questions and learn so much about an endless number of topics through books and the internet. Information and access previous generations could only have dreamed of. Many of histories greatest figures demonstrated boundless curiosity – Da Vinci, Edison, Faraday, Franklin, Einstein, Marie Curie, Newton. Yet so many of us have lost the enjoyment of exploring new things and learning. Whether it’s starting a new job, decorating a home, training a dog, staring at the stars, learning a new language, trying a new recipe or planning a trip – curiosity about how to do things, how things work – this is what humans are best at. If you never lose your curiosity you will always find solutions to problems and enjoy the journey of learning and it’s rich rewards.