As yet another birthday looms on my horizon, pushing me further into my mid-twenties, it’s hard not to reflect on the past. What would I tell my 18-year-old, if given the chance to travel back in time? What decisions would advise her to make differently? What experiences would I tell her to avoid? What chances would I beg her to take?
Basking in the glow of my flickering birthday candles, I wish I’d known these things when I was younger:
School is Overrated
My high school years were consumed with doing all the right things to land a spot in an Ivy League school- National Merit Scholar, ACT & SAT scores, AP Latin, volunteer projects. Still, the most (and maybe, only) valuable experience in my high school years was working the walk-up window at Kline’s Dairy Bar. It was through that minimum wage experience I learned the power of pleasant communication, necessity of organization, and the value of money.
Formal education is overrated. Don’t get so caught up in academic exercises that you miss out on developing the soft skills necessary for success. In the real world, no one cares about your rigorous curriculum, 4.0 GPA, and stellar standardized test results; all that matters is what you can do.
Never Know Unless You Try
At eighteen, I was terrified of making the wrong decision. Everything seemed to have major, long-term implications- the school I went to, the major I picked, the sorority I rushed, the guys I dated. My decision making was often paralyzed by the sheer magnitude accompanying each progressive step, leaving me looking like a deer in headlights, frozen on the highway of young adulthood. Consequently, I look back as a 25+ year-old, wondering how many of the leaps I was afraid to take, would have turned out. You’ll never know unless you try, so try.
Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone includes you. Recognize mistakes as just a part of the learning process, and don’t get bogged down in the “shouldn’t haves” and “wish I’d…”. Move on! Investments that didn’t pay off, relationships gone sour, unforgiving financial obligations—forgive yourself, and keep moving forward. Recognize that such failures provide you with valuable intel necessary for success in future pursuits. Developing the ability to roll with the punches is essential for one to consistently encounter success. Chalk up setbacks to experience, and look forward to making sounder decisions in the future!
Don’t Apologize for Your Age
Yes, you are young. No, you don’t know as much as a sixty-something entrepreneur, but no one says you have too! Don’t let your youthful inexperience prevent you from pursuing your dreams. Sometimes that youthful naiveté is just what an ingenious business idea needs. Life has a way of teaching you what you need to know; take the leap of faith and be willing to learn as you go.
Start a Business Now
Sure, I’ve lost money. And yes, I’ve made dumb decisions, and not all of my ideas turned into successes. However, among the many challenges I encountered as a young (and inexperienced) entrepreneur, my only regret is that I did not start my own business sooner. Don’t put off launching your dream machine until you know more, are financially secure, or better supported. These idyllic seasons in life are simply figments of the imagination. There will always be reasons to not start a business. Forget the myth of perfect timing and seize the day with starting your company now. There is never a better time than the present.