Dear 16 Year Old,
For your birthday, I wish to share some advice. You’re turning 16. You will probably ignore the majority of this advice for awhile. And that’s ok, but frankly, the only reason why older people are so well suited for giving advice is simply because of experience. More time on earth = more experience. So here goes:
1) Read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s an oldie (even now!), but a goodie. His advice is timeless. I read it in high school and have never forgotten much of his advice.
2) Always take the high road. You’ll have arguments and disagreements with people and plenty of opportunities to give a low blow. Don’t do it. You will have your heart broken and want to exact revenge. Don’t.
3) Follow the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m not a religious person, but always believe that you can be a moral and good person if you follow this simple rule. It applies to everything. Promptness, trustworthiness, communication, etc.
4) Go to the best college you get into. Right or wrong, people will judge your capabilities on a brand name – the college that you choose to attend. Your parents might say money is an issue. It’s not – ignore them here… every school has very generous financial aid packages. Where you go to college can set the course of your life in so many ways – the jobs that are available to you, the friends you meet, the future networking opportunities, etc.
5) Always strive to balance the present and the future. Life is short – and as you get older, you’ll realize time is the commodity in short supply, not money. However, if you do not save and don’t plan, you’ll never know that luxury. You’ll always struggle to make ends meet. You must always save and invest your money. Always keep an eye towards the future, but don’t forget to have some fun in the moment. The truth is, we never know when it’s our time to go, and I’d advise you to live life such that if you die at any age, you’ll have lived your life as fully as you can for that age.
6) Open a Roth IRA – NOW!! Speaking of money and investing, this is the year you should open a Roth IRA. The compounding effect of investing your money is the single greatest mathematical equation that you can use to your advantage. A Roth IRA puts your money in after you have paid taxes and when you’re old lets you take it out TAX-FREE! This is huge.
7) Travel often and for long periods. Some of my best memories are of traveling Southeast Asia for months on end in my twenties. Go solo. You’ll meet people along the way and will never truly be alone. You’ll forge friendships to last a lifetime. See the world. It’s huge and amazing and gets a lot harder to do when you’re glued to your sofa during your baby’s naptime. Go while you can (I recommend in your twenties when you have a few years of work experience under your belt so you’re very employable when you get back). Again, it’s that have fun in the moment, but plan for the future thing – life is always a balance.
8) Be present. You know where I’d like to be right now? Getting a massage. Or sipping a drink on a beach. Or skiing down a mountain. Or eating a tasty meal with friends. Or writing this letter to you. The problem is – you can only ever be in one place at one time, so enjoy where you are. Don’t be on a beach dreaming of the mountains. Live your dream in that moment.
9) Love deeply and passionately. The harsh reality is that ALL of your relationships (except one, hopefully!) will end. You’ll break some hearts and you will have your heart broken. Many will elicit no memorable emotions. Love anyway – in spite of the risk of heart break, because honey, your heart will be broken.
Enjoy life! Your best years are ahead of you!
Lots of love,
A 35 Year Old