Dear Millennials, These Are Things I Wish Somebody Told Me When I Was Your Age

Unsplash, Seth Doyle
Unsplash, Seth Doyle

I lead a team of awesome millennials at work. It’s becoming more obvious after doing so many one-on-ones with them or during our all-hands meetings, that these people in their 20s are much more curious about purpose and meaningful work than I ever was when I was in my 20s. Good, so the world has evolved.

I frequently write emails to my team, mainly inspired from what they asked me during the week. Here’s one that I wrote a while back:

“I’m closing this week with some reflections to what we have done as a team and what I have done as a partner at the firm. As you know, some of you have had one-on-ones with me, and most of the time, these chats ended up being quite philosophical instead of being purely about work.

These thoughts came as many of you have started asking me not-so-random questions to very deep questions…

  • How to avoid being overwhelmed with work?
  • How can I manage my time better?
  • What is self-awareness?
  • Who am I?

I won’t answer all of them, but I’m sharing now some things that I wished somebody would tell me way back when I was still in my 20s:

1. Everything will always be okay.

Look back to the 20+ years you have been alive, and look at the overall grand scheme of things. How many times you’ve gone through difficult moments? Plenty, right? Are you okay right now? I bet you are. Things will always be okay at the end. They also said that, when it’s not okay, then it must not be the end.

2. Being present and being mindful are not clichés.

Your life is right here, right now. It’s the only time you can be happy, it’s the only time you have to take action. It really is the only time you have. Stop feeling guilty about the past, it’s done. Stop feeling anxious about the future, no point, it hasn’t happened yet.

Start your day by being still and really live your day with intention. This means: not letting the day take you over by only reacting to the things that happen that day (i.e. when I call you, when things go crazy, etc). When you are mindful, you respond to things.. you’re not merely reacting to things impulsively. You then have (some) control over your day.

3. Understand that you can plan all you want, but 99.99% of life you can’t control and there’s only one thing you can control, which is your response to life.

Traffic, crazy client requests, work emergency, family emergency.. understand that some of these you can’t control. But just prepare yourself the best you can, then respond accordingly.

One more thing, you also cannot change or control other people. You’re the one who needs to change your response to them.

4. Be magnanimous.

One of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed, said, “To be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.

This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties.”

5. There is only one you.

There’s no separation between the work-you & the life-you. This is also why, I don’t believe in work-life balance. Balance assumes that it is 50–50, this is not 50–50.

If you love what you do, it consumes you. If you love your life outside of work, it also consumes you. Do both, be both. Do all, be all. It’s all the same. Enjoy everything that you have on your plate at this moment.

It’s also the same with your physical self, your mental self, your spiritual self, and your emotional self. It’s all-in-one. Take care of them all. If you don’t take care of them, it will translate into different parts of your life and also it will translate into parts of your work. I have few tips on how to take care of them. Maybe another time, remind me.

6. Ask hard questions. Ask them now. Ask why, five times.

Try to understand yourself. Be self-aware. This shouldn’t be a big journey where you have to go meditate in the woods for a month, but do it every morning after you get up and right before you go to bed.

Ask things like: what do I want to achieve today? how can I do better tomorrow? what happened today? why am I feeling happy/stress/angry? who am I? what kind of life do I want? why do I want this? why? etc.

7. You are the average of the five people that you’re with the most.

Pick friends wisely. Stop hanging out with negative people. Surround yourself with great people and great mentors. Don’t have them? Find them, network, get to know them.

8. Be skeptical.

The world frequently amplifies stupidity. How many stupid people are famous for nothing? How many miracle diets are there? The news can propagate negativity and dramatize many things. Stop consuming these things, do your own research, read a lot, ask lots of questions.

I personally stopped reading the news, except for headlines of business & politics (mostly from the Economist), but I always read books, well-thought out articles, things that are of high quality. No time should be wasted on low-quality junk. But okay, some Instagram memes are funny.. so they don’t count as wasting time :)

9. Take care of your physical self: It’s easier to do when you’re still young and don’t wait until you get sick.

Can’t stress this enough. Eat good food, doesn’t mean you have to be paleo (ahem.. although this helps!), but experiment with yourself, read a lot. Sleep well, at least 7–9 hours/day. Sleep early, get up early. Start an exercise routine: you don’t need to join CrossFit or run a marathon. Stretch, move, walk often.

10. Don’t make decisions out of fear.

I found every time I do this, my life sets itself back for a few years, professionally or personally. I once took a job offer because I was afraid that I would not get another job offer as good as that one…not because I love and believe in the work. I was miserable for 2 years. Don’t do it.

Same thing with your personal life. I once made a decision to stay in a relationship out of fear that nobody else will love me as much as he does, it was 4 years too long, I hurt myself and others in the process.

The opposite of fear is love. Make sure you make decisions because you truthfully love them.

Lastly, my young grasshoppers, I want to let you continue your Sunday with one last thing: be impeccable with your words.

This is ancient Toltec wisdom (taken from the book “The 4 Agreements”). Words are very powerful. Don’t say things you don’t want to happen. Say things you do want to happen. Say things you really mean. Use them in the correct way. Use them to share love. Just how I try to share my love for you all with these words. TC mark

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