Sometimes we learn something after it would have been really helpful to know it.
In light of that absolute truth, I am often asked to speak at high schools, universities, and graduate schools, and one of my favorite topics to share with students are the things that I wish I knew when I was younger. After giving many of these talks, I thought I would take the time to share my seven favorite pieces of advice.
Here are seven things that I wish I knew when I was younger.
1. Life Starts Now
Life starts now. It doesn’t start tomorrow, or when you graduate from college, or when you get married, or when you turn 21, or 30, or 40, or 50. It starts right now. Many young people feel like life does not start until graduation (whether it is high school, college, or graduate school). It is easy to miss the purpose for even going to school. I wish that I realized much earlier that I needed to start creating the life that I wanted to live at a much earlier age.
The rules are changing. Everyone is worried about the economy, about jobs, and everything else. But what is really happening? The rules are changing — what worked before isn’t working now. Some people are scared, and maybe they should be. But just remember this — when the rules change, everyone starts at the same place. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how tall you are, even how rich you are. And your age definitely does not matter.
When the rules change, everyone has to start learning from scratch. And anyone can learn faster than anyone else. A sixteen-year-old kid can start the biggest company in the world. A twelve-year-old can change the world. The rules are changing, and there are opportunities for anyone who learns the fastest. So LEARN!
Let me give you some examples.
One man was sexually abused as a child and in 1990, he was homeless. In 1992 he wrote his first play about his life experiences — and he performed the play in an auditorium for 10,000 people. Unfortunately, only 28 people showed up. Imagine that near-empty theater. For six years he rewrote and performed his play, and less than 100 people came each time. Everyone told him he couldn’t do it and it was too hard. He was rejected everywhere he went, so he finally said, I am just going to finance this on my own.
In 2004 he made his first movie for almost no money without help from major studios.
In 2010, Tyler Perry made over 100 million dollars in one year.
You can compete with anyone at any time. Don’t wait to begin chasing your dreams. Start now, and don’t stop.
A young woman attended Harvard Law School, and was one of the top students. But she had an idea. She had to write it down. And then she wrote, and wrote, and wrote. And when she graduated with her law degree from one of the best law schools in the country, she was an author.
And today, Lauren Willig is a best-selling author.
The rules are changing.
One man knew nothing about computer programming. So he stayed up late at night and taught himself how to write code. And then he started a company. He worked during the day and programmed at night. In two years, he hired twelve employees. And after two short years, he sold his company, Instagram, to Facebook, for one billion dollars.
The rules are changing. You can compete with anyone — just learn the rules faster.
2. The Formula
This is the big one. This is the secret to life. If you know this, life will be so much fun.
The secret is:
In that order.
First, DEFINE what you want out of life. Then LEARN what it costs, or what you need to do to get those things that you want. And then DO it. Just do it.
Most people do it in the wrong order. They go to school to LEARN something. Then they DO something. And then what they DO, DEFINES how they live their life.
If you want to be fulfilled and hopefully happy, first figure out what you want out of life. Write it down. Be specific. What do you want to become? WHO do you want to become? How do you want to spend your time? Who do you want to spend your time with? Just write it all down.
And then LEARN what it takes to have that kind of life. Get an education. Napoleon Hill said “an educated man is one who can achieve anything he wants without violating the rights of others.” It doesn’t necessarily mean a formal education. It is a life education. Learn how to live the life that you want to live.
For some, that means going to school. For others, that means developing skills, or working at a certain place. Just learn what it takes, and find people who KNOW what it takes.
And finally, DO it. Just do it. Just do it. Right now. Every day, until you get what you want.
But here is where adversity strikes. Bad things happen. Life happens. Just remember this: Adversity causes weak people to break, and strong people to break records. Adversity is the gift that makes us stronger, and turns us into the people we need to become. When adversity hits, don’t stop. Just plow through it, like a giant bulldozer. That is the secret to life.
3. Money and Happiness
Having money won’t make you happy. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way.
But not having money won’t make you happy either.
Learn how money works now.
4. Work to Learn, Not to Earn.
Work to learn, not to earn. Never take a job just for the money. What you learn on a job is more important than what you earn on the job. Because once you learn enough, you will have no problem earning enough.
If you are working and you stop learning, then stop and evaluate. Some people can work for 30 years — and only have one year of experience, lived 30 times. Other people can work for 30 years and have a lifetime of knowledge. Decide right now to work to learn, and not to earn.
5. Stop Counting the Cost
Stop counting the cost. Stop complaining about hard work. You have to work hard. And it is going to hurt. Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. Someone once asked him, “How many sit-ups do you do every day?”
Ali said, “I have no idea. I don’t start counting until it hurts, until I feel pain. Anyone can train when it doesn’t hurt. But the true champions train when it hurts the most.”
So stop counting the cost, and push through when it hurts.
“I don’t start counting until it hurts.”
6. No Ordinary Moments
You can never get any moment back. Ever. Once it is gone, it is gone. Just remember — there are no ordinary moments. Every moment is a chance for a memory. Every moment something amazing can happen. There are no ordinary moments. Any moment can last a lifetime. Truly, right now can last forever. Stop believing that each and every moment does not count.
Sometimes this does not sink in until you start losing people that you love.
7. No Limits Except the Ones We Set
The only limits you are going to live by are the ones you set for yourself. Everyone around you will try to tell you how the world works, and what it should look like, and what you should do. You can agree with them, or you can create any kind of life that you can dream of. It is up to you.
In the words of a famous screenwriter, “The goal of life is to take everything that made you weird as a kid and get people to pay you money for it when you’re older.”
As a reminder, learn these now so you will not have regrets later:
- Life starts now.
- Define, learn, do — in that order.
- Money will not make you happy, but not having money will not make you happy either.
- Work to learn, not to earn.
- Stop counting the cost.
- There are no ordinary moments. And right now counts forever.
- The only limits you live by are the ones you set for yourself.