10 Things I Would’ve Told Myself 10 Years Ago
An open letter to my past self – and the class of 2022.
I was asked to share a letter of ‘wisdom’ to the graduating class of the high school I attended. Obviously, I’m incredibly flattered.
So I spent some time reflecting on my time as a student. Thinking about what my priorities were. The goals I wanted to accomplish. How I saw the world. And with everything I’ve learned in the last 10 years, this is what I would’ve told myself.
To the class of 2022 - and beyond,
There are a handful of moments in our lives when we’re required to make a big leap to the other side, and graduating is one of those moments. It’s a tremendous achievement.
Whichever remarkable thing you decide to do next — whether it’s continuing your studies at a university, starting a business, or taking time off, consider what I’m about to share next, as these are the 10 things that I would’ve told myself 10 years ago.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not necessarily the wisest person, but I am surrounded by wise friends. Consider this a curation of everything I’ve stolen over the years from people smarter than me.
The amount of serendipity that occurs in your life is directly proportional to how much action you take. In other words, ‘luck’ can be manufactured.
Experiment more. Open up your mind. Talk to new people. Muster the courage to do something you normally wouldn’t do. Be serendipitous.
Go down deep rabbit holes
The phrase ‘rabbit hole’ is a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice chases a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, discovering a whole new world — a hidden realm called Wonderland — beginning the start of her adventure.
The metaphorical rabbit hole refers to devoting a large chunk of time and energy exploring a particular topic. Rabbit holes are healthy. They indicate a personal comparative advantage (it’s effortless) and allow for depth, which, in a world full of noise, is rare. Just remember to come back up for air.
Discover your ‘Zone Of Genius’
You’ll eventually find a harmonious place that some call the ‘Zone Of Genius’. It’s a place that lies in the intersection of what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what the world values.
Going down rabbit holes and trying new things can help you figure out what you enjoy doing. The more you explore, the more clarity you’ll get. You'll learn what you're good at by doing things in real-world situations. And finally, you’ll learn about what the world values through consistent, iterative feedback.
Learn to build or sell
There’s a saying that goes:
"Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable."
— Naval Ravikant
Our world is driven by technology and software. This wouldn’t have been possible without builders.
In job interviews, you’re selling yourself. As a leader in a corporation, you’re selling your organization. As a founder, you’re selling your company. You’re always selling.
In school, we’re often taught the counterintuitive idea that longer is more valuable. In the real world, we’re competing for time and attention, and purposeful brevity is what produces impact.
Learn to communicate well. Be plainspoken, intentional, and clear.
Form deep relationships and weak ties
Your relationships are your destiny — a universal truth supported by research in fields of social networking and contagion. We are the people we spend time with.
Deep relationships include those with your mom, your dad, and best friends. Weak ties, on the other hand, are your acquaintances or strangers with a shared cultural background.
Both are important. We live for deep relationships, which provide significance to our lives and the people we care about. Weak ties allow you to exponentially broaden your social map.
In forming these relationships, remember to give first and give more.
Surround yourself with positivity and brilliance
There’s no denying that we’re impressionable creatures. We’re greatly influenced by the people we spend time with. Some can inspire and challenge us, but others may discourage and dispirit us.
Be around those who are positive, brilliant, and inspiring.
There is no substitute for hard work
Thomas Edison once said “There is no substitute for hard work”. A mantra that led him to inventing the lightbulb after 1,000 unsuccessful attempts.
Hard work is less about sheer will and discipline and more about designing your environment with systems and habits to bring you to your desired outcomes.
Work hard, consistently. A 1% improvement every day results in a 38x improvement by the end of the year.
Remember you are human
But be kind to yourself as well. You’re not invincible, and we all have fundamental needs that we must meet in order to not just live, but thrive. Getting eight hours of sleep every night. A healthy, balanced meal. Consistent exercise. Sunlight. And water - lots of it.
It’s easy to lose sight of the basics when you’re immersed in a challenging task. I certainly did. Remember to check in on a regular basis to ensure you’re meeting your needs.
Laugh at yourself
And finally, remember not to take anything too seriously. We only have a limited amount of time on this planet - we should optimize for happiness and devote energy to what we’re passionate about.
Be happy, be grateful, and remember to laugh.
Enjoy this moment and what lies ahead. Wishing you all a serendipitous, meaningful, and fun journey.
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