“I wish I’d known then what I know now.”
It’s a common refrain for those who start putting years behind them. Hindsight can be a powerful motivational force that helps us evolve into a more successful and whole individual. Great. But can we skip a bit of the trial and error? You bet.
Related: 7 Life Truths I Wish I Knew Sooner
We can look to those who have walked the road before us to avoid pitfalls and make farsighted decisions about our own future. In the same way a classic business book can save us years of ineffectual hustle, looking at others to model their success and avoid their mistakes can lead us to the money, freedom and fulfilment we desire.
We canvassed the brightest minds above 30 to bring you this sage advice.
Business and Work
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” —Napoleon Hill
Even if the first one fails—and the statistics say it probably will—you’re gaining critical skills for the next project.
Ask for responsibility that’s just outside your comfort zone. You’ll grow a lot, and impress your bosses.
“Not a fading one. Fax machines in the ’80s was a great business. Today, not so much. Social media today is a good example.” ―James Sbrolla, entrepreneur-in-residence, RIC Center Business Incubator
“Travel when you are old and rich.” ―Doug Feaver, entrepreneur and real estate investor
“Every company has its own distinct work and office culture, and ideally you’ll find a company whose values reflect and resonate with your own. Otherwise, it could get awful, with you feeling compromised and going against the grain.” ―Sam Hiyate, president of the Rights Factory literary agency
“Eventually other people will too.” ―Doug Feaver
“People will always be making demands on your time, and the sooner you learn how to negotiate with your bosses, your colleagues and in your personal life, the happier you’ll be.” ―Sam Hiyate
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ―Mark Twain
Compound interest in the hands of a 20-year-old is a fearsome weapon.
“No one is going to give you a business loan if you can’t pay your credit card bill.” ―Doug Feaver
“Focus on the long game.” ―James Sbrolla
“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.” ―Roy T. Bennett
Hire a trainer to teach you proper exercise techniques. Some people waste years doing it wrong, or hurt themselves.
We can be laid off. Our portfolio might crumble. But knowledge pays dividends that can’t be lost.
“People 10, 20 and 40 years older than you can form a team that teaches you from their experiences.” ―James Sbrolla
14. Learn to cook.
“I’m not talking grilled cheese, here. Learn a few basic skills and perfect one great dish. It will come in handy somewhere along the line.” ―Alison Wojkowski, award-winning teacher
“Anything from salsa dancing to fencing. Expand your frame of reference in the physical realm.” ―Anthony Coletti, podcast host
“It’s not finished at a certain age or at graduation. Keep learning.” ―James Sbrolla
“I’m always struck by how many languages our European counterparts speak. I am bilingual, but wish I had a few more fluent languages in my pocket.” ―Alison Wojkowski
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” ―Ernest Hemingway
Give up on your false friends and drinking buddies. Ask yourself how much joy you get from these outings.
“Very rarely does anyone find the ‘right’ life mate without discovering who one is best suited for via trial and error.” ―Garth Sam, life coach
“It’s as simple as taking a few deep breaths before getting out of the car, stepping into that meeting or answering that email or phone call. This transforms reaction into creation. Creating spaces in between our interactions and responses with people allows for love to flow in.” ―Mimi B. Martinoski, author
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” ―Marcus Aurelius
“Giant mortgages and car payments are dream killers.” ―Doug Feaver
“Not with roommates. Not with your parents. Not with your significant other. Go solo for a year or so and get to know who you are when no one else is around.” ―Alison Wojkowski
“Talk to strangers, take public speaking or improv classes. Learning how to be comfortable in the uncomfortable will surely pay dividends in the future.” ―Anthony Coletti
“Nothing motivates better than having no choice but to win. Nothing motivates less than comfort.” ―Doug Feaver
“It will not only give you experience, but also open your mind and heart.” ―Jesika Briones, former business development manager, MaRS business accelerator
“Preferably in the developing world because these parts of the world are changing the fastest.” ―Garth Sam
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” ―Octavia E. Butler
“Life is always going to challenge one. Therefore, starting each day with 20 minutes of stillness (check out the Headspace app) will plug you in to higher wisdom for the rest of the day. Remember, the lamp only lights up when it’s plugged in.” ―Mimi B. Martinoski
“It’s no longer only for the yogis and spiritually enlightened. Many world leaders and top performers meditate daily.” —Anthony Coletti
“For clarity, stress management, to better understand yourself and to deepen your connection to all.” ―Garth Sam
(Did we mention that meditation is important?)
“Get enough sleep, work out, meditate and have a great personal life so you’ll be more productive at work. Master this motto by your 30s and you’ll accomplish way more than those staying up all night to meet deadlines.”―Sam Hiyate
You might have noticed the common threads binding these maxims. Each item requires action from you.
Your mentorship team above invites you to try something new. Becoming a person you’ve never been before demands that you do things you’ve never done.
I know how tired you are when you get home from an 8- or 10-hour workday. I know how automatic it can be to get home and hit the couch. To break the cycle, take a page from the Stoics and use your death as motivation. Yes, how uplifting! (But it works.)
- Close your eyes and imagine your deathbed.
- Picture telling yourself that scrolling through all those Instagram accounts and digging up all those interesting YouTube videos justifies all your regrets.
- Laugh uncomfortably.
- Now, pick something from our list and take action.