If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently? Do you regret how you handled a certain situation, or that you passed up an opportunity you didn’t recognize at the time?
In What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, an anthology by Ellyn Spragin, several women share the advice they wish they had learned when they were younger. In the book, Maya Angelou writes, “You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well. But listen to what she says: ‘When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you—you’ve been raised. You know right from wrong.’ ”
Angelou isn’t the only one to have practiced this exercise. In 2016 former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant wrote a letter to his 17-year-old self. In his letter, Bryant warns the teenage version of himself to be careful giving his loved ones material things and instead advises to present them with opportunities. “Use your success, wealth and influence to put them in the best position to realize their own dreams and find their true purpose,” Bryant writes. “Hold them to the same level of hard work and dedication that it took for you to get to where you are now, and where you will eventually go.”
Although it’s impossible to travel through time, reflecting on the past can be a crucial way for us to learn from history, avoid repeating mistakes and grow from our experience. At the same time, it’s always valuable to study the successes and failures of others, discovering ways you can apply the lessons they’ve learned into your own life. To that end, we asked more than a dozen entrepreneurs, authors, actors and thought leaders: What advice would you give your younger self?
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.