Conversations with your younger self

Apr 29, 2020 | Commentary

A common question in interviews is ‘what you would tell your 18, 20, 30, x year-old self?’

As we navigate the years, the hope is that we gain wisdom, learn things, evolve and progress from who we were to who we will become. With hindsight, it is easier to look back on the things we did, said and thought, and see a different way.

On his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, Ferris often asks this question. I have been re-reading his book Tools of Titans which is a summary of interviews with over a hundred people. I was struck by the variety of answers, for those that were shared in the book.

When answering the question, people will often look at what they would change about their lives and their decisions at that stage. I, personally, have struggled with this it, in all its derivatives.

My mother passed away when I was a year old. Who I am as a human being is the sum of my experiences, my father’s presence and my mother’s absence. If any of that changed, would I be the person I am today? A question I grappled with it quite a bit in my twenties.

By and large, I am comfortable with the person I am today and, more especially, the family that I have. The experiences I have had over the years have helped shape who I am. Every single one of them. The good ones and the bad ones. The peaks and the dips. And I would like to think that I have turned out alright … so far.

Seth Godin said, to Ferriss, when asked ‘what advice would you give your 30-year-old self?’, “I had so many bumps starting when I was 30 years old. They lasted for 9 years, and I wouldn’t tell my 30-year-old self anything. Because if I hadn’t had those bumps, I wouldn’t be me, and I’m glad I’m me,”

I feel the same way. I don’t know that I would change anything about my life’s trajectory since I was 20, or 25, or 30. My younger self will eventually get here. I just hope that my future self is as comfortable with this as I am today.

That said, when asked to give advice to a person who is a younger self today, I often say, “It’s not that deep, whatever it is.”

When we are in the moment, the first time, it often feels like the end of the world. By the time you are in the 30th time, you realise that, hard as it is, you will make it out. It isn’t as deep as what we feel, in the moment.

That said, I am curious: what would you tell your younger self?