Advice to My 25-Year-Old Self

I regularly listen to the Tim Ferriss Podcast.  In fact, it’s the only podcast I listen to.

A question he asks nearly every guest is:

What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self (or whatever age is about half your current age)? 

For me, that was late-1992.  I’d been married for four years.  We had a two-year-old daughter, and our newest daughter had just arrived.  We’d purchased our first home in 1990 (at the high-point in the market before a 5-year down cycle).  I was about two years into my first management job, working in the healthcare industry.

Here are 10 things I’d like my 25-year-old self to know (in no particular order):

  1. Don’t change a thing! You’re about to be blessed with 25 years of awesomeness.  You may not realize it while it’s happening, but trust me, it’s going to be amazing!  You will face triumph and tragedy, hardship and happiness.  Take lots of photos and videos so you can remember just how small your kids were and the things they used to say.  You’ll get a kick out of the photos of yourself when you actually had hair and it wasn’t all gray.
  1. Take time to write about the things you’re experiencing, what you’re thinking about, and what’s motivating you. These things will probably change as you get older and you might appreciate seeing where your thinking started compared to where it is in 25 years.
  1. Be sure that you include the words, “Have Fun” in as many of your mission statements and plans as possible. These words are easy to forget while focusing on the day-to-day dramas that you will inevitably let drive your life.
  1. Seek out mentors, and be a mentor to others. Find ways to serve others while never thinking of how you’ll be “paid back.”  You’ll do a pretty good job at this, but it’ll take you many years to get started, and those are years you’ll never get back.
  1. It’s okay to ask for help or admit that you don’t know everything. “Knowing everything” and getting the highest score in all your classes may have brought you straight A’s, but trust me when I tell you that you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do.  You never will.  Here’s a corollary:  when you think you’ve thought about every angle of a problem, or come up with every contingency in considering a new strategy or idea, you haven’t.  The only way you’ll ever approach a full understanding of a new strategy or idea is to get lots of other people involved.  Have the patience and humility to do this on a regular basis.
  1. You are surrounded by the love of God. You need to take the time I didn’t take at your age to realize it.  The signs of His love are all around you.  Stop and listen.  Stop and look.  Just stop.  What are you running from?  It’s going to take you another 20-plus years to realize this unless you follow my advice today.
  1. When you look at starting that new home automation business (it’s a long story), remember that the most important question in any business, especially small businesses, is who is your customer and how will they find you? The next most important question is why should this elusive customer come to you for your service or product?  Until you can answer these questions, you’re wasting time (and money) on everything else.
  1. Realize that just about everything takes longer than planned. As you make progress in your career, initiatives that you think should take 3-6 months to complete will actually take years to fully bear fruit.  Practice looking at things on a longer horizon.
  1. Read more fiction, especially science fiction. It’s a great way to declutter your mind.  Of course, books come on paper in your time and we have these new devices that make reading so convenient.  Don’t let that deter you.
  1. I recently heard this, and it’s something you should consider…you can always go back to the museum. What do I mean?  Most people go to places like museums, theme parks, other states, or other countries only once.  At least, that’s their plan.  With that in mind, they try to cram everything into their “one and only” visit.  Their visit becomes a long checklist of things to do and things to see.  Instead, approach your visits with a plan to return again someday.  Focus on the few and leave the rest for your next visit.  Be present and let go of the checklist.

Bonus advice:  You’ll have trouble with that patience and humility thing, but embracing these will be your key to happiness.  There is no checklist.  Life isn’t a race.  Life isn’t a destination.  It’s a journey and an infinite opportunity for experience.

Realize that you aren’t the one holding the compass and you’ll find more joy than you ever thought possible.


Photo Credit:, Justin Tietsworth

Entering the Advise and Hope Phase

My role is to provide the best advice possible, asking the tough questions that nobody else will ask…

For the past six months or so, I’ve been a management consultant. I’ve also coached a couple people who want to improve their performance as managers and leaders.

Over the years, I’ve known a number of consultants, lawyers, and others who provide ad hoc services to companies and individuals. They always talked about how they loved their work. They tackled challenging situations for their clients. They provided excellent advice about how to work through them. It may have been how to grow a new business, limit risks associated with an existing business, or maybe the best way to find and retain the right talent.

And yet, there was always something missing. The missing ingredient? They didn’t own the execution of their advice. In fact, there’s no guarantee that their clients would even take their advice and run with it. They were in the “advise and hope” business.

I didn’t fully understand this distinction until my children became adults. As a parent, I enjoyed teaching our kids the ways of the world. Talking through new situations, and helping equip them to make sound decisions on their own. When they started actually making those (hopefully) sound decisions for themselves, I realized I had entered the “advise and hope” phase of parenting. I’m pleased that my children often seek my advice, but I know that the final decisions are up to them…as it should be.

Having experienced this subtle shift in my role as a parent made the recent shift in my professional life a bit easier. I fully understand that no matter how great (from my perspective, of course) my advice is, ultimately the client determines their next steps. They choose which parts of my advice to take, and which to ignore.

My role is to provide the best advice possible, asking the tough questions that nobody else will ask. After that, it is up to my client. I don’t get to own their decisions.

I own one thing: my sincerest hope that I can help my clients achieve success, even if they ignore some of my best advice.

Top 9 Things New Parents Need to Remember

My daughter and son-in-law just had their first baby.  His name is James, and he’s one week old.

Inspired by our new grandson, I thought I’d give some advice about parenting.  Trust me when I say that I’m no expert.  Then again, I don’t think anyone is truly an expert in this, the oldest of callings.  With that in mind, here’s my Top 9:

1.  No child is perfect.  Precious, yes.  The center of your universe, yes.  Perfect, no.  They will make mistakes, just like you.  They will have difficult challenges (real and imagined) in their life, just like you.  They will need someone to support them in good times and bad, just like you.  They will occasionally need someone to point them in a new direction, just like you.

2.  Children learn what you teach them.  This sounds obvious, but I think some parents forget this truism.  You should always have an eye on what you are teaching through your words and actions.  Everything you do, say, and value, are always on display for your kids.  The way you handle challenges, approach new ideas, enjoy your day, place value on accomplishment, and take the time (or not) to notice the small pleasures in life, are all teaching your child how to approach life.  Kids have a voracious thirst for new knowledge.  Have fun helping them chase down new things to learn.

3.  Enjoy sharing the things you do with your child.  If you’re doing yard work, get your child involved, even if it’s only to hold the bag while you dump leaves into it.  Building the latest piece of your Ikea collection?  Get them in there with you.  Their “help” may double the amount of time the project takes, but your child will learn what it’s like to work on projects and see them through to completion.  Are you thinking about flying a kite?  Don’t just show them the flying part.  Get them involved in picking out the kite, assembling it, and figuring out which way to point it into the wind.

4.  Child development is similar to sculpting clay.  When clay is new, it’s pliable, easily shaped, and flexible.  You start with the big sweeping parts of the shape, and then hone-in on the finer details.  As you work the clay, it begins to dry.  It becomes less pliable.  It starts to stand on its own.  As the clay continues to dry, even slight adjustments are difficult.

What you do to shape your child’s view of the world, their understanding of right and wrong, the importance of serving others, understanding how their decisions impact themselves and others, needs to happen as early as possible.  The foundational shaping of a productive and independent adult happens very early.

Shaping the clay is only half the challenge.  To fully mature and keep its shape, clay needs to be fired in a kiln and heated to extremely high temperatures…a true trial by fire.  Your child will face many trials by fire.  Many will be theirs alone, while some will be shared with their parents.  Give your child (and yourself) the freedom to succeed and fail in the various trials of life.  Always remember the main goal is to help your child become the greatest version of themselves they can, have lasting values, and be someone who can stand the heat and come out better for it.

5.  Laugh with each other, and at each other…a lot.

6.  Parenting isn’t a democracy.  Parents make the rules.  Your child needs the structure that comes from a well-disciplined environment that you create.        

7.  If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to tell your child about it.  They can learn just as much from your mistakes as they can from their own.  In fact, they will probably learn more from how you handle your mistake than the actual mistake.

8.  Kids need balance as much as adults.  Adults often talk about trying to achieve an optimal life-work balance.  The same thing should apply to kids. This may mean that they can’t play on the club soccer team, take sailing lessons, and have a lead part in the school play all at the same time.  Help your kids make trade-off’s to achieve an optimal balance of activities, school, work, etc.  Some of the most valuable time in a kid’s life is the “down time” relaxing with their parents.  As much as people talk about “quality time” with their kids, I think there is also a lot of value in “quantity time” that shouldn’t be forgotten in the hustle to do more with each day.

9.  The greatest gift a mom and dad can give to their child is to love each other.  Take the time to ensure that your child gets to see the love between their parents grow each day.  A loving family is a delight to behold, and your child will revel in such a nurturing environment.

9 ¾.  Your goal should be to help your child become a productive and independent adult, who adds value to their community.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Advice for a New 21 Year Old

Janet and I have the pleasure of knowing some great young people.  More than a few of them have either turned 21 within the last year or so, or they are going to be turning 21 this year.  One of them, Katie, is turning 21 today.  Our daughter, Jennifer, will turn 21 in September.  With this in mind, here’s some advice for these new 21 year olds:

First, some tips regarding alcohol consumption:

If you choose to drink alcohol…

  • Do NOT mix your colors…unless you have ONE Long Island Iced Tea (and never two in one night).
  • Skip Tequila, and don’t be fooled by the expensive stuff.  It will give you a headache just as much as the cheap stuff.
  • Avoid shots of Tequila, Jagermeister, Goldshlager, Peppermint Schnapps, Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, etc., unless you are snow skiing, in which case an occasional sip of Peppermint Schnapps at the top of the mountain can be a good thing.
  • I highly recommend rum, and not the clear stuff they put in daiquiris.  Dark rum is the best, and Appleton Estate is the best of the dark rums.  Mix it with lots of ice and Sprite.  If spiced rum is your thing, make it Captain Morgan’s, and mix it with Dr. Pepper.
  • For each cocktail or beer you drink, chase it with 16 ounces of water…and then have at least 16 more ounces just before you go to bed.  You will thank yourself the next day.
  • The most important piece of advice in this section:  never drink to get drunk.  If that’s your goal, you shouldn’t be anywhere near it.  2-3 cocktails, or 3-4 beers should be the maximum consumption in any particular day (remember 16 ounces of water after each one).  You control what you consume, never forget it.

Some tips on gambling:

If you choose to gamble…

  • Determine what you can afford to lose before you enter the casino, and only take that much cash with you.
  • If you win, use the House’s money (what you won), and put away your own money.
  • The “free” drinks are nice, but remember the tips about alcohol consumption above.
  • If you play roulette, I recommend placing some chips on 32 Red.
  • If you play blackjack, don’t hit on anything over 11, if the dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.  Let them bust.
  • For the tip above to be most effective, you need to be sitting in the “third-base” seat, which is the last one before the dealer gets his/her cards.  That way, some “amateur” won’t mess things up by ignoring this rule.
  • If you lose three hands in a row at blackjack, switch tables.
  • Always double-down on an 11 (you gotta live a little!).
  • In craps, never play Big 6 or Big 8…better to place the 6 and 8, instead.  While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to place the 5 and 9.
  • Ask the dealers about the proper odds on your “place” bets.  This will maximize your winnings in craps.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw out a “Yo” bet every now and then…sure, it’s a sucker bet, but it pays 15-to-1 odds, and 11 comes up more often than you think in craps.
  • The older I get, the more I appreciate the awesome shows in Vegas, instead of gambling.  Check them out, you may find the same thing.

Some tips on high finance:

  • Go to a trade school, or get a bachelor’s degree.  Hopefully, by age 21, you’re already halfway through this one.  Stick with it!
  • A corollary of the tip above…work in your area of study before you graduate.  This will help you learn more about your chosen field, make valuable connections, and give you a competitive advantage in the job market after graduation.  Do this, even if you have to work for free (you are investing in your future).
  • Find mentors.  Why is this a finance tip?  Because good mentors will help you realize your full potential, which should help you maximize your income.
  • Make time to stay connected to people you’ve worked with.  Build a strong personal network.  Be there for others, and don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
  • If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Don’t be fooled by any “deal” that has a gigantic upside, with little or no investment required from you.  It is most likely a scam.  Always be skeptical, and don’t be rushed into anything that involves investing your money.
  • If you don’t understand what you are investing in, don’t do it.  Do your research…again, never be rushed.
  • When it comes to spending your money, YOU are the customer!  Remember the “finance” version of the Golden Rule…he/she who has the gold gets to make the rules.  Be the one with the proverbial gold.
  • Save at least 10% of your income, every month.  Don’t be afraid to up that percentage.
  • Find a financial advisor you can trust…preferably one that is referred to you by someone you trust who has worked successfully with this advisor for many years.
  • Maximize your 401k and IRA savings accounts…start early.  Embrace the genius of compound interest…Einstein referred to it as the greatest invention of mankind.

Tips for good living:

  • Never fall into the trap of comparative happiness.  Your happiness is never dictated by how happy or successful someone else is.  There is almost always going to be someone who appears to be richer, taller, more beautiful, faster, stronger, more popular, smarter, or more successful than you.  Whether they are or not shouldn’t matter to you.
  • Your tombstone won’t say much about where you worked during your life.  Keep your priorities straight throughout your life.
  • If you are lucky enough to find the love of your life and marry this person, think about how you can serve your spouse, every day…and do it!
  • Life is a journey, not a destination.  Bring your family and friends along for the ride.  Enjoy it while it lasts!

%d bloggers like this: