Growing up is confusing.
This is a guide to help you navigate your life as you’re trying to figure out the world. I’ve had multiple conversations with students in the last few weeks, and everyone has similar struggles.
You’re not alone.
These struggles also happen to be very similar to my experiences growing up. Since I’ve already lived through it, I thought I’d share my perspective.
If I could go back in time, this is what I’d tell myself:
1. Learn about yourself
Every day you’re learning new things about yourself and changing. Which means every day you’re a slightly different person. It’s hard to keep up with all these changes.
You’re starting to figure out what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, things you like and don’t like, and your beliefs and values.
At the same time, you’re being told dozens of different things by your friends, parents, and teachers. That is confusing you even more! It’s ok. Chill. Take a deep breath. This is normal.
This is all you have to do: think.
Start being conscious of the things you’re good at, then do more of that. Be conscious of what values resonate with you, and stick by them. Pay attention to the people you enjoy being around and develop those relationships.
This also means that you need to rethink things that you’re doing that doesn’t work for you.
Rethink the people you’re hanging around with that hinder your growth and how you spend your time. Because right now, time is your most valuable resource, and it always will be.
I recommend writing down a list of the following:
- What are you good at?
- What are you bad at?
- What do you enjoy?
- What don’t you enjoy?
- Who do you like to be around?
- Who helps you grow?
- Who hinders that growth
After you have this list, take action. Do more of the things you’re good at, do more of the things you enjoy, and spend more time with people that help you grow. Figure out who you are. It doesn’t just happen overnight, and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll understand how you can optimize your life. Be a good person
2. Be a Good Person
People can suck. They will be rude, mean, and put you down. At times they will make you feel unimportant and useless. They will steal from you, ignore you and be selfish.
Don’t be like them.
The world needs more good people, and you’re a good person. Follow these guidelines:
- Don’t say bad things about other people.
- Don’t make jokes about people. It might be funny to you, but it’s not funny to them.
- Do nice things. If you see someone sitting alone, go talk to them. When you notice someone is making fun of another person, do something about it. If someone needs help, help them without expecting anything in return.
- Don’t steal.
- Don’t judge.
- Don’t cheat.
- Don’t make assumptions about people. You don’t know anything about their lives or what they’re thinking.
- If there is someone you don’t like, just ignore them. Distance yourself. Don’t engage.
- Be conscious of others — develop empathy. It’s one of the most important life skills.
Keep an eye out for good people. If you don’t know them well, make an effort to get to know them. Develop relationships with good people, your life will be better.
3. Think about your purpose
You have no idea what you want to do in the world. No idea what the world can do for you. So for now, here is some guidance as you’re thinking about your life and finding your purpose:
Get more information about the world, there are many more opportunities and career paths than ever before. Learn about these opportunities and find the one(s) that resonate with you. The world needs so many things, so don’t limit yourself.
4. Find a mentor
The world around you is built for the masses. You’re not going to be guided on a personal level – the education system isn’t personalized.
Eventually, you will find amazing mentors. You will realize how much you missed out on by not finding smart mentors earlier. You will learn more from these mentors than you ever did in school.
Make it a priority to find a mentor. A good mentor will accelerate your growth. They will help you figure out what you want to do in life, guide you through problems you’re having, and expose you to opportunities.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a mentor. It won’t happen overnight, and it takes time to find the right person/people.
Here are some things you can think about to help you identify a good mentor:
- Who is someone that inspires you?
- Has that person achieved what you want to achieve?
- Has that person failed before? Having gone through failure is very important. It sucks at the time, but the learning experience is priceless.
As you’re looking for a mentor, don’t be entitled. You need to earn the mentorship. Earn their trust and respect by showing progress, keep them up to date.
Ask to meet in-person for advice, but don’t expect them to say yes. Most importantly, don’t expect them to be your mentor from day 1. It’s your duty to invest in the relationship.
5. Take initiative
Stop expecting things to happen. The best opportunities won’t just come to you. You won’t wake up knowing what university you want to go to. Beyond that, you won’t know what program you should take or which job you want afterwards.
You might go into business because you don’t know what else to do. Maybe you should learn more about computer science or bioengineering. Your choices were limited because you expected that you’d just get all the information from the school. School won’t provide all of the information you need to reach your potential.
In university, you begin to realize that there is so much more to the world and it won’t be spoon-fed to you. You have to take the initiative and find opportunities. Eventually, you’ll create your own opportunities by learning how to hustle, network with people, and ask for things.
Once you start setting goals for yourself, you can achieve things you never thought possible. Stop sitting around waiting for things to come to you, go get them yourself!
Don’t be lazy. Don’t feel entitled to getting opportunities because you joined a club or program. Instead, figure out what you want, then go make it happen. Hustle. And then hustle more.
Hear 100 “no’s” before you get a “yes.” Ask yourself, what’s the worst-case scenario?
Often, you’ll realize that the worst-case is the same as if you didn’t do anything at all. And in that case, might as well try!
6. Learn about the world.
You’re in a bubble. There is so much happening in the world, and the pace that information is growing is exponential.
This thing called Facebook just came out and it was made by a university student. You should look into that.
Learn about how this kid built a website using code.
Oh, and remember that cool new phone that was just released? The iPhone? Well, you should think about what the implications are for the future. There’s more happening than what’s going on inside your classroom.
Today, we have so much more innovation than ever before, including Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, CRISPR, Nanotechnology, Augmented Reality, and so much more.
Here are some resources to help you keep updated with the world:
- MIT Technology Review
- The Hustle
- The Knowledge Society
7. Appreciate what you have
Your happiness should not be tied to that t-shirt you really want or those Nike shoes that everyone else has. You have so many amazing things that most people around the world don’t have. You have a family that loves you, you have access to quality education, and you’re healthy.
How many times do you wake up and appreciate that you’re healthy? People have diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and others have broken or missing body parts. Put things into perspective.
Remember this: it’s easier to want what you don’t have than to appreciate what you already have. When you start appreciating what you already have, you’ll find yourself becoming happier, less stressed, and enjoying life.
8. Enjoy the moments
The future hasn’t happened yet, and the past is a memory. Life is made up of moments, and it’s essential to enjoy each one of them.
Be happy. Don’t stress. You never know what’s going to happen next.
Since I’ve already grown up and I can’t take my own advice, I hope this was valuable to you. Too often we don’t discuss how it feels to be a kid, and how hard it is to grow up. We all face feelings of loneliness, stress, and confusion build up. From the discussions I’ve had with multiple younger people, it’s clear that these feelings are extremely common.
The amount of pressure being put on younger people is increasing. Many parents and teachers aren’t aware of the effects. If you feel under pressure, be vocal about it. Communicate with those around you, including your parents, friends, and teachers. It will make things better.
Most importantly, as you’re figuring out life, remember, you’re not alone.