Life Advice For My Younger, Stupid Self

Similar looking man and boy in black clothes

Photo: Moses Vega

What advice would you give your younger self should you have the chance?

Would you bring back an almanac and tell them to bet their way to riches? Or maybe you’d warn them how all those keg stands will result in them—you—having a rock for a liver?

I, for one, would probably tell myself to invest in cryptocurrency, but that’s a fool’s game, isn’t it? Isn’t our personal growth much more important than just having a few extra bucks in life? After all, if money could solve all our problems, we wouldn’t have so many of the rich and famous taking their own lives.

Not that I’d know. I used to think that I wouldn’t amount to much in life, and that could still turn out to be true. But I’ve done things that my younger self had only dreamt of, so what’s to say what else I’m missing out in life?

When I started dreaming

I remember the first time I entertained a dream that was a tad grandiose.

What if I could be a writer? What if I could one day see my name in the newspapers, and in travel magazines, and in bookstores?

Then I told myself to stay in my own lane, because I was a hairdresser, after all, and I didn’t have any experience or qualifications to switch fields.

Yet for reasons unknown, I still managed to take that leap. I would first see my byline in print, then I would be the subject of those news pieces.

So why didn’t I dare to dream earlier? Why was I limiting myself from all the things I could’ve achieved, had I only applied myself earlier in life?

And that brings us to the point of this article—to dish out advice to my younger self in hopes that I could change the perspective of another teen from halfway across the world. That would be pretty aweesome, wouldn’t it?

So without further ado, I present to you, the top tips I’d give my younger, stupid self (besides buying stocks in Facebook and Google).

Procrastination doesn’t make you as happy as you think

Sure, it’s a no-brainer picking between doing something boring and delaying it till later—the latter always wins. But you need to know that you’re a master procrastinator, and all you’ll have to show for all that lazing around is just three decades of getting by.

Some people would call it ‘listening to your heart’. Others would label as ‘a way of taking it easy on yourself’. You know that’s all bullshit, because no matter how hard the tasks are, at the end of the day, you’ll feel much better having chased a purpose rather than hiding behind the thin veil of ‘downtime’.

When you’re older, you’ll see the value of waking up every morning and going for a run before your day starts. You’ll eat healthy even though all you want to do is pig out on fast food. You’ll maintain a weekly blogging schedule and you won’t miss one day of writing.

It’s not like you even look forward to doing those tasks. In fact, ninety percent of the time, you wished you didn’t have to do them.

But you know what? You’ll feel worse if you don’t drag your ass out of bed and handle business. So stop picking the easy way out. Do the dishes, or the laundry, or finish your damn novel.

Procrastination won’t make you happy, no matter how much your brain tells you it would.

Girl with glasses lazing on a couch

Yeah all that lazing you’ve done ain’t gonna help you one bit. Photo: Adrian Swancar

Impossible is you

You’ll dream about many things—about how you could one day get a career that doesn’t pay USD 400 per month after six years of being in the industry.

You’ll dream of writing a novel, of one day having a Goodreads author page instead of a user profile. Heck, you’ll even dream of seeing your abs for the first time in your life.

None of those dreams will seem possible, so you’ll stow them away somewhere in the back of your mind, until you grow older and realise that you have nothing to lose by taking that first step.

But once you achieve those dreams, you’ll learn that ‘impossible’ is only a term that you set for yourself. No one else will put down your dreams as much as you would, and that’s a very important distinction that you should learn early.

Because your goals aren’t impossible. You just refuse to believe. And even if they were impossible, it’s better to have tried than to be on your deathbed wondering what if.

You’re stronger than you think

Remember that time you tried running for the first time and gassed about 400 metres in? Remember keeping at it anyway, and getting nowhere for about a year?

There’ll come a time when you’ll run five kilometres every time you put your shoes on, and oh, you’ll also pick up martial arts and even compete in tournaments, so don’t for a second think that all these physical pursuits are reserved only for the physically gifted.

When it comes to writing, you’ll also cap your abilities at one article per week. You’ll quickly find out that you can write two 1,000-word articles a day. While on the move. For about twelve to sixteen hours per day.

Life will throw you a curveball or two, and you’ll probably doubt yourself once said challenges roll around, but you’ll always come out of the other side stronger than you were before.

But that’s the thing. You’ve always been strong. You just don’t know it yet.

A boy grimacing while carrying a blue medicine ball

You’re so strong that sometimes you surprise even yourself. Photo: Vance Osterhout

Stop waiting for things to happen

That’s your default course of action, isn’t it? To dream and hope that things just magically happen for you. Well that’s not going to be the case, and it’s important that you figure this out, because all this waiting only serves to turn you into a passive-aggressive asshole.

You always assume that people should know how to behave. That your friends and family should know what you want. That the universe owes you something.

How about you take charge for a change? Take responsibility for something for once. In fact, take responsibility for everything. Only then will you realise how people actually get things done, and that’s by taking action, not waiting.

You want less, not more

You’ll go through a phase where you’ll wish you possessed every worldly item in existence. Clothes? You’ll only want the latest. Watches? Sure. You’ll even go through a work boots phase, and those suckers ain’t cheap.

But in the end, you’re happiest when you have a small number of items you use regularly. And I hate to tell you this (since you’re probably in a hipster phase right now), but your future Insta feed will only consist of you wearing black tees, and you won’t even care anymore.

It’s a necessity to go through these phases though. It’s how you’ll learn that no matter how many things you acquire, you won’t necessarily end up happier than you were before.

You’ll be surprised just how very little you actually need in life. But until then, enjoy your retail therapy.

Forgive yourself

There are some things that I wish I’d started doing sooner in life, like picking up martial arts, writing, and quitting smoking (or not picking it up at all), but what’s past is past, and there’s nothing much I can do other than to look back in wistful longing.

But if I really had a chance to go back in time and tell myself anything, it’d be to embrace the mistakes I’ll make through life, because I’ll make a ton of them.

Everything’s going to be all right, though. Older me understands that the only reason I am who I am today is because of all the mistakes I’ve made.

And you know what? I forgive my younger self for wasting all my time, for destroying my body, and for leaving me damn near unmarketable as an adult. It’s all fine. We did manage to break through in the end, didn’t we?

Maybe that’s the reassurance that my younger self needed to not feel so lost all the time. Maybe it was the nudge he could’ve used during those phases of hopelessness.

Whatever it is, after all’s said and done, I’ll probably also tell him to forget about Yahoo! and invest in Google instead.

52 thoughts on “Life Advice For My Younger, Stupid Self

  1. That was a great post! I could relate to it on many levels, multiple of which you mentioned: Writing a novel, writing blog posts…I’m currently getting back on track with both of these things, whether by continuing writing on three thousand words I’d given up earlier, or getting back to the article a week thing. Thank you for the post tho!! Great inspiration to keep going 😀

  2. Hey Stuart. You hit a nerve with the “stop waiting for things to happen”. That was the young me. The thing is that I didn’t know how to make things happen. When I was a kid/young there was no internet. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn and read everything I wanted. I was very shy and simply waited because I knew nothing else. Then I met a person who asked me why I was thinking so small….That was the start. And now you’ve inspired me and I need to go write it. Thanks Stuart.

    • Oh yeah, I too was on the tail end of growing up without the internet, so I totally get that feel. But then I learned that we have so much more power than we think. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by, Faye!

  3. Greetings! Thanks for the post. A good one. I write because it makes me feel better whenever I complete a blog post, a book review, flash fiction or working on whatever yarns that might not go anywhere.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it. I wanted to comment on your blog but couldn’t find the comments section—I loved that post about the Malaysian you met who was staying in Glasgow. Great work you have there too! Once again, thank you for stopping by!

      • Hi Stuart Thank you for stopping my blog. I have not figured out how to insert a section for comments. The bilingual writer, Chiew-Siah Tei who hailed from Malaysia was invited to speak at one of the events held during the Georgetown Literary Festival in 2013. I recall reading about you having a debut novel published soon. That must be really exciting. Best to you, cheers :)

  4. Thank you for sharing these important lessons. I think we can actually benefit from them at every age, and for sure there are things in there that I have to keep reminding myself of. There is one thing though, that somehow I have always been quite good at, is knowing that “things will get better” and that, eventually I will overcome whatever it is that I am faced with: from an exam and intense studying to a break-up, usually what keeps me going is knowing that there will be an end to it and things will get better! 😊

    • Wow, that’s such a nice perspective to have, and I gotta admit, I find that a tough one to adopt. Maybe I should start training my mind to look at things that way too. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. This is wonderful advice especially about procrastination- I have been procrastinating a lot lately and this was a nice reminder that I need to stop. A lot of this is super relatable too and I think I would tell my younger self a lot of the same things.

  6. For the first part,
    If ever…I could tell my younger self something…it would be this one thing:
    Never forget about ‘Your Love For The Trees’.

    That above is the significant chance. I mean…when I was little, green was my favourite colour and when I was playing Pokemon GBA (whichever version), I would choose the nature types and the green stuff. It is also useful in the video games as it is also associated with ‘Healing’.

    Somehow then, it was like being in a transition from all that…into all the Joker Stuff…but in terms of colour, I wouldn’t wear purple (due to its symbolic meaning)…I ended up wearing all black, which is also for simplicity.

    There were times when I think back…and deep down, the connection with the trees and nature itself…is still there.
    At the same time, something is telling me (just a sense or a feeling)…telling me to move forward and go with Being A Joker. It means to not go back as in…going backwards, and keep on moving forward…in anything.

    Another part, is that to me…I am not missing out in life, even though I did not go out to other countries…travelling around and all. I remember years ago, it was a great fantasy.
    Honestly, my version back in college was to stay with friends from other countries…and I guess since…somehow it temporary came true…but at the same time, I sacrificed a lot.

    Anyway, I do believe that everyone is actually unique and different…and there is no need to be envious of someone because he has this or he has done this…but like, not me.

    Truth be told, I did many mistakes of my own in the past due to…basically being incapable of seeing the FAR BIGGER PICTURE.
    Well, it’s just me in most things…since those ‘Like-minded’ people aren’t easily found.

    ‘Mistakes’ is one thing, but the regret…too much regret and wishing for things to be different…currently and presently.
    For myself even…it is not a healthy form of belief…because basically, There is Only One…Me, which is the one who has gone through everything that has happened in the past…leading to the present.
    Basically, The Accumulation of Myself from birth till now…is Me, and there is no other.

    Woah! I feel somewhat better saying that.

    I mean…we’ll never know if changing certain things in the past could lead to things which we don’t want to happen.
    I did watch the movies called ‘Butterfly Effect’ (all three of them).
    It is quite psychological, explaining about the Chaos Theory/Butterfly Effect…that by changing one little thing (or doing one little thing), could lead to unexpected changes somewhere else.
    In that movie, it refers to a little change in the past…causing unexpected changed to everything that happened after that, leading to the present.

    There is no actual ‘happy ending’ in the movies, but that is because it is about ‘The Butterfly Effect’.
    Like, in the first movie…the main character went back to his time in the womb and committed suicide, since he couldn’t make his life any better no matter how many times he tried to change the past. (in the version of the movie that I have since the first one has multiple endings)

    In the second movie, it is the same ending…but he committed suicide trying to save his girlfriend, since the previous tries…not ending in the way that he wanted.

    The third movie, both protagonist and antagonist could go back in time…and in the end, he went back to kill the antagonist instead of saving her in the fire. The ending shows him having a child and at a picnic…and showing hints that his child…is the reincarnation of the antagonist.

    It is really…hard to grasp for me…about going back to just change one significant thing, but it ends with the rest of the timeline being changed as well.

    If anything, no regrets…and somehow, it does seem like ‘rejecting myself’ if I were to wish for things to be different or going back and change my past events…
    …because however it is, I became who I am right now…as a result of everything that has happened in my past.
    Just…best to just accept myself as I am, love myself as I am, and go on.


    Good Night, Stuart.

    • Whoa, that’s a super comprehensive comment you’ve put out, and I don’t believe I can follow that up, but yeah, in the end, moving forward is always the best option.

      Though if presented with the option to travel back in time, I have to say it is tempting to take the chance and see if I can change anything.

      Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful comments as always!

  7. I think it’s good that you’ve done all this self-reflection. If we analyze what we’ve done, then even if we screwed up it’s not a complete waste because we have gleaned a little wisdom to help us move forward. That being said–don’t do this when you’re depressed.

  8. Stuart, Ive written many letters to my younger self too but they came out in stages with each lesson that I learnt as they came to light. They looked pretty much like yours, in essence I think as we grow and reflect on our past choices we see what we could have done differently. In the end I’ve learnt to appreciate the timing in my choices as I am who I am today because of them. Yes I wish I did things differently, many things and I too feel that I share inhe hopes that the younger generation sees that there is more to life if they just make better choices. The reality is one day they too will look back and say: I should have, I would have and I could have… But what actually matters is that they eventually did and so did you.
    Well done on planting seeds of change in the hearts and minds of many. This is a wholesome post, so valid and needed.,and an enjoyable read 🌸

    • Whoa, your comment really is one of the special ones, because it’s so well thought out with many great points.

      We all like to travel through time in our minds once in a while, and that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Loved what you had to share. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. If I could give my younger self advice it would be “Don’t be afraid.”
    I’m not going to go into the details of it, but developing a fear of life at a young age really stunts some things. It messes with your head and prevents certain things from happening and everyone becomes an enemy at some point with the rule of self-fulfilling prophecy. The fearful mind only has two options: fight or flight. Peace is never on the table, and neither is the truth, because for the fearful mind peace and truth are just avenues to be exploited later for an attack, and no matter what there can be no openings. All that matters is the defense and no opportunity for bad things to happen again.
    If I could tell myself “Don’t be afraid” then there is a good chance I would be different and so would many people I’ve interacted with over the years. I mean, I’m working on the mental barriers now, but it would’ve been a lot easier if my younger self did it first. These mental walls get very tough if you let them age.

    • Oh yeah, I totally get you on the mental walls that have grown and calcified over the years. Now breaking them down takes double the amount of effort, and that excludes starting over and rebuilding what we need.

      It’s a great perspective you shared here, and ‘don’t be afraid’ is a great thing to tell your younger self for sure. Thanks so much for sharing your valuable thoughts!

  10. Pingback: Life Advice For My Younger, Stupid Self – Eduardo Silva✓

    • Aww heartbreaks are a real problem for our younger selves aren’t they? I too learned that heartbreaks aren’t everything, even though they may have felt like that at the time. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Great post! There’s so much I’ve missed in life due to procrastination, unfortunately life cannot be rewinded, otherwise I would have gone back and perfected everything. But then, I’m still around and hope to make a turn around, it’s never too late!

    • Oh yeah. In the end, just knowing that does bring a certain clarity to our days, to allow ourselves not to take our time for granted. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. Wonderful post Stuart. Procrastination is like everyones idea of retirement. Sitting around drinking cocktails on the beach all day. You can only do that for so long before you start hating yourself. If I were to give my younger self some advice it would be, never be afraid to ask for help.

    • Oh yeah, I always think that procrastinating is the thing I want, then I do nothing for a whole day and end up hating myself at the end of it.

      On the days I’m productive (but not necessarily enjoying the need to move from one task to the next), I actually go to bed with a smile on my face. So I guess we humans don’t really WANT an easy life.

      Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I love it.

  13. Wow I resonated with this on so many levels! I have spent a lot of my life dreaming and only now am I starting to put things into action. I think having the mindset that no one is coming to save you has really helped motivate me to go out and get the things I want for my life as brutal as that can be

    • Oh yeah. People may think that the ‘nobody is coming to save you’ mindset is depressing, but it actually is freeing. It’s easier said than done though, and I’m constantly looking for my own way as well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  14. Those are some great pieces of advice! I’ve been trying to work on the “stop waiting for things to happen” one recently. Spontaneous opportunities are great, and we can’t make everything happen through force of will alone. But doing what we can to lay the groundwork for our dreams means a greater chance that opportunities will show up! 😊

    • Oh yeah, there are the cliched sayings of “The harder I work, the luckier I get” and all other equivalent sayings, and I have to agree with those sentiments. In the end, wishful thinking does very little other than to make us desire something even more.

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m always grateful to see your name here :)

    • Whoa, that’s one of the best things you can say, and I’m super thankful for that.

      I’m from Malaysia, so we could be pretty far apart, since the major demographic on WordPress tends not to be from Southeast Asia.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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