You know how teachers, parents, and dates always like to ask, “What do you see yourself doing in ten years?”
Well, a lot has happened in the last ten years, and though I’m not where I expected to be, I’m happy where I am, and I’ve learned a lot. And though I don’t have any regrets, there are several lessons that would have made the ride smoother, or at least more comfortable, had I known them ten years ago. So this is advice I give my ten-years-ago self, in hopes that it might benefit someone else in a similar situation.
1. Education is more important than schooling.
Don’t get me wrong, schooling is incredibly valuable! But the things that have made me most successful are the things I learned while studying stuff that wasn’t required for school. Obviously, some careers require the paper diploma, but the skills used in a career don’t. And the stuff that sets you apart from all the other diploma holders (and non-diploma holders), is what you teach yourself during your off hours.
2. You can do a lot more than you think you can.
This is a big one. While there are many paved roads to desired destinations, there are far more roads “less traveled by,” and sometimes the best path for you to get to a destination is by a route that has never been tried. You always have more options than you think you do, and when you genuinely put in the effort, things will go much better than you think they will.
3. You don’t need X amount of dollars to make it.
There’s no shame in poverty, especially when you have a goal, a mission, and a plan. Likewise, you don’t need a regular paycheck to live. Having your own business often involves extremely inconsistent funds. A great month doesn’t mean a short time of higher living, but it’s what makes life possible during the inevitable bad months. Oh, and you can survive on a single income—even with a big family, and that income is really small.
4. (Similarly) Financial survival while starting a business requires learning to be ridiculously smart/clever with money.
We’ve had to learn several tricks over the years, but while going full time with our family business, we’ve had to become even more savvy about saving, budgeting, and preparing for the future. For the past year, we’ve often been living off money we made months ago. And believe it or not, business books/podcasts/programs are a lot more interesting than they seem like they’d be.
5. What you think you’d like to do may not be what you’d really like to do.
Learning what you really want to do with your life is tough, since there’s no way to know if you’d like a path until you’ve been at it a long time. The trick, in my opinion, is to try a lot of things. Sometimes skimming the surface is enough to find out that you don’t want to do something, but the only way to know if you’ll really love doing something is to go into it full throttle, diving into the depths. And the moment you discover for certain that you don’t want the destination you’re headed for, get out. Get on your new path as fast as possible. You’ll recognize your true path when you can acknowledge that the worst parts of it are totally worth it for the rest of it.
6. Marriage Doesn’t Change a Person—at least not in the way you might think
This is something that we all know intellectually, but being unmarried, it’s impossible to really grasp. All the attributes of patience, kindness, and service you’re striving to learn now really will serve you well in marriage, but only as you use them with your present family—your parents, your siblings, the people you live with and see every day. Oh, and keep reading all the relationship advice books, conference talks on marriage, etc. They’ll be exceptionally useful. And by the way, the talk (the define-the-relationship talk) isn’t nearly as scary as you think it will be. It’s actually quite liberating!
7. Kids ROCK, but not always for the reason you think now.
Yeah, kids are a lot of fun a lot of the time, but they’re not fun a lot of the time, too. So it’s not their cuteness and the fun you have playing with them that’s going to make you a great parent. You have to be deliberate about teaching them to do what’s right, whether you feel like it at the time or not. Also, most of the good feelings you’ll have for your kids will come at times when you are consciously choosing to love and adore them regardless of their choices.
8. Every Constructive Hobby You Seriously Try Will Serve You Well
Be it artistic, digital, musical, horticultural, literary, culinary, athletic, scientific, psychological—any hobby you try will come in handy. Most will at some point help pay a bill, too, no matter how obscure it seems. So don’t be afraid to try new stuff and go deep into them.
9. Failure is Good. Failure is Necessary.
For the most part, you won’t have true success without failure—not in dating, not in careers, not in any worthy endeavor. Don’t fear failure. It won’t feel good at the time, but know it’s for your good. And it won’t always come in the ways you expect. Learn from it, and press forward. The person who won’t stay down can’t be defeated. And yes, despite what you may think, that includes you.
10. Keep Feeding Your Testimony of Jesus Christ. Never Stop.
Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep insisting on good daily study of God’s word. And continue to love serving, working, and blessing the lives of others. You’ll never regret a single right decision you make. In fact, those choices will continue to provide new lessons that will build on old lessons to create greater and richer life lessons. Don’t worry about those who might think you’re going overboard or being fanatical. They don’t know what you’ll know in ten years. You just keep it up.