Have you ever wanted to go back in time and give advice to your younger self? What would you say if you were standing face-to-face with a younger you? Would you give advice on loving your partner, leaving that job, whether to have kids or travel the world?

"What I Would Tell My Younger Self": Advice from an Author, a Rapper, and a Zen Poet:

Mary Roach, bestselling author

I would give the young Mary Roach some relationship and dating advice, and I would do that by way of a quick story I'm going to share, and this is something that happened to me a couple of years ago. I was going to a party. And I was driving down a very, very narrow street. And so, a car coming out and a car going in pass each other very slowly. And I looked over, and in the next car, there was this man who I took to be my husband's old friend, Joe. And I looked at him, and I said, "Hey! You're leaving? Why are you leaving? The party's just starting." And then, he looked at me. And he was smiling, and we talked a little bit. And then I realized: It's not Joe! It's not Joe. But in that moment where I realized, you know, I'd looked at this man, this good-looking man, and I'd said, “Hey! Why are you leaving?” It turned out there were two parties on the end of this street, and he was leaving the other party. It was in that moment I sort of saw how my whole youth could have been different. I realized that, like, the best pick-up line in the world is just, “Hey! Hi.” I wish I'd know then that, it's so easy, Mary. Just say hey. Hello."

Another piece of advice I would give the young, upstart Mary Roach—when you write that angry letter (it wouldn’t have been an email back then), or you’re ready to confront someone, give it 24 hours, because more than you could ever believe, it’s probably just hormones!

There’s one other thing [I would tell myself]: Mary Roach, your dad was this amazing artist. He did amazing caricatures, silkscreens, posters, such a huge talent. And you never really said anything to him. You never said, ‘Wow, that’s really good!’ And so now, he’s gone. He died when I was 23. So now I have his art on the walls, and I don’t have him to know that, or to tell him that.

Tom Shimura, aka Lyrics Born, rapper & songwriter

I would probably tell my younger self—and I’m more so thinking about myself in my twenties, probably–I would say, to not be afraid to lead. And if a situation doesn’t feel right, don’t stay in it. Don’t be afraid to move on. I think in the past, I probably holding out a little too much hope that maybe things that didn’t quite feel right would have turned around when there was, in hindsight, no indication that they really would have. I think I would have told that guy, don’t be afraid to really step on out of that and show by example and how to make a way.

I think maybe there was a time when I might have taken a look around, and I was the only guy out there who did what I did that looked like me, that had a name that ended in a vowel that was hard to pronounce. [laughs] You know? And I was sort of reluctantly forced to speak for a lot of people and sort of be that guy. And it wasn’t something that I was totally comfortable with because as far as I was concerned I just wanted to be recognized for the actual music I was making and the content that was there. But obviously I’m very proud of who I am and where I’ve come from, and my background and so forth. The only job I’ve ever had has been in the music business. And there is no road map. You can’t take a course on how to have a successful career in the music biz.

I think I was very fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do from the time I was 3 or 4 years old. I knew I wanted to be an artist. But it wasn’t until I heard hip hop that I knew what kind of artist that I wanted to be. And I was just fortunate enough that my father was a writer and my mother went along for the ride. And as I developed and got older, I had a really great support group of peers and friends, and so, I was very fortunate in that way. I think probably if I had not had that kind of support in such an unconventional field, I probably would have chosen a different path.

Norman Fischer, Zen Teacher & Poet

I would tell my younger self three things. First of all, pay a lot more attention to your friends because probably your whole life through, these are going to be people that you know, and shape who you are, and when you get older, you are really going to appreciate them. So, be careful with how you treat them now, and treat them as precious people in your life. The second thing I would tell my younger self is, get your head out of the clouds, and learn how to cook, clean, and take care of the garbage, because these are basic things you are going to be doing your whole life, and if you don’t focus on them and make them into arts and enjoyments, you are going to be missing out on something. And they’ll just be like, annoyances to you if you don’t really pay attention to them. And the third thing I would tell my younger self—because when I was younger I had a lot of thoughts about a lot of things and those thoughts didn’t necessarily serve me that well—I would tell my younger self, don’t worry so much about all of the things you are thinking. Enjoy your thinking, but don’t believe it all. And don’t take it all that seriously.

I’ve learned a different way of thinking. Instead of getting wrapped up in my thoughts, and perseverating, and going on and on, full of contradictions and worries and fretting, I’ve learned to just appreciate my thinking as it comes and goes, and with a point of view on life I can discriminate between, here’s a thought that makes sense and can be beneficial, and here’s another thought that’s just coming from my confusion, so I don’t really need to go that way. And I think a lot of thinking comes from our confusion, and our need to be right, our need to defend ourselves, our need to be important. So a lot of our thinking is useless, but human thought is a fantastic thing. So to be able to tell the difference between a thought that comes and is really useful and really noble and really worthwhile, and a thought that’s coming from our confusion—to tell the difference between those two is hard to do. And a lot of what you need to do in order to accomplish that is to, just like Michael and Oprah were saying, to learn how to relax your thought, and not believe every single thought, and not be pushed around by every single thought. Meditation has certainly helped me learn that style of thinking, that’s for sure.

Human beings are wonderful, magnificent, and very bright, but at the same time, destructive, confused, and nasty. So that’s the trouble. And every one of us has both sides of that. So when we talk about our instincts and our passions, where is the passion coming from? Where is the instinct coming from. We have instincts to tell us to do wonderful and good things, and the opposite. To be able to be quiet just long enough to be able to look at what those passions and instincts are, and to be able to discriminate between those passions and instincts that serve us and others and those passions and instincts that do the opposite, that’s the important thing. And how do you do that? Well, I think, trial and error. You begin to notice, ‘Oh, I followed that passion and look where it got me. Ouch.’ ‘Oh, I followed this one, and this was better.’ Well, what was the difference? How did that feel? And it’s not so easy to make that distinction, but one learns it through bitter experience over time.

Glynn Washington, "Snap Judgment" Host

The biggest thing, if I was to talk to younger Glynn, would be to, hit the road—to travel, where, every time you would go to a new country, maybe you don’t speak the language, maybe you don’t know what’s up. It’s like you have to start over at ground zero. It’s almost as if you’re a baby, to learn how to boat-navigate, to learn how to have friends. That process is so important and it’s something that I feed off of every day now.

Glynn Washington, host and executive producer of public radio's "Snap Judgment"
Norman Fischer, author, poet, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center and founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation
Mary Roach, author of "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal"
Tsutomu "Tom" Shimura, rapper, producer and song writer known as Lyrics Born; and author of "Yes, Bay Area"

  • Guest

    Advice for a younger self, and some older ones:

    1. Read up about how basic physical laws and eyewitness testimony show that multiple shooters killed JFK, and that the CIA was behind it, and learn about the Florida jury that ruled that the evidence proves it was a CIA assassination.
    2. Read up about how eyewitness testimony showed multiple, heavy military grade bømbs were found inside the Oklahoma City federal building that was attacked in the 80’s. (Google Oklahoma city cover-up)
    3. Examine the enormous amount of evidence that 9/11 was an inside job that was planned decades in advance e.g. how WTC building 7 collapsed at free fall speed directly downward at 5:20 pm on 9/11 despite not being hit by any planes nor major debris. (Google 9/11 Mysteries, or Barbara Honneger pentagon)
    4. Read up about interlocking directorships, which have effectively made corporate America into one large cartel, linking media corporations to banks, Big Oil and the military industrial complex. (Go to theyrule.net)
    5. Read up about “Continuity of Government”, which was put into place after 9/11 and which suspended the US Constitution; COG is still in effect due to Obama. (Google Peter Dale Scott COG)
    6. Learn about media censorship, Big Oil funding of NPR, the corporate consolidation of media into 6 companies and how foundations are used to prevent inquiry into certain topics. (Google project censored) http://rense.com/1.imagesH/left_gatekeepers.gif

  • Fourgaia

    I was two years into what I believe was postpartum depression when I had a conversation with a girlfriend. She was describing to me what she wanted to find in a lover and said, “I want someone who wants what they have.”

    Boing! I guess I was ready to hear that because it made me realize that I had a healthy and happy baby. I needed to recognize and be grateful.

    Advice to young self … Make gratitude your religion and you will have a happy life.

  • thucy

    Oy. Seductive idea, but giving your younger self advice is a little too much in violation of both classical precepts and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle – your presumption of inquiry itself would disrupt the order. Consider:
    1. Who’s to say (or accurately recall) that you didn’t receive that “better” advice, but did not heed it? As I recall, the real-life Xenophon went to the Oracle, but largely avoided its wise counsel, as young people are wont to do. His ensuing mistakes resulted in a classic of Western literature; so much for “advice.”
    2. Who’s to say that following better advice would have led you to a better place instead of an altered version of the same old place? (See the fictional Oedipus’ post-Oracle attempts to alter course, and the impossibility of escaping one’s fate.)
    3. From Aeschylus to Shakespeare to Susan Lori-Parks, we’re invited to consider the role of fate, and the necessity of experiential “mistakes” – who’s to say that IF wiser advice led you to a richer life, you would have been happier?
    Lastly: Who’s to say that tragedy isn’t a necessary component of eventual happiness, like Melville’s insistence that you can’t be truly warm unless some small part of you remains cold?
    The wisest advice I ever received was from a woman who had a hard time following it, and I too was only able to follow her advice long after I’d exhausted all other possibilities: “Happiness is liking what you have.”

  • Asked and answered.


  • Michele Bazirgan

    1) Instant Gratification doesn’t last long.
    2) I will achieve and acquire that which I set standards for. Especially for relationships, work experiences.
    3) Life is difficult, always, that doesn’t mean that I am failing or that I am alone. Keep going, focus, enjoy success, and take each set back as temporary and a lesson.

  • david

    Resist the urge to go to law school just because it looks like a solid platform to find your life’s real purpose.

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      Can I get a refund on my JD? I’m still paying loans!

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    1) Punch those high school BULLIES right in the kisser !
    2) Why be nervous at parties – theyre just kids!
    3) Pop culture is sham – don’t waste time on it!

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    To me, follow your passion is a pressuring imperative. I didnt know what my passion was at all, and most of us really do not. Maybe humans were not made to choose one single career track – doesn’t that just make sense?

  • aaron

    Focus on the creation, not the creator. Creation is undeniable, creator is beyond your grasp. Learn from the Creation, don’t imagine a Creator. I define creation as “interconnection of infinite, unique things”. Thinking about this definition of creation, it taught me to take care my a) body, b) family and friends, c) work and d) planet.

  • puzzled_in_palo_alto

    1. Ask more girls out for dates regardless whether you find them physically attractive (I know, how incredibly shallow) or not.
    2. Don’t pursue undergraduate research and graduate school.
    3. Suck it up and apply for medical school when you are 22-years-old and not when you are 32-years-old.
    4. If #3 is not pursued, get an MBA and work in finance/M&A/other nefarious business field.
    5. If #3 is pursued, head straight towards a dermatology or anesthesiology residency.
    6. Take the time to maintain your friendships and visit hospitalized colleagues & friends.

    executive summary: In the end, you will be judged for the income you bring home, so you might as well get used to your life. Then you die.

  • Hilary Martin

    I wish I could tell my younger self to turn off the TV and do something constructive: Learn to cook, read lots of books, learn another language, etc.

  • Kathleen Moazed

    Get professional counseling, to help you conquer at the demons and worries that can hold you back the rest of your life (even if it costs a lot, it will be worth it)

  • Ruth Sieber

    I wish I had encouragers (that were specific!) so I wouldn’t have so easily believed everyone who told me I was ugly. People today are stunned that all my life I believed I was not beautiful, as I truly am.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Dave, why did you phrase the question as “what would you TWEET back to yourself?” If you could reach your younger self, why would you limit communication to 140 characters?
    Knock off the trendy, dave!

  • Ben Rawner

    Stand up for yourself. You are the only one who will. The squeaky wheel gets the greese.

  • Nancy Branstetter

    I would tell my younger self that life is like a video game where your goal is to make as many positive connections as possible each day. When you stay positive Universal tokens are available to assist you in all your endeavors in life. I describe my younger self as a itch with a capital B in front. I saw myself as separate from everyone else and now my wiser self sees that we are all connected on an energetic level as well as a species level. We are here to help each other by sharing what didn’t work for us and how we changed our behavior so our species and grow and evolve.

  • Start Here Book Club

    Take the time to use tools to figure out your passion. Don’t think that it will just “hit you in the head.” For some people it does, but for most, we actually have to do a little inner work to find out what type of life will really fulfill us. There are books and counselors can help. One really practical tool is called the Start Here Book by Jackson and Grimes PhD

  • Start Here Book Club

    I’d say to my younger self: “Take some time to do NOTHING. There is huge power in doing NOTHING. You’ll be amazed what happens when you take yourself out of the equation. You never gave yourself time to surprise yourself” https://www.facebook.com/StartHereBook?ref=hl

    • Emily Moses

      I completely agree. Too many people don’t just sit with themselves doing nothing. It’s the most valuable time I’ve ever spent!

  • Rod On Isle

    Kid, that old man with the cane and a cold disposition was not always so. He was a young warrior once, sent to war and his scars are not just his limp. You may be sent to war, talk to the old man, he is wise, he is your grandfather.

  • Leslie Alperin

    Listen to your gut! Don’t plan your life based on others expectations of who you are or what you should do. This is your life after all and only you know ultimately what’s best. Also mistakes are fertile ground for learning, so don’t be afraid to make them!

  • Rayne Madison

    I I would tell myself not to be so afraid to be myself; to love with my whole heart knowing that it will be broken; and take the chance if it is offered. You will never regret it.

  • bine

    It’s not about just about what you want to do and if you find what your passion is. But it is who you are and how you live your live and the people that surround you.

  • CaliBarney

    I’m afraid that as a very trusting person who has been hurt and betrayed time and time again by all sorts of friends and other people, I would have to advise myself to be careful with your heart and your trust. and don’t assume you’re strong feelings of closeness and bonding with another person are necessarily reciprocated just because they seem to be. That is a recipe for disappointment – sometimes to devastating ends. Figureout who are really your friends, and keep them close and let them know how much they mean to you.

  • Verdad

    Do not always listen top the advice of older relatives. My uncle told me not to go into the Navy because their officer candidate course was too difficult. I ignored him and enjoyed great success while serving as an officer in the Navy. Richard Dugan

  • Emily Moses

    I’m only 31 so I can’t say that I regret much, but I’d tell my younger self to not worry so much! Be responsible with money and do in life what makes you happy and spread happiness to others. Be truthful, confident and vulnerable and life will be enjoyable for you and all around you. Oh, and TRAVEL a LOT! That’s what I’d tell my teenage self. No reason for a “career” you’ll probably just get laid off anyway, so just have FUN with life!

  • lu

    I would tell my younger self to be most spontaneous. If you are given an opportunity just go for it.

  • Mehul Shah

    “Don’t wait for answers
    Just take your chances
    Don’t ask me why”
    – Billy Joel

  • bruxe

    Save money, save up and buy a house, any house, townhouse or condo.

  • Osiris

    Be more agressive in your “approach” with women – they like it and you will get laid more and have more fun. Don’t even bother pretending to want to be just their friend as they can smell you coming from a mile away. Also, don’t worry so much about what (you think) other people think about you. The reality is people are preoccupied with themselves. They are not thinking about you. Be kind and generous to people even if they are not “strategically important.” It will make you feel better about yourself and makes for a virtuous cycle. Stop drinking alcohol and smoking stuff now by going to AA and doing what they say. Learn how to live without getting high. You will just end up having to do it 15 years later after a bunch of pain and blown cash. Better to master it now.
    In marriage, protect your finances. Make every big financial decision with a cold business eye, but don’t discuss it as such. Keep a balance of financial power and give her a financial incentive to work it out with you rather than having the easy option of just taking you to the cleaners. You will be respected for it by your wife, whether you know it or not. Yes, look at your house as an investment.

  • Gary Whitfield

    At 58 now I would tell my younger self 4 things:
    1. True love does exist. Don’t settle for second best. There are three types of mature love: A. Security/safety, B. Lust/Physical Attraction, and C. Romantic Love. Try to find all three in your life in one person.
    2. Residual Income! No matter where you go in your life or what you do, try to do at least two things: 1. Save 10% of your income, and 2. Create, develop, build a life that brings you repeat income (for example, owning rental properties).
    3. Education! Learning is 1 part school and 99 parts life. Learn all you can whenever you can!
    4. No matter what you believe right now, how you feel, what you see – it’s NOT REAL!
    Reality is filled with objects. Your reality is how you “Feel” and what you “Believe” to be true about those objects. Change your perspective – change your life! Learn to choose to be grateful and loving!

    You are who you choose to be! Life is a one way road! Remember, in the end there are only two things most true: A. The story you tell yourself about your life, and B. The story others and your family tell about you once you’re gone! Make it a great story!

  • Matt

    “Do well. Enjoy what you do. Develop a passion.

    You can do that at a lot of schools.

    Don’t get caught up in names.”

    I kept this on my desktop for some time and I still think it’s short and meaningful. I don’t know said it.

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