The most valuable things are generally those that are hardest to obtain. That goes for wisdom as much as it does for diamonds and technical talent. The lessons that will do you the most good are also often the ones you avoid, resist, or simply miss for years.
There's no denying this reality. But you can at least try to do an end run around your own psychological defenses and intellectual gaps by asking those older and smarter for you to share the most valuable lessons they finally got through their thick skulls years too late.
Which is just what Facebook executive Julie Zhou did on Twitter recently, asking her 80,000+ followers to share the "most important life lesson that you wish you learned ten years earlier?" (hat tip to blog Swiss Miss). The questions set off a firestorm of thoughtful replies, offering wisdom on everything from relationships to professional missteps to personal fulfillment.
The whole thread is well worth a browse, but here are a handful of my favorite answers:
Stick to who you are and build on it.-- IanSanders (@IanSanders) January 8, 2020
(the trouble is, career trajectories can lead us away from ourselves not towards ourselves. We try to impress parents, partners and bosses and in doing so head in directions that are at odds with who we really are). https://t.co/rAkc08sVOZ
Start that thing you've been thinking about doing NOW. A decade goes by fast & chances are you could have achieved that one goal or thing by now.-- Diego Pulido (@ixDiego) January 7, 2020
No one else knows what they're doing either. Everyone feels insecure sometimes (or a lot of the time).-- Sophie Shepherd (@sophshepherd) January 7, 2020
perfect yourself and your process before criticizing your job. Also invest in your knowledge as well as your 401k-- tonygarand (@tonygarand) January 8, 2020
Put down the phone/technology and focus more on connecting with the people around you. Equally important: be stricter about choosing the kind of people you get close to; they influence so much of what you think the world is made out of.-- davidmarcsiegel (@davidmarcsiegel) January 7, 2020
That perfect job won't bring you life fulfillment. That ideal relationship won't rescue you from yourself. More friends won't drown out the dullness.-- Deborah (@thisisdebonair) January 7, 2020
External solutions for internal problems don't exist.
Take people for who they really are and not who I want them to be. They show you everyday just look.-- #dumdumdev (@devmobnow) January 8, 2020
Most of the games are non-zero sum and infinite games in that. So helping others succeed is the best thing you can do for yourself and the game.-- Brahma Narayanan (@brahma_n) January 7, 2020
Spend more time thinking about the hard questions in life. The existential stuff. Then, allow life to follow where those questions lead you.-- Kurt Varner (@kurtvarner) January 8, 2020
that every attack is a cry for help-- Nick Hallam (@nhallam) January 7, 2020
Not everyone was feeling deep and philosophical, however. Some users shared more practical lessons:
Wow, everyone's being deep and I'm just thinking "BUDGET! And plan your own retirement!" #everpractical-- Amy S (@herewithamy) January 7, 2020
Write the email. Don't send the email.-- Mike Solomon (@solomania) January 7, 2020
If you don't like where you are, move. You are not a tree.-- Laura Keiko Tang (@LauraKeikoTang) January 8, 2020
And in case you're wondering, this last bit of advice is definitely backed up by science.
What would be your answer to Zhou's question?