It's no secret that Millennials behave differently from their older, wiser counterparts. With so much of their lives ahead of them, twentysomethings have little experience to go on.
This month, professional networking site LinkedIn launched its annual "If I Were 22" campaign, soliciting its "influencers," meaning the people it recognizes to be key public figures, to write advice posts to their 22-year-old selves. While some would go back and do things differently--Richard Branson, for instance, writes that he partied too much when he was young, without realizing the consequences of his actions--others, like author Claire Diaz-Ortiz, see the value in having embraced their "freedom." After all: There's an argument to be made for taking advantage of your time to act selfishly, without being tethered down by other (older) responsibilities.
Here's what some of today's entrepreneurial icons wish they'd known when they were first starting out.
1. Relax. You have enough time to do the things that really matter.
Arianna Huffington wants Millennials to stop worrying so much about keeping productive: "Our culture is obsessed with time. It is our personal deficit crisis. We always think we're saving time, and yet we feel like we never have enough of it. ... But there are no rollover minutes in life. We don't get to keep that time we 'save.' It's actually a very costly way to live," she posted on LinkedIn.
Huffington, who founded the prominent media site The Huffington Postin May 2005, knows the dangers of obsessing over time all too well: One evening, back in 2007, she collapsed in her office from exhaustion. She broke her cheekbone, and received four stitches around her right eye. "That started me on this journey of asking these questions that we stop asking in college, like 'What is a good life? What is success?" she recalled in an interview with Inc.'s Scott Gerber.
Ultimately, writes Huffington, it's your responsibility to recognize when you're overdoing it: "Not surprisingly, when it comes to winning the war on time famine, we are our own worst enemies. To win the war, first we have to declare that we want to change."
2. You should always get (and give out) second chances.
Richard Branson isn't shy to admit that he enjoyed his freedom when he was younger: "I would go out all night partying and not always think about the consequences of my actions," he writes on LinkedIn. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that Branson has a reputation for creating a fun, often outlandish corporate culture.
Yet Branson's message to his 22-year-old self is sobering: Citing the so-called Bali Nine executions, the recent killing by the Indonesian government of two young Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, along with seven others, Branson emphasizes that everyone deserves a second chance in life. "I am not the person I was 42 years ago. I am not even the person I was two years ago. We all change, we all learn, we all grow. To continually punish somebody for the mistakes they made in the past is not just illogical, it is plain wrong," he writes.
Sure, young people will make mistakes, but Branson says it's important that they're given the opportunity to learn from them.
3. The path to success will be anything but straight. You need to be resilient.
Best-selling author Deepak Chopra remembers his early 20s as a difficult time. To that effect, his post on LinkedIn is all about resilience.
Chopra goes on to explain some of the challenges that his (then-cocky) younger self was ill-equipped to deal with: He nearly failed his medical school oral exams, and during his first rotation, he fainted at the sight of blood. He also recalls that he barely made it to the U.S. as a postgraduate, because at the time the Indian government wouldn't let its citizens take the U.S. entrance exam.
"My 22-year-old self needed to hear something important. Being on track is rarely workable. Setbacks, swerves, and curves await everyone. He needed to pay attention to something foreign to his nature: resilience in the face of difficulty," he writes.
Resilience may not come easily, but as entrepreneurs know well, it's one of the most important attributes for growing a successful company.
4. Practice self-compassion.
Financial adviser and talk-show host Suze Orman reminds Millennials that it's important to be kind to yourself. Orman recalls that she didn't land her dream job until she was 30, but the lessons that she learned in her 20s were invaluable in getting her there: "I am not going to suggest that every 22-year-old take eight years to find the path they want to pursue. But at the same time, I hope you are kind to yourself, that you give yourself the time and space to figure things out."
Orman, like Huffington, adds that there are more important things in life: "Success and power come from who you are as a person, how you choose to navigate the world."
5. Dream bigger.
Entrepreneur and angel investor Maynard Webb recalls getting a rough start in life: His father died when he was a child, and his mother had to work constantly for them to get by. He started his professional career as a security guard at IBM, and while he dreamed of becoming a manager at the company, he says that he wasn't "aiming high enough" in retrospect.
Webb's advice to young people? Dream bigger than you already are, and consider that there are options available to you that people don't generally discuss. "I wish I could go back and tell my 22-year-old self about all of the possibilities of the world," he writes. "I never knew about things like entrepreneurship, and I thought many traditional professions weren't available to people like me."