- Michael Thompson
My only goal growing up was to have as many experiences as possible during my time on this beautiful round ball called Earth.
41 years have passed and looking back on my life I like to think I’ve done a good job of accomplishing that goal. I’ve lived across three continents and I’ve traveled to countless countries. I’ve started a handful of businesses and I’ve worked across half a dozen sectors. I’ve made money and I’ve known what it’s like to lose everything.
Most of all, I’ve gotten to know amazing people and feel first-hand the power of love.
If I could sit down with my younger self I’d love to tell him about everything I’ve learned about the world and the wonderful lessons the people in it have taught me.
But as I began thinking about all the things I’d like to say, a realization hit me: I’d have to get my message tight because the odds are high that no matter how strong my conviction my younger self wouldn’t listen to a word I’d say.
Below are four pieces of advice I would roll the dice on anyway — with the hope that some of the words would go in one ear and not leave the other.
This is for the simple fact that they matter — and in a big way. I like to think I’ve lived a good life, but I can’t help but think I would have made a bigger dent in the world if I had embraced the four pieces of advice sooner.
1. Give your inner voice the respect it deserves:
A year or so after I began writing online a friend of mine in the States reached out to congratulate me on my success. I thought this was nice. However, his message didn’t end there. He kept talking. And when he did the following words came out — “Embarrassing yourself is online gold.”
Normally his words would have stung.
But something interesting happened that day: I didn’t give them a second thought.
Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and convincing myself the whole world was laughing at me — I sat down and went straight back to work on yet another “embarrassing” article.
I’d love to tell my younger self that sitting here today I don’t have any regrets. But that would be a lie. I have loads of them. However, one string ties most of them together: I allowed the opinions of others to hold me back from going after what I wanted — instead of giving my inner-voice the respect it deserved.
Curiosity. That’s a word that should be followed. If I could sit down with my younger self to share with him advice on how to maximize life, I’d start by stressing the importance of listening to his inner voice.
This is because we only get one shot at this life. The moment you let the words of others stop you from taking action on your dreams is the day you can kiss them goodbye.
2. Kindness is the fastest way to change the world:
Growing up, whenever I was faced with a problem, my mom would hit me with words like, “Stop complaining and go do something nice for someone.” I replied by rolling my eyes.
Fast forward to today and I can’t help but think my mom was handing me the recipe to happiness on a silver platter — but I refused to grab a fork.
If I could go back in time and advise my younger self I’d demand that he listened to his mother.
Experience has taught me that she was dead right — the fastest way to improve the quality of your own life is by doing something that improves the quality of someone else’s.
Not only that, but it’s also the fastest way to make a dent in this world.
Doing something nice for the person next to you — that’s how you change the world.
One smile at a time. One compliment at a time. One nice gesture at a time.
People don’t care about what you do for a living or how successful you are. But they absolutely do care about what you do for them.
The people that give the most get the most. It really is that simple. So if I could sit down with my younger self I’d tell him to go out into the world and literally give it everything he’s got.
It’s hands down the fastest way to not only improve your relationships with others — but also the one you have with yourself.
3. Positivity is life’s true currency:
The first time my now wife and I went out to lunch we were walking the rainy streets of Barcelona. When all of a sudden a ray of sunshine sneaked through the clouds, and without a moment’s hesitation — she stopped, tilted up her head, and smiled.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The world stopped.
But this wasn’t only because she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. It was also because in one fluid motion she showed me the power of appreciating the good in front of us instead of wallowing in the bad around us.
The day was rainy. The streets were ugly. But my little one did not focus on that — instead, she decided to soak up the sun regardless of how fleeting.
If I could sit down with my younger self I’d tell him to steal a line from his now wife and make it a point during every single moment of every single day to look for the good.
Bad shit is going to happen. There will be rainy days and at times it will feel unrelenting.
But positive energy is life’s true currency.
And it’s the one thing I’d recommend my younger self brought with him wherever he goes.
4. The only thing worth collecting is friendships:
A few years ago I was talking to my dad about all of his adventures and the places he’s been. After he gave me a run down he turned to me and said — “Looking back on it all of that stuff doesn’t matter all that much. Sure I’ve traveled. But the places I’ve been won’t be what I see when I am old and grey. However, the faces of the people I’ve met will be.”
If you were to ask most happy people for their “secret” the odds are high their words would mimic something along the lines of my fathers.
Words like “relationships” “friendships” “community” — these are the words that matter.
We have a life, not a career and if I could sit down with my younger self I’d remind him of that. Then I’d make sure that he heard my message loud and clear that there is no job title cooler than that of “friend” “father” or “husband.”
Pulling it all together:
Knowing my younger self, as I said above, I’d be willing to bet that most of my advice would fall on deaf ears. But that’s okay. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that what makes it so much damn fun is that each of us gets to discover our own way.
But giving his inner voice the respect it deserves, being kind, choosing positivity, and collecting as many friendships as he can — these things matter. From my experience, they are the only four ingredients needed to not just lead a good life but maximize the heck out of it.
So go out into the world younger me and always remember if the only thing holding you back from following your dreams is what other people say — don’t listen to them and do it anyway.