3 Pieces Of Advice I Would Give My 22-Year-Old Self (That I Still Remind My 41-Year-Old Self Of Every Day)



One of the advantages of being among the (a-hem) aging population is the experience and context that comes with it.

When you are younger, it’s possible to overcome a lot of faults because you are smarter, more talented, or more of a hustler than your peers. However, as you grow older, you begin to see patterns that you might have overlooked before simply because you didn’t have as much data. Knowledge can be bought, but wisdom is always earned.

I’ve never wished I could go back and do it all over again, because I think my experiences (both failures and successes) have forged the platform for what I’m doing now. Work, family, friendships, and the body of work they comprise are only possible because of what came before. However, there are three big lessons that I’ve learned over time that I still remind myself of every day:

1. Be conscious of what you’re building. Many people, especially early in their career, don’t have a sense for what they’re trying to build, even in a general sense. They have short-term vision rather than a long-term perspective. Because of this, many people function by whim rather than by design. They spend their finite resources (focus, assets, time, energy) indiscriminately rather than funneling them toward a long-term objective. When you understand what you’re trying to do in the long-term, it helps you make better short-term decisions about which job you take, who you build relationships with, and the kinds of skills you need to learn and develop. You will have the capacity to develop criteria for decisions ahead of time rather than being led to-and-fro by emotions and distractions.

Do you know what you’re building? How should that affect your decisions?

2. Define what greatness means, and aim for it every day. In [amazon_link id=”1591846242″ target=”_blank” ]The Accidental Creative[/amazon_link], I wrote “How you define greatness defines you.” I believe this to be true to the core of my being. However you define that word will affect – consciously or not – how you behave, the heroes you emulate, and the behavioral goals you set for yourself.

Greatness is not an easy concept to wrestle to the ground, but you can start by identifying the kinds of behavioral attributes that would characterize greatness throughout your day. In [amazon_link id=”1591845890″ target=”_blank” ]Die Empty[/amazon_link] I called this your “ethic”, or the set of words that you choose to allow to define your engagement. For years, mine has been “ACHE”, which stands for artistic, curious, healthy, and energizing. If I exhibit these four things throughout my day in my tasks and interactions, I believe that I’ve pursued greatness that day.

How do you define greatness, and what would it look like to pursue it daily?

3. Go to school every day. Many people falsely believe that education ends when you are handed a diploma, but in truth that’s when the real education begins. You have to take responsibility for your own intellectual growth and development.

When I was in my twenties, I dedicated a minimum of an hour a day to study and writing. Did these two activities have much to do with my work at the time? Not at all. When I began the practice, I was a full-time musician. However, I knew that regardless of my current state of employment, I was building something much bigger, and that I was going to have to grow a lot in order to get there.

What skills do you need to sharpen or learn, and when will it happen?

Again, I remind myself of these three pieces of advice nearly every day. They apply equally to the twenty-something, the forty-something, and the sixty-something.

What are you doing today that will reap rewards in five years? Know what you’re building, define greatness, and go to school.

Question: What advice would you give your younger self?

Share your thoughts:

Please keep your comments civil and on topic.


  1. Dream. Set. Make.

    Courtney here from Dream. Set. Make. I’d tell myself to hang out in the questions. Don’t rush to know. Get comfortable in confusion and loose ends. So often I would rush to judgment instead of listening to my intuition. If I could tell my younger self to stay soft and open, I’d shout it from the rooftops!

    Thanks for this excellent post and all the work you do. You’ve inspired us at DSM along the way as we’ve grown and created. Thank you for your work!

  2. Mykola

    Hi Todd, I would definitely say to focus on the long term. In a way, make a list of things you want to have and be define the person you would like to be and then invest the next 10-15 years in order to attain those.
    Also, make sure to define your own path and have your own definition of success.

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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