Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known At 18 But Didn’t

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Growth and maturity are an interesting paradigm.  Those who have lived it know that you become a completely different person between 18 and 28 and often times are completely different again somewhere between 30-40…Contemplating this, I asked myself today, “Knowing what I know today, what would I tell myself 20 years ago if I had a chance to talk to me at 18 years old…?”

These are the top 10 things I came up with:

1. You Think Too Highly of What You Think and Not Enough of What You Do Not Know That You Don’t Know:  In naivety, when I was younger I often resented the people who would make statements like this.  Now that I’m older I have additional perspective… If that initial statement rubbed you the wrong way (keep in mind that I’m talking to ME 20 years ago and then realize that you are likely the very person who needs to apply it… LOL…Sadly, I’ve met some who never learn this lesson).  He who has ears, let him hear…This is one of the greatest stumbling blocks that in hindsight I could point to in my own life and have observed in other developing leaders.  My advice would be to seek answers to things you know that you do not know and additional perspective on the things that you think you do know.  Understanding and respecting what others think and believe without insisting on viewing their perspective through personal lenses that insist that you are right is very important in your growth and development.

2. LISTEN and REMAIN TEACHABLE: This is HUGE… Those people who love you enough to speak into you life & confront your inconsistencies are not trying to hurt you, they are trying to protect you – FROM YOU and what they realize that most cannot easily see in themselves!  Those who don’t challenge you to grow are more often than not, “yes-men”… and although the “yes-man” may stroke your ego by telling you what you want to hear and agreeing with you even when you are wrong, they border on worthless from a “growth” perspective.

3.  There Will Always Be Someone Bigger, Stronger and More Talented: Don’t worry about them just be you and quit trying to prove you are something more than you think others perceive you to be.  God created you with your strengths on purpose.  When you are ready there is not a devil in hell that will be able to keep you from being who God has called you to be… unless you have bought into a lie from that devil…(which ultimately is the paradox that will keep you from being “ready”).

4. There Are No “Scarless Warriors”: Even though you think you know enough to keep yourself from experiencing as much (or more) pain as the next guy and are even judgmental of the other guys pain because of his “Bad” choices (Which you likely believe you will never make)…You WILL endure tribulation …some because of you, some because of them (but you will endure less UNNECESSARY tribulation if you intentionally adopt #2 as a lifestyle choice)! Take it in stride, learn and grow.  The difference between intelligence and foolishness is the fool refuses to take ownership of and learn from his mistakes.

5. Study People:  Watch their eyes.  Discern the verbal and nonverbal indicators in their word choices and actions toward you.  Statistically 93% of communication is nonverbal (7% of any message is words, 38% is vocal elements and 55% is nonverbal -Facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.) Even if you value the relationship greatly, if you are the only one prioritizing it, their actions reveal where you actually stand in their eyes.  There is a reason that they only call you when they need something (and that’s ok, just be aware of the dynamics of the relationship so you don’t put more stock and energy into it than will be reciprocated, only to be disappointed when your expectation of it is unfulfilled). It’s ok when relationships that you thought would be lifelong reach an end of a season. – Spend your energies and greatest time investments where you are celebrated not just tolerated.

6. Surround Yourself With People of Character and Integrity:  Don’t look solely on their outward appearance because everyone “poses” to an extent and only allow you to see what they want you to see…Some of the “biggest” people you will ever meet are half your size with completely different interests than yours…Don’t write them off on an outward appearance.  Refer back to #5.  In surrounding yourself with these people, be very diligent to realize that NO ONE is perfect!  The mentor that you want so much to be like is still human…He will make mistakes and you will feel let down at times…It’s part of the growth process (for them and you).  Be okay with that and you will be better for it.

7. BE LOYAL and Walk In Integrity Yourself.  EVERYONE makes mistakes, don’t write people off when they do and be there for them when everyone else walks out.  You will need someone to continue to believe in you later when you take a dive.  Determine that you will do what is right because it is right even if the rest of the world walks a different path (because you will see that most of them will — even some that you greatly respect— and if you don’t determine to walk in integrity before experiencing disappointment you may be tempted to follow them down the wrong path).  Integrity is doing what is right when no one is watching…

8. Pride Is SO Dangerous: don’t fall into the trap of thinking more of yourself than you should.  ASK people who are older than you, “If you could say one thing to you, 10, 15, 20 years ago (however much older they are than you) what would you tell you…?” then LISTEN!  One of the best words of advice I ever received was from a friend who told me, “The second you begin to believe your own hype, you are on your way out…”  Pride and arrogance are the downfall of so many leaders…

9.  Love People, Forgive and Move On: Determine each day that you are going to walk in love.  Oftentimes it’s not going to be easy and there will be ample opportunity for offense but the days that you will regret most in life are the days that you chose to respond outside of love. AND some of the best days you will ever experience will come as a result of choosing to walk in love (even when it wasn’t convenient).  It’s a choice that becomes easier and more habitual the more you exercise it.

10. Above All Else, Learn To Listen To The Leading of The Holy Spirit: If there is a “formula” for success, THIS IS IT and it can come in a lot of forms…CULTIVATE THEM ALL…

God will lead you through:
a. His word
b. Others He sends to you to speak into your life
c. Books on subjects that you need to develop
d. Teachings from people that you respect (and sometimes don’t necessarily respect or even “like” if you are willing to listen beyond your initial perception)
e.  Daily interactions – God often teaches in circumstances that on the surface appear insignificant.
f.   And ultimately God’s voice speaking to your spirit — which at times may contradict one of the above 9 points of advice.
~ For example, there may be a time that you KNOW you are not prioritized in a relationship and God will lead you to be consistent in communication and reaching for them anyway.  There may be times when you are dealing with someone who loves you and are speaking into your life and the Holy Spirit reveals to you that what they have told you may be right for 98% of people, but in your circumstances you need to do something differently…in which case you LISTEN RESPECTFULLY (don’t contradict them with what you think you know), thank them for caring enough to speak into your life, tell them you will weigh what they have said, and then ask God for clarity on His perspective in the given situation…because, even though you think you know, you could be wrong in your initial assessment).  Ultimately you have to follow what you believe God is leading you to do, and sometimes, even then you will make mistakes.  The important thing is being intentional to learn to follow His leading in your life while not being too proud to receive correction in the middle of doing what you previously may have thought was right…

For me, most of these have been painful lessons that I have experienced over the years that have caused me to grow in understanding and wisdom…Almost all of them learned in situations that had the potential to make me bitter…But I have chosen rather to allow them to make me better.  God knows I’m well aware that I haven’t “arrived” and as a matter of fact, I’m more aware now than ever of how much that I DON’T know!  It will be interesting in 20 more years to see what I would write to myself today… but hopefully one or two of these will help some up and coming leader to avoid a pitfall that I dove face-first into…

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