Advice to my Younger Self

Staying silent for ten days and focusing on one single thing for 12-14 hours of each of those ten days would, one would think, not leave much time for thinking and meandering through the corners of one’s brain. Alas, the brain, at least mine, craves distraction and moving from thought to thought quickly enough to have forgotten what I was even writing about here.

I saw the chief something officer of a large company in Silicon Valley tweet advice to his younger self, and I liked the idea and had pondered on it while I should have been meditating. Instead of 140 characters, or 280 now, I wanted to expand just a bit and see what seemed important to me. I had plenty of overlap with him, but we diverged too. I think we all try and compensate for our own past mistakes, and that, in part, informs lists such as these. Reading one wouldn’t be enough. Reading many would tell you just how common so many of our insecurities and mistakes are.

  • Put others ahead of yourself, and make this the default behavior. This goes for family, friends, and further. Just like networking is about giving, so is every other relationship close or far. Need more?: Adam Grant’s Give and Take
    • Know when to fight, know when to walk away/quit
  • Read more, write more, and do both of those over most other choices in possible activities. These should have been prioritized over learning to work while young. Hard work will be needed throughout life but is hard to compound unless I’m cloned. Knowledge, gained through reading and instilled through writing, compounds through one’s life.
  • If a course requires public speaking, take it every time. There’s no way to get better than by doing. And I struggle, still.
  • Turn work and everyday life into play. You’ll learn exponentially more. To do this, failure is not evil – failure is one of the possible outcomes when experimenting and learning. If you take away the ability to make a mistake, you’ve taken away a life worth living. If you’re not allowed to have a wrong hypothesis, why make one at all?
  • Ask questions at every opportunity, this way you’ll be asking better questions through the years and not afraid to ask the simple ones either.
  • Memorizing is not learning, and effort matters. Learning and practice take toil and perseverance. If learning was easy, there would be more expert pianists in the world. Example: The best coders I know, learned the hard way – they removed the ability to cut and paste code and instead typed it out each time as they were learning new ideas and techniques.
  • Find meditation, CBT, or whatever your tool is in controlling the inner-voice, early in life. Believe in yourself, know who you are, don’t talk down to yourself. Be your own best ally in thought and practice.
    • Also, have that voice be honest. The above does not mean to sugar coat.


That’s what came out in ten minutes. If I sat longer, I’m sure something else would pop in and this would be refined some.

What would you tell yourself?

Photo: Riding Elevators in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Categorized as Reflections

By Daniel Hatke

The author was born and raised in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University he worked in the asset management industry in New York City. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is fueling his curiosities through taking time off for extended travel and experiences in Europe and Asia, as chronicled here.