“One day you will look back and see that all along you were blooming.”
Twenty-seven years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher gave my class a homework assignment entitled, “Advice for a Younger Generation.” The concept of the assignment was simple: Each student had to interview a person who was over the age of 25, gather enough information to write a basic biography of their life and find out what their top tips are for a younger generation. I chose to interview my dad. He was 53 at the time and he gave me 18 pieces of advice.
I had completely forgotten about all of this until last week when I was visiting my parents. My mom had me clean out a few old boxes stored in the attic. In one of these boxes I found the original “Advice for a Younger Generation” assignment dated April 22nd, 1996.
I read through it and was admittedly blown away — there’s lots of solid wisdom within. Even though my dad’s advice is generally relevant to a person of any age, my 41-year-old self can relate to it in a way my 14-year-old self didn’t quite grasp at the time. In fact, the first thought that went through my head was, “Wow, my dad was right!”
Here are his 18 pieces of advice for a younger generation, transcribed with his permission.
1. Your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s won’t feel like your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
Adults are just older children. When you get older you won’t feel as old as you imagine you will. For the most part, you still feel exactly the way you feel right now, just a little wiser and more confident. You’ve had time to establish your place in the world and figure out what’s important to you. Don’t fear growing up. Look forward to it. It’s awesome!
2. Bad things will happen to you and your friends.
Part of living and growing up is experiencing unexpected troubles in life. People lose jobs, get in car accidents, and sometimes die. When you are younger, and things are going pretty well, this harsh reality can be hard to visualize. The smartest and oftentimes hardest thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be tempered in our reactions. To want to scream obscenities, but to be wiser and more disciplined than that. To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse. And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
3. Everyone can make a significant difference.
Making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So start small and start now. Be patient. Be present. Be kind. Compliment people. Magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses. This is how to make a difference, in your own life above all, and in all the lives you touch.
4. First impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Everyone and everything seems normal from a distance, or at a glance. The 10th, 20th, or even the 50th impression is when you start to truly understand someone else for who they truly are. Be patient and present. Pay attention to their habits and rituals. We are what we habitually do.
5. Big results come when you narrow your focus.
Concentrate your efforts on smaller and smaller areas. Specialize. When your efforts are diffused over a wide area they won’t have much of an impact. So focus on smaller areas and your efforts will be felt more fully. It could take time for growth to happen, but keep that focus narrow and the results will come in time.
6. Love yourself. Become the best version of you.
Strive to be the “you” you want to be. Nourish your mind and body. Don’t stop learning. Educate yourself every day until you die. Study. Read. Devour new ideas. Engage with people, including those who think differently. Ask questions. Listen. And don’t just grow in knowledge. Be a person who gives back too.
7. Most of the time you just have to go for it, again and again.
Put your uncertainty and fears aside for a second and ask yourself this: “If I try and I don’t get it right the first time, what will I have lost and what will I have gained?” The answer is: You will have lost nothing but a little bit of your time while gaining an important lesson that will help you get it right the second or third time. People rarely get it right the first time. In fact, usually the only people who ever get it right are those who continue going for it even when they’ve come up short numerous times before.
8. We tend to get more when we give.
Supporting, guiding, and making contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards. Almost everything you do comes back around in some way. Let your actions create positive ripples in your life.
9. Not much is worth fighting about today.
If you can avoid it, don’t fight. Step back from arguments with your spouse, family members, or neighbors. When you feel anger surging up and you want to yell that vulgar remark on the tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and take a break. Sleep on it. Give yourself space. Let calmness be your superpower, and then revisit the situation if you must. You don’t have to be right or win an argument immediately.
10. Don’t try to impress everyone.
Purposely impressing people is an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost. Be real with people instead. Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
11. Keep having fun.
Fun is way underrated! With all of life’s responsibilities, fun will sometimes seem like an indulgence. It shouldn’t be. It should be a requirement. Make time for fun and casual play. Schedule it in until the day you die!
12. Keep it simple.
There is a world of magnificence hidden in simplicity. Identify the five most important things in your life now and focus on those things in your free time. Let the other stuff go. Stop the senseless busyness most people fill their lives with, so you can enjoy what’s truly important to you.
13. Little things stick with you.
So pay attention to them. Like watching your child sleep. Preparing a holiday meal with your family. Sharing a great laugh with an old friend. This is the real stuff life is made of. Tune in.
14. Less advice is often the best advice.
Most people don’t need lots of advice, they need to live. I’ve seen young, rocky relationships develop into wonderful marriages, and I’ve seen fleeting inspirations ignite a lifetime of passion and happiness. Our life stories, like the answers we give to long essay questions, are uniquely ours. What people want to know is already somewhere inside of them. We all just need time to think, be, and continue to explore the imperfect journeys that will eventually help us find our long-term direction.
15. Manage your time diligently.
Your situation and environment is ever changing, so be careful not to confuse things that are urgent with things that are important. Evaluate your obligations on a monthly basis and be willing to make necessary shifts. And remember that good, admirable obligations, like volunteering at church, will sometimes need to be put on hold temporarily for something else. And that’s OK. You can’t do it all.
16. Manage your money diligently.
Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Don’t spend more than you make. Don’t spend to impress people. Don’t let your money manage you in the long run. Financial stability is peace of mind when you get older.
17. What you learn in school does matter.
While you may not use the specifics of every classroom lesson, every lesson does expand the core thought process of your mind. Over time you will develop problem-solving skills that are universally applicable. No single classroom lesson can teach this, and no single classroom lesson is more important.
18. Dreams will remain dreams forever if you don’t take action.
Don’t dream about it anymore. Start doing it a little bit every day. In 40 years from now, what is it that you will regret not having accomplished, appreciated, or attempted? Do it, appreciate it, and attempt it starting NOW!
Closing Thoughts & Next Steps…
My dad is 80-years-old now, and although he says he generally agrees with all of his younger self’s advice, I’m sure he’s learned a few new tricks over the past twenty-seven years. So earlier today as I was transcribing this, I asked him if he would share a few of these new tricks with us. He said he will in the near future, so sign up for our email updates and stand by for a new article from him. 🙂 But in the mean time, he told me to tell you to read his three favorite personal development books: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Millionaire Next Door, and 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently (yes, he shamelessly plugged our book, but he actually re-reads it for daily self-reflection, so it’s legitimate).
Finally, before you go, please leave my dad (and Angel and me) a comment below to let us know what you think of this article and its advice. Your feedback is truly important to us.
Photo by: Alex Proimos
Agreed with almost all of this, and I’m 72. It is still applicable in our present times although written decades ago. Thanks for sharing, and I’m inspired to write a few lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps I’ll share them here in a future comment.
I have been following. Marc and Angel for many years. Your website, books, articles — have helped me through some of my hardest days…. and this was no exception!
I needed this real bad. Thanks for sharing. That is exactly me going through a lot and finding some peace in it.
Amy Colautti says
Very good advice. You always give good advice I did buy your book and it helped me immensely.
Thank you for writing it
I really enjoyed the article and will only pick 5 important things to focus on each for the rest of this week. Maybe this will help in my journey with my family and myself. Thank you for the guidance.
GREAT job to your dad, Marc! My dad died a few months ago… and left me with a few more profound words of wisdom:
“If you throw enough crap up against the wall, something’s gonna stick” (never give up)
“Crap or get off the pot” (make a decision)
“Don’t get caught” (it’s okay to step outside the proverbial box)
My dad grew up in the Bronx, fun, sharp-wit, gave of himself whole heartedly. Cancer shortened his life, but never his spirit. In those 18 months, he never complained. He made everyone laugh; he was gracious and appreciative every moment. Over 400 people attended his funeral, the man had no fortune; he wasn’t a politician. He was man who built his life on integrity, humor and love, and touched the lives of hundreds, never asking for recognition or reward. He set a stellar example as a dad, and friend.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
Eddie Davis says
I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad, I want to learn to be more like him. Thank you for sharing your story.
Peace and many ,many Blessings to you and your family.
So wise. I particularly love the comment about your 30s 40s and 50s not feeling like that. It’s so true I still feel like a big kid, or a least a twenty year old.
LOVE this! I just \sent it to my 19-year-old. I suppose he won’t take it to heart, either. But sometimes it’s better when it comes from someone else instead of our own parents… so I had to at least try. 🙂
Beautiful. Amazing. Poignant.
I will share this with many.
Yes Marc, all of this stands true and is very enticing and convincing. Sometimes matters go out of hand and you become a victim of circumstances…a victim of unrealistic expectations..and life becomes all about loss and pain. May be pain is destiny for some.
Jen M. says
I love all your inspirational emails but this one really touched me. Not only was it filled with many truthful nuggets of wisdom but the fact that it was from a dad really impacted me. I lost my dad my senior year of high school, a month before my 18th birthday and my senior prom so that time in my life is a blur anymore because I was so heartbroken since I was daddy’s girl. I wish I would have had an assignment like this when I was fourteen and I would have also chosen my dad to interview. While I might not have my dad’s answers, I will cherish this dad so thank you again! You truly all made my day with this one!
Mary Stephenson says
As we might all wish to have followed the advice years ago. I’m 76 and there are days I feel much younger and then I realize my limitations. Can push a lawnmower around but have issues of getting up and down (as gardening no longer is something I pursue).
Things that seemed important are no longer.
I was at my dentist office a while back. His assistant and him were talking and I just had to chime in with the following.
When you are 15 you think 30 is old when you are 30 you think 50 is old and when you are 50 you think 70 is old. When you are 70 you know you are old and you look around at your friends who are 70+ and start comparing. How many operations have they had, how many drugs are they on and what shape they are in, then you can say to yourself… hey, I’m not that bad of shape after all!
I love this wisdom and there’s a lot of it here. Since I work in elementary education, the comment that stood out to me is ‘adults are just older children’. So true! Keep learning. Keep evolving.
Jamie Mondillo says
An absolutely beautiful message….so pure, sweet and concise. Thank you for sharing.
Linda Johnson says
Golden nuggets of wisdom are worth collecting and I will save these for sure! Thank you for sharing Marc. You are blessed to have a father with exceptional insight and acumen.
I appreciate the thoughts in this one. My son, who has just turned 35 has recently had a few friends pass away from illness or cancer. He has been down about his life being half over and he feels he hasn’t made time to do anything in life other than work. Sometimes we need to examine what we really want in life to be happy. I plan to send this to him. I think he will appreciate the sentiments from elderly wisdom! Thanks!
Kate Johnston says
Wonderful and so true. Probably all the advice we’ll ever need. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Monique Stampleman says
Recently 80, still feel 24 or 32. No matter what boring or sad thing that must be done, follow it with something fun. My husband and I do this everyday. Just go out for pizza! Add healthy foods, activities, ways of being into your life daily. Eventually you are on a new path that sustains you and contributes to peace and happiness.
I enjoyed this so much, but I also enjoy the food of wisdom and encouragement that you and Angel give. I’ll never forget when I first started following you two and I can’t remember if it was you Marc, or Angel but the message came from your grandmother who advertised that it is important to be “nice to kids, because they grow up to be adults.” At the time that message was very powerful for me because I had a very strained relationship with my brother because I hadn’t been the nicest older sister to him so things were awkward. Today we are good due me doing the work and apologizing to my sweet brother. I appreciate the work that you and Angel are doing, because some of us didn’t get that wisdom so somethings just fall through the cracks, and of course learning the difficult way is what happens. Thank you for sharing dad’s wisdom with all of us, because some of us didn’t get the “why” for why we should, shouldn’t, don’t stop, stop, and that precious time.
jesse porter jr says
Your dad must have spent a lot of time reading Proverbs. His wisdom shines through like the light of the sun; even through dense clouds, sunshine and warmth reaches us.
Jimmy Sivongsay says
Thank you so much for sharing this nostalgic, inspirational, and uplifting piece with us. Feeling really blessed to have come across what you just wrote. Infinite blessings!
Gina C. says
Thank you and your dad for that wonderful list. I’m 78 and still often feel like a kid.
I took to heart so many of his points, and of course being my age will need to review them a few times. As they’re important, I will for sure. Especially meaningful to me, was the advice to narrow your focus. Wow, will get to pay way more attention and effort to fewer matters…that makes so much sense as we can’t do it all. Will be a relief to step off the gerbil wheel and truly enjoy our focused moments.
Lyssa Brogan says
My Father-in-law, Jack would have thrown in at least one more…
“Growing Old is not for the weak”…
Jack knew what he was saying. Live each day as it were your last day. Eat and be (do) Healthy in order to grow old. As for your article, Thank You. It was a wonderful read. We never really grasp ahold of “Why” when we’re kids. Not until later in life when something triggers a reflection of our youth. With you (author of article), it was going through those boxes. You should definitely keep that! Frame it first and show it to your children and your grandchildren. Things like your school work help kids to “grasp ahold of a sliver of a clue” to the Life in the world they live in.
Looking at the world today, my paternal grandparents’ words are ringing loudly in my ears. Both of them long since gone, I am reminded of the stories they told me of their growing up during the “Dust Bowl”. “I had to walk 50 miles to school uphill in a blizzard!” …well, one up then had walk 7 miles, the other walked 15 (one-way) to school, in Nebraska. Girls in school back then we’re Not allowed to wear pants/trousers. Except and Only if the snow was waist high. Girls were expected to remove their pants once inside the school and place them in their lockers. My grandparents had to “wash the butcher’s paper, dry it and fold neatly” so that when they went to the butcher’s they would have “something to carry their meat home in”…no joke. That’s how bad the economy was.
Anyway, wonderful article!
I love this, all of it. Such good practical advise that can be applied at any age ( in my 40’s) saving this to refer back to. Thank you for sharing.
Carol Horn says
I would suggest that you develop these points and use them to write a book.
Point #17. What you learn in school does matter.
I think this point needs to be analysed again, so youngsters will understand the purpose and importance of going to school.
Judy Mason says
I’m 80 yrs old also. Sounds like your dad and I are of like mind. Aging is beautiful and life gets better if you let it. You don’t need an excuse to be happy. Just let it be.
Patricia S-D'Anna says
When it comes to Fathers, I stop to read the article. My Father( I still call him Daddy-it’s always been this way) his birthday is 4/15/39. He is going to be 84 and he never complains about anything. If he is worried about anything, I’d never know. He raised myself and my Brother who is only 15 months younger. He passed suddenly in 2007. We somehow live with it. Your article is so on point! Your Father is such a wise man! Reading this all the way through is a miracle for me it was just too good to pass up. I thank you so very much for these wise words to live by. A big hug for all Fathers.
Venetia Waters says
I agree with what your father says. I will be sending a copy to my Grandson. It’s called Wisdom!
It truly warmed my heart to read this. Your dad is part of that greatest generation and made me recall so many conversations I shared with my papa through the years. He could have written this ! I just recently lost him at the age of 89 and , but I hear him in my head with his many pearls of wisdom. Enjoy your dad. God bless him. One thing my father shared on his death bed was that he spent his whole life trying to be better, do better, achieve more. He told me after all that wasn’timportant, he realized he was dying a rich man. Truly rich in ways immeasurable. He married the love of his life and had 64 years with her. He built her the house of HER dreams and watched her lovingly make it a home for two healthy children that remained close by all their lives. They were healthy to the end. They had wonderful families and friends. He was able to help others when needed. They never suffered food insecurity and paid their bills. Inspite of life’s challenges and problems, there was so much joy. He wanted me to remember my father died a rich man . RIP papa.
Wish I could send this back to my younger self. Absolutely true. All of them.
Dorothy Harrell says
This is wisdom from yesterday that is so relevant for our todays and tomorrows of life. Recognize a real gift when you see it or read it. Keep reading–you just never know what you will find!
Ginny Saunders says
I just turned 80… and I do still feel, inside, like I did in my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. That is a positive observation for the immortality of our souls.
I have to say, I agree with all your Dad had to say, but am not sure it would have meant as much to me when I was younger. It’s comforting to me now.
Marta Gentile says
It is the amazing truth. Thank you for sharing. I am 72 and even knowing about sometimes I forget these important advices.
My grandmother’s problem-solving advice echoes every time l am struggling to exercise wisdom (knowing the best thing to do next): “Remember, ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ are NOT synonymous.”
Took me years to appreciate what she meant.
The concept of forgiveness, for example, is simple. Forgiving someone who has hurt or betrayed you is not easy.
Living within limited means is a simple idea, often very difficult.
So give yourself a break: just because something you need to do is clear or straightforward, it’s wise to understand that it may be very hard to do. Hard things require courage, so give yourself credit for facing that fact and doing it anyway.