Ever wished you could go back and talk to your younger self? The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed version of yourself who was just starting out and could have used some solid direction or at least a bit of reassurance that they were doing the right thing? While we can’t go back in a time, we’ve decided to pay it forward. Some of the best insights can only come from experience. So we asked a diverse group of professionals to share the words of wisdom they would bestow upon their younger selves given the chance. The responses are enlightening.
Tadd Schwartz, President of Schwartz Media Strategies, grew up in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s — a time when the community was really coming into its own as both a melting pot for diversity and as an international city. His mother was born in Cuba and came to Miami as a child, and his father was born in the Bronx, New York and also moved here as a kid. “Looking back, it was a great experience growing up here and having friends from different backgrounds and ethnicities because it’s helped shape my worldview today,” he says. “Miami really is a snapshot of the future of this country — our community’s strength and resilience is rooted in its diversity.” He’s also learned — and is still learning — is that it’s OK to let go a bit and lead in different ways without being at the tip of the spear. “Life changes you, hopefully for the better,” he says. “I’m learning to embrace change and let myself enjoy each new stage of what life has to offer. It really is a journey.” Throughout that journey, he says it’s critical to surround yourself with talented people who you trust and have mutual respect for. “Success is pretty simple — it’s about being present,” he says. “When you’re present, you’re happy. We all deal with external issues, every day, that create stress and anxiety. It’s unavoidable. What I’ve learned is that it’s up to each of us as individuals to control how we react to the issues that come at us. Rule your mind, or your mind will rule you.”
Making mistakes, failing and poor decisions are part of the glorious adventure that is creating a successful business and life, according to Violette de Ayala, a Cuban American Serial Entrepreneur, Social Influencer , Founder of FemCity, and the International Best-Selling Author of The Self-Guided Guru: Life Lessons For The Everyday Human. “I really wish I knew from the start that even through it all, I always had what it took to create the businesses I have and live a life that is intentionally and purposefully designed,” she says. FemCity, a members-only networking organization with local and online gatherings for women launching and growing businesses or evolving strategies within a corporate or institutional setting, came about because of her frustration with existing networking opportunities at the time. “So many watch from the sidelines and are fearful to jump in, take risks and go for their dreams,” she says. “They often miss the biggest joys of life, immense strides in personal development and ways to design their world based on their passions.” She continues: “The truth is that living life in a mediocre state, watering down your dreams and staying in a world of comfort prevents you from growth and achieving the success you were destined to achieve,” she says. “I would tell my younger self that the richness of life is in staying in a place where you are growing and challenging yourself — a place where our mistakes often lead to the biggest blessings.”
For years, Alyzza Flores found herself battling her inner demons solo. She would go through the motions of school, regardless of how she was feeling. “It was during my studies that I learned writing was a good means of venting,” she says. “I wrote about my dreams, my pain, my happiness, anything.” She slowly began to show this writing to others, starting with friends and family. After realizing that others could relate, she created Alyzza Speaks, which provides inspiring writing, imagery, advice and lively discussions. “Through this platform, I’ve combined my studies of nursing, psychology and sociology, my love of writing, and my many life experiences with the hope of bettering my community,” she says. One of the things she learned during this process, that she wishes she knew when she was younger, is that you are your own biggest obstacle! “Anything is possible,” she says. “I cannot emphasize enough that once you rid yourself of all negativity and self-ridicule, the world feels much simpler. When I was younger, I became comfortable with doing the bare minimum; not because I thought I had enough, but because I thought I could not have more. Sometimes we just get stuck. It’s important to keep going and to keep dreaming. The key to a good life, career, and success is to cheer yourself on, even when nobody else is.”
Life Coach Cindy Adams would tell her younger self to throw that 5-year plan out the window. “I used to lose countless hours of sleep coming up with how to best position my accomplishments in order to set me up for those notorious 1-, 3-, and 5-year career plans,” she says. “I’ve learned that if you focus on the now, you’ll still be successful and probably much happier. Harness that energy toward executing your current project well, and the opportunities will naturally present themselves.” But all advice is not deep thought. “Our mothers were right: Do not overpluck your eyebrows. They do not grow back,” concludes Adams. “And I wished I hadn’t stressed throughout high school about my stomach pooch. I used to wear high-waisted pants to squeeze my pooch. What was I thinking? No one ever looks at your waist and thinks, ‘Oh wow that’s not that flat.’” In other words: Be who you are, always, and unapologetically.