Letter To My 16-Year-Old Self

There are many things I know now that I’d wish I’d known when I was 16. I’d like to share some of them with you – and you are welcome to share them with others, too.

We are told that practice makes perfect, but actually, practice makes habit. Which means that if you practice something badly, you’re going to be really good at doing it badly. The key is to ensure you are taught correctly and understand well, then practice with constant adjustment towards excellence. Then your practice will head towards excellence. As W. Edwards Deming wisely put it, “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

Be mindful of your opinion, as an opinion is somewhere between fact and ignorance. Which leads me to my favourite quote by Daniel Boorstin: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge.”

Be aware of your limitations.

Good things happen to good and bad people. And bad things happen to good and bad people. Over your lifetime you are going to experience tragedy and adversity. Tragedy is usually associated with loss of a loved one. While you are young you tend to be naive and don’t realise that life is unpredictable. Be appreciative and enjoy the moment with everyone you interact with.

Love your mum and dad as they are. They are doing the best they know how based on their experiences and how their parents treated them. Try not to be judgemental, but rather communicate with them about your feelings. And remember that one day your parents will no longer be in this world.

There is no going back when you lose a loved one. You will need to learn to live with the pain. It will be less difficult as time goes on, but it will always be there.

When consoling those who have experienced loss, the less said the better as it is far more empathetic to just hug or touch the ones grieving. Sharing your beliefs can be hurtful, so be sensitive to others.

We have many privileges in this beautiful country, but don’t confuse that with entitlement. Appreciate your good fortune to be living in this land of abundance. Everything you would like to have, you will need to earn.

Do not strive for a happy life but a contented life. Happiness is an emotion that is fleeting and can never be a constant. Rather be grateful for what you have instead of envying what you don’t have. Being content will give you peace of mind.

Being successful requires a combination of determination, persistence, passion and patience. And remember that you can only attain success by experiencing some failures along the way. Failures are simply lessons that teach you how not to do it.

Be kind to everyone and particularly yourself. Be forgiving of your mistakes as there will be many in life. Being hard on yourself will only hurt yourself. Being smart is not repeating the mistake.

Be generous as there is joy in giving and you will find reciprocity with most people. If you don’t find reciprocity, it’s time to question the relationship.

Never allow negative emotions such as anger or fear to dictate your actions. Step back from these emotions and take a course of action based on facts and a clear mind.

Set your goal and be sure you know what needs to be done. Get the right help from the right people and break down the final goal into smaller milestones. Then focus on each step towards the goal.

Question, analyse, verify and challenge the things that you learn – remembering that experts are known to be wrong.

Express in words and touch, your love and appreciation for the people you care about, particularly your loved ones.

There is no need to do everything alone. There are times you will need others to support you. Appreciate that there is joy in giving, and that your family and friends will also have joy in being able to help you.

When you have children, they are your greatest responsibility. Treat them with love, affection, respect, care and patience. Never be condescending or put them down. Within reason, encourage them and teach them the consequences of their actions, then let them choose their direction.

There are times you will need to do things you don’t enjoy, but you’ll enjoy the benefits in the future.

Study not only to get good grades, but to learn to absorb knowledge in order to be able to use it.

These are the lessons which I now consciously apply in my own life.