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20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 3:19 pm    Post subject: 20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life Reply with quote

It's a shame to find this when I'm 38 instead of 18. Smile Absolutely wonderful advice Cool Laughing Wink

1) How to control impulse spending. If thereís anything that got me in trouble financially, itís impulse spending. Buying clothes when I donít need them. Buying gadgets because I gotta have them. Ordering stuff online because itís so easy. Buying that new shiny SUV because Ö well, because it was going to help me with women. Iím not proud of any of that. Iíve learned to control my impulses, at least a little better. Now, I give myself some time to breathe. I think over my purchases, see if Iíve got the money, think about whether itís a need or a want. That would have been a useful tool 15 years ago.

2) You gotta stay active. I was in track, cross country and basketball in high school, but once I started college, the running and basketball began to slowly fade away. Not right away ó I played pick-up basketball for years after high school. But even that went away, until I became sedentary. Playing with my kids outdoors winded me. And I began to get fat. Iíve reversed that trend, and am very active now, but Iím still trying to burn the fat I gained in those inactive years.

3) How to plan finances. I always knew that I was supposed to budget and track my spending, when I became an adult. I just was too lazy to do it. And I didnít have a good idea of how to actually do it. Now, Iíve learned how to plan, and how to stick to that plan. Sure, I deviate from my plan, but Iíve learned how to handle that too. Maybe thatís not a skill you can learn from book reading. You just gotta practice. Well, I hope to teach it to my children before they go out on their own.

4) Junk food will come back to bite you in the butt. Yeah, it wasnít just the sedentary lifestyle that got me fat. It was all the damn junk food too. I would eat pizza and burgers and Twinkies and sugar cereal and desserts and donuts and Ö well, you get the picture. As someone used to being able to eat whatever I wanted, it never seemed like it would be a problem. Bad health was something to worry about when you got old. Well, my jeans began to get way too tight, and to my horror, I climbed several pants sizes and developed a gut that only now is going away. I wish someone had shown me an ďafterĒ picture when I was young and downing the Big Gulp sodas.

5) Smoking is just dumb. I didnít start smoking until I was well into my adult years. I wonít go into why I started, but it didnít seem like a problem, because I knew I could quit anytime I wanted. Or I thought I could, at least, until several years later I gave it a go and couldnít do it. Five failed quits later and I realized with horror that my addiction was stronger than I was. Sure, I eventually beat the habit (quit date: Nov. 18, 2005) but it took a piece of my soul to do it.

6) Fund your retirement, son. And donít withdraw it. This piece of wisdom, and probably all the ones above, might seem blisteringly obvious. And they are. Donít think I didnít know this when I was 18. I did. I just didnít pay it serious attention. Retirement was something I could worry about when I was in my 30s. Well, Iím in my 30s now and I wish I could slap that little 18-year-old Leo around a bit. What money I could have invested by now! I had a retirement plan, but on the 3 occasions when I changed jobs, I withdrew that and spent it frivolously.

7) All the stuff youíre doing that seems hard ó it will be of use. This is the first one that might not be as obvious. There were times in my life when work was hard, and I did it anyway, but hated it. I did it because I had to, but boy did it stress me out and leave me exhausted. Hard work isnít as easy as I wanted it to be. But you know what? Every bit of hard work I did without knowing why I was doing it Ö itís paid off for me in the long run. Maybe not right away, but Iím using skills and habits I learned during those times of high stress and long hours and tedious work ó I use them all the time, and theyíve made me into the person I am today. Thank you, younger Leo!

Cool Donít buy that used van without checking it out closely. I thought I was being smart by buying used, but I didnít check it out carefully enough. That dang van had loads of engine problems, a door that nearly fell off when I was driving, a door handle that snapped off, a side mirror that fell off, no spare tire despite three tires that were ready to blow (and did), windows that didnít roll up, rattling noises, an eventual blown radiator Ö I could go on and on, but letís just say that it wasnít my best purchase. I still think buying used is smart, but check things out closely first.

9) That guy youíre going to sell your car to? On a gentlemanís agreement? Heís not gonna pay you. I sold another car to a friend of a friend, who I was sure would pay me even if I had nothing in writing. That was smart. I still see the guy once in awhile on the road, but I donít have the energy to do a U-turn and chase after him.

10) Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. Iíve always wanted to be a writer, and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job, there just werenít enough hours in the day. Well, Iíve learned that you have to make those hours. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that take up your time, and donít let anything interfere with that work. If I had done that 15 years ago, I could have 15 books written by now. Not all would be great, but still.

11) All that stuff thatís stressing you out ó it wonít matter in 5 years, let alone 15. When things are happening to you right now, they mean all the world. I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I donít regret the hard work (see above) but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldnít matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn.

12) The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. Iíve had a few jobs, Iíve bought a lot of things, and Iíve made a few friends over these last 15 years. Of those, the only thing that still matter to me are the friends. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and family) than on the other things.

13) All that time you spend watching TV is a huge, huge waste of time. I donít know how much TV Iíve watched over the years, but itís a crapload. Hours and days and weeks Iíll never have back. Who cares what happens on reality TV, when reality is slipping by outside? Time is something youíll never get back ó donít waste it on TV.

14) Your kids are going to grow up way faster than you think. Donít waste a minute. I just had an Oh My God moment recently. My oldest daughter, Chloe, is 14 going on 15 next month. I have 3 years left with her before she leaves my house and becomes an adult. Three years! I am floored by that single fact, because it really doesnít seem anywhere near enough time. I want to go back to my younger self and whack that younger Leo on the head and say Stop working so hard! Stop watching TV! Spend more time with your kids! These last 15 years with Chloe (and my other wonderful kids) have gone by much, much too fast.

15) Forget the drama. Focus on being happy. There have been many things that have happened to me, professionally and personally, that seem like the end of the world. And while these things were bad, they get blown up in our heads so that they become major drama. They caused me to be depressed from time to time. What a waste of time. If I realized that it was all in my head, and that I could be happy instead if I focused on the positive, on what I did have, and what I could be doing Ö I could have skipped all the moping about.

16) Pay more attention to blogs when you first hear about them. Theyíre more than just journals. I first read about blogs 7-8 years ago, but when I took a look at them they didnít seem like anything of interest. Just some peopleís journals about stuff they read on the web. Why would I want to read those? I have my own thoughts about the web, but I donít need to share them with the world. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, on various sites and forums, but every time I happened upon a blog I would brush past it without interest. It wasnít until a couple years ago that I discovered what wonderful things they could be (I mentioned some of my early favorites in my list of influences). If I had gotten into blogging years ago Ö well, I wouldnít have been wasting all that time.

17) Speaking of which, keep a journal. Seriously. Your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term. I donít remember things about my kidsí early years, because I didnít record any of it. I donít remember things about my life. Itís like a lot of foggy memories that Iíll never have access to. I wish I had kept a journal.

1Cool Tequila is seriously evil. I wonít go into details, but it should suffice to say that I had some bad experiences, and Iím not sure I learned very much from them or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil.

19) Yes, you can do a marathon. Donít put this goal off ó itís extremely rewarding. Running a marathon had always been a dream of mine, since high school Ö something I wanted to do but thought was out of reach. Or if I ever did it, it would be years and years later. Well, I learned that itís not only achievable, itís incredibly rewarding. I wish I had started training when I was young and light and fit Ö I could have had some good finishing times!

20) All these mistakes youíre going to make, despite this advice? Theyíre worth it. My 18-year-old self would probably have read this post and said, ďGood advice!Ē And then he would have proceeded to make the same mistakes, despite good intentions. I was a good kid, but I wasnít good at following advice. I had to make my own mistakes, and live my own life. And thatís what I did, and I donít regret a minute of it. Every experience Iíve had (even the tequila ones) have led me down the path of life to where I am today. I love where I am today, and wouldnít trade it for another life for all the world. The pain, the stress, the drama, the hard work, the mistakes, the depression, the hangovers, the debt, the fat Ö it was all worth it.

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