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If I only knew then what I know now

  1. Jul 9, 2012 #1
    "If you only knew then what I know now..."

    I've been hearing this statement a lot lately (mostly from old people). I've been thinking about it lately and there's really not too many decisions I wish I didn't make in my past experiences. Yes, there's the obvious stock or investment that I shouldn't have bought in and the occasional girl I should have asked out. However, I'm in my mid 20's and consider myself rather ignorant when it comes to life's lessons.

    Anyways, I thought it would make a neat thread to hear what some of you more "experienced" folks on PF would say to younger versions of yourselves given the chance and a time machine. Any special words of wisdom other than "buy low, sell high"? :approve:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2012 #2
    That thing you've been putting off? Do it. Also, that other thing, do that too.
  4. Jul 10, 2012 #3
    I have one! "Don't stay up late or else you'll turn into a panda."
    It sounds like a joke because it is but I regret staying up really late 'til very early in the morning during my college days. It's of no benefit now that I'm working already.
  5. Jul 10, 2012 #4
    Here is something that I would have rejected completely in my youth, but find great wisdom in today. ("Youth" is a relative term. For me, it lasts at least until 30, perhaps 40. I can remember Grandma applying it to women in their 60's.)

    The most important thing in our lives are our relationships with the people in our lives. Everyone does the best they can with what they have and what they know. So cut them some slack and don't judge them negatively.

    And my favorite from Grandma, who taught it to me as a small child: Happiness is a state of mind. So take care of your mind and treat it nicely. Don't fill it with negative garbage. Fill it with good stuff and exercise it often. Don't believe half of what you hear and doubt the other half. Develop your own opinions, and feel free to change them often. Learn to have complete control over over your mind, and it will give you much happiness.
  6. Jul 10, 2012 #5
    Your grandma is smart! Thank you for sharing.
  7. Jul 10, 2012 #6
    Sell high, buy low?

    Stock futures.
  8. Jul 10, 2012 #7


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    Things turned out well for me so I don't have any great regrets about decisions made. However, don't wait (or expect) things to happen. Seize the moment and go for it. Listen and think about what people say to you rather than immediately rejecting it. Pkruses Grandma has it nailed basically. But most of all I really wish I'd listened to what my mother said....
  9. Jul 10, 2012 #8
    Don't look back.
  10. Jul 10, 2012 #9

    Chi Meson

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    Take care of your teeth!
    Seriously. I know some of you do already but, I thought I did too. I just had my 3rd crown worked on yesterday. Brush 2 or 3 times a day; it's worth 1000s of $ in the future.
  11. Jul 10, 2012 #10


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    Thankfully I've never had to really tell myself this in the past, but if I was meeting a me in a different world-line I would say to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve: don't think you know how to 'fix' or 'know' anyone else, their situation, or their life story in any kind of serious detail.

    It's amazing how some of the things that change people, change this most important of values that if lost, really comes back to bite them.
  12. Jul 10, 2012 #11


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    This is the impetus for my writing of the "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay. There were a gazillion things that I wish someone would have told me, and I think I could have gone into several things with my eyes wide open, rather than discovering things the hard way as I was doing it. It would have made me a more well-prepared student.

    So I would say that that whole essay is what I would have told my younger self.

  13. Jul 10, 2012 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Haha, this is probably going to go over like a lead brick.

    Be more selfish. I've spent far too much of my life trying to make a difference and trying to do the right thing, instead of trying to be happy. Luckily I realized the error in my ways while there is still some time left.
  14. Jul 10, 2012 #13
    omg, I totally feel you there. As a kid I didn't take care of my teeth and no matter how clean I keep them now they are still falling apart from all the work that had been done before. It's painful and expensive!
  15. Jul 10, 2012 #14

    Chi Meson

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    Totally with you there! Some people need the opposite advise, but many people put themselves last. That leads to misery. Don't go all Ayn Rand though; there IS a middle and it is not gray, it's colorful!
  16. Jul 10, 2012 #15
    I had a different brain when I was younger. Even if I told myself something, I wouldn't have listened.
    After you floss your teeth, try smelling the string. If that's not enough motivation to keep your teeth clean, I don't know what is.
  17. Jul 10, 2012 #16
    1. Take more ambition risks (e.g. joining a startup). The downside of failure is never as deep or bad as it seems.

    2. Work on bigger problems. Smaller problems are just as much work as bigger problems. They just have smaller rewards.

    3. Make yourself happy. Noone else is responsible for your happiness. You are no good to anyone else until you do.
  18. Jul 10, 2012 #17


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    That's what every crackpot does :tongue:
  19. Jul 10, 2012 #18


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    To me in my early twenties: Study more, Stay in college, Do not call a drill Sgt. a dumb sh@t.

    To me in my forties: Buy Tech stocks and Walmart. Take care of your body you are going to need it for a long time yet.

    To me in my 60's: Buy aspercream, advil and tylenol. Too late to take care of the knees.
  20. Jul 10, 2012 #19
    I see a lot of threads on these forums by young people wanting advice as to what they should study or what career they should go into. I’ve also seen many older men who absolutely hate their job and are counting down the days until they can retire. They very much have a “Take this job and shove it” mentality. They clearly picked the wrong career path. This is very sad.

    Grandma had something to say about that, and it is sort of like Ivan’s advice to be more selfish, but to be selfish in a particular way. She encouraged me as a young child to learn as much as possible about anything that I was interested in. Most times, I’d learn a bit and go on to something else. But when I found something that held my interest, her advice was to keep at it as long as learning more was fun. She said that I’d find something that would hold my interest over the years as I grew up, and that I’d find myself coming back to it time and again to learn more. I’d spend time studying it even when nobody was telling me or paying me to do it. She said that by the time I started high school, I’d know what that one thing is that I love to work with more than anything else. That would be my primary passion, and that I should at that time plan my studies to develop a career path in that direction. She started telling me things like this before my fifth birthday, and that is pretty much the path I took. Now that I’m old and could retire if I really wanted to, I have no plans to retire because it is still fun to go to work every day.

    I’m working with many engineers older than me, in their 70’s and 80’s. They have the same attitude I do, and it is really fun to be around them. They are all worth at least a million, and some tens of millions. One who is 87 is worth much more than that, since at different times he was the CEO of two different companies, both two of the largest in the US. But when he hit mandatory retirement at the big companies, he came to work with us as “just an engineer” because that is his primary passion and he derives much joy from it. That is what young people should strive to be when they are old.

    Young people should quit asking advice as to what they should do. Nobody can tell them that. If anyone does, it is probably wrong. We all need to figure out what our main passion is, and develop a career centered on that. But nobody learns what their true passion is without getting out and experiencing the world first. That is best done in the early years. That is the form of selfishness Grandma advocated, because once take care of ourselves first in that way we can also be a blessing to many other people and have a bunch of fun doing it.

    Grandma’s son, my dad, also had a pearl of wisdom that I’m happy to have learned early. I’ve made reference to it many times. He said that everyone has a constitutional right to be ignorant. It is wise not to exercise all our rights, but if we come across someone who is exercising his right to be ignorant we should leave them alone. Don’t argue with them. Their ignorance brings them much happiness, so let them be happy, smile politely, and go our own way.
  21. Jul 10, 2012 #20

    Chi Meson

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    What if he's a senator?
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