Unsolicited Advice To My Younger Self

May 03, 2020

I recently wrote this comment on an 15 year old entrepreneur’s post that he wrote sharing some awesome work that he’d done. It was intended to be short but quickly got out of control.

I started thinking about what I wished I’d done differently or knew when I was younger, and the words just kept coming. This post basically wrote itself. I could go on a lot longer, but I am beholden to the ever-shortening attention span of this era (including mine!), so I’ll keep it short.

younger elliot

A bit of background: I started web development at 10. By 13, I was answering questions on Stack Overflow. I’m 23 now, and I’ve written nearly 600 answers. They launched my career in web development, which I still do to this day to bankroll my indie hacking.

  1. It’s a great feeling to be the youngest person in the room, but you can’t rely on that as your trump card. Yes, it’s awesome that you’re getting started young and it shows that you’re smart and a hustler, but it also reveals that you are inexperienced. You need another edge – you should always be obsessing about developing that edge, sharpening yourself like a sword. When you get older and you’re no longer the youngest person in the room (like me, right here and right now), what is your edge? DON’T RELAX BECAUSE YOU’RE THE YOUNGEST PERSON IN THE ROOM.

  2. Make sure you listen – REALLY listen – to what other people have to say. It’s easy to dismiss a lot of advice as not relevant to you, because you’re so young or whatever, but usually the people who are telling you things know things you don’t know. The advice is probably relevant. ASSUME THE PERSON YOU’RE LISTENING TO KNOWS MORE THAN YOU DO.

  3. Have a long-term goal. If I’d known what I now know, back when I was your age, I could be a LOT further along. Actions consistently taken over time towards one specific goal compound fast, and you have more time than I do – 8 more years of it. Where would you like to be 5 years from now? 10? Imagine that in great detail. HAVE A LONG-TERM GOAL.

  4. Do not get attached to that long-term goal. I did, and it cost me years that I wasted because I wasn’t flexible enough to realize that the goal I set for myself wasn’t ideal. For a long time I wanted to become a millionaire as fast as possible so I could retire at 25 and never work again. It took me a long time to realize that a better goal is to find the freedom to live life as I want and work on things that matter to me. Money is worthless if you don’t have freedom to spend it. Instead, be flexible with your goals and re-evaluate them constantly as you learn new things. DON’T GET TOO ATTACHED TO ONE PARTICULAR GOAL.

  5. You don’t know what you don’t know. Find some mentors and pick their brains all the time. CONSTANTLY ASK OTHERS FOR ADVICE.

  6. If you want to learn something, interview other people who have done that thing really successfully and post the interviews as a video or podcast (with their permission, of course). You learn more, they get more exposure, and you build an audience by providing them with valuable content. Everybody wins!

  7. If you’re constantly stimulating your mind with passive entertainment, you deprive it of the ability to act on its own and produce content for others. Limit entertainment intake, whether that be fiction, videogames, movies, TV, whatever. YOU EITHER CONSUME OR YOU CREATE – PICK ONE.

Finally, some reading which changed my life: Four Hour Work-Week, by Tim Ferriss, and 12 Rules For Life, by Jordan Peterson. The advice above is drawn from my own experiences and what I’ve learned from those two books.

P.S. Did I mention that the person you’re listening to probably knows more than you do? There is so much to life, and you’re just getting started. Enjoy the ride, don’t work too hard, and take care of your health. There’s so much more, but these are some of the things I wish I knew when I was your age.