Advice to Self — How My Little Sister Rocked Me to My Core

God just laughs… when you tell him your plans.
~ Somebody

Ok, so God just laughed at my plans.

I’ve had a side project going for the last couple of years that I call Advice to Self. . . just kind of playing with it and am not really sure where I want it to end up — perhaps it’ll become its own website, maybe a book, or maybe it will turn out to be just a fun way to pass some time and collect some wise observations from friends and others I meet along the way. I’d also like to make a poster out of it.

advice to selfThe Advice to Self Project is a collection of observations that people in their 40s and beyond make when asked a simple question:

If you could go back in time to when you were 20ish, what advice would you give to yourself?

Side Note:  This makes for a great question, by the way, when you feel a little awkward in a social setting or larger group when you don’t know many people. I often start conversations like this, and it gets far more interaction from strangers than idle chit chat about the weather or the local sports teams. Here’s what I typically say:

Nicole, really nice to meet you. Of course, we really don’t know each other, but I’m wondering if you could help me with a little writing project I’m working on I call Advice to Self.  If you could go back and offer some advice to your 20-year old self, what would it be?

People love to tell you what they should have done, and it usually leads to further conversation. Try it sometime and report back and let me know what happened.

For my own Advice to Self Project, I’ve collected over 100 responses so far, and I’ll write about them later.  (Please leave your own pieces of advice in a Comment below, if you’d like to share.)

So far, two of my favorites are:

I’d tell everyone who I cared about how much I loved being with them, and I’d tell them over and over again, certainly a lot more than I did back then. (From my 90-something friend Don G.)

And this one…

Jesus, Werner, that’s easy. I lived through the sexual revolution and was monogamous. I’d change that on Day 1. (From a friend who wishes to stay anonymous, because he’s still married to that one woman and still, he says, monogomous.)

Okay, so I’m wandering along with my Advice to Self project, content that it’ll turn into something interesting.

And, then… I asked my little sister (well, she’s little in both size and age, but only as compared to me on the age) this question I’ve asked others. She didn’t answer at first, so I figured I wouldn’t hear more from her on it.

advice to selfThen, a few hours later, I received a text from her that went something like this:

Mike (she’s one of the few who still calls me by my childhood name), you’re asking the wrong question. The right question is this: What will the You of 20 years from now be telling the You of today?

At first, I just chuckled.  But then, wow!!  After that question settled into my noggin for a couple of hours, it started to disturb me.


What will the You of 20 years from now be telling the You of today?

It was a few weeks ago when she posed the question to me, but it’s been with me ever since.

I can’t say I have the answer just quite yet, but it’s coming, and I think it will certainly set me on a path I hadn’t planned on. Not a bad one, just one that might lead to a great deal of soul searching.

So, please stay tuned for that. Nancy and I have some thinking to do, and we’ll report back when we can tell you more.

In the meantime, please share your Advice to Self thoughts in the Comments.  Of course, yes, please do offer Advice to Self to your 20-year old self, AND Advice to Self for the Current You from your 20+ Years You.


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