What Would I Want to Learn From My Younger Self?

There’s a popular interview question I’ve been asked many times: What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self? To me, a much more interesting question if I could travel back in time and meet my younger self would be: What could I learn from my younger self?

In this episode, I share my thoughts around that, and in a way, I do meet a younger version of myself: By watching an interview Scobelizer did with me just after my arrival in the US 14 years ago.

[00:00:00] Okay. You know, this famous question. What would you tell your younger self? If you could go back in time and could give your younger self two tips, five ideas, one piece of advice, what would it be? I’ve been asked this question at least a hundred times on a hundred different podcasts. And I’ve always struggled with this question.
Something inside of me always resisted the idea that there is a neat tidbit of wisdom that I’ve accumulated over my life. That I could just hand down to my younger self. For that version of me to just, I don’t know, instantly consume, internalize and implement, and therefore sidestep the process of trial and error and the feet and pain and life experience that it took me in reality to acquire that wisdom that I was lacking at a young age.
So my answers to that question would. [00:01:00] Very, but I was conflicted about them every single time. Until recently I was on a podcast with a very good friend of mine, Alex, and he asked me that question, but slightly differently. He said, Hey, in 2007, so 14 years ago you at that point 23 year old, Steli went on a flight from Franklin.
To San Francisco to move to Silicon valley and start your first tech startup and try to change the world. That was a monumental step for you. If you today, 38 year old Steli could be on that flight. Sit next to 23 year old Steli and give them advice. What kind of conversation would you have with your younger self?
What would you tell your younger self? And I pondered the question. And said what I truly believe, which is, I don’t think I would try to give myself any advice because [00:02:00] I’m pretty convinced that at that age, at that time in my life at 23, I did the best I could. I had a lot of ideas. That today I totally disagree with and I’ve completely changed about, but at that point I was not quite ready to know these things or to change.
And I’m sure that if I, by some miracle, we’re sitting next to my younger self and was trying to tell 23 year old Steli listen, I know you think that you have to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. To be successful. I know that you think that you have to sacrifice your body, your friendships, your personal life, your emotional life, your spiritual life to reach the highest peaks [00:03:00] of success.
But let me tell you young, Steli chill the fuck out. You’re awesome. You’re ambitious. You’re a hard worker. Yes. I want you to give it your all, but you can take a break and you need a break. And also all this shit isn’t as important as you think it’s not as do or die. I’m pretty sure that 23 old Steli would’ve thought fuck that old guy.
Fuck that old. Steli from the future. That hasn’t succeeded in the way that I want to succeed. And now it’s coming back here to tell me, to adjust my approach. No fuck you would have, would have been most likely what I would have thought that 23 year old, I wasn’t ready to learn certain lessons because I wasn’t ready when you’re ready.
The lessons are everywhere. And [00:04:00] back then I had already started. Reading so much about entrepreneurship, about happiness, about the human psyche. I was studying hypnosis. I had already a good amount of life experience and it could have picked up on some lessons that I decided not to pick up on because I wasn’t ready for them yet.
And so instead of going back in time, trying to quote unquote, save myself from some failures or some heartbreak or some mistakes. And try to saving myself from all these things and just handing myself the knowledge on a P on a, on a fortune cookie, just do this. Your future self has figured it out. Just believe me, this isn’t how learning and wisdom works.
Instead of trying to do that, I think it would try to. See the opportunity of getting to know my younger self as a massive blessing and magical miracle. And I would have asked questions, trying to learn from my [00:05:00] younger self, because we all think we remember who we were, but every day we live changes the past, right?
The, as the future unfolds, as we grow, as we change. The glass through which we look at our past, the story we tell the narrative is ever so slightly shifting and changing. And therefore after 10 years, after 20 years after 30 years, we have a very different vantage point it looking at ourselves. And I’m sure we do see a lot of truth, but we’re also very far away and maybe.
Lost some of the sharpness. Maybe we now only have the outlines and we don’t understand the color scheme anymore. And maybe with today’s eyes with today’s wisdom. If we had time to spend with [00:06:00] our younger self fully open, curious, interested, maybe we’d learn incredible things about ourselves and who we were.
Maybe our younger selves could teach us some new lessons again. Some lessons that we had learned that I had already known at 23 that I forgotten by now at 38, I need to relearn. It’s not just look at our younger self as the lesser than who I am today. And let’s shake off this idea that if we had only known.
Some facts. If we had only gotten some better information, if somebody had only told us of the pitfalls we’re gonna step into in life, we could have saved ourselves from our struggles. Cause that is what I believe today. At least for myself in my own life, a very naive way of [00:07:00] looking at it. Now, obviously I can’t fly back.
You know, I can’t go back in time and actually be on this 11 hour flight with me, although that will be dope. But what that inspired in me is to go, well, how about, how about I try to get to know my youngest self, regardless if I can actually sit them next to me. So the first thing that I did is I’m very lucky in that.
On my second day, arriving in Silicon valley with no visa, with no home, with no friends, with no experience in doing anything in tech with terrible horrendous English speaking skills. On my second day, I was interviewed for half an hour. By, at that time, one of the biggest blogger in tech and in Silicon valley, Scoble lies a robot.
He’s now, you know, he’s somebody that the OGs of the internet and Silicon valley will [00:08:00] recognize. Um, but today’s, you know, young founders might not know him at all, but I was interviewed because I had a happenstance. Run into him at a restaurant. I told him that I just arrived in Silicon valley, bought a one way ticket.
I know nobody. I know nothing. I’m here to learn. He thought that was so endearing and cute. Then the next day he interviewed me and thank God what a blessing that interview was because I, I still have. Now the first time I saw that recording, I hated every single second of it. I looked so dumb to my own eyes.
I looked so goofy. My English was so horrible. I was just embarrassed about this interview. I hated that it existed. I mean, it’s a 30 minute interview. I think the first time it took me hours to watch. Till the end, I would hit play and three seconds later, pause, and then I would need 30 minutes of a breather.
You know, when you watch a [00:09:00] movie you’re embarrassed when people, and you hit pause because you can’t handle it, you know, that sort of a deal. And after words, I call it maybe this practice for myself to watch the interview once a year, in order to humble myself. Now I haven’t, hadn’t watched the video in a couple of years and I’ve watched the video today and I saw a completely different interview, you know, do I look incredibly, cool in that video?
No, there’s no coolness. And for those who know. You know, I kinda like to be cool. Right. But I don’t look cool in that video is my English great. No, my English is not great, but I’m not embarrassed today. As I was watching the video, I was inspired. I was inspired by the shine in my eyes. You could [00:10:00] just tell I was burning with passion and excitement and you know, the, the, the smile and laughter that I used to interpret as goofy.
And dumb looking now, I, all I saw was sweetness. Like there was an innocence and a sweetness to me that back in the day, I didn’t like, but now I appreciate, I honor him. I’m glad I had, and I listened to the interview and I thought, wow, look at me. Look at how courageous I was, because I know how afraid I was on how nervous I was on that interview.
Look at the massive, giant leap that I took and how unprepared I was. And, but look how much passion I had, how much love I had for what I was doing, how much courage I had, look how sweet I was. I really enjoyed [00:11:00] for the first time, I think ever. Seeing and recognizing the sweet side of me and a not nervous, but maybe a slightly shy side of me and insecure side of me.
And as I was watching the video, I was remembering that 23 year old Steli was it incredibly sweet? Passionate hardworking caring person. And that I really love who I was and that I like where I am today. And I think in many ways I have obviously, you know, grown as a person and a much more accomplished today.
I have a much richer life today, but what I can learn from my younger self is. You know, maybe to dare, to dream a bit [00:12:00] bigger, to rekindle my passion for certain things and be a bit more daring, a bit more open about those passions. No matter how I look to the outside world and watching that video inspired another question for me now, I know when you listen to this, you might be thinking, well, I don’t have a one hour interview or half an hour interview.
Famous blogger on my first day when I arrived in Silicon valley, you know, 14 years ago. Fair enough. But there are people that knew you when you were younger and that are not you. So for me, what I’m doing next is, you know, I called my mother and I asked her about how and who I was when I was there. Cause I have a story that I tell to everybody, including myself about who I was as a child, but I haven’t asked my mother this question ever.
And she never tells stories about me being young. So [00:13:00] I asked her today and I learned some surprising, incredible new things.
And now I’m thinking about my brothers. Especially one of my brothers who lived, who was kind of living in the same room with me and friends. And there’s a list of about seven people that I want to interview to learn more about who I was when I was younger, what stories I’ve forgotten, what things about myself.
I didn’t recognize at the time, what is remained in their memory. When they think of not just 23 year old Steli, but maybe 17 year old Stu Steli 12 year old. Steli there’s a lot to relearn about who we were. We kind of just assume we know, but we don’t, I don’t for sure. And I’m excited to learn. I am [00:14:00] surprised and grateful for.
What I learned today, watching that video and talking to my mom. And now I’m excited to see what I’ll learn when I talk to these other friends and family members, maybe pick up a few inspiring, interesting, surprising things about my younger self. So I’m sure there’s a lot. We could teach our younger self and other people in our life that are younger than you.
But there’s also a ton that we can learn from them, by the way, this is actually reminding me a year ago. I was driving with my children and I don’t remember one of my two sons had asked me a question and I try to answer it and describe it. Yeah. You know, how to think about a certain type of problem and challenge and interrupted me at some point and said, you know, debt, I love.
To learn from you. I love when you teach us things and I [00:15:00] thought, oh, that’s beautiful. You know, I’m really glad to hear that because I really love to teach you and not just to teach you. I also love learning from YouTube guys. And that response was instant shock. Both of them were like, what? You’re, you’re learning from us.
They’re like, what did you I’m like? Of course. I’ll learn from you all the time. You’ve been two of my most favorite teachers in life and they were laughing. They’re like, what the hell did we teach you? And I told them the truth, how is babies? They would teach me to be the moment I saw them as little Buddhas that were just in the present moment, never in the past, never in the future, just fully engaged with this very moment and that they were teaching me to be curious.
And they were reminding me to be playful and to fun. And there were. So many lessons that I learned being their father, and they were beaming with [00:16:00] pride in the car because to them, it had never cured to them that they had ever taught me anything that I could also learn from them.
And that’s a good thing to know. And it’s a good thing to remember.

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