Early last year, I got a request from Marianne Cantwell to participate in a video project she was putting together. It seemed simple enough when she first proposed it.
Marianne asked me and several others to answer in a sentence or two the question, “What do you wish you had known when you were eighteen?”
I began thinking about my eighteen-year-old self and realized that like most people that age, I was busily trying to figure out what I thought.
What kind of life did I want to have for myself? Was it easier to settle for an uninspired life or listen to the promptings of my heart?
I do not recall anyone suggesting that I should learn to think for myself.
As I began to jot down ideas for Marianne’s project, my list got longer and longer. How would I ever be able to pick one thought that summed up all the missing pieces of my puzzle?
What did I wish I’d known when I was eighteen?
Here’s my partial list:
Adventure Trumps Comfort.
Forget the Notion of a Single Lifetime Occupation.
Invest Wildly in Your Self and Your Dreams.
You Can Have Your Excuses. Or You Can Have Your Dreams. You Can’t Have Both.
Caution is Highly Overrated.
Take Every Opportunity to Astonish Yourself.
Fun is Not Frivolous.
What Makes You Different May Be What Makes You Valuable.
Don’t Waste Time Solving Problems You Don’t Have
I knew none of those things when I was eighteen—or twenty-eight. While I was deliberating about which of these things I wanted to share, Marianne came to my rescue and said to use them all and she’d decide which were the best fit for the project.
That got me off the hook, but doing the exercise had triggered a new thought.
What would happen if such radical notions were adopted early in life? What if we were encouraged to define adventure, dreams and opportunity for ourselves? What if we assumed that a lifetime was well spent if we kept stretching ourselves?
My question was answered when I happened upon a story of Justin Churchman, a CNN Hero. Justin set a goal to build eighteen houses in Juarez, Mexico before his eighteenth birthday.
After he participated in a building project with his seventh grade class, Justin got busy writing letters, giving speeches and working to raise more than $48,000 for Casas por Cristo. He also picked up a hammer himself and finished building his eighteenth home on his birthday.
Inspiring as Justin’s story is, I suspect that plenty of people who saw it reacted by thinking, “Well, that’s fine if you’re eighteen, but I couldn’t start such a thing at my age.”
Ah, age. It’s often the scapegoat for our fondest excuses. That’s not the way a card-carrying dreambuilder thinks.
Dreambuilders are apt to prefer this reminder from Robert Pirzig: “There is a sanity within me that reminds me that to regret that a journey wasn’t started sooner only delays further its beginning.”
The aforementioned Marianne Cantwell was featured in a nice piece in London’s Daily Mail. Read more about her journey from cubicle dweller to free range human