Community//

Dear Younger Me

“What would you tell your younger self?”

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

“What would you tell your younger self?”

It’s a popular question in leadership panels and interviews, and it always makes me smile. Every time, I give the same answer — an honest answer — and wait for the confused looks.

“Nothing.”

 It’s true. I wouldn’t tell my younger self a single thing. Not a single helpful hint.

Not because my decisions are flawless — or because I’m a glutton for punishment. There is power in every twist, every turn, every single success and failure. They define who I am today. They’re as much a part of me as my DNA.

In third grade, my family moved to the United States, and I took my first steps alone — onto a big yellow school bus, with nothing but a Swedish-English dictionary. I can still remember the sweat on the palms of my hands, how my heart raced. Staring at the rows of new faces, I remember wanting to disappear.

Last month, I watched a similar scene unfold, dropping my daughter off at a soccer camp in Sweden. The clincher? She doesn’t speak a word of Swedish. There was so much I wanted to tell her — to guide her through, step-by-step. But in the end, I took her luggage out of the car, gave her that same worn copy of the Swedish-English dictionary, and wished her well.

She took a deep breath, gathered her courage, and walked across the parking lot to the group of girls, already in matching uniforms.

“Nothing.”

Moment by moment, we’re learning more about ourselves. About the people around us. About who we want to be and how to get there. The more experiences we endure, the more we understand — and it’s a slow, sometimes painful process. It comes down to grit, and this is the one and only way to get it.

In life, we may be tempted to guide the people we care about through the bumpy spots. To intervene when they’re faced with challenges or save them from their mistakes. But sometimes, the key to great leadership is doing just the opposite.

Support them as they create their own stories. Let them live and thrive in these uncomfortable moments — heart racing — just as you have. If you give them the chance, they will find a way to level up. And their path may just surprise you.

When your people come face to face with a challenge, here’s my advice:

  1. Ask, “Will it break them or the business?” (If the answer is no, continue.)
  2. Lean out and watch them lean in.
  3. Be there to listen. Let them know you’re only a call away.
  4. Help them process what they’ve learned.
  5. Challenge them to keep upping their game.

At the end of the month, when I picked my daughter up from camp, she said it was the best adventure of her life. She couldn’t stop talking about it.

Someday, when it’s her turn to lead, I hope she’ll have the strength to say Nothing.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash
    Community//

    10 Pieces of Advice My Younger Self Would Love to Hear

    by Basma Fawzy
    Community//

    In Pursuit of “Next Steps”

    by Mike Ronquillo
    Heart rocks
    Community//

    Hello Lisa, I love you!

    by Lisa Johnston

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.