Lessons From Your Younger Self
Who do you see staring back at you from across the years, and what lessons can you learn from them that will serve you today?
Take a minute to think back in time and remember your younger self. Who do you see and what can you learn from them? These are questions I found myself asking a while ago, and the answers surprised me.
On a rainy December night, I found myself pulling random books off cluttered bookshelves in search of something different to read. It is one of my favourite things to do when I’m tired, confused or just looking for answers. I retire to the quiet corner of my house where the books turn yellow with age and the photos gather dust, the only corner untouched by technology and flat screen TVs with subwoofer surround sound speakers that are a constant reminder that I am one woman alone and outnumbered in a house full of boys!
So I peruse the shelves and, reliable as always, something jumps out. An old favourite – Richard Bach. Reading his name brings memories skipping out of the past – first Jonathan Livingston Seagull and thenIllusions, books I have read so often the pages are all but ready to crumble in my hands. This time a different book jumps out:Running From Safety, a book I have never read before. I remember trying to, but never quite getting into to it and so abandoning it for another day.
Why this book? I have no idea. Besides, I wasn’t there to ask questions. Sometimes the universe throws up just what you need at just the right time. No point thinking too hard about it, or looking too long for an explanation because you may end up missing it.
Running from Safety is the story of an adult man who reconnects with his younger self, a younger self he shut away and refused to think about or acknowledge. So for the second time in as many months I find myself looking in the mirror and seeing an eight year old girl staring back at me.
The first time was the previous month, when I gave a presentation to a room full of professionals at the Pitch Perfect club in London. The topic: rapport. The brief: say anything I wanted about rapport, as long as I told a story. So that’s what I did.
I told a story of an eight year old girl who managed to build rapport in a school where she was the only child with dark skin and from a working class background; of how she overcame the negative stereotypes that in those days people were so quick to attribute to her race, and was able to build extraordinary rapport with all those around her.
In both preparing and delivering my talk, I found myself unexpectedly filled with awe at the child I was thirty-five years ago. It was the first time in years that I had even given thought to the mindset and resolve of the skinny little black girl with crooked teeth and unruly impenetrable afro hair. The girl that despite being singled out as different by school teachers and pupils alike, somehow went on to excel in academics, sport and art; the girl who had the steely resolve to overcome set back after set back to become the person I am today.
When I asked myself that question, it dawned on me just how much I have to thank my younger self for and if only she could hear me, these are the words I would say:
• Thank you for how hard you worked to compensate for what you thought were your weaknesses;
• Thank you for the risks you took, even though you were terrified of failure;
• Thank you for the resilience you displayed when it felt as though the world was against you;
• Thank you for the belief you showed when others told you it couldn’t be done; and
• Thank you for the relationships you nurtured that have become your most treasured possessions.
Working hard, risking failure, displaying resilience, showing belief and nurturing relationships. Who knew that my younger self would have so much to teach that is relevant to my life today?
When you think about your younger self, who do you see staring back at you from across the years, and what lessons can you learn from them that will serve you today?