This is Part 3.1 of the Building the Foundation to Start a Personal Development Journey Mini-Series. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3.2, click here. For Part 3.3, click here.
What’s the best advice you could give? Given all your life’s experiences, lessons, and knowledge gained along the way?
I asked over 400 (a total of 406) people for the best advice they could give.
There wasn’t really any specific intention I had with this question or have a specific way I wanted to go about it. I was just going to share the best advice people gave and analyze it. In my research though, I decided I wanted to dig deeper and found some interesting and hopefully useful information on the topic of advice alone, both giving it and receiving it. I definitely learned a lot.
This is the second question from a series of questions I asked for this series. To find out more about this series and why I’m doing this, click here for Part 1. For the first question, What is Success?, click here for Part 2.
Due to the extensive research put into this question topic, it will be broken up into separate articles for parts. This article is the first part for the advice question—Part 3.1.
First I want to share the best advice people gave. But before that, I want to address why the question was worded the way it was.
The Wording of the Question
“Given your life’s experiences, what advice could you give to someone who is younger and less experienced that would be beneficial to them?”
“As a(n) (selected age range) year old, what advice could you give to someone who is younger and less experienced that would be beneficial to them?”
“As a(n) (age) year old (profession), what advice could you give to someone who is younger and less experienced that would be beneficial to them?
“Given your life’s experiences, what’s the best advice you could give to someone who is younger and less experienced that would be beneficial to them?”
Those questions above were variations of the question that I asked.
Why I Worded The Question That Way
This question was a tough one to word. Many people were able to give advice right away without having to put much thought to it. Others were pretty stumped on it. Reasons being not knowing why to give advice or for what purpose or for who exactly or if I mentioned their profession because it should relate to their professional experience and why.
I also received criticism for the fact that I mentioned age and the question being about giving advice to someone younger than them.
A part of me wanted to keep it general, wishing I would’ve excluded the age part. I wanted people to give their best advice that they think would apply to all or at least most people who haven’t had the knowledge, experiences, and lessons they’ve gained in their lifetime.
Still, I stand by including the age part. One of the reasons why I added the age part was because I wanted it to be somewhat specific and not too vague. And I wanted it to be easier for people to be able to picture someone they could or would give advice to. Another reason is that everyone has experienced being younger and going through life up until now or what they’re going through now. Although I don’t believe that younger people can’t give advice to older people or that older people should disregard all the advice given by younger people.
I also didn’t say younger self because maybe some people did do something right that they would like to share, as in “do what I did. This worked for me.” Typically when we give advice to our younger selves, I believe it’s more about consoling our inner child and about not making certain mistakes that were made. It’s less about giving useful, applicable advice although that sometimes may be the case. That’s just my belief about it though.
I’m not ageist—which someone either accused me of or gave the advice not to be ageist. 🤔
Also, this blog is mostly targeted toward millennials. I specifically wanted advice for “while it’s still early or while you’re younger” and “Do now. Don’t wait until later.”
Now that we’ve addressed the wording of the question, let’s get to the demographics. They are pretty similar to the previous question but differ slightly because some people only answered the first question and not the second one or any other ones and some answers were taken from outside sources answering just the one specific advice question.
Slightly more than half of the respondents were female.
The top two most common age groups were ages 21-29 and ages 60 or older. Followed by ages 40-49, ages 30-39, ages 50-59, ages 18-20, and lastly ages 17 or younger.
Almost all of the respondents said they lived in the United States, followed by Canada, Costa Rica, India, and the United Kingdom. There were a total of 24 different countries.
Out of the responses in the United States, the most common states were Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Washington. There were respondents from 42 different states.
The top city in the United States was Orlando, followed by Los Angeles, Kissimmee, Denver, and Portland. There were respondents from 241 different cities and towns.
Almost 50% of responses said they were employed, working full-time.
Of those that said they were employed, either full-time or part-time, the most common occupations were in Sales and Related; Management; Healthcare Practitioners and Technical; Education, Training, and Library; and Food Preparation and Serving.
The following is a word cloud map of the most used words in the responses to the question.
I don’t think the word map shows much at least as much as the previous question on success did. The words that stand out that people used are “learn,” “love,” “work.” “Life” was the most used word, followed by “learn” used a total of 36, more than 8% of the responses, then “love,” then “people,” then “don’t” (“don”).
The word don comes from people using the word don’t. For some reason, the word map excluded the apostrophe followed by the t. So, many people were giving advice on things not to do, “don’t do this.”
I noticed the main types of advice were about education (go to college, learn), goals (never give up, reach your goals), financial (save money) and work (work hard, do what you love, find your passion, etc.)
I did analyze word usage among genders, age groups, and the total population. However, I did not find the data to be too reliable or paint an accurate picture at some of the types of advice. I also did not find it to be very significant. Or all that interesting either. Since I did read every single answer, my findings are based on both on what I noticed from reading the responses and the statistics collected.
I was surprised by the lack of relationship advice. I expected it a lot more. Also, I found it ironic that answers put more importance on relationships for the former success question, yet thought to give more financial advice. I know that in my lifetime I’ve given a lot more relationship advice than financial advice. I would assume that to be true for most people as well. Maybe more so for women than men. Research finds that more women receive advice than men. But I image more men going to their buddies over their love troubles than financial troubles and therefore receiving and giving more advice for that. I also hear it and see it all around me. In the media. At the grocery store. On Facebook.
Perhaps it was the age factor? I know when I was younger, I received a lot of “advice” to not worry about boys or having boyfriends at such a young age. To worry more about doing well in school, getting into college, getting a good career, etc.
Just because the second most used word in responses was love doesn’t mean that people were talking about love in the form of romance or relationships. The responses containing the word were mostly about loving yourself, doing something you love, etc.
I did take the time to read each answer, so I didn’t find as much advice on relationships and people as I did with financial and professional advice.
I measured how many responses included words in the social category. The words contained in this category were love, relationship, people, social, friend, family, talk/speak/spoke and variations of those words. If we take the word love out of the social category, the social category drastically drops from 18.47% to 10% as shown in the graph below. Aside from love, the most common word from this category was people.
Relationship Advice Highlights
Here are some of the featured responses on relationships:
“You can spend your whole life either chasing money or human connection. At the end of the day, what’s worth more to you?” – Dave Zenert
“Put down the cell phone and walk away; nothing on that screen is as important as the people around you. Life doesn’t exist in a 5” screen, and it’s too short to be wasted on “social media,” LOLs, or angry birds – get out there and experience life with people you truly care about.” – Anonymous
“Take time to evaluate people and build your relationships, the relationships you have will carry you through good and hard times and into your future” – Zippy
“Make many relationships that you value, connect to many people with whom you can be mutually supportive, keep learning, understand and love yourself” – Anonymous
“Hold on to your loved ones tighter than your possessions.” – Anonymous
Why We Should Put More Importance on Relationship Advice
Since I found very little relationship advice, I won’t be addressing specific answers from the survey. I’m wondering if there’s a reason for the lack of it, so I will say this which I’ve said for the previous survey question, throughout our lifetime, we should heavily focus on our relationships. Although a few did say it, I don’t think it was mentioned enough to be seen as substantial.
And this not only pertains to romantic relationships, but it can also apply to different kinds of relationships—we should work on them, learn about relationships, learn about our partners, learn about red flags, learn how to be a better lover (and not be ashamed to do so). Learn how to listen, learn how to communicate.
Learn about parenting. We shouldn’t just go with what worked for us or how we were raised. There might be easier and more effective ways.
Learn how to be a better friend. Instead of only seeing if the people around us are good friends.
We may sometimes want to improve our social skills, but it’s for different reasons such as conversational skills, small talk, for sales, making new friends, networking, meeting new people. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is one of the most best-selling books of all time, having sold over 15 million copies.
But we often overlook becoming better at romantic relationships and relationships with family and those who are already close to us. Having purpose and responsibility in our relationships is essential.
It’s not enough to only love yourself. Learn how to love other people too.
The reason for this is that relationships in our lives have the strongest influence on our happiness. More so than money, financial success, education, and career achievements.
Our relationships make up who we are and who we are make up our relationships.
The social words category was the most popular word category for women.
68% of the responses in the social words category were by women. Almost 30% of the responses in the total female population were in the social words category.
This type of advice I found to be the most recurring. With the lack of relationship advice, I was surprised at all the financial advice.
There was a lot of advice to save money, and many stated explicitly for retirement.
“Start saving early, because you’ll need it later, at a time that’s currently past the distance you can see. But that doesn’t me don’t spend money. Just think before you spend it, and spend it wisely. Take the vacation to a place you’ve always wanted to see instead of buying the newest, fanciest car or TV. And manage your time…it really is the most precious resource you have.” – Anonymous
More than half of the responses with finance-related words (finance, financial, money, save,) were given by people in their 40s and older. More than 30% of the finance group was by ages 60 or older. Also, 20% of the entire popular of those ages 60 or older gave advice with finance-related words in their responses.
“Plan for your future self’s needs earlier.” – Anonymous
Although simple and possibly overstated, the advice to plan for ‘future you’ should definitely not ignored or procrastinated, even beyond saving for retirement or emergencies. The reason being is because of a cognitive bias called present bias. The person you are now tends to look at your future self as a complete stranger and therefore ignore your future needs. So what tends to happen is we don’t place importance on preparing for the future by procrastinating or flat out refusing to plan for things such as retirement.
The best finance/work advice from what I’ve read is to find a way or ways to make passive income, develop different skills and learn across multiple disciplines to have a unique skill set.
“I’m in. And get as much experience as you can in all fields that interest you.” – Heissam “I’m in” Jebailey
“Develop quantifiable and unique skills that can translate into steady work.” – Anonymous
Instead of just focusing on saving more money, focus on making more money now and increasing income. Yes, easier said than done. But remember there’s a limit to how much you can save but no limit to how much you can earn. So saving alone to get rich is lousy advice.
And instead of just saving alone, learn how to save first of all—how to budget, types of savings accounts, how to invest, etc. There’s no risk in just educating yourself on these things.
“spend within your means and never ever buy anything except a house that you can’t afford to buy outright. If you can’t afford to pay cash, don’t buy it. Also, for women: be self-reliant” – Anonymous
Some of this advice was a little outdated, specifically the ones stating to go to college. In this day and age, success is most definitely possible without a college degree or college education and attaining that education and degree does not guarantee success as much as it used to. Not to mention the high cost of it with increasing college tuition and student loans. Regarding careers, there are plenty of high paying jobs that do not require a college education.
Regarding solely getting an education, learning and education, with a wi-fi connection, is just at the click of a button. And you can learn from the people around you too. That’s another reason why relationships with people are so important. If you notice, education and relationships go hand in hand. This is shown in many of the answers too.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in learning and education. And I think college is great, but it’s not for everyone and therefore not great advice. “Go to college” in and of itself is not bad advice (for many people) but it’s not advice I’d just give anyone or say that it is good advice to follow. Although I am someone who wants to continue my education and pursue degrees in different fields. Advising to get an education (self or otherwise), learn, or detailed college advice is different than advice to go to college and get just any degree. I wouldn’t say “don’t go to college” is good advice either. It should though definitely be something to consider and further look into.
There is a lot of debate on whether a college degree is worth it or not. Statistically speaking, those who earn a degree earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than those with just high school education. Not to mention the experiences, relationships, and connections made during college can be invaluable.
Usage of education-related words and their variations (school, college, study, education, read, book, degree, learn, grade) was the most popular among the total population.
This was also the most popular category for male responses.
Education Answer Highlights
“Some advice I would give to someone younger than me with the experience I have is to learn as much as possible about different cultures and not, you know, not only cultures but people in general just… You know, I think talking to people from different places you learn a tremendous amount. And, you know, being in a restaurant, I meet people from all over the world, from all, you know, different countries. And, you know, I spend sometimes—I spend hours sometimes I spend you know how long with them, but I think it’s important to talk to people like really talk to people and learn about them not just, you know, oh small talk. I think it’s important to really just learn about people cuz it helps you. You grow empathy for people, you know. It helps you become aware of, you know, that other people’s situations exist outside of your little, you know, bubble. So yeah, I think that’s in general, is to just talk to people and learn about people.” – Brady Philips
“Personally, I would say spend time with the elderly. That is a huge, huge benefit to anywhere you’re going in life, anything you want to do and dream. Spend time with those who’ve been alive longer on this Earth, who’ve experienced things twice, four times as much as people even younger than me have, could ever imagine. They have so much wisdom and spending time with the elderly is definitely…definitely helps you see perspective and see how everyone else has handled their life and lived their life to their fullest. When they share a story, my advice is to just stop and listen. Just look at them, like ‘Wow, you’ve lived your life fully.'” – Elisabeth S. Pomeroy
General Life Advice – The Good
Some places where I like to find useful advice is the subreddit, LifeProTips and the platform Quora.
This advice applies to everyone. You might think well what about narcissists? They love themselves too much! No, narcissists do not love themselves. Narcissists are deeply insecure, have low self-esteem, and seek constant validation.
Although I don’t think “love yourself” is bad advice, I think it can be better worded as accept and respect yourself. Be a friend to yourself. Loving yourself also doesn’t mean you have to love or even like everything about yourself. Loving yourself means knowing and being aware of things you should change about yourself. And doing so. Or just simply the accepting the things you don’t like and you can’t change and accepting those facts. The following responses explain beautifully a few of the reasons why it’s so important to love yourself.
“I mean this is so cliché, but I think self-love. Like love yourself. I think that is so important because like everything else like I want to say like know your strengths and weaknesses. That’s probably the second thing I would say. But I think first and foremost, love yourself. Because I think the ladder, like knowing your strengths, whatnot… So much—so much of life, in life, I think in general, loving your—that’s where your strengths—like loving yourself gives you strength for other things. Right, to tackle, you know, new journeys and passion projects, whatever it may be. Or challenges cuz life is never short of challenges or obstacles or disappointments. And so, I would say, love yourself because if you love yourself, it prepares you for all the amazing things in life or it also it opens the door for many amazing things in life. And also, it prepares you for all the hardships and the difficulties in life. So you’re able to weather all those things and, you know, you don’t vacillate, you know, where your emotion dictates as, you know, as fickle as the wind blows. You know, whichever direction it blows, “Oh I go this way, I go that way.” But and, you know, obviously, those wind can be a metaphor for many things like peer pressure or just wrong advice or, just I don’t know. You catch feelings for different things or wrong things or the wrong person. But if you love yourself, like, it anchors you. And I think that’s something that would help you and last like the entire duration of your life. So love yourself. There’s many others, but love yourself, yeah.” – Paul Kim
“I think the older that you get, the more you tend to—is to like yourself. The quicker you can do that and be comfortable with who you are in your own skin, the easier it will be to pull in people that are gonna be more helpful to you than, you know, than be more of a hindrance, you know. Hinder you in what you’re trying to accomplish or try to distract you. So I think that would be the first thing is—or the most important thing is learn to love yourself very quickly.” – Greg Gura
“The success of your future relationships will stem from the relationship you have with yourself, so start pursuing self-love” – Anonymous
Never stop learning & Learn how to learn
The importance to never stop learning goes without being said. Let’s go a step further into mastering learning and why we should learn how to learn. Learning how to learn makes everything we learn more effective. If we could efficiently learn better, faster, and more, think of how much we could advance not just as individuals but as society as a whole.
We have to consider first how we learn and what we learn. If everything we learn is junk and our knowledge is irrational, how powerful is knowledge to us really?
If we mistake opinions as fact and treat values and beliefs as knowledge, then what good is learning? That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have any beliefs, values, and opinions. It means seeing them as is and being able to challenge what we already know and knowing how to challenge new information we come across (that we already or immediately agree with) and how to be open to new information (that we already or immediately disagree with).
“Be kind, it is always the answer” – Anonymous
“Cultivate compassion, empathy & kindness” – Anonymous
We can often be impulsive and reactive to what happens to us, whether good or bad. When someone smiles at us, we naturally smile back. But how many of us go about our lives consciously practicing kindness every single day and being aware of how we treat other people? We don’t put much thought into it. We are raised and wired to be a certain way. Sometimes we can be unintentionally careless and inconsiderate. It’s not because we don’t care. It’s a lack of self-awareness. Or because we are distracted and preoccupied.
We are more likely to be nice when it’s easy or when we feel like it. It’s often a matter of mood or convenience.
Think about a time you made a remark that you didn’t think much of but had consequences for it or a time you snapped at a partner or friend. It’s different though than thinking before you speak which I would actually say is bad advice to some.
It’s about having the purpose to be kind and deliberately and intentionally practicing kindness. Making kindness a habit. Living with kindness. Having a discipline of kindness. Being kind should not be confused with being a doormat or not asserting yourself either. And not only kindness to other people but to ourselves as well. In turn, it can also become practicing optimism or gratitude or selflessness.
General Life Advice Highlights
Here are some more featured answers from the advice question in the survey.
• “Do—try to do as many things that you love to do…that mean something to you. Don’t try to do things to make other people happy. Try to do as much as you can to make yourself happy. And always try to have fun doing it. […] Even when you’re mowing the lawn, try to have fun with it. Putting some music in your ears. Make something fun out of whatever you’re doing is the advice I would give. […] Try to have fun with everything you do. Try to have a positive attitude with it. Yeah. Definitely, a positive attitude and have fun doing those things.” – Ryan Hamilton
• “Here are top 9 pieces of advice I would give someone who is younger that would change their lives forever: Never let anyone out-work you Get yourself a world-class mentor Work with a sense of urgency always Surround yourself with the greatest minds possible Work for great people for free. Stay away from social media Ensure you learn how to manage money Master the art of written & verbal communication Loy Machedo” – Loy Machedo
• “In order to have a solution.. the problem needs to be found first” – Juan Sandoval
• “Don’t get complacent – things change, and fortune favors those that keep working to improve and meet future challenges” – Anonymous
• “Don’t be afraid to leave a bad thing behind, Don’t be afraid of change.” – Crystal Meadows
• “Keep moving even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to. Make a reason and hold onto it until you find another reason to keep going. Don’t ever stop.” – Christa Bruno Cruz
• “Make friends so you can have a guy for everything. Computer guy, car guy, law guy, doctor guy, tax guy… if you have a guy for whatever problem you need they can guide you through the proper steps and you’ll learn for the future.” – perepip
• “I think advices don’t depend on the age, so to anyone who needs it, including myself sometimes, I would remind them something that they already know. Trust the process. Trust yourself. You have managed up until now, and you have overcome many situations (most of those, you couldn’t even imagine a way out of). You have smiled and cried, and lived in many different ways. Keep doing so. Keep feeling, whatever it is now. Pain, happiness, sadness, satisfaction… all of them, are powerful. Always look forward and try to find the bright side, because at the end, is not success that gives us gratitude, but gratitude that makes us feel like successful people.” – Marta
• “Take time to enjoy the process. Spend time with friends and family to build memories that will last for life. Invest in yourself by adopting good habits like reading, exercising, and eating healthier food. Try to explore your passions as much as you can to figure what you want to do in your life, what activities will make you come alive.” – Sheyra Sharma
• “Don’t sweat the small stuff, try and accept that no matter the circumstances be it scary, hopeless, embarrassing, discouraging or heartbreaking life is constantly changing, you only have control of your actions and mentality. It’s okay to mess up or fail to live up to your own or others standards because every poignant experience is a lesson learned whether it registers as such or not. The beauty of life is the truth of always being able to change a situation. Not always physically or tangibly but with your mind, outlook, reaction and acceptance.” – Anonymous
• “Know what you do and enjoy best, keep learning, build business and personal relationships, be curious, take initiative, understand self and seek to understand others, grown your conflict resolution skills, love self and others” – Anonymous
• “Focus on developing your character and caring for others” – Anonymous
• “Do fun things in nature, resist being absorbed in devices that isolate you from relationships. Talk face to face more and value your true friends.” – Anonymous
• “enjoy each and every day, don’t harbor grudges, give people the benefit of the doubt but don’t be a patsy” – Anonymous
• “Spend more time cultivating relationships. Seek weekly counseling for at least six months. Eat as clean and as healthy as you can. Save your money.” – Anonymous
• “Do your best and be open to change.” – Anonymous
• “Master your communication skills, computer skills and typing skills. Having strong verbal and written skills is essential to move up in a company. Try to anticipate problems without being told and providing suggested solutions. Read the book millionaire next door best financial advice book I read in college. Network when in school and foster adult relationships before you need a job, makes finding the right job easier later. The best jobs come from your network and are rarely published. Start investing as much as you can into your 401k when you’re in your 20’s. You will really be ahead in life and might retire early, this money is debt and bankruptcy protected and social security might not be around later in life. Set up a second savings account to try and save $50 to $100 PER paycheck when your young this will allow you to purchase your first residence at a young age. I was 27 when I bought my first 4 bedroom home by doing this. Lastly protect and build your credit score with your life. This will come in handy when making major purchases because you will pay the lower interest on all loans…more money in your pocket. Don’t make money your main focus when starting your career. Focus on the learning and growth opportunities provided, learn everything not just what you were tasked with. The money will come, the learning lessons are way more important. Lastly, travel the world any chance you Can, makes you a more well-rounded and interesting and humble person. World travel teaches experience and memories that are invaluable.” – Anonymous
• “Don’t waste time and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself it’s important to be independent. Change is not as scary as they say it is. You will be surprised at what you can do if you try. Learn as much as you can. Gain experience. Focus on a career that will keep you grounded on your feet. Not depend on anyone but yourself. Search for mental stability and peace of mind. Always keep moving forward.” – Anonymous
• “Done is better than perfect” – Anonymous
• “Know your worth; don’t let someone else define it.” – Anonymous
• “Mental and physical health should be your highest priority. Don’t keep toxic people in your life. You deserve to be treated well. Study psychology and always be looking inward for the motivations and reasons behind what you do to see if you can grow and better yourself, be kinder to yourself. Success leaves clues, study how people you admire became successful. Momentum is important, capitalize on momentum energy, do not slow down because things has taken off. Creativity is never a waste of time. Pursue passions and crafts that don’t make you money because they build your skill set and inspire you, you can make a business from them someday. Do not stay in relationships where people undervalue or mistreat you. You are strong enough to get through anything, your happiness in life is directly connected to who you spend time with/live with. Do not dwell on the feelings of your mistakes. Journal about them, learn from them, but do your very best to move on and not ruminate in negative feelings. Your inner voice matters. Listen to it. Always listen to your intuition. Don’t put yourself in situations where you can be taken advantage of. Love fiercely. Take lots of photos and journal often because you never know what might happen to your memory.” – Anonymous
• “Take risks and don’t be afraid of ‘fear’ it’s better to know than be left with ‘what ifs'” – Jewels
• “Think from outside… is the true view” – Roberta Cuarezma
What is your favorite piece of advice? Do you agree with the advice given? If not, why?
In Part 3.2, we’ll be talking about bad general life advice and why it’s bad and shouldn’t be followed.