Life is full of hard lessons that can only be learned through hardship. Anyone who isn’t rich, beautiful, or well-connected understands that. You’re going to go through periods in life when it feels like fate, luck, and divine forces are conspiring against you. That’s not a good feeling. I understand that. It’s also a feeling that’s worth embracing.
I say that as someone who stagnated and stumbled through much of his teen years and early 20s. In terms of social skills and overall outlook, I was behind the curve longer than most. I’ve shared my various struggles from high school. I’ve also shared personal stories of major low points in my life. I don’t doubt that others have endured far worse, but the over-arching themes are the same.
When you’re young and inexperienced, you see the world a certain way. When you’re older and more experienced overall, you see it another. Time, perspective, and basic human psychology has that effect on most people as they live their lives. An unfortunate byproduct of that is there are some lessons that you can’t learn until you’re older.
That’s a sentiment I’m sure many teenagers hear on a regular basis. Some will roll their eyes and I don’t blame them. I probably did the same when I was that age. It’s also a message that most adults have a difficult time conveying because they have the benefit of hindsight. Make no mistake. Some lessons are only visible through hindsight.
For those who struggled as teenagers, like me, I imagine that’s not news to them. I also imagine there are many other lessons that weren’t obvious until many years later in life. My own parents have shared some of those lessons with me. I’ve tried to share those lessons with younger friends and relatives. It’s hard to get across. In some cases, it’s impossible.
Those lessons are still worth putting out there, if only to act as reminders through the filter of hindsight. Here are just some of the lessons that I’ve learned personally or seen in others. If you have others to share, please do so in the comments.
Lesson #1: The world doesn’t owe you anything and whining about it won’t change that.
Lesson #2: You can’t know how right or wrong someone is for you until you’ve spent more than a few years with that person.
Lesson #3: You never know for sure what you want to do with your life before and during puberty.
Lesson #4: A single failure won’t ruin your life if you learn from it.
Lesson #5: Every opportunity is a gamble, but you can control the odds to some extent through determination, work ethic, and talent.
Lesson #6: There are people in the world who are far smarter and capable than you’ll ever be, no matter how hard you work or believe in yourself.
Lesson #7: Convincing people to change their minds about anything is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
Lesson #8: It’s okay to be disappointed or upset, but at some point, you have to try to get over it.
Lesson #9: Like or not, having the right attitude can be the difference between happiness and misery.
Lesson #10: It’s just as easy to fall out of love as it is to fall in love.
Lesson #11: Habits, both good and bad, are difficult to break, but can be managed to some extent.
Lesson #12: People may be driven by basic needs, but are more complicated than you realize.
Lesson #13: It’s never too late to change your path or reinvent yourself, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be.
Lessons #14: Many of the things you think are important now won’t be important years from now.