What Advice Would You Give Your 20-year-old Self?

Helen Anderson on June 23, 2019

Earlier this month a topic was proposed on #TSQLTuesday (like #devdiscuss but with the T-SQL community) to encourage some self-reflection. If yo... [Read Full]
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No corporation will ever reward your loyalty the way you think they ought to. You are replaceable. Everyone is replaceable. The corporation is an entity unto itself and you are just a cog in the machine.


1000 times yes. I spent many, many years learning this the hard way. It's a natural tendency to throw good time after bad, just like we throw good money after bad.

It also helps to realize that this isn't really an "evil" quality of corporations. The problem is that because they are made of humans we expect them to be human. But they can't, because they aren't.

We get emotionally sucked in because so many times our interactions are personal. People we deal with are awesome, evil, or degrees in between. I think members of a corporation can even collectively try to make it human and even have a degree of seeming success. But none of those individuals can control it any more than we can. It will always be the very definition of impersonal.



Along those lines, definitely work hard - but not to serve the machine. Do it to advance your career. And recognize, without bitterness, that career advancement may not happen where you're at.


This one was hard for me at last job. I loved it and the work we did, but I hit the ceiling of where I could move up there. Hard decision to leave but worth it


Read books. Be humble. Stay open-minded. Go out more.


+100 for open mind. I had mental blocks for many categories of life, because I thought it wasn't interesting. Now literally everything might catch my attention and I see a lot of connections between different spheres of knowledge.


Dear Michael,

for the love of god stop eating so much candy!
Go to the gym, believe me, you will love it when you 30!

After you finish your computer science degree, don't go to any company.

Just go straight into freelancing!

Start a youtube channel and be active on social media
and give more talks!

Besides that, it will be great!


i have been freelancing for several years and loved it, now finishing a CS degree and planning to join a local company because lot of social and family pressure .. not sure how to deal with it .


I don't know where you from and what your cultural background is.

I can just speak for myself.

I had the same problem. "You need to get a real job", "You need to earn money now" and so on.

But now I think I should have listened to my gut feeling and stayed on the freelancing route.

It will be hard in the beginning but if you really put the work in it will be so much more fun and the money then will come!

Hey! I did do freelance for a while and felt that I'm hitting a certain mental block. Like I couldn't build applications according to standards or not with proper flow. How did you dealt with that?


Ugh, that health advice is a punch in the gut for me (pun intended 🙃). Definitely paying for both of those bad decisions now.


I paid for it for 2 years of not eating any candy or sweet stuff!

I went down from 120 Kilogram to 70!

I was back then doing sports every day!

Today I'm back around 83 kilos but with muscles :D

It is never too late to start!


If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough support with your career, speak up and/ or get out.

I waited far too long to learn that it was just a bad match.

That’s why I write articles about career advice and finding peace at work... so I can be the advice that no one gave me at 20!

In fact, here's how to know when it's time to get out of a bad job:


On the worst situations i actually felt like that. But once i have support from colleagues and google gradually it goes away. Even though it is just my early 20's feel quite disturbed about what comes next.


I've been really enjoying your articles lately, looking forward to your next one.


Thank you Helen. The feeling is mutual! :)


Stay in school, don't do drugs, go to freaking class, don't date until you learn to love yourself, stick with the winners, you can gain respect without keeping a gun in your waistband, depression is some real shit and doesn't make you weaker, reach out when you're dying on the inside, go to the hospital when you start having manic delusions...20 year-old Scott wasn't doing very well.


Thanks for sharing Scott, hope you're doing ok now :)


It's been a pretty long and absurd journey, but Friday I turn 28 and I honestly never thought I would see that day. It's kind of unsettling having no idea what I want out of life because I never thought this far ahead, but very exciting and humbling as well :D


First of all, go and buy some USD10 Bitcoins. Save them.
Second, take the rest of your money and buy some cheap real estate.
Third, graphics arts is a very bad choice.... go and learn to code something

And the last, very sad advice:

  • Just go and marry her.



Do things that scare the hell out of yourself, you may never know what you will end up into and ignore the naysayers as it does not help you at all.


Excellent advice, this is true for '20 year old me' and for the 'present day me'. Thanks for sharing Max.


Thing about Time travel is we can't fix past. I can only correct myself towards future and not past. I'd say to my 20 year old self, you'll have your worst time, but I am going to correct whatever didn't worked out to you. I know 50% of your health and 90% of your brain will be mine. I promise I'll fix career and whatever life left of it. XD


you are getting it all wrong. true.. the past can't be fixed or changed, but timelines can be changed. a letter to 20 year old you could cause a time convergence, its a typical senario of changing timelines -not changing the past.


Honestly, I'm glad it's a letter and not a face-to-face interaction. I don't know if the younger me will survive to slaps in the face I would give to him/me '_'

Well, stop sugar and transformed food, you'll loose tons of weights (first slap), never wonder But what if I fail... ever 'cause every [Censored] time you did it, you failed you stupid [censored] ! Prepare a plan if it works and an other one if it fails. And work hard to avoid failure.
And stop thinking about failure (slap again) !

1L of coffee per day when you prepare your exams is a freaking bad idea too (slap again he/I deserve(s) this one). Green tea is far way better !

And stop thinking/hopping people'll wait for you. They want you to be a senior in every domain with 2 weeks of experience, that's a bit stupid but welcome in France. Observe people around you, and copy their method to work if it works. You'll grown up faster.

Understand ? (last slap because trust me, he/I deserve(s) it)


stop thinking about failure! YES! Sometimes we focus our efforts to much on failure and not enough on what it has taught us, what has come from it, and how we can grow with it to produce a positive. It is when we stop failing that we stop learning from our and others mistakes. 😃


Well, I'm only 18, but i will take this as an opportunity to create message for my future self.

Read more! There are bunch of books that will boost your general/profession knowledge, in time of writing you started reading a lot, so keep it up.

Be more sociable! Well I know it's pretty hard for you, because you are shy as hell, but practise, practise :)

Don't regret your failures, learn from them!

and finally make your life happier or keep it happy, it's the most important thing for you.


Drink more water, less booze. Read up on CBT, on Stoicism. Join a gym and go to it regularly. Work harder. Get the degree you wanted. Play nice. Oh and still be in Huddersfield in 6 years' time - make damned sure you join the university jiujitsu club then: there's a girl there who you're going to build an awesome life together with & have two amazing kids.


I would say "go for it!"
It is too easy to let self doubt get in the way of several opportunities... and life in general. In the long run no one will really care if you make mistakes beginning something new but yourself. Don't be your own roadblock!


That's great advice, thanks for sharing :)


No advice. I like how my life ended up. Any advice could pose a serious risk to that. But if I had to probably it would be "take more care of your teeth" I could probably even afford a second house if I had done that


That's great to hear, except the part about your teeth. Hope they're doing ok now :D


Nothing is too early and you are never too young to do something.


Also invest in what you believe and don't worry about naysayers.

  1. If things don't work your way, it is because you wouldn't be able to handle success at young age, you would destroy everything with quick success.
  2. Learn Economics !! Learn how to invest !!
  3. Give your hands little rest, you will end up with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
  4. Don't chase people, don't chase someone who looks as soulmate, you will realize that you are better without them over a decade
  5. If you are kind, everything (success/people/fame/money) will come to you

This is great advice, especially number 3. Carpel Tunnel is no joke. Hope you are doing better now.


Just turned 20. I’d like to tell myself to pursue an internship as soon as possible. It’s hard when you’re first year but I’ll make sure I get one this year!


Make more of an effort to meet people and do things. Maybe even try dating before you're so old that it feels weird to start.

Also, think about whether you really think that part-time job you're doing will be satisfying full-time and long term (hint: it's not) and don't wait 12 years to start looking at other options.


You're doing great Stephanie, changing careers isn't easy and moving into tech in little ol' New Zealand is even harder. I love that there is an online community even if there aren't as many real-life Meetup opportunities.


Spend less time playing video games and invest it in learning how to code and other skills earlier - it will make you a more well-rounded person for sure and will pay dividends when you're older!

Reach out to local employers for work shadowing opportunities - the worse they can say is "no" and will most likely to be pleasantly surprised by the creative approach from someone of such a young age :)


This is great advice, and you're absolutely right, the worst that can happen is they say 'no'. Getting that experience is so important.


Thank you! I wish I realised this earlier. There's a fine line between being too shy and bold when seeking these opportunities to gain experience. But, as the saying goes, if you don't ask, you don't get.


Its going take far more energy and effort to get what you than you expected. It will seem like other people are a lot better than you and you never be able to compete with them. Take a deep breath. Don't panic. You'll get there.


what advice would you give your teenage self? :D

I AM a teenager lol (15). If I could write a letter to my pre-teen self, I'd tell them to start learning earlier instead of wasting my time playing Club Penguin and the like.


20 year old me wouldnt have listened to any advice 😀


The mere act of meeting my 20-year-old self would likely cause a butterfly effect ripple of changes throughout my entire life from that point forward, altering the course of my life and threatening to take away both the good choices and bad that led me to this exact moment where I am, with who I am, doing what I do. To preserve the existence of my children, my relationships, my business, and all of the valuable lessons I've learned since that time, I would not seek to meet my 20-year-old self. Instead, I would focus on the fact that I now have the ability to time travel, and consider the possibility of capturing long-lost information from the past and bringing it forward to the future. For example, creating a solar-powered charging system for a 360 degree camera, and mounting it on a staff. Going to visit the library at Alexandria, and positioning the staff to record information. This would allow for a jump-gap with little or no impact on the past, no effect on my own past, and a positive effect on society moving forward from my origin time.


you are what you eat, read, watch, and listen to...
so be careful what you take in, and take in all the good that you can

learn about goals and acheiving them (seek out Zig Ziglar)

learn about personal finance

Drive a paid-for car (even if it's ugly) 😂

Stay away from debt.

Learn to love discipline, without it, you will achieve nothing

Your goals are not out of reach

carpe diem!
carpe diem!
carpe diem!


At age 20, I was active duty military.

Thank you US Navy⚓ for getting me started with computer hardware and software, and for making it a compelling-enough experience that I was provided with the foundation for what has been a rewarding 28-year career in IT. Doing what I do inspires authentic enthusiasm from me.😃


Read documentation thoroughly. Look for potential solutions before building your own. Make connections and work to maintain them. A back-end is only as useful as its UI can portray.

(DISCLAIMER: I'm currently 20 years old)


Javascript will rule so get to work haha


When you see the mail guy, tell him that all he delivers is bad news.

Jokes aside, I really wish I started my routine of learning something new in one language on a day in and day out basis earlier.


Exercise, cut out sugar, save money, three quarters of higher math isn't a big deal, stay in school to get the piece of paper.


If they don't value you as a developer then why do you value them as a company? I finally left one job for this very reason. I was not treated with the same respect that I treated the company with and in the end, it was better to walk away.


I would give my 20 year old self a big, long and loving hug and tell me that I will need to endure what will happen over the next 20 years because the person I become on the other side of 40 is far wiser, happier, and better because of it. It's gonna suck and will hurt but It is the Way.


Hi Matt,

I know you want to be a programmer. You think you're great, and while you have the capacity to become a good programmer, you're nowhere near it yet.

So, before your entire life revolves around this cool hobby you have, find a different career path. You're doing a psychology degree. Maybe look into making that your career.

Seriously, you are going to find yourself so depressed all the time because when you used to use programming as a way to express yourself, you'll end up not having an outlet because you won't want to do more programming once the day is done, and all your code will be owned by someone else and no matter how hard you try you can't figure out self promotion, so freelancing doesn't work out. By now you're 38 and this is the only thing you can make money (proper mortgage paying money) doing, changing career is practically impossible. You can't even look forward to retirement because the economy is a mess and pensions aren't going to cut it, so you'll have to work until you're dead.

So save programming for yourself and find a different career path.

Kind regards
Matt +18


I would tell my younger self to learn to drive as soon as possible and definitely learn computer programming as early as you can, too. But, most importantly, DO NOT BUY that blasted Encyclopedia Britannica! Cos looking back with hindsight, it ended up being an expensive burden that I could have done better things with my time and money


I would like to get 20 years old back to know everything again :)

Which has worked for me: keep a 12 years old mindset. That means, ask questions, especially when you think they're stupid ones. Absorb. Experiment. Doubt and ask questions again.


There are a few regrets about not buying shares and bitcoin and shares in the thread, hindsight is a beautiful thing :)


"It's been almost a decade over here, I am doing good, I think.. I believe you're doing good too. Don't take those words too seriously (someone joked about your crush also having a crush on you), fall in love but don't fall too hard and you may end up very differently. You'll be doing a lot of programming soon, so get ready for it, don't be afraid to ask, to google, to search for answer. It is fine. Don't be attached to your future company, I meant it seriously. And no don't ever think of getting adobe Dreamweaver, get a phpstorm instead (not sure it even existed or not back then). Just keep doing whatever you've been doing, maybe we'll find something one day. I wish I could give you more tips, but I too am still learning. Final words, just follow whatever our heart desire. And I have no regret at all being you. Love you like never before. <3"


Air Traffic Control is a bad idea, go into computer science and avoid a decade of stagnation.


Or a decade of experience in another field.

Don't underestimate what you have done.

I see your description like you have invested 10 years in network and flow optimization.

No matter if you start with computer science today. If you focus on graph theory and algorithms, you might be able to model and solve problems like nobody else.


Might be true if I spent 10 years in that field. No, I spent 6 years going to college for that field (went to Basic for the USAF reserves about half way through, the disruption added two years of college) and then worked as a ramp agent not getting a job because the FAA sequestered at the time.

But I do try to use what I learned in the Air Force where it applies (I was passenger services and then a load planner.)


Stop caring so much about what other people think. Be you, you will find your people.


Dont rush and compare yourself to other 20-something success stories. Keep learning at your own pace and have time for yourself and ur loved ones. Burnout is a lot worse that it actually reads.


I agree with this 100%, burnout wasn't really talked about when I was 20 but it sure is now. The inevitable crash and time to recovery just aren't worth pushing yourself to breaking point.


Put down the video games and find a project to contribute to.


Actually, I'm not sure the latter part of this applies outright. I had no idea what I was doing back then—didn't event know about version control. I felt like I was missing a foundation and thought my college would provide that missing piece.

I think that turned out to only be halfway true. But playing video games definitely sucked up way too much of my time (and it's definitely something I wish I could change).


You are doing wonderful 👏🏼😭👏🏼😭 keep going! And stay away from folks trying to dim your light! (Also get stock in the first company you work for 😭)


Oh no! Which stocks did you miss out on?


Disney pre- Lucasfilms, Marvel, & Frozen .... I don’t like talking about it 😭


I fear we might be some time to involve in the role of domestication (sorry for my French) of them that we are blind to not see that they have to learn the earliest fastest and by own experiences...The earlier wake up, the better I say, as long as it does not destroyed them VS helping them grow smarter and faster and better,but don't last longer and they might know the word happy. But it often gone and we are to late to catch a date or the ball.


"You have zero desire to move to New York or LA and possibly wait tables indefinitely, so change your major from Theater to Computer Science."


Don’t try to do something you don’t want do do. Don’t wait for acknowledgment to do something you want to do


Love this, thanks for sharing :)


Read books, take chances, follow your own path


University isn't required to be valuable in the world. In fact, the most valuable people you will meet after University never actually went.


This is so true. I love that society, at least where I am, doesn't focus so much on formal education being an entry point to the workforce anymore.


Do not get student debt. You will still be paying that 10 years later and counting.


Hi all,
I would tell myself to; "write it all down." Don't stop writing. Memory is a fragile flower. It is easily stomped on and mis-represented.

By writing it down it also allows you to mull over and contemplate the days troubles and toils. :)


Dear Dave,

You've a lot coming your way, but trust your future self - it's character building. You'll feel like some of the challenges are impossible & you'll literally be pushed to your very limit.

Be thankful in the moment. Sun Tzu was a genius, don't fight crying on the bus reading his work - that pivotal moment is truly important.

There's a lot I could warn about, but without it we wouldn't be who we are, with the family we have.


You don't have to know everything in the next months, take your time; work with other people, enjoy your work, enjoy life and Germany will win the next World Cup.


Love this, taking life a little less seriously makes it that more enjoyable


To my 20-year-old self? Hang in there, even if you hate what you're studying right now, you're close to finishing college, and the knowledge will come in handy later.

To my 15-year-old-self, however, who hasn't started college yet, I would say "STOP!! don't study medicine, you'll hate it, go study computer science and start programming right now you'll love it" xD


Don't quit on that MCSE cert halfway through. It really will still be valuable in 20 years and definitely take you to better places than delivering pizzas


Stay away from offices, be freelance as much as you can.


Don't focus on making music or being a musician. Focus on your CS Degree, it'll take you farther.


Remember and be true to your past but get rid of those strings that keep you attached to it.


Back to the Future predictions were partly true :)


Wake and go to sleep at a decent hour.

20 years old, btw.

  • Eat less
  • Run more
  • Computers are not as hard as you think
  • Buy Bitcoin

I'm surprised I haven't read more Bitcoin regrets in this thread. Even just one or two, when they were at $200, would have been worth the investment at its peak recently.


Become a coder now, travel before you have kids and don’t worry what other people think.


Great advice, looking forward to reading more of your posts as you continue your studies


I would teach that guy how to properly shape his beard when shaving.

20-year-old Tyler was terrible at that.


Avoid toxic people and bad relationships, dont stick to crappy jobs, travel a lot


In some cases though, you can't be a software developer (let alone anything else) if you don't put them down (as in, being addicted).


Learn to maximise the work not done.


Don't quit that MCSE cert class, it really will still be valuable in 20 years


travel more, don't spend much time with people that don't support you!, save money!


Wow, thanks a lot, this article is so useful, I'm a 20 yo guy and reading all this advices will help me a lot! 🥰


I will say to my 20 year old, "Stop looking for advice and get to work. Just keep working, that will lead you to excellence and wisdom."


1 - Stay open minded
2 - Go out more
3 - Be yourself. You don't want to follow others, it's a 50 years life. be natural and be you.


I would have told myself to not be afraid of singing while playing guitar. That it's okay to sing poorly in front of other people and embarrass yourself. In fact, it's really fun.


Love this, I bet you're a blast a karaoke now :)


"Dude quit being so shy, now freaking get out and date one of those girls you like so much!"

I know this is not exactly... technology oriented but... you asked for truth and here it is


Defend your work against criticism less often. Learn more. Develop people skills.


Don't think about the next promotion or salary increase. Just read, listen, ask (a lot!), practice and enjoy what you do. The other stuff will come naturally after all this.


Also, 20 yr old me would never listen to anyone. Be it 26 yr old me. So I'm good.


I don't think 20 yr old me would have listened either :)


Just DO IT and stop procrastinating and getting bogged down in the what if scenarios!


Never work for advertising agencies. It drowns your carreer in mud.


You're a good kid and your heart is in the right place. Just learn to prioritize better. Ask yourself if what you're working on really matters. And spend more time with the people you love.


Honestly, I want to rewrite my whole life.


I don't know, I'm still 21 and feeling totally lost. I'm a great dev, great sallary in a job that I don't want, in a city that I don't want 2b. Feels like I know what im saying, but no, IM LOST. D:


Do not, I repeat do not let her go...


You did your best and everything will be ok.
I am 20YO

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