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.



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


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.


+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!


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!


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?


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.


Stop coding and get out more and get a GF otherwise in the next 10 years, you will be alone, depressed with a lot of anxiety due to your unhealthy life and internal rumination of being an useless geek who speak only in 01. Yeah the reality is not like Silicon Valley TV show 🤷‍♂️


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


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


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.


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)


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


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!


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!


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Well now I have to go watch Primer for the Nth time.


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.


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.


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.


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!


"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"


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).


I proposed "put down the video games" on Reddit and the mob came after me with pitchforks and torches. My takeaway was never to try to separate a software developer from their video games.


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).


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


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)


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


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.


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.


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 😭)


20 year old me wouldnt have listened to any advice 😀


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


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.


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.😃


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.)


"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."


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


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


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.


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.


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. :)


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 :)


"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


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! 🥰


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.


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


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


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.


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 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 :)


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."


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


Wake and go to sleep at a decent hour.

20 years old, btw.


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

20-year-old Tyler was terrible at that.

  • 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.


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


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


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.


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:

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