A friend asked me to compile advice for my 10-year old self. I came up with 10 things I’d want to tell myself at age 10. If you enjoy them, please feel free to add or subtract as you see fit and share them with anyone you think would benefit.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a pretty awesome kid. You love to learn. You’re interested in many different things in life. You probably have built some valuable skills. I bet you have attempted some hard things and triumphed. So to start, I hope you recognize how awesome you are. You don’t have to achieve anything or prove anything to anyone to be loved and appreciated. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.
Explore. You don’t need to be world class at any one thing at this point in life. You don’t need to choose which sport you love more than anything else. You don’t need to choose what instrument you want to play for the rest of your life. You don’t have to pick one favorite subject. In fact, questions like “what is your favorite ____?” Aren’t all that valuable. I hope you have 100 things you love to do at this point in life. I hope there are 14 books you love equally. And movies and games and places you want to go in life. Everything that interests you that’s safe and healthy — try it. There will never be a better time to try new things.
Tell your parents what you love. When you try things that you love, tell your parents or guardians. Many times, as kids we do the things we think our parents want us to do. But you should do the things you love to do and ask your parents to support you in that. That doesn’t mean you should eat candy for dinner or play video games all day, so don’t interpret that the wrong way.
If you’re choosing between joining scouts or playing baseball — think about what you really want and then tell your parents that. Even if they wanted you to play baseball, their job is to support you in pursuing your own interests in life.
You’ll have time to become great later. Whatever pressure you feel to try to become great at something today, don’t worry about it. Great research tells us that some of the most exceptional people in the world found the thing they would become world class at after exploring many different options early in life.
Trust me — there will be plenty of time to become exceptional at whatever you want later. Now is the time to explore (going back to my earlier point). Instead of trying to be *the best* at something now, focus on following your interests and getting better at whatever is most fun.
Hard and not enjoyable are not the same thing. Too many people in life — adults included — mistake something being hard for it not being fun. Some of the things I love most in life are really hard!
I love writing. Every time I sit down to write, it’s hard. I love being a dad. There are so many days when it’s a hard job. I love snow skiing. It’s hard!
When something is hard, it means you’re learning. If you find yourself wanting to quit something, ask yourself: “Is it hard? Or is it not enjoyable?” If something is hard, but enjoyable, then you’ll feel differently about it as you make progress. If something is hard because it’s not enjoyable, it won’t ever be more fun than it is right now.
The only way to find out is to keep going long enough to see if it gets better or worse with time. If it gets worse with time, then consider quitting. But if it gets hard and then gets better, then that means you’re growing and learning. Some of your best experiences in life are likely to be the hardest experiences.
Real friends are wonderful and hard to find. In the years to come, you’ll meet all kinds of people in life. You’ll meet friends you’ll know for the rest of your life. You’ll meet bullies who try to make you feel bad about yourself. And everything in between.
Real friends are people who:
- Love you for who you really are
- Support you even when things are hard
- Have your back no matter what
- Hold you to your promises
- Push you to be the best version of yourself
When you find people who do those five things, keep them close. Invest in them. Treat them well. Return all the same qualities of great friendship. And as long as they keep showing up for you, keep showing up for them.
Good friends are worth more than any amount of money you could ever have.
Books are adventures without ever having to leave your house. I love books so much. I loved books as a kid too. But there were about five years when I thought I was too cool to read books. Now I regret that because that’s five years worth of reading I’ll never get back!
A great book can teach you everything you want to know about a subject. It can take you on a fantasy adventure in far off lands with exciting characters and challenges to overcome. It can help you understand what it’s like to be someone with completely different life experiences and background than you.
If you’re ever bored, pick up a book and you’ll be whisked off to another place and time. With a good book nearby, you never have to be bored again.
Spend time outside. The thing I miss most about being a kid is how many hours I got to spend outside everyday. From the time I got home from school til dinner and then from dinner til bed I was always outside (unless the weather was too bad). During the summer I was outside all day every day.
Now as an adult I’m lucky if I get to spend a couple hours outside each day. So many jobs in the world mean you sit inside all day, often on a computer. (There are plenty of awesome jobs that allow you to be outside too.)
So while you’re a kid, get outside. Play with your friends. Invent games. Run around. Go on hikes. Ride a bike or scooter or go skating. Play sports. Do anything that allows you to move your body and enjoy fresh air.
Travel to places that are unfamiliar: in location, in language, in culture. Going somewhere new is an adventure. It’s also sometimes scary! You don’t know where to go, what to do, or sometimes even how to communicate.
Making ourselves uncomfortable (while still staying safe) is one of the best ways to grow and learn. Whenever you travel somewhere new, you are bound to learn something. You’ll also form great memories. So any time you get the chance, say yes to traveling with your family and friends.
And if you’re not able to travel, that’s ok too. Read or watch videos about far away places that fascinate you. You’ll be better for it.
Talk to your parents and siblings. Share about your life. Ask them questions. Tell them what you’re scared of. Tell them who you admire. Tell them what’s hard about life right now. Share what you’re learning.
Sometimes parents don’t know how to ask these things. But most parents want to listen if you’re willing to share. And you never know what kind of wisdom, love, and guidance you’ll get in return.
Being 10 is an incredible gift. You are coming into a time of life when the world will continue to open up to you over time. Your opportunities to build friendships, learn new things, and have new experiences will grow with every passing year.
Enjoy it. And remember: be present along the way. Time moves faster than you know.