18 Critical Life Lessons I’d Give My 18-Year-Old Self

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36 year old man looking onward smiling, thinking about what he would say to his 18 year old self

I started writing my blog when I was a few months shy of 18 years old.

Since I’m now twice as old as I was when I started, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on advice I wish I could have given my younger self.

Here are 18 life lessons I’d give my 18-year-old self:

1. You’ll have more dating success if you strive to be relaxed rather than confident

Most dating advice for young men is terrible. One of the most misunderstood is the recommendation to “act confident.” Pretending to be confident when you’re not usually makes you look like a jerk or a buffoon. In contrast, genuinely confident people tend to be relaxed.

2. Make friends with the exchange students

People who deliberately choose to live abroad for a year are generally more interesting than those who are closed off to such experiences. Exchange students also tend to be looking to make friends. (This also is a good way to get more opportunities to apply lesson #3.)

RELATED: How To Make Friends Without Being Annoying Or Awkward

3. Say yes to invitations to visit a friend in their home country whenever possible

Being shown around by a local is vastly better than being a tourist. This is doubly true if you make friends with people from non-touristy places.

4. Learn how to cook

I spent too many years eating terrible food because I didn’t know how to make good meals. The remedy is to find recipes online and follow them to the letter. Eventually, you can improvise once you’ve learned the basics.

5. Optimize for experience, not grades, in college

My biggest mistake in university was choosing to take classes in English, not French, during my year abroad. I was worried I wouldn’t keep up academically, so I chose the easier option. I didn’t realize I was also missing out on the best way to learn the language.

6. Go to more parties, but drink less

Drinking has strongly diminishing returns for enjoyment, and hangovers are not fun. Thus, if you’re going to partake, pick a strict cutoff and stop when you hit that amount. You’ll enjoy more parties with fewer headaches.

7. Learn to separate challenging situations from toxic ones, and don’t feel guilty about abandoning the latter

You won’t regret sticking to hard challenges, but you’ll regret burning yourself out in situations where your values don’t align with what you’re being asked to work on.

8. Learn to recognize jerks and refuse to deal with them

Jerks often seem cool, successful, or important. In the short term, it often feels like you should just put up with their personalities to further your goals. But in the long term, you’ll almost always regret not cutting them loose sooner.

RELATED: 8 Signs You're Dealing With A Truly Difficult Person

9. Never date a person you wouldn’t also be friends with

It’s easy to overlook personality differences when enthralled by a person’s more superficial characteristics. But those relationships rarely work out. My wife and I, who have now been together for nine years, were just friends for eight years before that.

10. Avoid premature optimization

When you’re young and broke, a job that pays a lot of money (to you) can be very attractive. Unfortunately, if that job doesn’t help you build skills you’ll care about when you’re middle-aged, you may be better off declining the opportunity for a lower-paying job that does. While you need money to live, resist the temptation to cash in early.

11. It’s okay to be (a little) weirder as an adult

High school enforces an unusually high degree of conformity. In high school, even “weird” kids tend to conform to a particular clique rather than be genuinely interesting. Outside of high school, however, there are fewer penalties for being a little different. There is more potential upside as there is a larger pool of potential friends whose interests may overlap with yours.

12. Don’t waste your electives on “easy” classes

Depending on your major, you may only have a handful of classes that you can choose for yourself. Don’t waste these! Take interesting classes from different departments rather than the easy-A class that teaches you Microsoft Word.

13. Spend less time on your computer and more time at in-person events

It’s even better if those events have nothing to do with your current friends or interests. Bulk-positive randomness is a powerful force, but it can’t move you if you stay inside your dorm room.

RELATED: The 9 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Life, According To 100-Year-Olds

14. Ask yourself what a more extroverted version of you would do, and then do that

Introversion is great when you’re settled into a job and family life. But when you’re young, exploring the maximum possible options for your future is important, so striving to be a more extroverted version of yourself is generally desirable.

15. Travel as much as you can

Yes, traveling can be expensive. But you’ll never be able to travel as cheaply, or have as many interesting experiences, as you can when you’re young.

16. Press your clothes, comb your hair, and wash your face

I’ll admit my appearance has never been something I’ve thought a lot about, but getting the basics right is usually not too onerous. How people see you matters a lot more than how much money you spend on your clothes or how much you work out at the gym.

17. Don’t be so dogmatic

I’ve softened in many ways as I’ve gotten older. While youthful intensity about beliefs, goals or projects can be incredibly valuable, it can also get in the way of having new experiences. It’s better to avoid being too rigid when you don’t yet know which ideas of yours really ought to be inviolable.

18. Call your parents more often

Since becoming a father, I’ve come to appreciate my own parents in a way that would have been difficult to understand as an eighteen-year-old. While it’s easy to get absorbed in your own new experiences of adulthood, it’s worth taking some time to keep up the relationships that have been with you all your life.

RELATED: 52 Simple Lessons That Will Make Your Life 1,000X Easier

Scott Young is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Ultralearning, a podcast host, a computer programmer, and an avid reader. Since 2006, he has published weekly essays to help people learn and think better. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Pocket, and Business Insider, on the BBC, and at TEDx among other outlets.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.