Life Lessons to GG & BB on their 17th Birthday

Today GG & BB turn 17! I can’t believe the tiny babies who were placed in my hands and were just about an arm’s length now tower over me. They are their own individuals who have their own ideas about life and who are now on the cusp of adulthood. I usually write a letter for them for their birthday and I have written one for their previous birthdays and while writing this post, I actually went back to read my old posts and I am amazed how much they have grown over the years. I do send them the link to my posts and ask them to read and even share if they want to with their friends.

Since they have now started tertiary education, I thought this could be the perfect time to share some life lessons. And since they are 17 today, I’ll do 17 such lessons grouped into different categories:

  1. Sleep: Sleep at least 7 hours a day, your body will thank you 40 or 50 years down the line. At this point in life, you may think you are invincible and can’t get by with the bare minimum of sleep, but your sleep debt is accumulating. Sleep plays a critical role in helping our bodies and minds recover and rejuvenate. Sleep promotes cognition and memory, facilitates learning, recharges our mental and physical batteries, and generally helps us make the most out of our days. With plentiful sleep, we improve our mental and physical health, reduce stress, and maintain the routine that is critical to healthy daily functioning. This habit, if healthly followed will stand in good stead in life, when you may not get the optimum level of sleep, but then you would not have accumulated so much sleep debt.
  2. Look after your health: You have only one body in this life, so look after it and keep it in optimal condition. Have healthy eating habits, eating more fresh produce and less junk food. Try to give up sugar if possible, it will do wonders for your health and also do not snack mindlessly. Make sure you do some exercise each day. It’s best if you do something you enjoy like dancing or running, but whatever you do, just do something! Not only will it mean having good health all through life, it also means when you present yourself in front of others, you are confident about your body and therefore about yourself. In the same vein, look after your external looks too. Take care of your skin and adopt a good skincare routine, irrespective of your gender. Makeup only conceals and covers, but with a good skin, makeup will enhance what you already have.
  3. Appreciate your family and close friends: Listen to what your parents and elders have to say. They know much more than you, especially at this point in life, and only have your best interests in mind when they give you advice. Most of the advice they give you is most probably from experience and they have gone through the exact same situation you are now in. At the same time, don’t listen to them blindly, your parents are after all human beings and can be wrong, so listen to them and then do some further research before you decide to take or not to take their advice.
  4. Learn life skills: These are skills you need to lead your life which include skills like cooking, cleaning, doing your laundry etc. Learn them now while you are still living at home and can get tutored from your parents on how best to do these chores. If you don’t learn them voluntarily now, you may be forced to learn them (maybe without someone teaching you) at a later stage.
  5. Learn to love IT: Artificial Intelligence is taking over the wold and with this many jobs will become redundant in the future. Learn to code and embrace AI so that your job becomes more secure. You will also have a plan B should the job you are in at any point be made redundant.
  6. Never stop learning: This is self evident. The day you stop learning is the day you start to stagnate. Learning stops the day you die and so never stop learning. Learning does not only come from a book or by going to school, every incident in life is a learning opportunity, so learn from all your successes and failures, learn from family, friends, coworkers and even the random stranger you meet may teach you something, so keep learning every second of the day.  
  7. Grab every opportunity that comes your way: In fact, I would say, go out of your way to find and look for opportunities. Look for internships and projects which will boost your resume and bring you front and centre of those who make hiring decisions. Many opportunities are never advertised mainly because these are filled because someone recommends a suitable person. Become that suitable person by showcasing what you can bring to the table by your work. Acknowledge your mistakes, own them and learn from them.
  8. Find a mentor: Search and find a good mentor who has the experience and knowledge to guide you. In fact, I would advise that you look for multiple mentors who can guide you in various aspects of life. Of course you don’t only take from a mentor, you should also give back to your mentor and help where you can. A mentor who is willing to help you does that because he or she sees that elusive spark in you. They have the connections and access to important people which you will not have at this point. A good mentor will lead you by pushing and encouraning you to get where you want to go and with their suppoer and encouragement, you should be able to succeed.
  9. Read: Reading is incredibly important and you should read widely and across a variety of genres. You access new worlds and learn so much from reading that you should set aside a dedicated time each day to read. Reading reduces stress, stimulates your mind, improves your vocabulary and memory and makes you know a lot about many many things that others are ignorant about. It also improves focus and concentration and hones your analytical and critical thinking skills and when you read more, you automatically become better in your own writing which will be an asset everywhere.
  10. Life’s passion: Try to find something you can be passionate about all your life. This will make life a bit easier when you spend half yor day or more at work. Of course, passions change and you need to refine your passion as you grow, both at work and in life and when passions change, try to make sure you are in the right position to take advantage of this change in passion.
  11. Learn to say No: This is another important life lesson. Most times, we are afraid to say No to the people in our lives – be it our family, friends, co-workers or managers. We take on more than we can do and afraid of confrontation, we end up saying Yes. If you find it difficult to say no, start practising with low stakes – like a stranger accosting you in the MRT station or someone trying to sell you something. Say Yes only when the opportunity aligns with your long-term goals. Another way to say no is to couch your refusal in very polite terms.
  12. Privacy Matters: Be aware of and ensure your privacy. There is no need to overshare on social networks, what is on the internet stays there forever, you never know when a post or a photo or a video can come back to haunt you. So be very circumspect in what you post online.
  13. Be financially literate: Financial literacy is important because it will equip you with an understanding of basic financial concepts so that you make sound real-world financial decisions. With this knowledge, you are in a better way to be able to manage your money, make sound decisions, and maintain healthy spending and budgeting habits, which over time can lead to financial wellness. Start a savings habit as early as possible and remember the power of compounding!
  14. Lead a purposeful life: What does this mean? It means not to go through the motions of life, the life you lead should be one in which life has some meaning, a life where you are connected and engaged with those around you. Do something for the less fortunate in society and learn to give back to those who need it, it need not be money, you can give your time, your skill-set and sometimes even a listening ear is enough. In this same vein, I would also recommend starting a meditation practice daily. Spending a few minutes each day with just yourself and your breathing will do wonders for your mental health and life equilibrium.
  15. Focus on what is important at this moment: Today it is school and tomorrow it will be your career. Focus fully on what is in front of you. Also at this point, you can and should take some calculated risks in life, specially since you are cushioned by your family and don’t have family and financial commitments as yet. Be competitive, but don’t make the competition a one-upmanship show. Be your own competitor and try to be a better version of yourself than what you were yesterday. Don’t indulge in petty politicking at work or school. Stay away from gossip and cheap talk and let your work speak for itself.
  16. Don’t be a sheep: Don’t accept instructions blindly or sign documents just because someone tells you to do so. Do your own research, ask questions before making a call and use caution before taking any decision. Also, it will help If you can talk to people close to you, especially your parents.
  17. Be Ambitious: Be ambitious and reach for the stars. In fact, aim for the stars and you will reach the moon. Aim for something slightly over your reach and go all out to achieve it, you will eventually get to it. You are also the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose friends wisely. Also remember that there is no shortcut to success. All those successful people you see, they had to hustle for years and work hard before they became ‘overnight sucesses’. Lastly be scrupulously honest, both with yourself and the people around you. Lies have a way of catching up and keeping up with the many falsehoods you may have said will definitely catchup one day!

So there you have it, 17 life lessons which I hope are useful to them.

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