Friday, May 27, 2011


"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
-Soren Kierkegaard

I have two nephews who recently graduated from high school. They are wonderful young men who have incredible lives ahead of them. As I thought about the two of them moving to a new phase of life, I reflected on some of the lessons of life that I’ve learned in the last 21 years. Below, in no certain order, are ten things I wish I had known when I was 18.

1. Life is about relationships
  • Anthony Robbins states that relationships magnify the experiences of life. This is true. Life is not ultimately about money, fame, fortune, or any other marker of success that society directs us toward. A well-lived life is about relationships - a relationship with our Savior, our family, and our friends. Wherever you go and whatever you do – do not forget this.

2. Forgiveness is not about the other person
  • There will be moments in life where you will be hurt – there is no avoiding this truth. When those moments occur, remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with letting the other person “off the hook.” Forgiveness is about letting go of hurt and pain that, left alone, can nibble away at your life. Understanding the truth of forgiveness is life-changing. To find the true origins of forgiveness, study Jesus of Nazareth.

3. Drink deeply from good books
  • Books can absolutely change your life. Books have the power to inspire, uplift, guide, and lead us on and through the journeys of life. Don’t think of reading as a reading assignment for school – this is the mistake most people make. Rather, spend some time at the bookstore (or on just browsing and looking until something grabs you. I cannot overstate the power of books to change your life.

4. Save, save, save
  • This must be the most overused expression relayed to high school and college graduates. We’ve all heard about the power of compound interest and how, if we just save a small amount, we can be a millionaire when we retire. Don’t take my word for it, but do the research. Start now!

5. Understand the true meaning of prayer
  • Many people (myself included) come to God with a laundry list of requests when they pray. While God did tell us to “ask,” I believe prayer has a much deeper meaning. Prayer is about being so close to God that he bends our will to what He truly desires for our life. Prayer is powerful…but use the power to know God in a deeper and more profound way.

6. There is no “magic” bullet.
  • Go ahead right now and drop the idea of some “magic” bullet to cure whatever issues you are experiencing. You will not be happier when you are married, or when you are out of school, or when you move out on your own, or any other “whenever” that you can dream up. Today is what you have – no more, no less. Do not waste today waiting for a tomorrow.

7. Live intentionally
  • Life should be lived intentionally. Please do not coast through life doing today what you did yesterday. Map out a plan for your life. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years? Be flexible as you progress through life…but, make plans. Only you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your life. Accept this responsibility.

8. Understand the concept of small steps
  • The key to reaching your goals in life is taking one small step at a time. What is it that you want to accomplish? Make a plan and then start. Don’t try to do too much. Just take a tiny, small step. After you do this for a month, a year, or 5 years then you’ll be on to something. Don’t become overwhelmed with life. Just take baby steps in the direction that you want to go.

9. Define success for yourself
  • I spent many years trying to live up to a definition of success that society created. Even now, I have to guard against the tendency to define my success through the lens of others. To live a truly successful life, you must define success for yourself. My definition of success at this point in my life is much different than it was 20 years ago. All I am saying is to not let someone else tell you what it means to be successful. Decide upon that right now – and never forget it.

10. Outlive your life
  • The only way to truly do this is through Jesus Christ. However, while you are on earth, there is a way to outlive your life as well. You do this by making a difference in the lives of others. I am just now truly understanding this concept and it breaks my heart to think of the time and talents that I have wasted over the years. Make your life a light to others. Make a difference to other people. Never forget this.
QUESTION: What do YOU know now that you wish you'd known when you were 18?


Lynette said...

1)God's in control. You can waste a lot of effort, emotions, & life in general trying to make things happen in your way or on your timetable, or you can rest in God's sovereignty and enjoy each day for what it brings to you.

2)You cannot change what is behind you. If you wish you could, then tackle the issue (because there probably is one) and live forward with your victory.

3)Don't get too far away from kids. If you don't have your own, find some to interact with. Kids know how to be real, how to trust Jesus, and how to let their eyes shine. Adults forget.

4)If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well. Do a few things excellently. In the words of Andy Stanley, "Only do what only you can do." If your life seems mediocre, get rid of some responsibilities until you can be proud of the job your doing with the ones that remain.

5) AND, as one great friend once told me: "Constantly obsessing about what people think of you is arrogant. People aren't thinking badly of you. They aren't thinking of you at all." (Bet you didn't realize I'd remember this often when YOU said it to me flippantly many years ago.) :)

Enjoyed the post -- Hope things are going well for you all. :)

Jason said...

Thanks for the comment. Thanks for adding to the list...and I kind of like that last quote! It's a good reminder for us all! :)

Murry said...

I kept a quote behind my desk attributed to Ronald Reagan: "There's no end to what a man can accomplish if he doesn't care who gets the credit." A lesson we all should learn early.

Josh said...

Hi Jason, this is my first time visiting your blog and I really liked what I read. I'll be 27 next month and so it's almost been 10 years since I was 18. I agree with your list, especially about reading good books, saving and living intentionally.

I would also add...

"The grass is always greener on the other side (or so it seems)". I've learned that changing our external environment (i.e. moving to a new place or switching to a career that sounds fun) is not enough to change what's inside of us. Our spirit is much more important than any material thing.

And secondly I would say, "don't be afraid to ask for help." I'm the oldest child of five and grew up being self reliant. It wasn't until I made a complete mess of my life that I finally admitted I needed help. Wish I would have known that when I was 18!

Thanks Jason.

Jason said...

Thanks for the comments. Murry, I love the quote. Josh, thanks for visiting the blog. I really like the "grass is greener" thought. I have certainly fell into that line of thinking before. Please visit again.

MLHoffman said...

And remember to have a friend, you have to be a good friend.

Jason said...

That should definitely be on the list. Thanks!