It’s such a popular thought experiment, it’s practically a trope: If you could go back and tell your past self something, what would it be?
I’ve written the answer to this question on this blog — I believe multiple times at this point. In fact, I’ve done it recently, less than a month ago.
It’s a compelling thought experiment, to be sure. What did you wish you’d known in the past? What advice would have helped you?
It’s so compelling that it’s easy to forget that you probably wouldn’t listen to yourself.
I know, I know. It’s a weird thought. And I bet some readers will roll their eyes at that thought. Of course they would listen to their future selves. Yes, even if they weren’t identified as such. Even if they came as a different messenger speaking words of wisdom. They would recognize the advice as valuable and follow it.
But if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that I had to learn a lot of what I’ve learned the hard way. I personally got a lot of advice in the past — both directly, from people in my life, and indirectly, from media I consumed. Some of that advice was great, some of it was terrible, and most of it was somewhere in between.
What’s ultimately important is I ignored an awful lot of it. Most of it. Including the good stuff, yes.
And there’s a simple reason for that: I didn’t know the difference. Didn’t have the life experience to qualify the advice, to put it into context.
Heck, I didn’t even have the life experience to successfully follow advice even if and when I wanted to.
Anyway, it’s something I try to keep in mind when a friend asks me for advice and then ignores it. I ignored an awful lot of good advice, too — and would have probably ignored my future self once upon a time.
You do the best you can do at the time, knowing what you know. That includes your past self.