My gym (Atlantic Gymnastics) is turning 20 next year. When I opened my gym I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and I was looking for advice on how to navigate this crazy adventure. If I were to write a letter to myself and mail it back in time to NEW BUSINESS OWNER TONY imparting some kind of wisdom or advice to my former self that I wish I had known I would give the following advice.
DEAR TONY 1993
Reality is most of the time, you don’t know anything about anything. That was true when you were 15 and that will be true when you are 65. You do, however, know how to be a good person and you know how to follow your heart. Keep doing that and you’ll be just fine.
Be grateful for that moment when you decided to stop being such a sarcastic asshole and let your guard down long enough to fall in love and let someone fall in love with you. Even if it ends in heartbreak, it is still one of the greatest adventures you have been on.
Speaking of adventure, keep doing it. Travel the world as often as money and time will allow because you know how invaluable those experiences are but don’t forget about the smaller adventures. Those weekend getaways with your best friends, the three days spent caravanning around the state to help your brother and sister-in-law move into a new house. Those experiences are just as invaluable and they fill your soul. Traveling alone can be intimidating but it really teaches you what you’re made of.
Always make time for your parents. They might live for another 67 years… but they probably won’t. Enjoy the time you spend with them. Don’t try to rush off the phone when they are telling you about their week. Enjoy getting to know them as their adult child and realize that they still have a lot to teach you.
In fact, make time for everyone in your life. You have a lot of people in your life who you love and who love you, be grateful. Don’t ever become one of those people who just gets too “busy.” Make time for the walk in the park, the cup of coffee, the glass of wine, the phone conversation. Make time.
Posture. Work on that. That curve in your back is going to be a lot more painful when you’re 50.
You’re kind of turning into a grouch. Stop that. Immediately. Yes, life has thrown you some pretty awful curve balls over the years. That will continue to happen until you die, it’s part of life. Let it make you grateful for all that you have. Let it make you stronger for having made it through. Let it make you compassionate for the 7 billion other people in the world who are dealing with their own struggles. Don’t let it make you bitter, don’t let it make you cynical, and DO NOT, whatever you do, let it take away your sunshine.
Stop comparing yourself to your peers. You do you. You’re good at that.
Stop worrying so much about what your job is going to be. It’s going to be boring at times. Yes, you need to make money. But more importantly, you need to make a life for yourself. You need to make community. You need to make yourself and others happy. You need to make the world a better place.
Keep writing. Know that some of the things you write will be really bad. Write anyway. Write because it makes you happy. Write because it’s important to have hobbies. Write because sometimes, on very rare occasions, the things you write will be more powerful than you would have ever thought possible.
Keep going after the life that you want live. I am going to be really pissed if 65-year-old TONY is sitting alone in a house in the suburbs with 10 cats. Unless of course somewhere along the way that is what I decided I want, in which case it’s totally fine.
It is good to have a plan but remember that it is OK to wander off the path a little and get lost. You have an amazing support system that will be there with you through it all.
Please don’t sell out. You’re better than that.
Be fearless and be brave. You are no longer the two year old little boy who was scared to walk down stairs into the basement. You are the young man who has traveled the world, worked for causes you believed in and taken on a multinational financial institution (OK- It was just a credit card company). You are brave and you are fearless. Don’t forget it.
Believe in something bigger than you. Something that you will never understand. Whether it’s God or the Universe just believe in something because when everything else fails, which is bound to happen, all you’ll have left is your faith that things will get better.
Always spend time in nature. Work in the garden and get dirt in your nails. Look up at the trees and know that you will never see the top. Stand at the edge of the ocean and wonder what’s beyond the horizon. Take it all in.
Start building your professional network as soon as possible. Internship coordinators, career counselors, professors — these people can all help you in business.
Always have a side gig. Even if you are lucky enough that your gym is thriving in today’s economy, you never know when you might hit a tough spot. It’s important to have something else going on behind the scenes. Your side gig doesn’t have to pay the bills, but anything that helps you gain experience is a plus.
Don’t be discouraged when things are tough. I agree wholeheartedly that it can be a truly soul-crushing experience, but don’t admit defeat. I am often reminded of the Smiths song “These Things Take Time” during my most recent stress. Turns out, Morrissey was right. (OK- I am a child of the 80s).
Change usually only occurs when you initiate it. If you aren’t happy, it’s time to reevaluate. Even if a situation is comfortable, make sure it doesn’t become stagnant.
Invest in a “grown up” wardrobe. I know you must wear shorts, sweats and a collection of T-shirts to the gym. BUT you do not need to look like that all the time. You are a businessman. Look and act like it.
Learn how to manage your finances. You don’t need a diversified stock portfolio; simply learn how to oversee a monthly budget.
Luna Lovegood was right: the things we lose do have a way of coming back to us. Additionally, it is a small world after all. Try not to burn any bridges, either in your professional and personal lives. This is easier said than done, but you never know when someone may turn up again.
Shared experience is not the sole basis of friendship. There’s a very real possibility that by the time you reach 35, you will no longer have anything in common with friends from your 20’s — and that’s OK. Friendship is a two-way street. To have a friend, you have to be a friend. There are countless clichés about friendship, but I have found them to be true. If you don’t make time for someone, they will stop putting in the effort. Conversely, if a friend lets texts and emails go unanswered without good reason, it’s probably time for you to move on.
There is no need to conform to others’ opinions of what you should be doing. Got an especially critical friend? You don’t have to tolerate this person’s constant fault-finding. Surround yourself with positive influences, not ones that will always leave you second-guessing.
Staying in can be just as much fun as going out. Socializing is great, but in today’s fast-paced society, too many of us forget to simply take time for ourselves.
(in your best Forrest Gump voice) My Mama always says, “Thank god you can pick your friends because you can’t pick your family.” Anyone who claims to have the perfect family is a liar. Embrace your supportive relatives, but know that it’s OK to distance yourself from the ones that cause you grief.
You will make some unpopular decisions. These decisions may even cost you friendships. But know that the people who truly care will stand by you even if they think you’re temporarily being an idiot. Having said that, don’t make major decisions lightly. You aren’t always the sole person affected.
Remember to PAY YOURSELF for the job you are doing.
Love will make a fool out of you. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
When it comes to relationships, honesty really is the best policy. You have to speak up for yourself because your partner isn’t a mind reader. If your partner isn’t open to your thoughts and feelings, then this person probably isn’t for you.
Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to impress other people. Chances are they could really care less. Comparing yourself to others is futile.
Take Care of your body. Eat better, sleep better.
Lastly, I think you’re wonderful. You forget this sometimes so I just wanted to remind you.
PS- I know you will think owning that Audi is really cool, in the end the maintenance is too expensive. Get the Acura instead