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Naomi Simson early years teenager

I remember my parents trying to impart wisdom upon my younger self – and my busy little brain was saying something like: “Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.” And now when I do the same with my teenagers, I think I can hear inside their heads muttering the same thing.

So at the risk that no one is really listening, here are the five things I’d say to my younger self about life, starting a business, and more.

  • Learn to listen deeply. As a young person, I was always finishing people’s sentences, or rushing to make a comment. I was so busy practicing in my head what I was going to say – I was not listening. Learning to really listen is an art that takes practice. (“The Lost Art of Listening” is a great book.)
  • Be truly present. If you are with people, then really be with people. In the olden days, there were no mobile phones, but I still managed to try to do at least two things at once whilst on the old dial-up phone. (The person always can tell… and it gives a horrible message about how important they feel to you.) Now it is even worse with mobile phones and portable devices, as I’ve previously posted.
  • Slow down. As a younger person (and I still have this tendency), I was always rush, rush rush. Relax and take it easy. Now I’m not telling myself to sit on my hands, but I am saying to smell the roses as I travel on my path. I completed my bachelor’s degree in three years. I did get involved in University life, but I might not have explored all that academic life made available to me. When I started RedBalloon, I would start thinking about Christmas in late July. What I have learned is there will be another Christmas. Do the best with what you have, and enjoy the journey.
  • I am who I am. It took nearly five decades for me to stop worrying if I was likeable. From a young age at kindergarten, I never thought that people liked me… and maybe they didn’t. Even as a teenager, a fellow student said to me: “You are always so happy. Can’t you take a chill pill? We are teenagers; we are not supposed to be happy.” Then I tried to modify my behavior, which of course only left me more frustrated. Now I say what needs to be said: “Do what needs to be done and be who I am – and some people will not like that.” I am quite happy not to try and please everyone all the time. (Stop trying to fix me – I am forever the way I am. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly is great on this.)
  • Embrace technology at the core. I wish I was a bit more of a tech head. I founded a technology business, I worked in the tech business for big vendors, I subscribe to TechCrunch… but still I wish I could get in there and write a line of code. Not that I want to be a programmer, but as our tech team is integral to our success, it would be really great if I had a deeper understanding of what they face, what the future is like – and what could be created. To my younger self, I’d say to myself: “Don’t fear the geek – be one!”

This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn Influencer Content


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