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Notes From My Younger Self

February 12, 2018

Lt. J.G. Jean-Luc Picard: You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?

Q: I gave you something most mortals never experience: a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?

Lt. J.G. Jean-Luc Picard: I can’t live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion… and imagination! That is not who *I* am!

Q: Au contraire. He’s the person you wanted to be: one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth, one who was less like me… The Jean-Luc Picard *you* wanted to be, the one who did *not* fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the Ambassador; or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone.
– Star Trek:TNG Tapastries

It’s a common pasttime, looking back and wondering “what if?” What if I’d taken that job offer that required me to move across the country? What if I’d finished my degree instead of jumping into business? What if I’d stayed in the ROTC and pursued a military career?

We all have things we would go back and change. Or rather, we have parts of our past that we aren’t proud of. That we wish we’d done differently. I find myself often being, shall we say the “senior” member of my project teams. I watch my coworkers who are closer to the beginning of their careers than I am. And, of course, I think about when I was their age. (Gahh, that phrase alone makes me sound like a tottering old guy barely able to stumble to my computer.) Was I ever that young?

Of course, and just as Picard, in Star Trek: The Next Generation lamented his earlier life choices, I sometimes think of the brash mistakes of youth. I once was frustrated when a promised promotion failed to materialize. I made the mistake of complaining to one of our biggest cients. I was in a call center at the time. Yes, all those calls are recorded. I didn’t get fired, but it taught me an important lesson both about maintaining company loyalty and keeping my own counsel.

At the time it was a painful lesson. In hindsight, it probably saved me from much worse fates.

Another time, when I should have known better, I went into partnership with a man I barely knew. I moved my family across the country to join him in a busines I had no experience in. He turned out to be a liar and a crook. It took my family nearly five years to recover. And yet, it taught me in a way that nothing else ever had, the value of getting out of debt. I paid off $80,000 and other than the house, haven’t gone into debt seince. Would I have had that discipline if I hadn’t gone through that tough time? Possibly, but probably not.

I still remember the first manager that really chewed me out. Looking back, with the advantage of experience I can see the signs leading up to it. At the time I walked into an emotional buzzsaw. I still experience a physcial reaction when a manager says the phrase “can I see you in my office?” Would I have handled my manager crisis a year ago as well as I did if I hadn’t been through that emotional trainwreck at the beginning of my career? Definitely not.

While we all might look back with some thought of wishing to “fix” our mistakes, the truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing. The successes I have today have the seeds of their success planted in the fertile soil of a young and inexperienced kid stumbing his way through an unfamiliar landscape.

The message from my younger self is the same message I offer to my future self: You’re doing fine. It will all work out and the bumps are the spots where you learn the most.

You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own
-Billy Joel, You’re Only Human (Second Wind)

So, keep on going. You’re doing fine. It’s all going to work out.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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