• Ankit Vengurlekar

Letter to my 18 year old self as I turned 38.

I’m 38. Phew! I think it’s a pretty significant milestone. Yup, I know 38 doesn’t have the lyrical quality of 40, but it does mark 20 years of adulthood. 38 – 18 = 20. Two decades of adult life. See, it suddenly seems like a significant year, doesn’t it?

I think it is fair to summarise the last two decades of adulting as one incredible adventure. And while retrospection is a luxury few of us afford, it is what I like indulging in every year, as the calendar clocks my age on the day I was birthed.

This article is partly for vanity, partly for posterity. I hope to read this repeatedly as I grow older, and hopefully wiser.

This is an open letter to my 18-year-old self, ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime in the professional world.

The lessons I share with my 18-year-old self are not to be interpreted or lazily stolen as a formula for your own life. However, you may find certain common themes between your life and mine, and I hope reading about it makes you feel comfortable or motivates you. Here we go.

1. Health is truly your biggest wealth

My dad kept telling me throughout school years, “Focus on your health, that’s your biggest asset.” But I didn’t pay heed to his words till my 30s. He had been a National Judo Champion, playing for Maharashtra state. He’d know a thing or two about a good physical routine and its health benefits. He’s a senior citizen now and he can easily outpace me in any form of exercise. Yoga, Cardio, HIIT, swimming, you name it. I can say this with utmost confidence, if there’s one thing most fundamental to any kind of success, it is top physical form. Health is truly, your biggest wealth.

2. Wealth management is as critical as wealth creation

Our social conversations are too unhealthily skewed towards big monetary milestones. Headlines too often glorify, “Youngest billionaire”, “World’s richest”, “Richest teenager” and the like. I understand the glamour of these clickbait headlines, but wealth isn’t created overnight. Nothing of consequence in life is created overnight in fact. This is why wealth management and making your money work for its multiplication is so important. Unfortunately, we aren’t taught enough about wealth management and maximisation in our academics. We focus on what’s our salary package in a new job but don’t necessarily engage in meaningful money conversations with parents, siblings, superiors, or friends. Talk about money. Seek advice. Try new investment instruments. Your risk appetite will be the highest when younger, take the risks.

3. Making Money isn’t life’s only objective

Money is important to live a life of creature comforts. But remember, the most happiness you’ll experience is from the rawest of experiences. From a rustic evening at a farmhouse, staring at the sky on a full moon night with a loved one by your side.

Memories are the gold bullion you need to invest in. Friendships are the fixed deposits that will continue to give you steady and solid returns in life.

Chase meaning, perfection, and self-betterment over a bigger salary when it comes to professional life. You’ll never feel disappointed over a little less money, but you’ll be gutted at the lack of good experience and life lessons from good colleagues and work. Measure success by self-improvement, not just by your bank balance.

4. Trust people, they generally want good things for you

You don’t know what you will do in life.

The cosmic plan will unravel itself to you, in the most unexpected form, via the most unexpected people. Trust people. Don’t be naive, but don’t be so cynical or doubting that you lose out on the doors absolute strangers may open for your growth and well-being. Always believe in the goodness of people. Be good, you get good.

5. Do not seek validation via multiple romantic partners

You may think, “How does this apply to a professional blueprint?” It does. If anything, it is one of the most important keys to your success and happiness. There’s an unnecessary and toxic culture that envelopes us all. The false hope that something better than what I have currently, is around the corner. This is a self-destructive belief. If you find a good romantic partner, someone who understands you and someone who you would like to be understanding towards, then slow down. Focus on that one person and relationship. Running after multiple romantic partners to seek emotional or physical validation is a colossal time sucker. You’d rather focus that time on building meaningful memories. Or better still, remain single and focus on honing your skills. A healthy romantic relationship is a gateway to professional success.

6. Invest in rich friendships

Life’s going to be tough. There will be heartbreaks, personal, and professional. There will be losses and there will be unbelievable achievements. None of these will have much meaning if you don’t have friends to share them with. Choose friends well. One simple question to ask when choosing company of people is, “Am I a better person because of the company of this friend in my life?” If the answer is a no, you know you’re better than that. Good friends will always remind you when you’re veering off the path you’ve chosen for yourself. But also know, they may not always accept or understand your choices, but they’ll stick around to see you at the other end. Good friends, along with good health are the basic tenets of a happy life.

7. Get a pet or many pets

Very few humans, apart from your parents love you the way an animal can. Get a pet dog, pet cat early in life. It imbues in you a sense of duty and discipline that hardly anything else can. It will also gift you with an unimaginable friendship.

8. Take gaps to travel frequently and volunteer for causes

Your biggest ideas, your biggest plans, and the courage to act on them are going to come from the time when you aren’t working or being productive. Take a trip. Travel and see the length and breadth of this beautiful country, this world. Forge new connections, expose yourself to myriad ways of life. Travel to immerse, to absorb new ideas, to expand your point of view, and shift your paradigm. Volunteer for a social cause. It will help anchor the belief, there’s more to our time in life than just working and making money. Utilize your skills to benefit a group of people or animals, from whom you have nothing to gain. It will instill selflessness and compassion. Identify your privilege, stand up for those that need a voice. Travel frequently, volunteer for causes, join protests, organize.

9. Do something different professionally every few years

The world’s changing course every 10 years or so. To stay relevant professionally, identify the direction in which your industry is headed and try new things. If possible, transfer within your organization to a new department or role to learn and develop a new skill every few years. To be on top of your craft, you need to get a holistic experience of all possible aspects of a business. Diversify your talents.

10. Take vacations with your parents, and with your family

In your 20s, 30s, and 40s, you’ll be living one epic adventure after another. It’s easy to forget your parents. Don’t forget they are growing old. Take the time out to travel with them, or to just spend time with them. Chat with them. They’re capable of being your best friends and your relationship with them will change dramatically as you grow older. The bond will become stronger than ever. The wealth of life lessons they have is unparalleled. Take it all in. Don’t dismiss them. Create fun memories with them. Take loads of photos and videos. Involve them in your life, your friends, your journey. Nothing’s going to make them happier than seeing you do well in life.

11. Donate to Charity every year

Your success in life is not only your own doing. It takes a village, of visible and invisible people in your life for you to work hard and reach the pinnacle of your professional ladder. Donating to charity helps create opportunities for others. Donate especially to student-based charities. Help out in children’s education whenever you can. It will also teach you humility.

The older you grow and the more money you make, increase your donations. Your legacy isn’t just the riches you made for you and your blood relations. Give back as much as possible.

12. You don’t need to materialize every dream

You will have more ideas than time to materialize them. That’s okay. Don’t breed regrets and feelings of lost opportunities.

It’s okay to dream about doing something and never acting upon it. Because if you truly and deeply want anything, you will move mountains to make it possible. For everything else, don’t stress too much.

2020 has been a challenging year, but it is not the last one in the foreseeable future to throw such curveballs at us as a society. The seeds we have sown over the last 3 decades of overconsumption are bearing fruits now. Nature has cycles. Us humans think we are removed from natural rhythms and cycles, but 2020 was a grand reminder that we aren’t.

The way we live needs to change fundamentally; we need to shift to mindful consumption for everything. As I sit and draft out the changes I need to make in my life, I hope you find the time and clarity to do the same in your life. We can’t change the world after all. We can only change ourselves, and that is the greatest service we can do for humanity.

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