I recently made lists of my most personally meaningful accomplishments and experiences as well as my biggest regrets and mistakes of the past 25 years. Then I spent about 90 minutes looking for lessons and patterns in both lists.
The #1 lesson was pretty clear. My biggest gains came largely from taking bold, committed action in the direction of self-trust. This was especially pronounced when I went all-in to trust my own reasoning and intuitive feelings well before there were clear outward signs that reality would reward my actions.
My biggest failures often stemmed from doing what was expected by others or by favoring other people’s expertise, knowledge, and advice above my own reasoning and instincts. When I bowed to outside influences and acted contrary to that gentle voice that suggested that maybe I was right, the outcome was often regrettable.
During those 25 years, I’ve gotten a lot better at trusting my instincts, reasoning, and feelings, even when I seem to be the only one who can see things working out well. And that’s mainly because I’ve seen how well reality rewards self-trust and how much it declines to reward the lack thereof.
If I could go back in time to advise my past self from 25 years ago, I’d do my best to teach him how to access his own reasoning; pay attention to his instinctual feelings; and articulate, trust, and more vehemently defend his own preferences, even when others disagree. This is especially critical when others have well-reasoned but contrary arguments. I’d advise my past self to bet way bigger on his own values instead of letting himself acquiesce so often to the value systems of others.
My biggest mistakes and regrets happened when I was actually right but didn’t cultivate enough trust in my own intelligence to advance with bold action. The times when I was wrong and over-bet on bad judgments were relatively minor and easily recoverable over the span of 25 years. In fact, most of those incidents were decent learning experiences and stepping stones to worthwhile results.
What would you do differently today if you trusted yourself more?
Try running your own show for a change, even when you’re the only one who thinks your idea has merit.