Yes, that is a picture of me when I was 13 or 14 years-old. My wife ran across it last week when going through a keepsake box. I took it in 1971 or 1972 in one of those photo booths where you got 4 pictures for 25 cents. Seeing the picture brought back a lot of memories. At that time, I was very inquisitive, did a lot of daydreaming, and was very idealistic. Needless to say, a lot has changed about me both physically and mentally in the 47 years that have gone by since I took that picture. For some reason I thought, “What advice would the younger me give to the older me?” Two things come to mind:
“Always stand up for the underdog”: I was going through my toughest time when I took that picture. I just didn’t fit in. I was small for my age, extremely nearsighted, and super skinny. I got bullied a lot as a result and not many people thought much would become of me. Needless to say, things changed a lot. I grew to become 6’7” tall, weigh 230 pounds, and run multi-billion dollar businesses. My mental growth was even greater. I started believing in myself because of a high school counselor who believed in me. He stood up for me when teachers were ready to give up. That trend of having someone stand up for me when others were criticizing continued throughout my professional career. The younger me would want me to stand up even taller for underdogs and open minds and doors for them.
2. Always be the underdog”: Since I didn’t fit in, I spent a lot of time by myself. My two
closest friends were books and music. Little did I know at the time they would turn me
into a good speaker/presenter. Reason being, all great books and songs tell stories, and
engaging speakers are good storytellers. (That’s another Wednesday Wisdom for
another time.) Books and music also made me inquisitive and adventurous. I was
always looking for--and open to--better ways of doing things. That mindset allowed
me to be part of some groundbreaking innovations in business and become a student
of change management. Both allowed me to retire twice before I became 55. The
underdog mindset is one in which you are on the outside looking in. You see
everything that is going on but are not bounded by it. As a result, you don’t have any
constraints to how imaginative and creative you can be. Now that I have been
successful, I have to be constantly aware of not resting on my past, becoming fixed in
my thinking, and stop learning. To maintain that underdog mentality, I’m going to
have to continue putting myself in new situations in which I’m the one who is
different, so that I can be on the outside looking in.
I believe the “Younger me” had my wife find that picture because he saw me beginning to slow down and also become somewhat jaded in my thinking given what’s taking place in the world. I need to step up and not pull back my game.
Thanks “Younger James” for the advice. It was right on time.