What I Wish I'd Known in My 20's

by Alex Charfen
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I knew it all when I was 24. 

No, really. I did.

I thought it was my job to have all the answers. 

In some ways, I’m a different person now. But if you’re like me, looking back at your past behavior can often cause some regret. There’s so much I’ve learned since that period that I wish I could go back and tell myself. 

But one of the main things that still bothers me about that time was my obsession with always being right.

Let me give you some context…

By the time I was in my early 20’s, I had started a successful consultancy and was frequently meeting with top executives on how to expand and move their businesses forward. 

But this first portion of my career was extremely stressful. I obsessed continuously over future meetings, had many sleepless nights, and even suffered through a stomach ulcer all because of the pressure.

At that point in my career, I firmly believed that the success of my new company was entirely dependant upon me having all the answers. I thought that if I ever had to ask a question or were confused about something during a meeting, I would no longer be trusted, and my business would fall apart. Because of this, my preparation was so exhaustive that I wore myself down.

Then, I came to a point where all that changed…

It was during a week that I had too much coming at me, and there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for me to adequately prepare for an upcoming meeting. I knew I only had the bare minimum of information to get through that meeting. I was nervous about going in, and as the meeting progressed, I got lost and had no clue what was going on.

It got to the point that I had no choice but to ask a question.

I cleared my throat and said, “Would you mind clarifying that? I’m not sure I understand.”

I can still remember the bead of sweat rolling down my lower back as I spoke up. I felt extremely exposed and was positive that I would lose the account. But then, something unexpected happened…

My question was answered quickly, and the meeting didn’t miss a beat. Not only that, it sparked other important conversations that needed to happen because, as it turned out, other people in the room were confused as well. 

This was a huge turning point in my career and the success of my consultancy. 

It made me realize that it’s okay to ask questions and that I didn’t need to worry about having all the answers at meetings. All I needed to worry about was what I could bring to the table.

So, if I could go back in time, I’d tell myself not to let my ego get in the way of moving forward. That no one can be an expert on everything, and you have to ask questions to be able to learn new things. 

If you still obsess over past behaviors, it’s time to let yourself off the hook. Life is a learning experience. All we have to do is try to improve a little every day.

What would you go back and tell your 20-year-old self? I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

If you enjoyed this article and want to hear more advice from my past, make sure to check out the Momentum Podcast. 

Who Is Alex Charfen?
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