No matter how old we get, most of us lament that, "if I knew THEN what I know NOW, I would have done (fill in the blank)."
Well, here are a few of those things I wish I knew when I was a kid.
1. School Grades are important, but life skills are what really matter.
Yes, the better your grades, the more options you have once you graduate high school. Education does not guarantee that you will make more money, but educated people have more options and ways to make money than people with less education.
However, I realize that I needed to spend less time studying and more time learning how to live life. Looking back, I spent so much time trying to keep up my grades that I probably neglected developing other areas of my life: learning how to cook, do laundry, make and keep friends, organize events, follow others, etc.
Maintaining your grades is important, but it is not the only thing that's important when you're a kid. At least, they shouldn't be.
2. Most of the material I learned in school did not matter, but HOW I learned it was really important.
Some subjects provide really important baselines for living in our civilized world: reading, writing, and arithmetic (math).
However, it is probably not really important whether I remembered that "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492," except while I am taking a class test that covers that specific information.
What was really important is the each subject required different learning styles. We had to use (and develop) different study skills, depending upon the type of material we need to "master" for the upcoming test.
Those skills transfer later in life to the "real world," even though a lot of specific facts we're taught in school are not.
School was incredibly important--just for different reasons than I thought at the time.
3. My best friends today will (probably) not be my best friends later in life.
I was really lucky. I had a lot of really great friends, and we all shared some wonderful times together...times I would not want to trade, even if I could.
However, during my childhood, I thought that certain people were more important to my life than they really were. That is not their fault, nor mine. As our lives developed, we went in different directions and found different friends.
This is especially true if you move to a different area.
Some people come into our lives for a lifetime, but most come for just a season. Even those that just come for a season, there usually is a reason.
Now I know to appreciate the relationship I have with someone, but I also know not to take for granted that it will be forever, even though it feels like it today.
We'll miss our old friends, but we'll also appreciate our new ones. It's not devastating--it's just us growing.
4. Winning games and sports is not everything. In fact, it's barely anything.
It was fun to win games and at sports, but everything else was so much more important.
As a kid, I was ultra-competitive. I wanted to beat you badly, because I thought it was everything. I thought that people only wanted to be with me if I was a "winner."
Most of the skills we DIRECTLY learn to play games as a kid are not very important as an adult.
However, most of the skills we INDIRECTLY learn to play games as a kid are extremely important.
There are more, but the two main skills I wish I learned while playing these games as a kid was learning (1) how to be a good teammate and (2) how to handle disappointment with grace.
As an adult, I finally learned these things, but when I was a kid, I really thought that the skills specific to the game were the most important things to learn. (Ironically, as I am writing this, I realize that this is similar to #1: School Grades are important, but life skills are what really matter.)
5. Exercising today means I will enjoy life a lot more tomorrow.
When most of us are kids, we are not thinking about how we will feel 20, 30, or 40 years from today. We're just busy being kids. Plus, we cannot relate to struggling to have enough strength to remove our bodies from our beds (not counting being really tired and not wanting to go to school).
When we were really little, most of us had no problem going outside to play with our friends. We'd run around or explore something. It was nothing to walk several blocks or even ride our bike a mile or two to visit a friend we wanted to see.
As we got older, we ran around outside a little less.
Some of us were fortunate enough to have enough athletic ability to play games competitively. So our coaches forced us to exercise and practice so that we were ready for the actual games.
However, when we become adults, most of us no longer have anyone telling us to "go outside and play" or forcing us to do seemingly cruel exercises so that we had a chance of getting playing time during the game.
Some kids do not even get that exercise early in life. Many times, you can spot these people, even as adults.
When we're kids, exercise just seems like something people make us do "to be mean."
Today, I see that we should be exercising as much as our bodies will allow us; otherwise, we are being mean to our bodies, and later, that means our bodies will be mean to us.
6. You really cannot begin building your network early enough...or large enough.
When we're kids, we have other kids around us...all around us. It does not occur to us that we might be around some really future big shots.
As we get older and need jobs or other favors, we start learning (hopefully) that we cannot do everything alone. Even if we could, that's not the smartest way to work.
The more people we know, the better we are.
Even as adults, I see that most people really do not understand how to network or even understand the importance of building a network of people they know who can do different things.
As a kid, we build relationships naturally. I wish I knew to foster these relationships better. Many of those would help me today. (Truth be told, I probably could help a lot of them, also.)
You cannot build your network large enough...or early enough. I wish I knew that when I was a kid.
7. Being intelligent is nice, but it's not nearly as important as we're led to believe.
It is really nice to know things, and it's really nice when others see as a person who is important, because we know stuff.
However, we all have strengths...and weaknesses...ALL OF US.
We need each other, and the sooner we realize that we'll accomplish more by working together than doing everything ourselves, the more we'll get done and the better we'll be.
We need to be knowledgeable in our area (or willing to make a serious effort to learn), but we don't have to be the smartest person in the room all of the time. In fact, if we're the smartest person in the room, we're probably not challenging ourselves enough.
We only really need enough intelligence to know (a) that we need help, (b) the help we need, (c) who can help us, and (d) what we can offer to entice that person to help.
Intelligence is nice, but having humility, people skills, and being resourceful are much more valuable.
I really wish I knew these things when I was a kid.
How about you?