He looked noticeably older, a little worn, but utterly calm with a presence that seemed to exude experience, awareness, and most of all a sense of confidence. He seemed a lot more laid back and easygoing than my present self.
I was sitting at a small coffee table in Kathmandu, Nepal and I had looked up from my laptop to find myself, twenty years in the future, sitting right across from me.
As I stared in disbelief, he leaned back and eased into the chair. His eyes smiled and he looked over me, as if he was inspecting a rare artifact.
"I'm you", he said with a bit of humor in his voice, "twenty years in the future. I only have a few minutes and I'd like to hear what advice you can give me."
Advice? What advice could I possibly give? What could I say to someone who knows every single thing about me and then an entire lifetimes worth on top of that?
This was difficult. Writing advice to my younger self was a lot easier. A future version of myself would invariably have more experience, a greater perspective, and far more wisdom than my current self. But there he was, and he wanted me to speak. He seemed a bit stronger than me, so I wasn't about to ignore him.
What advice would a future version of myself need that he couldn't give himself? What would he need to hear from the less experienced version of himself? What might time have taken away from him that only I could provide?
Here's what I came up with:
Never settle. I'd like to say never settle in the literal sense (family, kids, house, etc.) but I'm a young, inexperienced, digital nomad who has just discovered his love for the nomadic lifestyle and I cannot begin to understand what you've been through or how you currently perceive your purpose in life. So instead, let me just tell you to never settle with ideas, with knowledge, with your accomplishments. Every day, every moment, is a fresh start. Keep the rebel in your heart alive until the day you die.
People need you. Help them. There are so many people in this world who need help. Whatever you end up doing in your life, remember them. Remember those people at every corner, every crossroads, and every intersection. Let them guide you. You won't be here for much longer and they are the one's who need the most help, so do what you can to help them. Remember that what you take goes with you when you're gone, but what you give is immortal.
Stay young. Age is a measurement of how much you're learning and how curious you are. Never stop doing either of them. Remember that youth is a state of mind, not a physical condition. Look to the younger generations to see what they're doing and what they're learning. Put yourself in their shoes and see their future. What can you do to improve their future?
Give unconditionally and remember your roots. If by chance you've found your soulmate and decided to have children, remember that strong moral values, immense respect for your elders, self-reliance, a willingness to learn, open-mindedness, and sense of fierce independence got you to where you are today. Teach your children the same, but don't smother them. Remember that you can never give too much unconditional love and freedom so long as the two are balanced. Encourage learning and open-mindedness above all else.
Remember this one thing. You will likely take all this advice with a grain of salt because you're stubborn and you probably feel that I'm so inexperienced and so naive that I couldn't possibly have anything valuable to teach you. If you take just one piece of advice from this, please remember that stubbornness is only useful when it keeps you on track for a noble cause. If it's holding you back from learning something, let it go!
Never stop questioning the status-quo. If you have kids, be sure to teach them the same. Never accept something as truth simply because someone, or everyone, says it is so. Use the information available to you, and the wisdom and experience of others, and then trust your own intuition and decide for yourself.
Music is your equalizer. Remember how important music has been in your life and how effective it has been for reeling in emotions and putting them in harmony with the rest of your being. Music helped you write this post in three hours when you were in the middle putting together your first ebook. Music will be around forever. If life feels like it's in a knot, untie it with music.
You could die tomorrow, so make today count.
It's never too late to start. Tomorrow holds just as much opportunity for you as tomorrow does for me.
Die running. Remember that you've always said you want to "die running". No matter what happens, no matter how frail you become, no matter how many injuries you've sustained, no matter how sick you may be or how much you're suffering, stay active and stay positive. Use it or lose it. If you slow down or let yourself be negative, you're inviting death into your life.
Think forward. You might be thinking about me right now, about what life was like for me and all the things you wish you could tell me and warn me about. Stop. The past has been written and the only thing you can do a damn thing about is your present moment. No matter what your circumstances are, your future is still unwritten. Go write it.
I'm sure I will look back at this piece of writing twenty or thirty years from now and find it very interesting to see the perspective of my younger self. I go through the archives on this blog from time to time and I'm always astonished by how foreign my past self seems to me and by how much insight I gain from him.
If you have a blog, or even if you don't, I highly recommend you try this exercise. Figuring out what advice we'd give our younger selves is easy, but to give our older selves advice we need to step into their shoes. By doing that we're forced to take an honest assessment of where we think we're headed and what type of person we think we'll become.
I was encouraged to write this by Courtney Carver over at Be More With Less and we agreed to both do this exercise and then exchange links. Be sure to check out Courtney's post, 20 Lessons for my Future Self.
The aged photo of myself was generated with a tool called Face of the Future.
Hi Raam, my dear, this is a chilling post – to imagine yourself AND to have a photo fo yourself 20 years from now – and to have a conversation. It takes a lot of courage to do the unknown – as opposed to the known which was in the past. I so enjoyed reading this – your wisdom really astounds me and I am every day happy to have found your blog- a gold in the sand of all blogosphere…….THANK YOU for the profound impact you gave me this morning!!!
Your comment gave me a chill, Farnoosh. You’re too kind! 🙂
It really was an incredible feeling when I was able to fully imagine my older self sitting in front of me… and that generated picture made it all that much more real! Plus I’m sure it helped that I have a really good imagination!
The strange thing about doing this exercise was that after “talking” to my older self, I felt a sense of calm… as if I knew everything would turn out OK regardless of whatever happens, no matter how many challenges I may face or how many terrible things might happen. This might be a somewhat scary exercise, but I think it really helps us feel a sense of peace inside.
Hey Raam. In a little under two hours I’ll have been on this planet for 30 years (that I know of). It is very interesting to wonder what I would have to say to myself… in 20 years. Your reply to Farnoosh just made my realise how worthwhile it is to think about it.
Hey Ali, happy birthday! 🙂
This is definitely a worthwhile exercise and I think we can all learn something about ourselves through doing it.
This was a great collaboration. I love that while our writing styles and journeys are so different, some of our advice is the same. Helping others and giving freely was a common thread.
Your posts to your younger and older selves make me feel like I know you better and knowing what I know makes me so proud to work together on something like this.
Thanks for being so open!
Thank you, Courtney! Yes, this was an awesome idea… thank you so much for asking me to do this! I’ve been so incredibly busy and focused on my ebook (~14 hrs a day for the past week) that I was fresh out of ideas for my next blog post.
I think I learned a LOT about myself from writing this post and the post to my younger self. It was incredibly deep introspection and well worth every moment of it! 🙂
Raam. Brother… That post spoke to my soul. As you mentioned your calming to Farnoosh, I too felt a sense of calming and clarity of a life perspective that needs to be realigned from time to time. To re-establish the truly important and forget the details that we are so often distracted by…
I am sitting at a local coffee shop in Raleigh, NC and the sun is shining down with an intense heat through the glass windows. My iced coffee is chilled and my mind feels crisp. Your words have halted me in my tracks and everything around me just took on a whole new feel and energy. Every piece of advice spoke volumes brother…
Simply beautiful post Raam. Thank you.
Patrick, thank you so much for sharing that.
I’m beginning to wonder if it’s possible I somehow connected with that future version of me… if somehow, I really did get energy from another time and allowed it to flow through me and into the words.
Whatever the case may be, I’m so happy this piece was able to convey that same sense of calm that I felt when I was writing this! 🙂
Raam, to have read this as my introduction to your site… My. This was soul-moving. Your words, thoughts —and the look in the eyes of your future self— all spoke to me on a different level. Like Patrick, I felt your calm as reading this, and like Farnoosh, I see your wisdom. You went deep inside/outside yourself, and it’s clear you were somewhere where the truth is uncluttered by the here and now. I believe that’s where your incredible sense of peace arose, and I hope it stays with you for a very long time. Thank you so much for sharing this!
Thank you for the comment, Julie! I’m so happy you found the same calmness that Patrick described!
I think you’re right about that peace coming from a place deep inside/outside myself. When I was writing this post it was almost like I was having an out-of-body experience — I was looking at myself staring back at me…
This seriously scared me when I first came here. I jolted? Wow, you come up with some pretty crazy and interesting ideas Raam. This was one of them (in a good way of course). I liked the lessons you shared here, especially the advice on stubbornness. Stubbornness is good if it’s for a noble cause, but if it prevents us from learning, we need to let it go. You have such an open mind! I’m still getting the jitters from the initial shock, but yeah, haha, good job with this!
Haha! I had a feeling it would scare somebody! 😀 Can you imagine how I felt when I first saw the picture after the generator finished with it? It was the weirdest thing to see a realistic-looking, aged version of myself staring back at me!
Yes, that stubbornness lesson is one I’m sure I’ll need to remember for the rest of my life… if there’s anything that I am, it’s stubborn! I need to make sure I’m using that stubbornness for the right reasons. 🙂
Raam – what a touching, insightful post. It tells me much about you, your thoughts, your feelings, and your empathy.
We need thinkers like you in this world. And how fortunate are you to be young in these times where you can live the nomadic lifestyle, write, and experience!
As a teacher, I would really like to share this with my students and see what they come up with. You sure you haven’t been on this planet before???
My blog, by the way, is in the process of creation. Hope to see you there soon!
Hi Maria, thank you for the kind words. Please feel free to share anything on my site with your students! I think you’ll really like the ebook I’m releasing tomorrow and hopefully you can share that with them too!
This was a very interesting post. First, to age your lovely face like that – very brave I must say. Next to have a conversation with your future self: absolutely brilliant. I like what you told yourself, especially about staying young by staying curious and learning. Great advice.
What an excellent post. I think I might just do this, but I hope you don’t mind if I don’t age myself 20 years. I’m not as brave as you my friend!
Staying young is a state of mind! We age when we allow ourselves to age. “We” aren’t just our bodies, so linking our youth to the state of our physical body just doesn’t make sense.
That aging tool was quite interesting! But you need not use it to talk to your future self. 🙂
Thank you for the comment, Angela!
Hey Raam, great advice! I can’t wait to hear what your future self will add to it after having lived along the advice for those 20 years. I am sure he will be one wise guy (considering how well he’s doing on that front already now)!
PS. You inspired me to go running today. 🙂
Thanks, Jarkko! Glad to hear I inspired you to run. I need to get back into a running routine myself!
Hi Raam, great advice indeed! Like some others have commented above, I love the timelessly truthful advice you’ve given. It really shows your deep sense of compassion and sense of responsibility for the fate of our world. I feel similarly in many ways, and my favorite line was this: Encourage learning and open-mindedness above all else.. Thank you for writing this! You’ve inspired me to try my own version. 🙂
You’re most welcome, Lynn! Thank you for the comment and for participating in the ebook! 🙂
I’m a bit late to the table here, but have to say, such introspection can be a mish-mash of so many emotions (for me, any way): comfort, fear, trepidation, exhilaration, resilience…
As I write this, I am thinking about how I might respond to such an exercise. While talking to 56-year-old Bill would be something, I think talking to the future versions of my wife and (especially) my kids would be more telling/moving. Almost like a judgment of sorts — how did I do as a husband, father and friend. While I know I am doing the best I can the thought of such a critique is scaring the hell out of me. 🙂
Looking forward to the book. Keep on keepin’ on, Raam. It’s worth it.
I think you’re right that talking to the future versions of your wife and kids would be more moving, but I wonder if it would provide a different form of advice.
There’s something very powerful about accepting our own mistakes and recognizing what we might need to avoid in the future. That’s what I found so interesting about this exercise: I was forced to recognize what mistake’s I’m most likely to make and what ways I’m most likely to change in a negative way. Then I gave my future self advice based on those. 🙂
Thanks for the comment!
What an interesting exercise. I don’t know what I’d say to my future self. Probably something like keep having hope and keep learning. I didn’t like to imagine myself at age 61 though! My favorites of those you wrote were “Never stop questioning the status-quo,” and “It’s never too late to start.”
I’d say if you’re going to be 61 someday, may as well imagine it now and be better prepared! 😀
True, I hope to live to 61, maybe to 91!
I’m shooting for 161! Better to shoot for the stars and land on the moon than shoot for the horizon and sink into the sea. 🙂
Honestly, this post makes me see things in other way. I learned that I have to live the days of my life, as if they were the last. That’s a great lesson to put in practice.
Hi Viviana, thanks for stopping by and for the comment. 🙂
I don’t think we can ever be reminded too much about how unpredictable life can be. One day we’re here, the next we could be gone forever. I try to think about that at least once a day.
Some people feel doing that would make for a morbid and depressing life, but I feel that when we really accept that today could be our last day, every single day feels like a fantastic opportunity. When problems arise, we don’t let them bother us because we’d rather spend our short amount of time being happy.
The way I look at things:
The pig dies because it is meat, sometimes.
Stumble across | not Stubborn across.
Thinking of you – Stay safe.
Cryptic as always, Sarith! 🙂
Thank you for the comment — it’s so nice to hear from you! I look forward to catching up when I get back in September.
”please remember that stubbornness is only useful when it keeps you on track for a noble cause”
what if you dont know your track for your noble cause is causeing not so obvious negative impact
”’Remember how important music has been in your life ”
make sure you listen to music you pick and not somethiing forced in your ears by the fcc
”You could die tomorrow, so make today count.”
You can die today , when you wake up imagine yourself being shot by arrows ,bullets, stabed by knife, spears, , blow up by ieds, tomahawk, hellfire missiles. ran over, hit in the head with a bat , etc. Thats from the Samurai book
”It’s never too late to start. Tomorrow holds just as much opportunity for you as tomorrow does for me.”
One of our founding father i think Jefferson or maybe Washington said that what can be done today that is put off tell tomorrow and can be put off another day wont ever get done if you dont do it today. Because you will keep putting it off tell tomorrow.
Being able to run fast is important but the reason you run is to fight. So I’ll live fighting.
Thanks for the comment, Matt.
We cannot know all the consequences of our actions. All we can do is be intelligent and put forethought into what we’re doing. If we recognize that we’re only being stubborn to support our ego, then we can avoid that and use the stubbornness for better things.
This exercise would be a challenge for me! My favorite parts are where you express your respect for your elders (often lacking these days) and advise your future self to offer a balance of unconditional love and freedom to their children.
Thank you, Sandra.
Respect for our elders is something I was taught from a very young age and thankfully it has followed me into adulthood. Simply recognizing the wealth of experience and perspective that age gives us should be enough to remind us why we should respect those elder to us.
I think the rise of technology, and the huge amount of information made available through it, has given the younger generation an excuse to feel superior to those elder to them. But the Internet isn’t going to give anyone the real-life wisdom and perspective that can be offered by our elders.
Thank you, dad! 🙂
This reminds me of the movie “The One”
except the younger self karate chopped the future self.
This reminds me of myself seeking for a reminder.
This reminds me of friend that reminds me of how life should be reminded.
Thanks for the mirror,
Interesting observation, Ron! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
I’m really enjoying reading your posts tonight – but unfortunately I don’t have time to finish reading this one now.
Gotta say though – “Never stop questioning the status-quo.” – Absolutely!!!
Thank you, Majeeda! The status-quo is for people interested in nothing changing — and since change is the only constant in the universe, what a futile endeavor that would be!
You are totally right – change is constant…but like you said you can’t just accept others words either. It’s sad but societies, governments, corporations, theyre not as straightforward as one would hope so you HAVE to question.
I’ve added you to my reader so I can keep up with your posts. Thanks!
A fascinatingly interesting exercise. Some beautiful thoughts.
Thank you! 🙂