Letter to my 16 Year Old Self

Dear Young Erik,

It's probably pretty weird to be hearing from your adult self. If you're reading this, it either means I'm hallucinating, or that you invented time travel. (If you did, invest in a company called Apple Computers sometime in the next five years. Tell Dad too. As much as you can. Don't ask, just do it! Trust me.)

You probably have a few questions for your future self. First, yes, you're married. You have three kids. Yes, you've done that. And that too. Yes, you still have all your fingers.

Your hair? Uh, let's just be happy you still have all your fingers.

I'm writing to you, Young Erik, because I just read an article that said that we're pretty much destined to be the kind of people we were when we were 16 years old. That the way we reacted to situations and people as teenagers will influence the way we react to situations and people when we're older. In fact, this article said we do it more than we're actually aware of. And I wanted you to know I didn't blame you. Actually, things are pretty good here, so don't screw this up.

If only that were true for our physical shape though. Do me a favor, and try to cut out soda by the time you're 21. Okay, 25. Okay, 30, but only on special occasions. Like with rum. Or pizza.

Also, don't eat so much pizza.
Otherwise just keep doing what you're doing, keep the friends you've got, and go to college. Don't run off and follow the Grateful Dead or anything stupid.

Or do. I don't actually know what would happen if you did. Hell, maybe you'll end up rich selling Mexican cotton blankets to a bunch of Deadheads.

Ooh, nope! No, don't do that. I just checked with the time machine, and you absolutely must not follow the Grateful Dead. Not if you want to keep all your fingers.

Also, pay attention in school a little more. At least in algebra class.

Don't worry about being popular though. I remember that we never actually liked the popular kids, and we were fine hanging out with the not-so-popular kids. So don't feel too bad. It's actually for the best. Besides, we had fun.

You've no doubt already figured out that most of the popular kids were jerks in high school. Believe me, they did not get better! I wouldn't worry too much about them. Let's just say they didn't change the world as much as their mommies and daddies said they would.

On the other hand, you were spot on in predicting the incarcerated kids.

Of course, this also means you and your plucky band of band nerds are going to pretty much stay the same. Except somewhere in your 20s, you're going to trade your French horn for a fountain pen and join a plucky band of word nerds instead. That's why you spelled it "clique" earlier and not "click."

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

But you're going to have a much better chance of making it as a professional writer than you are a professional French horn player. Even now, in the 21st century, there's not a lot of demand — by which I mean "absolutely none" — for a professional French horn player.

It's true about the way social interactions guide us as adults though. Even today, when I'm out meeting other people or going to networking events, I can still spot them. The little cliques of former jocks, rich kids, theater kids, troublemakers, burnouts, science geeks, band nerds, and the loners. They still all find each other, even as adults, and they hang out together.

So I wanted you to know that everything, for the most part, has turned out okay, and that you should keep doing what you're doing. Be a nerd. Keep doing the weird stuff that no one else does. Read the books no one else likes. Buy comic books and listen to New Wave music. Play the sports no one else plays. (Just try to keep playing them once you turn 40. Seriously.)

And I'm serious about investing in Apple.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.