What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

One of the best books I read in 2009 was Tina Seelig’s “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.” Tina teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford. Her book is a short easy read but is full of practical and very valuable advice for folks of any age – I really do wish I had read it when I was 20!

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 from Bret Simmons on Vimeo.

Tina’s tells us that the primary barriers to your success are self-imposed – between your ears. If you want to be indispensable and lead an abundant life, you have to be willing to do things your peers are not willing to do. You have to “give yourself permission to challenge assumptions, to look at the world with fresh eyes, to experiment, to fail, to plot your own course, and to test the limits of your abilities (p. 175).”

In Tina’s words:

If you want a leadership role, then take on leadership roles. Just give yourself permission to do so. Look around for holes in your organization, ask for what you want, find ways to leverage your skills and experiences, be willing to make the first move, and stretch beyond what you’ve done before. There are always opportunities waiting to be exploited. Instead of waiting to be asked and tiptoeing around an opportunity, seize it. It takes hard work, energy, and drive – but these are the assets that set leaders apart from those who wait for others to anoint them. (p.70)

Over time I’ve become aware that the world is divided into people who wait for others to give them permission to do the things they want to do and people who grant themselves permission. Some look inside themselves for motivation and others wait to be pushed forward by outside forces. From my experience, there’s a lot to be said for seizing opportunities instead of waiting for someone to hand them to you. (p. 57).

If you can become remarkable, you will never want for work. You will be a rare person, so people will seek you out and they will be willing to pay a premium for your services or advice. Every one of YOU can be remarkable, but YOU have to give yourself permission to do so.

No one can do this for you. But if you will do this for yourself, especially at a young age, it will change the trajectory of your life. That’s one of the things personal branding is all about.


Bret Simmons is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and personal branding to both undergraduate and MBA students. He has a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. Bret practices personal branding at his website Positive Organizational Behavior where he blogs about leadership, followership, and personal branding. His purpose is “to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.” You can also find Bret on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.

Related posts:

  1. Ten Things I Wish Knew Before I Entered the “Real World”: Part 1
  2. Blog about Your Self-Development
  3. Ten Things I Wish Knew Before I Entered the “Real World”: Part 2

9 Responses to “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20”

  1. I love hearing about books with titles like this since I’m only 22- no offense Bret!

    Is the book more about being a successful entrepreneur or being entrepreneurial within the workplace?

  2. Hi Bret, Not sure how I found my way to your site, but I truly enjoyed all your short videos and your site here. I have added you to my favorites and plan to check in with you often. Your message is good. And most importantly to me simple. I am new to this this social media scene, I am a professional women and just started blogging. I know I can be creative in this venture, as being creative is what I do all day long. BUt jumping into this venue intimidated me a bit. Not sure why.
    If I may recommend a great sight and my mentors in this social media game is Al and Sandy from the InSights-Group. Check them out Thanks again for caring – Linda Houston

  3. avatar Bret Simmons says:

    Linda, thanks for the kind words. Be encouraged, because you have made the right choice to start blogging. Make a commitment to it and it will transform both your personal and professional life. Thanks! Bret

  4. Bret, Tina Seelig’s book’s title sounds really engaging to be read

  5. Bret, Tina Seelig’s book’s title sounds really engaging to be read, and I agree with her thoughts a whole lot just by reading this short synopsis of her book as much as no one in this world is going to trace the path toward our success but us, the opportunities are out there and it is up to us whether we seize them or let them go right by, yet all of the accomplishments we achieve in life they are product of our inner force as we were raised into different types of environment conditions which undoubtedly determine one’s success as well. So, very nice Bret for keeping sharing your great stuff with us, and let me tell you that I absolutely enjoy your classes as they give me a deeper perspective on how to confront my employees behaviors at work, so thank you very much, and I will continue to check in your blogs.

  6. avatar Bret Simmons says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Javier. For those willing to learn and risk, we live in times of tremendous opportunity. Go make it happen for yourself! Bret

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