What Would You Say To Your 20 Year Old Self?

How many times have you said these words …

“If I knew then what I know now things would be totally different!”

I have said these words countless times. And it seems I use them more often now that I am in my 60s.

The other day, I was having a good old-fashioned pity party. While I am usually a very enthusiastic person, this day was a downer.

My mind was full of “stinkin’ thinkin’” and I was wallowing in it.

And then it happened … I heard myself say those famous words.

So I stopped and asked myself this ... 

... what WOULD I tell my 20 year old self if I had the chance?

What came next surprised me.

NOTE: This article is meant to be interactive. I WANT you to leave a comment and share with your fellow readers from your wisdom.


You might not know I am a high school graduate. Zero college.

This has actually worked out to be an advantage to me as I have deep experience in my business.

I’ve been a salesman all my life and am proud of the fact. I see selling as a noble profession when done with integrity.

But my lack of college has also lead to interesting levels of insecurity and some pain.

Not having a degree has meant I had to learn what I learned by trial and error.

In other words, the hard way.

This has also worked to my advantage in that I know that I know what works online and what does not.

It’s not theory with me. It’s experience.

And now I get to help others FROM that experience. What a blessing.

But if I could rewrite my history I can see that things would have been much easier (and less expensive) if I had a mentor along the way.

A guide who has “been there and done that” is perhaps the most important of all assets we can have when working online.

I believe this is true for four main reasons.

A mentor can help you ...

  1. Avoid the pitfalls he or she has experienced.
  2. Chart a clear path forward based on deep experience.
  3. Save you the pain and expense of costly trial and error.
  4. Help you completely avoid “shiny object syndrome” by keeping you on track.

If the 20 year old Charlie was able to have had the right mentor there is no telling where I would be right now.

Don’t misunderstand, I am very blessed and know it. We have a wonderful business, family, and life.

But wanting to be your best is a valid motivation, and I know there was some pain I would have avoided with the right mentor.


I first heard this when I was 19 and getting ready to be married.

My young bride (then 17) and I were embarking on an adventure, and we knew it.

Just before the wedding, a wise friend pulled me aside and said this.

“Save 10% of every paycheck you ever get and you will never worry about money.”

I, of course, being 19 and chock full of promise, did not heed those wise words.

“I’ll do that with the next check. We need to pay _____ or get _____ for the apartment first.”

Needless to say, it never happened.

Once again, please understand me. We have been blessed and never gone hungry or without a home. And I know others have.

But my statement still stands. If 20 year old Charlie would have taken action on that advice our lives today would be different.


This last life lesson is hard won from over 30 years of self-employment.

Over the years, there are times when I have done very well with this. And then there have been the other times.

You might know about those times. The times we regret later.

They include times when I ...

  • Was distracted from my plan by a shiny object. 
  • Wanted to do it like the gurus do it.
  • Needed to use the same tools as the “big dogs” were using.

Here is what I have learned after over 30 years.

Finding a system for doing things, and sticking with it, means stability and success.

And incredible amounts of peace of mind.

“But what about progress?” some people may ask.

I finally discovered the answer.

By all means, evaluate and be willing to make a change when something new to you seems to be working well.

But here’s the key …

Don’t stop doing what is working until you have tested the new idea for yourself or are working with a trusted mentor. 

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have changed shopping carts, hosting companies, ad tracking services (and more) all because someone I admired was using them.

And I did that without counting the costs. Without testing them for myself.

In some cases it worked out. In others, I was just not advanced enough to use the same tool as the industry leaders who had massive teams on their payroll.

And, since I did not have a guide, I had to figure it out on my own.

Happily, there are some things I never quit doing.

  • Email marketing is still my go to method for making sales.
  • Content marketing is still the best way to develop relationships with people.
  • Word of mouth is still my #1 traffic getting tool.
  • Doing what’s right, even when it is hard, is still my #1 customer relationship method. 

I am very grateful that my active mind did not wander from these methods. They work today as well as they ever did, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So what would you tell your 20 year old self? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment and share your wisdom.

11 thoughts on “What Would You Say To Your 20 Year Old Self?”

  1. Gordon Appleby

    Hi Charlie,

    Excellent post! Those down days come to all of us, don’t they? And if someone as successful, optimistic and positive as you can have them, I guess it’s OK for the rest of us to have them, too. It’s nice to know it’s only human to occasionally get down, and that that it’s not permanent.

    So many things to tell my 20-yo self, should he choose to listen :-). Here are a couple:

    1. Strive for passive & recurring income. I still get monthly income
    from sales I made over a decade ago. I wish I had done more of
    that because it’s what provides the “freedom” part of “financial

    2. You do not have to be perfect in the beginning. And that’s OK
    Start anyway. Perfection is the enemy of progress – not
    because it’s bad – but because it’s unattainable. My 20-yo self’s
    high aspirations demanded perfection before I launched, or even
    tried, anything. Of course, my 20-yo self was also broke,
    frustrated, & didn’t help very many people. Today’s self has a
    different mantra: “You can’t be a beginner and an expert at the
    same time, but you can be a beginner and an implementer at the
    time…which BTW, is how you become an expert!”.

    Your own journey of trial and error is a perfect example of this,
    Charlie, and you’ve blessed so many people in the process.
    (Confession: those of us who have college degrees learned our
    lessons exactly the same way ).

    3. Consistently do what you can. Don’t let what you can’t do stop
    you. My start with Pay Yourself First is a great example of what
    I mean. Like you I was advised to PMF…15%. I loved the idea, but
    couldn’t see any way to contribute that much. And frankly, I was
    right. I wasn’t saving anything at the time & was still struggling,
    so going from 0% to 15% seemed impossible. But I really knew I
    needed to start. So I started with what I could do, and didn’t
    worry about what I couldn’t do. My start was so small as to be
    laughable. But it got me started, built a habit, and totally changed
    my mindset & focus. It gave me something to build on. (You can’t
    build on nothing, you know. You have to start before you can

    I eventually got my contributions up to 30%, but I never would’ve
    even started had I let the 15% that I couldn’t do intimidate me into
    not doing anything. Believe. Commit. Start – where you are.

    My last lesson to my 20-yo self – and my current self, too – is that it’s never too late to start, or to start over. Today is a brand new day – and with it comes the wonderful gift of new opportunity.

    Thanks Charlie, for all you do.

    The Entrepreneur

    1. Thank you for your kind and insightful comments as always. Your comments are better than most blog posts!


  2. As always Charlie very informative & educational.
    I would have started with you 20 years ago, that would have saved a lot of heart ache. Like you Charlie I only went to grade 9 at school. Then tried to join the army, failed that because of health reasons. I went from shiny job to shiny job, ended up in a couple of factories. (Got married, had two beautiful daughters, bought a house) Then because of ill health and office retraining, and fell in love with the inter net/computers and more shiny objects. I been married 47 years now, still playing on the computer (as my wife calls it) Spent $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ dollars, have a nice looking website thanks to Charlie, but it is still costing me money.
    PS. I’ve just got out of hospital with blood clots in my lungs, bad heart, swollen legs & feet, so I must go & put my feet up somewhere.

  3. If I found myself at 20 years old again I would be more true to being myself instead of trying to be what I thought would impress others if achieved.

    I have been very blessed but locked onto a path during my mid-twenties that took me away from some of the basic elements of my true nature.

    Retirement approaches and I am preparing to use the time to correct course a bit…better late than never. 🙂

  4. Hi Charlie,

    Glad to see you back in your twenty Charlie, That’s a great reminder.
    Personally, I share most of my experience with my daughter too.

    I remember my father started His own business in my early age. Since I was the first child in my family and he was working long hours.

    He always wants me to be a model for the other children.
    Soon I realize the only way for me to succeed is by taking action and taking action every day.

    At fifteen, I introduce myself in my father’s business as a helper and definitely will manage my life between school and business.

    Most over, luckily raised by my grandmother, a woman of prayer and meditation, during my first five years, will make me the man I am today.

    She teaches me the power of love, the power of sharing and most over the power of belief.

    And later on, through research, I learned this important part: PAY YOURSELF FIRST.wich is a must.

    Here is my concept: GET HEALTHY, BE HAPPY, and FEEL SECURE.

    Have a wonderful day, Charlie and may God bless you.

    Thanks again.


  5. Amen Charlie!!!

    I agree with all three points, and I like most of the rest of the world repeatedly did not heed those words of wisdom. I am quite sure my two sons are tired of hearing me repeat those same lines. They are in their 30’s now as I am trucking along toward 70. They do call occasionally and thank me for who they have become, the greatest thrill in life so far but yet humbling and embarrassing that I didn’t do better.

    If I could add a couple of things to your list, it would be that:

    1.) “Only a fool thinks he has learned enough. Education, either formal or self-taught, is the greatest tool you will ever acquire.”

    2.) My latest admonishment to myself and others, “Treat your age as the speedometer of your life, the higher the number the less time you have to grab what is going by. Unless your running around in circles they may not come by again.” (Humbly, I think that may be an original, not that it will ever make any list of great thoughts in life.)

  6. I agree.
    Save that 10% If u find it hard to save dollars, save as many of your coins as possible. Many times I have gone to the coin machine with enough to pay a bill or two.

  7. Thomas Bennett

    Treat yourself like someone you care about. You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them don’t dwell on them, and the people who really care about you will show you in actions as well as words how they feel.

  8. Hi Charlie,
    I have only been in the internet business for about six years and as you can imagine I’ve been through a few things but they have always taught me lessons – some expensive ones too.
    However one (young) guru finally offered me some wise words when he told me not to try and compete with the computer geeks offering “techy” advice but maybe concentrate on my passion which is health – hence one of my main blogs is “theabcof healthyliving.com.
    I also have just published a digital book, “How To Take Care Of Your Back” which is being promoted through JVzoo.

    I’ll probably have to look at other promotional methods and I’ve been a member of DOE for a few years but may start using some of the tools.

    Thanks for you constant emails.

  9. I would tell myself that i need to be sure to devote time to ensure that i am my own best friend.I would do that by committing to two specific activities.1.Invest time in continual personal development,time out to appreciate all the blessings that i have been fortunate enough to be given and to make the most of myself.2.To be sure i invest in my relationships and always find the best way to devote my abilities to offer value and serve others according to my highest values.

  10. Oh so poignant, and so timely Charlie.

    I refuse to dwell on the wrong turns I have taken many times in life, and feel grateful for the right turns I took.

    And I wish I had been better aware of HOW to fully access the knowledge of the kind mentors that crossed my path… sadly I was never really ‘ready’ when given access to those generous people.

    My biggest message to my 20 year old self would be… You already suspect there are no easy shortcuts, so that’s a start.

    But now you need to work out who are the people to listen to, and learn to ask questions… even if you don’t know yet what to do with the answers you get… you will work it out.

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