Editor’s note: Paul Angone most often writes about secrets for being a 20-something, but here he gives your students a few secrets for this season of life. Share this with the teens in your life but not before you leave a comment below with your own “secrets for your teen years.”
The best part about being a teenager – the undeniable truth that you know most, if not all, the answers. Parents, teachers and pastors try to give you advice, but seriously, what do they know?
The worst part about being in your 20s – the undeniable realization that the only thing you really know is that you don’t know jack. You can’t get parents, teachers and pastors to give you enough answers.
After college I learned the hard way that even though I’d spent my whole life in school, I had so much to learn. When the steps lined with good grades, gold medals and “good job” faded away, I didn’t know where to step next.
I’ve since spent the last eight years helping 20-somethings struggling with “what now?”, culminating in my book “101 Secrets for your Twenties,” but I wonder how much unnecessary frustration and struggle I could’ve avoided if I would have learned these six secrets as a teenager.
1. A romantic relationship will NOT solve any of your problems
If I had a 50-cent piece for every time I daydreamed as a teenager about meeting the “The One” who was going to magically make everything better, I would be the seventh richest person in the world.
Apparently I thought I was Peter Pan, I’d marry Tinkerbelle, and together we’d fly, problem-free, forever.
It took me years to realize that romantic relationships don’t fix any of your problems; no, instead they’re great at showing you how many problems you really have.
2. Insecurities don’t disappear with age
Insecurities and being a teenager go together like acne and cream that doesn’t do anything to actually make your acne go away.
As I write in “101 Secrets for your Twenties:”
“In 8th grade, insecurity became a permanent fixture in my life. Like that 1970s oak entertainment center in your parents’ living room – freakishly huge, yet it’s been there so long you don’t even notice it’s there.
An acne attack kicked off my sweet 13 insecurity party – acne of the face, chest and back variety all making themselves quite at home as my uninvited guests.
Then top that off with braces and love handles the size of Coke cans, and my Insecurity cruise ship was sailing through the choppy waters of puberty with a Titanic-esque chance of survival.”
Problem is – I thought insecurities would disappear as I became an “adult.” But just like my ever-increasing wrinkles and gray hair, insecurities have the potential to become more pronounced and entrenched with age.
Attack your insecurities now so they don’t attack you later.
3. Social media isn’t real life
Everyone is putting a PR spin on their own Facebook profile. Don’t measure your success by the amazing perceived success of your friend’s Facebook profiles.
Everyone has problems, we just don’t exactly Instagram them.
4. Cockiness is insecurity on steroids
In college, I was a bit cocky. I wore a hat every day that read Italian Stallion with big, bold letters and a dashing black horse galloping on the back. Need I say more?
As I left college, I held my diploma in one hand and a vine-ripened ego in the other.
But honestly, cockiness was merely my mask to cover up my insecurities. Cockiness is insecurity masquerading as uber-confidence. Problem is, no one is buying the act. It took me a long time to realize that cockiness and insecurity are two cookies cut from the same bitter batter. No matter the different colored frostings you put on top, neither one tastes very good.
The worst way to get help is to continually act like you don’t need it.
5. Parents are your Always-Ally
As I write in “101 Secrets for your Twenties:” “No matter the wars you might have waged in the past, your parents are your Always-Ally.”
The older you get the more you’ll appreciate and realize everything they’ve done for you. All the sacrifices they’ve made. And how much they care. Try to look at your parents through this lens now.
6. The only way to succeed is to fail
The point of life is not to NOT fail.
The greatest people who do the biggest things have the most monumental failures. The biggest difference is that successful people fail, but they don’t call themselves failures. They learn. Make adjustments. Then try again. With each failure you’re finding a more profound way to be successful.
Paul Angone is a speaker, humorist, cultural commentator, the author of "101 Secrets for your Twenties" and the creator of AllGroanUp.com – a place for those asking "what now?" Follow him on Twitter @PaulAngone.