I wrote a novel when I was 18. Well, I wrote three or four pages of one.

No one instructed me to do so. I’d never come across a blog post about becoming a successful author. I just felt the urge to do it.

When you’re that young, you can’t see such an obvious sign in front of you.

I should’ve declared my mission to become a writer right then and there, because who in their right mind sits down to try and write a novel at 18 for no apparent reason?

I loved being 18. It’s the age where optimism reaches its peak. Most people picture an amazing future when they’re 18.

I wanted to be some sort of businessman. I knew from an early age I wanted control over my life. I’d gotten in trouble for defying authority more times than I could count, so I knew a life of always following someone else’s orders wasn’t for me.

Fast forward nine years, and I’m starting to live out the life my 18-year self imagined. It comes with its obstacles and hardships of course, but I’m doing. I’m no longer waiting and wishing.

The definition of success varies, but I’ve always believed your youth provides clues. I came across a quote from author and philosopher Nassim Taleb that cemented and crystallized a measure of success I felt was worthwhile.

“I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

See after your teenage years, the world around you does a lot to influence what you think. For better or worse, it’s hard to stay unencumbered with your thought processes once you enter the arena of college and it’s nearly impossible when you start to work and have “colleagues.”

Now, you have built a reputation, but what foundation is it standing on?

What’s Your Answer?

Would your eighteen-year-old self approve of you being a c-suite executive? Again, like Taleb says, “let him or her be the only judge.”

Maybe you make six figures per year. Maybe your friends are jealous of your fancy house in the suburbs and your Lexus, but would your 18-year-old self care about any of those things?

Was this his or her dream?

Maybe you’re underemployed. Doing something you really hate. You do have to make a living somehow, and there’s no shame in your occupation regardless of what it is, but how would your 18-year-old self feel about your attitude?

Would they respect the amount of effort you’ve put into your life? Would the be ashamed that you gave up and let the seas of circumstance drift your life to the point the boat capsizes?

Again, don’t listen to me. Listen to them.

Writing about personal development is tricky. It’s easy to come off as talking from a pedestal and being judgmental.

My goal is to try and ask the right questions while sharing my own story, in the hopes you’re able to find the right answers and learn from my example (both negative and positive.)

My Answer

He’d be satisfied with the work I’m putting in now. I’m not the millionaire he dreamed of being, but I’m doing what he wanted me to do — writing, speaking, earning a living by eating what he kills, growing, doing the uncomfortable for a greater reward.

But he wouldn’t approve of the times where I slacked off and stopped writing for weeks at a time. Or when I felt sorry for myself instead of just doing the work.

He’d tell me to keep doing what I’m doing and never quit. That’s what I plan to do.

These days, I’m feeling the weight of my decisions more.

I almost got ran off the road by a semi-truck this morning. He didn’t see me and moved into my lane. I put the gas pedal on the floor and drove on the shoulder to get back in front of him.

My heart was beating fast. In that moment, I realized how quickly it could all go away.

I think about death a lot because it helps me when I’m wasting time doing anything other than what my 18-year-old self would want.

It helps me pause, and think “what the f— am I doing?,” whenever I catch myself standing still for too long.

Not because the world wants me to move, but because deep down I know I’m wired to move.

Being successful just means listening to the version of yourself that hasn’t been infiltrated with massive amounts of bulls—.

Maybe it’s your 18-year-old self.

Maybe it’s the child you used to be. The one who followed their curiosity instinctively and lived in the present because they didn’t know any better.

It’s the source. The real you.

Find it. Listen to it. It’s there. You know it.

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Originally published at medium.com