When we’re young we think we know it all. Nobody knows how the world works better than we do. We’ve spent a few years growing into ourselves. We see how friends really treat us rather than what we expected. We see how our parents actually act rather than how they’re supposed to act. We see what’s important in the world rather than we thought was important. It seems like as teens everything we’re told about the world is one big facade.
Somewhere along the line we were sold an ideal version of what life should look and feel like. But the reality ends up being a stark difference that’s often much more cutthroat. And that’s when we start to trust our own image of the world rather than what we’re told. So nobody knows better than us when we’re young. But as we grow older we learn more and more that we never knew. And lots of things we know now could of helped us back when we were younger. So if you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?
Here’s what I would tell a younger version of myself and my thoughts on it.
There’s a specific moment in life when we realize what we’re truly talented at. I rushed to class five seconds before the bell rang and grabbed my seat. It was never a big deal being late in this class. We were the smart kids. Once you tested for gifted or accelerated classes the teachers treated you like celebrities. Of course I still blended into the sea of students when it came to everything else. But not in this class. I could of walked in as late as I liked. All fourteen of us gifted students knew we had this priviledge.
But I would never take advantage of it… at least not in this class. I loved math. It was my first true love. And if math was my first love, today in class was the day we fell in love. The teacher sat us all down and instead of teaching the concepts straight to the point. She opted to challenge us with a quick math brainteaser. Nothing made me more excited as kid. The prompt was to add up all the numbers from one to one hundred in the quickest amount of time. She clicked the clock to start. Everyone started writing.
I sat. They were rushing trying to add each integer back to back on a sheet of paper. Ten seconds went by. Nobody was anywhere close being done adding it all up. Then it hit me. I did a quick calculation in my head. I walked up to the teacher and told her my answer. She was shocked and had a small grin on her face. I had no paper. I had no calculator. And there was still nine whole minutes on the clock. Clearly I had broken the system. When the ten minutes was up, the teacher asked me to explain my thought process to the class.
I told them there was a simple pattern I noticed with the challenge. Each number from one to one hundred can be combined with another number to make an even one hundred. 1 + 99 = 100. 12 + 88 = 100. 30 + 70 = 100. Even 0 + 100 = 100. This works for every number one to one hundred except for fifty. I split the difference multiplied it by 100 and added the fifty on and the end. It was simple. The class was in shook. The teacher smiled. And I knew that day that I had a gift.
My mind was a special one. It has always been the key differentiator from the world and me. I was always thinking and looking for patterns everywhere in life. I could make calculations in my mind easily that often took lots of work. I could understand complex concepts in different ways. I would see problems from unique perspectives that brought about novel solutions. I was blessed with a great mind. It was my quirk. It was my superpower. I had a mind that was truly one of a kind.
But what I’ve learned now is that when you have something special there will be forces working to strip it away from you. Every superpower has a weakness. And I thought with a mind like mine I was invincible. But I’m not. I have a kryptonite like any other superhero. And I would tell my younger self to protect my mind with all my might. It’s the only one I have. And it’s more powerful than I could ever know. I don’t live so naively anymore. There are forces working against me and people that want my power. I have to protect my mind at all cost. Now I understand that with great power, comes great responsibility.
What is your superpower?
Are you protecting your superpower with all your might?
What one thing would you tell your younger self?