Coaching Blog – Leading my Younger Self: What I’d Tell You Now

Had I known then what I know now. How many seasoned, experienced leaders have said these words? Could you have avoided any mistakes? Could you be further along in your career, influence, and accomplishments?

Most of us would likely conclude that the mistakes and missed opportunities have made us who we are today, but the proposition of going back in time to advise your younger self is tempting!

My Personal Career Journey

Anyone in my shoes may say that my career trajectory was “interrupted” by a five-and-a-half-year incarceration in the Vietnam POW prison camps, but in retrospect it was a time of tremendous learning and growth. I was a young 24-year-old lieutenant fighter pilot who was simply loving the work that I felt called to do—fly airplanes. During those years in the camps, I had no lofty aspirations for becoming an influential leader or career military officer for that matter—no plan other than becoming free of the shackles of that period in my life.

However, I did have senior leaders in the POW camps who were pivotal role models credited with our tightly woven unity and survival. Did they have any intentional aspirations at a young age to navigate and lead through this season in their lives? Likely not, but they changed my life forever in many ways. What I learned during this experience has served every period in my life.

Advice to my Younger Self

In this season of graduations and transitions from high school to college to adult life, I’ve reflected on what I’d tell my younger self. Thankfully, I had great parents and mentors, so some of these points of advice were learned early on.

Here’s my 5-minute coaching clip on this topic. Watch it here, and then continue reading the blog below:

Knowing now the challenges, disappointments, opportunities, and successes that I’ve experienced in my adult life, it would still be satisfying to stare myself in the eyes and make sure that I fully understood these five important points –


  1. Know yourself. Identify your natural behavioral talents and strengths for work and nurture them. Also, understand your struggles and learn how to manage them so that they don’t control you.

Take a good personality assessment that scientifically pinpoints your strengths, your best talents, as well as those struggles that aren’t your best (areas where you will need to adapt and struggle a bit just to be average).

Ask people around you what your natural talents are. Pay attention to areas that naturally interest and attract you and/or things that people come to you about asking for your help.


  1. Be excellent in your work. Shine where you are no matter what you’re doing. Take ownership and be responsible and diligent even when others around you aren’t. When you apply your best talents at every opportunity, you will become highly reliable.

“Decide that good character and values must rule your daily decisions.” [Tweet This]

This will allow you to position yourself in the best possible way for the next door to open and when it comes.


  1. Be a team player. Work hard to make your boss and team successful. Your natural strengths and struggles become even more important on this point.

Offer help in your areas of strength and manage your struggles as best you can, and then work with the strengths and struggles of others with patience and grace.


  1. Develop relationships. Build your network and find mentors. If you’re an extrovert, try to go deeper in your relationships so that they stand the test of time. If you’re an introvert, stretch yourself to connect with others and be generous with your talents and skills.


  1. Be intentional. Create a life and career plan with some specific goals, and then regularly coach yourself to follow through. Be aware that a job that’s not a perfect fit is a time for learning and honing your skills for the next step that will bring you closer to your final near-perfect fit.


What Would You Share?

Perhaps you have some leadership tips that you’d share with your younger self, or perhaps you are an emerging leader that has just graduated into the next stage of life. If you’re a young leader, allow me the privilege of sharing these points to make your life and career either a little easier or more fulfilling and purposeful.

“Choose the life of an honorable leader, and you will be rewarded with a future knowing that you’ve done the right thing and set yourself up for success at every turn.” [Tweet This]

LE [Tweet This Article]

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Leading with Honor is the original, award-winning book outlining the 14 leadership lessons learned in the POW camps of Vietnam. Engage with honor is the followup book that applies many of the original leadership lessons into a practical Courageous Accountability Model.

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