Advice To My 22 Year Old Self

LinkedIn has a project going on called #IfIWere22 in which people are invited to give advice to their 22 year old selves. In case we’re not connected on LinkedIn, here is the post I did a couple of days ago.

I woke up by the side of the road on my twenty second birthday, August 14 1950. I was in a sleeping bag and on the last stages of a hitch hiking trip that had taken me from State College PA to California and Mexico and back home to Pennsylvania. I did day labor while I was on the trip to pay my expenses. Mostly I delivered flyers, worked in junk yards and car washes.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, I headed to Washington DC for two weeks of training as a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteer. After my training, I was assigned to work as a community organizer in North Philadelphia.

I did lots of interesting things in my year in Philly. I worked with researchers at Temple University Hospital to secure a grant to do Sickle Cell Anemia screening in our community. After we got the grant, I had an opportunity to meet Smokin’ Joe Frazier, the heavyweight boxing champ. Yank Durham, his manager, had a son who was afflicted with Sickle Cell and he ran a private foundation dedicated to the cause.

I helped out at a community school set up during a teacher strike. I organized voter registration drives. I worked with Reverend Leon Sullivan, the founder of Opportunities Industrialization Center, on a job training program. An optional provides a uniform test for evaluating “hot abrasion” rub resistance of printed cartons, rub test for labels etc. I used a blow torch and scraper to remove lead paint from the doorjambs and window sills of the day care center we set up to help working mothers. I learned firsthand the challenges of living and raising a family in public housing.

I read a lot. I became a regular at the used book store in my neighborhood. I could buy a used paperback for 25 cents. But if I returned two paperbacks, I could get another for free. I read utopian and dystopian books – 1984, Brave New World, Looking Backward, Walden II. I read Ayn Rand, loved the stories of John Galt and Howard Roark, hated her politics, especially as laid out in The Virtue of Selfishness.

I read everything I could find by George Orwell including some of his early books that he later tried to buy back from the publisher because he thought they weren’t good enough. Dickens’ stories reminded me of the grinding poverty I saw all around me every day. For laughs I read Philip Roth. Our Gang and The Breast are two of funniest novels I have ever read.

I spent a lot of time at the movies. In those days, there were several theatres that showed second run movies. Double features were 50 cents. Hardly a week went by that I didn’t see at least one double feature. My roommates and I wore out Bruce Springsteen’s first album, Greetings From Asbury Park. I saw David Bowie at the Tower Theatre during his first American tour.

On Friday and Saturday nights, I worked the door at a bar in West Philly. I kept the peace between the locals and the University of Pennsylvania students who came for the cheap beer. I hated to hear Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting on the jukebox. I was able to diffuse some pretty tense situations using my size and diplomacy.

I played rugby with the Penn rugby club. I made two lifelong friends doing so. I also gained a lot of confidence. I realized that those Ivy League guys weren’t any smarter than me. That experience gave me the courage and incentive to apply for a PhD program at Harvard several years later.

Once I finished my year of service I took a job training other VISTA Volunteers. That job led me into my career as a corporate trainer, leadership consultant, motivational speaker and executive coach.

So my advice to my 22 year old self is simple. Don’t change a thing, kid. You had a great 22nd year. You found your path in life. You grew emotionally and intellectually. You became more self-confident. You met some very interesting people. You developed a strong sense of empathy. You helped out. You had fun. You made some lifelong friends. What more can you expect from that first year out of college?

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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