What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 book cover

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Tina Seelig


It’s a happy accident that I somehow landed on this book and while the insights aren’t something extraordinary, the book wraps a gut-punching theme - To give yourself the permission to be fabulous. Well, that was also the title of the last chapter of the book. The chapter flow well into one after the next and the content was able to grip my attention. You know that feeling where you feel as if it’s the story of your life being talked about. That’s how I felt reading through the book. The learnings from the book are some of the ideas that often shoot once in a while in my mind too. I’ve highlighted some of the excepts below: -

Excerpts From: Chapter 4, Please take out your wallets.

“Over time, I’ve became increasingly aware that the world is divided into people who wait for others to give them permission to do the things they want to do and people who grant themselves permission.”

This is a recurrent theme in the book and author justifies these lines by presenting real world stories of real people including her own. The stories are weaved together with lines which sound somewhat poetic too.

“sometimes opportunities can be found right across the street—you just have to look up from your desk to see them”

“the best ways to move from one field to another is to figure out how your skills can be translated into different settings.”

I highlighted this line because this is probably the best career advice that someone once gave to me as well. I’m always looking up to the projects that span across multiple areas.

“The biggest ally of super-achievers is the inertia of others.”

Well, this one line is a gut in the punch and reminds of every time I skip to go to gym, or break a promise to myself.

Excerpts From: Chapter 5, The secret sauce of silicon valley

“If you throw gasoline on a log, all you get is a wet log. But if you throw gasoline on a small flame, you get an inferno.” - Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia

“Don’t sit around waiting for a yes that will never come. It’s better to get to no sooner rather than later, so you can put your energy into opportunities with a higher likelihood of success.”

Excerpts From: Chapter 6, No way … Engineering is for girls

“the ecosystem in which you live and work is a huge factor in predicting the types of opportunities that will present themselves.”

Excerpts From: Chapter 7, Turn lemonades into helicopters

“the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

“Lucky people … Instead of going through life on cruise control, they pay attention to what’s happening around them and, therefore, are able to extract greater value from each situation.”

“being observant, open-minded, friendly, and optimistic invites luck your way.”

“if you go somewhere and don’t meet someone new, you have certainly missed out on making a friend as well as on the possibility of making a million dollars.”

“Lucky people don’t just pay attention to the world around them and meet interesting individuals—they also find unusual ways to use and recombine their knowledge and experiences.”

Excerpts From: Chapter 8, Paint the target around the arrow

“there is never a time when you shouldn’t thank someone for doing something for you”

“Because we live in such a small world, it really is important not to burn bridges, no matter how tempted you might be.”

“The key to a successful negotiation is to ferret out everyone’s interests so you can maximize the outcome for everyone. ”

“One of the biggest things that people do to get in their own way is to take on way too many responsibilities.”

Excerpts From: Chapter 9, Will this be on the exam

“being fabulous comes in many flavors, but it all starts with removing the cap and being willing to reach for your true potential. This means going beyond minimum expectations and acknowledging that you are ultimately responsible for your actions and the resulting outcomes. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, and you won’t get a second chance to do your best.”

“In fact, the U.S. Marine Corps and other military services use the “Rule of Three” as a general principle. Through years of trial and error, they’ve found that most people can only track three things at once.”

I’ve my own “Rule of three” that I often use from my [[mental models]] toolkit.

Excerpts From: Chapter 10, Experimental artifacts

“Reflecting on his life, my father determined that his most important insight is that you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously nor judge others too harshly. ”

“Uncertainty is the essence of life, and it fuels opportunity. ”