I hope you are having a positive week. This post is going to cover all the things I wish I knew when I was a teen, more specifically the period between GCSEs (15+) up and graduation from university (< 21). When it comes to being your best self or building wealth, starting earlier is always better. I really wished that I was taught or had wealth conversations earlier.
My family talked about money and wealth a lot – typical Asian family but I realised that I had no follow through, it was always just a conversation but I could not translate the key lessons into action, I just didn’t think it was that important. This is why I am going to share with you the 7 things I wish I knew in my teens.
Please do share it with teens you know in your life, but I think this list is universal and something to think about even when you are older or younger than your teens – remember it is never too late or too early!
I cannot stress how important reading is. If you take nothing else from this post apart from to start, pick back up or continue reading, my job is done!
Reading non-fiction books is important, whether they are biographies, art, history, popular science or other self-development books etc, they should be part of your bookshelf/e-book library. I love fiction books and I read them to wind down or have a change from non-fiction books. However, I think non-fiction is better for learning. The reason I say this is because if you have an idea or want to learn something specific, someone has probably done the hard work and has written a book about it. Ideally, you do not need to make their mistakes because they have written about it.
Reading is a skill, I know it can be daunting at times, especially if it is not a habit that you have developed before. However, this should never hold you back! Start out with just reading a page a day. It is those marginal steps that will help you develop the good habit. If you do not want to start with a book, how about reading articles from the Economist or newspapers that interest you. Why not check out articles on medium.com or this blog even? YOU GOT THIS!
I was a quite an avid reader when I was younger at school but stopped by my late teens. I really wished that I did not stop reading. University required a lot of reading for the course, but I did not spend time reading other subjects and topics. I believed this narrowed and limited my lateral thinking and potentially my passions. Looking back I think it has held me back and I am grateful that I have now picked reading up because I see the benefits of reading every day. In particular, I am also trying to create content, it really helps the creative juices to flow!
I have been keeping motivated to read by signing up to the Goodread’s book challenge. The premise is super simple – set a goal of how many books you want to read in the year, log it and every time, the little bar chart gets closer to your goal. It is very satisfying to see progress. It is great as a database of what books I have read and how I have rated them. I make notes from books in a separate notepad or highlights with my kindle. This has helped with retention of information.
For those that do not enjoy reading as much, there are other options such as podcasts and audible books. I am visual person, so I tend to retain information better when reading them rather than listening to it. You know what is best for you, but I still think being able to read and absorb information is a key skill to have, so do give it a try.
2. Active listening
In a world where we are bombarded with content and distraction, it is difficult to practice the art of active listening. Active listening is the ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully (only when necessary). I think this is the greatest skill that one should learn and practice. I have put this skill above being able to communicate with others, which I cover below.
When was the last time you thought you actively listened to someone? Where you let them talk –
- without thinking about how to formulate your counter argument,
- or trying to change the conversation so it is about you
- or changing the conversation to a topic you want to discuss,
- or perhaps thinking about what you are going to do next,
- or scrolling on your phone?
Notice the next time you interact with someone and see if you tick any of the above. I realised that it is really hard! Like apps, we are constantly trying to battle and grab a person’s attention. Do you feel like you have to tell your story or point quickly before a friend picks up their phone again, or a parent who is busy with work etc. Everyone wants to be heard but we have grown up not to develop this skill of listening. If you are not being heard from others, maybe you can have the courage to offer that gift to others instead. Listening is not just a gift to others; it also helps you understanding yourself as much as those speaking to you.
In order to actively listen, what you are doing is removing all distractions both physical (phone) and mentally (presumption you know what they are going to say), so that you can truly “hear” the person. You would be so surprised how much more you will find out! Active listening is to respond with genuine interest in what the person is saying and to encourage them to tell you more. You do not rush, interrupt, or glance at your phone. It is seriously hard work, and it takes a lot of effort. I have been trying to practice this as I work towards becoming a coach or just a better friend. It can be seriously exhausting, but I know that the practice is worth it.
As a teen, I remember not feeling heard all the time. I felt that my teachers and family were always trying to dictate what I should be doing with my life and chastised for not feeling a certain way, such as not being grateful enough, not hard working enough etc. etc. I think we have all been through it. Looking back, with the hope that I am a bit wiser with age, I have recognised that I did not offer to actively listen to my parents or my teacher’s concerns and opinions. I did not try to understand their motivations or fears. By being able to listen, you can at least work towards being on the right wavelength.
I am not saying that you have to listen to every single person that talks to you because not everyone has something important to say/ or do not have your best interest at heart. Fundamentally, you will have no time for yourself in a world where everyone wants to speak and be heard! What I am saying though, for people you care about or value their opinion or experience; give you and them the gift of being listened to.
I can talk about this topic all day, maybe another blog post, but if you want more information, I recommend You’re not Listening by Kate Murphy it is a fascinating book and led me to this path of trying to listen more.
3. Adapting your communication style
I was lucky at school that I had a teacher that really looked out for me during my A-levels (16-18) and kept entering me into school competitions where I was forced to speak publicly and learned to communicate. I still hate it, but it has gotten easier and easier as I have worked for longer. At school I also had support communicating and writing formally for college applications or university applications. I recognise that this is not always the case, you may not have the right people to give you that guidance, but this is one of the easy skills to pick up to take you to the next level.
I cannot stress how important it is to be able to adapt your communication style depending on the situation. How you speak to your friends is not the way you would speak with your future employer. I apologise if this sounds like I am telling you to suck eggs, but the reality is, if you cannot adapt your communication style a person is going to look over you and move onto the next person. Harsh. Being able to introduce yourself clearly when you network (more below), or whatever formal occasion you find yourself in, it really makes a difference.
When it comes to formal writing there is a lot of information online, such as examples of cover letters and CVs. Google is your best friend, copy and paste what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. If you can find an adult to check through it as well, this always helps to have another person read it with a fresh pair of eyes. Brushing up on your vocabulary is also helpful and will put you one step in front of the rest. This can also be improved by reading more as well!
I wish I knew this, but I am telling you now – you are never too young to network. People in your current circle might not all be people that will get you where you want to be. You need to critically look at networks and relationships, do these people bring the best out of you, do they encourage you positively to achieve your goals and dreams?
I am not saying get rid of your friends – I am not that heartless! However, you need to know when you need to widen your network. I worked in a particular space in finance for many years and a lot of people I was interacting with had a similar mindset or vision. When I wanted to move away from that traditional finance space into something else. I had to think how do I get out if I do not know what is out there? You got to network. You need to widen your circle.
I really wish LinkedIn were around when I was in school, or maybe it was, and I did not know about it! LinkedIn is not for people who have a job, yes, it helps when you have a job because it makes your profile more interesting, but you can put your education on LinkedIn that is already sufficient to have a profile. This is your gateway to opportunities. I have talked to a lot of different people and had some great people give me great advice throughout my career. This is one of the tips that has provided me the most returns. Note that I am an introvert, networking is my worst nightmare, but the rewards are worth the short-term pain.
If there is a company I really am interested in, I follow them on LinkedIn, so I know what is going on, I try to read their posts on LinkedIn and check out their website. This is the research and information gathering stage. However, a more valuable source of information is, of course, the employees themselves. I am not afraid to message someone in the HR team or an individual in the department that I want to work in to see if they are willing to have a call/coffee (pre-Covid days) to learn a little more about their story and what they do.
People love talking about themselves, it does not get any complicated than that. The worst that can happen is that person ignores your requests to connect and message on LinkedIn. I mean, you do not need to be offended by that, the mindset should be – who else can I connect with. Low risk but the upside can be amazing! I practice what I preach, I always make time for people who message me on LinkedIn to learn more about what I did or what I am currently doing. I want people to succeed, so if I cans share a nugget of wisdom, more than happy to share.
You will be surprised how many people will make time for you, especially for a teenager! I would be interested to know whether my readers would engage with someone if they messaged you? Personally, if a teenager wrote to me on LinkedIn, I would make even more time for them because you have proven that you have initiative and courage.
Do not be afraid to go to conferences, or networking events aimed for people your age when the lockdown/pandemic is over. This is a great way to meet people who may be doing something you are interested. If you found the conference boring, this is just as important because you can move on to something else. Remember it is just as important to understand what does not work for you as much as what does.
I also know that there are also a lot of charities that work in this space such as the Social Mobility Network to try and connect students with mentors; ask your school if they have such a scheme, if not, why not? Having someone that is not family to provide you with their view of the world is absolutely invaluable. You never know who in your network might give you the helping hand you need.
5. Part Time Job/Work Experience
This really will show my age as I write this. What do teenagers do during their summers now? For my boyfriend and I, I did not have much of a summer holiday by the time I was over 16 and I could be used as free labour! My boyfriend had to work so he could earn income to buy himself a car. I had to do summer internships, where I did not get paid but my parents believed that it was necessary to gain job experience.
At the time, I was so annoyed because I just wanted to chill out and enjoy summer. However, I am so glad my parents forced me to gain experience. I think most people know this by the time they get to university. This is why there is so much competition for internships! However, if you have not proved you have had any responsibility or experience “working” before you are 18, the odds are stacked against you because there is someone out there who has done something.
It sucks but a part time job (at least you earn some monies!) or internships are critical for those that want a more traditional kind of career. I know that there are some many new jobs that this might not apply, for example, if your career is going to be a superstar Youtuber. However, I know for a fact that if you were going to do that, then you would be WORKING hard to get content on your channel – filming, creating etc. It is still work and you can tell someone about the experience.
Summer holidays are great, and I get that you want to enjoy that length of time off because when you work a 9-5pm job you will not get it. Some of you might be saying – what I want to travel etc. Totally approve of that – I love travelling. Why not consider volunteering? Volunteer with a charity in the country you want to visit. One week volunteering another week of travel – it will be good for the soul and experience that is worth talking about.
6. Future Planning
I remember being absolutely scared s**tless when I had to decide what GCSEs I wanted to do and then narrow down to even further subjects for my A levels. I truly believed that if I made the wrong decision, I would fail in life and end up destitute with no one to support or love me. Yes, dramatic but I really believed this! Not helpful at all and it is a terrible experience. I would not wish anyone to go through that, but you need to put some time and thought to your future and plan. I am not saying because you plan that things will always work out; I can guarantee there are going to be hiccups on the road, but you need to know which direction you are heading.
For example, suppose you have a wonderful girlfriend, and you want to her and yourself a nice life. A nice house in a nice neighbourhood, a nice car but nothing too flashy and have nice holidays. Well, frankly, nice costs money. If you are aiming for a career that is not going to give you a decent level of income, then your dream is just a dream. Either you change your dream and ground it in reality (this is not the option you should choose), or you need to reconsider what you are aiming for and plan how to realistically get there.
I will talk about money later and more in my future posts (see below). However, let me tell you the bad news now. When you get older, money will be something that will stress you. 100% guaranteed, so accept it now, whether you have too little or too much, it will cause some stress. You can mitigate some of this by understanding your needs, wants and dreams, and I am letting you know that the earlier you are thinking about it, the more time you can do something about it!
Every conversation I have with my friends or family will touch upon money, whether they are trying to buy their first home, or trying to rent a nice place, or trying to get that promotion or bigger at bonus about work. Money will make itself known in a conversation. Admittedly. I do talk about it a lot, but friends come to me and my boyfriend for advice as it is a focus of ours. Furthermore, wealth is one of my core values, so naturally, this is a focus of mine.
I love and want to have a bougie lifestyle (handbags and travelling are my loves). All my friends and family know this, I have been explicit and honest. I am also grateful that I have a boyfriend who is financially oriented the same way as me. We work together on our future plan and he pushes me as much as I push him to strive for better. We talk about our plans and goals all the time. I really wished I thought about this when I was younger and accepted that I like spending money instead of ignoring that wealth is an important value to me. It is not everything, but it is a means to an end and provides me with options. If I started earlier, I think I would be in a very different place than where I am now.
Money may be controversial topic for many, but future planning is not. I am not saying that if you have a plan you must stick to it, and if you do not, you are a failure. I am not saying that at all! However, you need to have an idea of where you want to be – you need to find your North Star.
7. Financial Literacy
You need to know the basics of finance, such as different type of bank accounts, different investment products, tax, interest rates etc. You can start this even younger than your teens and I know for a fact that you do not get enough financial education at school and we are doing a disservice to all children and teenagers.
As a teen, you need to arm yourself with the basics as you would be thrown in the world of financial jargon very quickly once you reach university. Having the basics will help you navigate the world easier. When you are 18 and going into university (should you so choose), you are bombarded with information on student accounts, credit cards and what do you do with the massive student loan you are taking on just to go to university?! When you are forced to learn something quickly, you are already on the backfoot, getting ahead of it earlier just makes it more manageable and less alien. I still know individuals that are in their late twenties and basic finance confounds them. Finance is purposely made difficult; this is to keep finance people in their jobs and make them feel important.
Take the time to build your financial literacy and you should congratulate yourself because you are in the right place. We will be talking more about personal finance on the Pineapple Chicken Blog. There is a wealth of information out there and I am probably just adding to the pile of information but I hope that I can do it in a way that is interesting and informative so do stay tuned, I am so excited to share more with you!
What did you think of my 7 things I wish I knew as a teen? Do you agree and do the teenagers in your life think this post was helpful? As always, I love to hear from you and you think is interesting, so leave me a comment below!
With Sweet & Sour Love,
Pineapple Chicken x
Thank you and an announcement!
I want to thank all my followers on Instagram for answering my polls on the direction of where to take the Pineapple Chicken Blog, a lot of you mentioned that you would be more interested in personal finance than self development. I have heard you loud and clear and I will try and provide more information on personal finance in this blog and on my YouTube channel. I will still write self development posts because being your best self is always useful in any context especially when it comes to wealth; but going forward I will make sure the coaching elements will be more entwined and holistic.
I am very excited for this new journey and the creative juices have been flowing!! The reality is, money and wealth, are core to my everyday living. It is a conversation I have with family and friends everyday, so if I can share what I have learnt or what others have learnt and even help one of you, I would be extremely chuffed!
I love hearing from you had feedback on what you would like to see more of, please leave a comment below, pop me an email (see About page for details) or message me on Instagram!