Things I Wish I Knew…


May 11, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

I am no dummy but I am also no genius. Most of what I know was learned the hard way and in fact many of you may say that I am self-taught in life and common sense. I am not going to bore you with elementary tips, what I will do is share some solid things that you need to consider in life. Ignoring these will seriously hurt you financially, emotionally and kill your chances at success.

    • No one will believe in you more than you do.
      If you want to start a business or if you have some wild dream, your wife, boyfriend or friends will rarely have as much confidence as you. Listen to their concerns and strongly consider them, but don’t let popular opinion be the sole factor in your conclusion. If you believe in it, do it.


  • Garbage Sticks.
    At some point in your life, particularly at a young age, you will be faced with a major choice and you’ll have to decide who to be friends with. My mother used to say, “If you hang around shi*, don’t be surprised if it gets on you.” Well, I ignored her and at a young age I was arrested three times simply because I was in the company of some bad guys. If you know right from wrong, stay away from the wrong – it will absolutely ruin you. I was extremely lucky and after spending thousands of dollars, I am able to claim that I have a clean record.



  • Nothing is rigged.
    I am sick and tired of hearing how Johnny got lucky. If Johnny won the lottery, I’d agree but if Johnny had no college education, started a business, worked 80 hours each week for 10 years, and sold his business for $15 Million, he earned it. I hate to say this but luck is for losers. Create your future and dedicate yourself to it.



  • Corporations are usually good.
    If any of you are 30+ years old, odds are that you have a relative that was laid-off from Lucent, MCI, Enron or some other large company. My father, a 40+ year veteran at ATT was let go and believe me, this guy was no slouch. I have a digital picture from 1984 that was taken from a handheld camera. I took it with him in the Bell Labs “innovation lab”. As many of you know, a handheld, digital anything wasn’t available until years later. The point is that the days of dedicating yourself to a single company are gone. If you are not constantly looking at your options, you are passing up salary increases and a solid resume.



  • In business, trust is never sacred.
    When I started my first business, I was severely burned by someone I would have trusted with my life. No, I wasn’t naive but I was ignorant to the fact that money changes people. We made excellent money while in an equal partnership. We also had huge growth plans yet my partner chose to cheat and steal. Watch your “stuff” like your wallet! Complacency, ignorance, and being too trustworthy will kill you. I don’t care who your partner is – MONEY CHANGES PEOPLE!



  • Still, money isn’t Bad.
    You have to understand that money is good and your spending habits are bad. I am not going to illustrate the 9,000 ways to save money but the simple fact is that money allows you to accumulate assets. In my case, I bought a few townhouses to rent out, maxed 401K, etc. That could not have been done if I spent a ton on Starbucks each week. My parents bought me everything when I was young and I have no idea where I received this ‘saving’ attribute, but money and saving is an absolute requirement to obtaining what you want in the long term. EVERY single dollar you spend must be scrutinized. If the dollar is not helping your long term goals, don’t spend it.



  • Expose your Emotions.
    My father did the opposite and you could never tell what the guy was thinking. I subsequently grew up thinking that a “rock solid” person was better. No way. The second I started showing some emotion at work, my career soared. When used appropriately and coupled with good ideas (versus complaining), emotion shows you care. I don’t care how hard you pretend to be, getting fired up can help you immensely.



  • People are People.
    If you have to give a presentation today guess what? The audience goes home and they all have their own lives and problems. Don’t get stressed out about interactions with others. Simply said, they are just like you! They are doing their jobs and they’re going to lunch each day and worrying about money, etc. They are people!



  • Not Starting a business is risky.
    As far as I am concerned, the only risk is not following your dream. If, at a minimum, you don’t research your plan, you will always wonder what could have been. You don’t want to live a life of “what ifs”. If you can swing it, start a business and give it a shot.



  • Divorce happens.
    This may seem elementary but even at 32, I wish my parents could have worked it out. I think the largest lesson someone can learn from divorce is that the kids are rarely at fault. The parents need to work it out and while the kids may be impacted, it has nothing to do with them and it should not decrease their confidence. If you are going through a divorce or separation, you’d better convey this message to your kids.



  • Having a kid will change your life.
    We all hear this but I’d bet you $100 that you can’t find someone to dispute it. No matter how you plan and no matter how much you budget, having a child will change everything that you know. Even at 27, I was not ready to really handle fatherhood and I can honestly say that it took me 12 months to really adjust. Don’t play with fire unless you are ready to completely change your life…it’s not a dog.



  • You choose your destination.
    When you turn 23, you will wake up one day and you’ll be 32. Choose your destination carefully my friend because in many cases, you are stuck with it. By the time you are 32 you will most likely have a family and a mortgage that requires your steady income. Your time to experiment is over quickly. Before your obligations consume you, be sure you are happy with your personal path.



  • Learn a language.
    Listen, you should study for 4 hours each night and all weekend. We all know that won’t happen. What you do need to learn is a foreign language. Unfortunately, most schools are still teaching Spanish and French. As far as I am concerned, those are useless. Do what you can to learn Japanese and/or Chinese. Most of the world knows that these languages and countries are the face of the new economy, unfortunately US schools are still stuck in the 80s.


I could go on and on. While I am very satisfied with my life, we all have a laundry list of things that we coulda/woulda/shoulda done differently. Instead of continuing, I really want to know what you wish you learned earlier in life.

– Jay

Originally written on 9/24/2007 by me, Jay White, the founder of Dumb Little Man and an all around average guy. Photo Credit: suburbanbloke

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