A letter to my 18 year old self. (Happy Birthday!)

It is the 29th of August somewhere in the world and 28 years ago I came into this world with no knowledge of what I’d become.  Nobody did.  But along the way I’ve faced my fair share of trials and tribulations and all of these things have helped me become a better person.  I’ve spent time thinking about if I could go back in time with the knowledge that I have now.  I wonder how different I’d do things now.  So I wrote this letter thinking about what I’d say to my younger counterpart.

For my birthday I want you all to read this letter I wrote to my 18 year old self sharing what I’ve learned since I was his age.

18 year old self - chuck manley

This was taken in 2003 a few months before I turned 18.

A letter to my 18 year old self.

Dear Chuck,

First and foremost let me congratulate you on another lap around the sun.  May it shine down brightly upon your day.  I hope one day the internet transcends time and I’m able to post this in the past for your eyes to read.  It’s a list of observations I’ve made over the past 10 years that I’m fairly certain would be of use to you.

I know where your head is these days.  You just graduated high school and now society is telling you it’s time to go on to college and get a job and blaaaaaah.  From here on out though the power is yours to do whatever you want right now and for forever.  I can’t make your decision for you, but I hope this knowledge helps make it easier.

18 tips for my 18 year old self

1.  Before we go any further into this you must first know that you don’t know much about anything.  The people in your life who know a lot more than you still don’t know much about anything.  Everyone has a lot to learn about an endless amount of things.  Remember this and be humble.  There are lessons to be learned everywhere around you if you are open to them.

2.  Your brain is like a muscle and if you want it to stay healthy you have to work on it.  Feed it and exercise it and you will only get smarter. Turn off the TV and avoid gossip.  It’s like junk food for the brain. Video games are a whole lot of fun, but stop working on your MMO character and develop your own character.  Read books about interesting people, places, or ideas.  Try to do something creative.  Be interested in the world around you.

3.  There’s no such thing as acting your age.  Remember the child in your heart and explore life with a sense of curiosity.  If you don’t know what something is, pick it up.  Make friends with everyone.  Climb on stuff just to see what’s up there.  Remember that the world is a playground and you’re here to have fun.


The world is our playground and we're here to have fun.

The world is our playground and we’re here to have fun.

4.  All of your dreams can come true if you want them to.  Don’t be afraid to dream big but remember the first step to making a dream come true is waking up and getting out of bed.  Don’t sleep through your dreams, live through them.  Let your imagination run wild and inspire you to create something more amazing than the dream.

5.  Around a bonfire in San Pedro I sat next to a thousand year old Chinese Zen master in disguise.  We shared banter all night and before parting ways the master put a curse on me.  The words were “I hope you have an interesting life.”  Don’t wait for the curse to find you, just do it now.  And go to Guatemala.

6.  Travel more.  The world will thank you for it and you will be thankful for the life long lessons that come about.  I’m sure you can come up with a million reasons why you shouldn’t pack your bags and hit the road right now, but I promise you that they’re all bullshit.  The only thing that will ever stop you from traveling as much as your heart desires is your inability to just give it a shot.  It’s not as difficult as people have made it out to be and all of those that are holding you back aren’t real.

travel more

Nobody has ever said they wish they would have traveled less.

7.  The first lesson I learned rock climbing was don’t be afraid of falling off the mountain.  20 feet up on my first climb I lost my footing and slipped off the face of the Rocky Mountains.  Supported by my rope, harness, and belay, I fell only a couple of feet and just dangled there safely from my equipment.  The idea of falling was scarier than the fall.  Much like any setback in life, it really isn’t that bad.  Don’t be afraid of failing or you will never learn how to get back up.

8.  Try new things.  Try a lot of new things lots of times.  Anytime you find someone who has an interest about something that you know nothing about, pick their brain.  Learn about new subjects and you might find your next passion.  Try new foods.  Don’t just order the same boring thing off the menu because you’re comfortable with it, but set the menu down and go to a restaurant you’ve never tried.  Reward yourself with diversity – because after all – it is the spice of life.

9.  There are 7 billion people on this planet and you have more in common with all of them than you can even understand right now.  As you grow to learn who you are you will meet others along the way that have aligning paths.  As you discover them you will learn that all human beings – including yourself – just want to feel love.  Live with compassion and empathy and love will connect you with all beings.

10.  Life is like a dance party.  All of the people having the best times are the ones participating while the rest watch in fear of looking ridiculous.  Live life like a dance party and try be as silly as you can as often as you can.  By the way, start dancing.  The only shortcut to happiness in life is through dance.  Don’t miss out on that by being afraid of looking silly.

The only shortcut to happiness is through dance.

The only shortcut to happiness is through dance.

11.  The judgement of others has never physically hurt a single person.  Don’t let your ego be so strong that you worry about what others think of you.  You’re great at being you, so just keep doing it.  Do it with as much passion as you can.  Talk to every cute girl without fear of rejection, dress up in silly costumes for no reason, and let others laugh at your expense.  Doing this will help you become the best version of yourself possible.

12.  Shine as bright as you can.  You are a being of light who is lost in this vast dark universe with other beings of light.  We have to come together and shine so we can all find our way home together.  Illuminate the darkness for those around you.  Don’t just be happy, but create happiness for others.  Be a beacon of hope and inspiration whenever you can.

13.  Remove all negativity from your life with a vengeance.  Don’t surround yourself with people that bring you down; surround yourself with people who uplift you.  Don’t work a job that you hate; find a way to make money doing something you love.  Don’t spend time in negative environments; let the wind carry you to your home.  Recognize negativity in your life and force yourself to break negative patterns or you will suffer their outcomes time and time again.

14.  Connect with everyone.  Loneliness can shorten your life and greatly reduce the quality of it.  Talk to strangers.  Open your heart to the possibility that every person you meet has the chance to change your life forever.  Don’t be afraid of hurt and allow yourself to fall in love every chance you get.  The other 7 billion people on this planet are beautiful and complex creatures that have so much to teach you.  Remember that the most important person in the world is the one you’re with.

talk to strangers

Don’t be afraid to meet new people.

15.  Learn to like yourself and eventually you’ll learn to love yourself.  Treat yourself like you would your best friend.  Don’t say negative things to yourself!  Compliment yourself and say encouraging things to yourself when you need them.  Don’t spend so much time focusing on your faults when you could be focusing on your positive traits.  You’re a great person and nobody would ever say otherwise.

16.  All human beings are born into this world with a super power.  This power comes from advanced brain functions and opposable thumbs.  It’s the ability to manipulate our environments however we see fit.  If you choose to use your powers for good you can leave a positive trace of your time here on this Earth.  Use them for the selfless good of those around you and see how your life changes.  Use them for evil and expect to live in an evil world.  You create your reality.

Human beings are all born with the power to save the world.

Human beings are all born with the power to save the world.

17.  What you put out there is what you get in return, but with interest.  When you practice a skill you not only get better at it, but you get better at learning it and the practice results in exponential growth.  If you treat the world with kindness, you will receive all of that kindness back multiple times over from people you never met.  If you fall stagnant time will move faster and faster until you get to a point of looking back and wondering where it all went.

18.  My last piece of advice is for you to go easy on your parents.  They actually do know a bit more than you so don’t just simply dismiss their advice because it isn’t right for YOU.  It’s the best advise they can give from the perspective that they have lived.  It comes from the heart and it’s only there to help guide you.  You don’t have to follow it, but you should give a good listen and consider all possibilities.  Just because your dad didn’t tell you to grow up and become a revolutionary doesn’t mean that you can’t do just that.

I want to close this advice out with some reading suggestions that were a big influence for me.

The first is a book called Hardcore Zen and it was my introduction to Zen Buddhism.  I know you’re digging on Buddhism a lot and I think you would really get a kick out of crazy zen masters.  Another is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that will teach you that if you want something and work towards it, the universe will conspire to make it happen.  Finally is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle that will help guide you into living as your true self in this very moment.


Life is what you make of it.  Your future is a blank canvas ready to painted.  Pick up the brush and make something beautiful.  There are a lot of tough lessons that lay ahead of you, but keep your head up and keep on keeping on.  You’re going to do great!

Much Love,
Chuck Manley @ 28 years old

  • Jamato

    Awesome article Chuckman!

    • http://chuckmanley.com/ Chuck Manley

      Thanks for being party of the story so many times!

  • alexa_rl

    Thank you.

    • http://chuckmanley.com/ Chuck Manley

      I’m glad my words can be helpful for you.

  • sewsaintly


    • http://chuckmanley.com/ Chuck Manley

      Hi Andrea’s mom!

  • Andrea Cesarek

    Awesome Advice Chuck!!! Discard the comment below as I was trying to figure out how to log out of my mom’s account lol…. You are one of the most inspirational people in my life! Thanks for being so awesome :)

    • http://chuckmanley.com/ Chuck Manley

      No, thank YOU for being so awesome!