Julie Posetti, on Twitter, asks if you could write a letter to your 15-year-old self, what would you say. It took about five minutes to remember that I had an answer ready. And I would send the message to all 15-year-olds, not just me. It's really simple.
At age 56, I wish someone would send me a letter, today, that says that. I'm always having to remind myself, when someone says something challenging. Dave, what you think matters.
For example, Dave Morin of Path sent me a message yesterday saying it wasn't cool for me to "call him a liar." How to respond. To say I didn't call him a liar, even though I did say he had lied. Slight distinction. He also called me by my last name, something that makes me uncomfortable. When I typed his name into the response, Android changed it to "moron" -- which gave me a laugh (I corrected its correction). So other people have awkard names too! Heh. But what I said to him actually made me feel good. I said "It looks as if you lied." That's an important statement because it re-asserts what I said, and it also says that it matters how it looks to me. It's true. I'm not 100 percent sure of anything (I'm a programmer, that's my training). In 2010 he said his software wasn't retaining the contents of iPhone users' address books. In 2012 he said he was deleting the info he said he had not retained. Come on, if he wasn't lying -- what was he doing??
But when someone is bullshitting you, and you know it, you can say "That's bullshit." If they ask you to prove it, you can if you want, or you could just leave it there. "I know bullshit when I see it." That's a corollary to "What you think matters."
There are people who are born knowing that what they think matters. I think it's a very small minority. And they push the rest of us around. Kids who throw tantrums know that what they think matters. Most self-made billionaires get it too, probably from a very young age. We're always trying to convince them that they're missing something important, if they would just listen they would see how it really is. But WYTM tells us that it isn't essential that they agree. As long as you know what you think, it doesn't always matter what the other person thinks (sometimes it does, if you need their approval or cooperation for something you want to do). And just because they think one thing doesn't mean you can't believe something else. And vice versa, of course.
I need to be reminded of WYTM because when I grew up what I thought absolutely did not matter. Adults often put words in my mouth. They would infer intent that wasn't there. They would call me names based on how my body looked to them. When I objected they screamed as if I were hurting them. I kept thinking how unfair this was, but I accepted their judgment. They have no idea who I am. But they've decided what I think. The problem for 15-year-olds is that to a large extent we had to accept the adult vision of who we are. They were our whole world then. At 15 you look a lot like an adult, but you're still very much a child. And these people you trust are very confused about you, but you don't see it that way because They Know and You Don't. They aren't telling you that WYTM, quite the opposite. What You Think Counts For Shit. In all that confusion it's easy to forget that you matter. You get lost in trying to be who they say you are, and in more ways you're trying to not be who they say you are. It takes a lot of years to dig out of this hole.
Then, just a few years ago it dawned on me that my opinion mattered. That sometimes I could stop trying to persuade people of things. If someone hangs up on me, I don't have to call them back. If they don't like me that's fine. That's when things really started flipping around, in a nice way. That little switch in perspective eliminates a lot of the conflict and confusion, wasted energy and time. And gives you a chance at feeling happy most of the time.
One more thing. A few of the comments in response to Julie's query are negative about men. So I thought I'd add, as part of the ongoing battle of the sexes, with much love, a message to my 15-year-old self. 1. Women aren't always right. 2. Sometimes you are right. 3. Women have much better PR than we do. 4. Women can be assholes, just like men.