Johnson Babalola
May 25, 2023

16 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

I have often asked what messages I would send to my younger self now that I am older and wiser. My conclusion is that there are many, but for the sake of this short write-up though, let me settle for 16.

1.    Mentorship & Networking: I was raised by my grandmother and mother who are both late now. They were amazing parents. They taught me about morals, self-love, love of and for others. My uncle and his wife that I lived with at some point, my siblings and others also assisted in shaping my morals and becoming a responsible contributor to my community. I however did not address my mind to seeking for a mentor that would guide my professional future as a young man. I did things on impulse and feelings. My career choice was an example. Confused about what I really wanted to do with my life, I settled for law with no guidance per se. I was lucky to make a success of it, but it could have been easier with the right mentors in place. I would tell my younger self to have mentors in every aspect of his life and to know that it is not enough to have a mentor, but more important to ensure the relationship is deliberately nurtured. I would remind my younger self to take networking seriously too as that helps to open doors of opportunities. Given my experience, my older self has taken pride in mentoring others across the globe.

2.    Education: My younger self had a lot of focused fun. I was a member of a few socio-cultural clubs at the university and enjoyed my schooling years measurably. At the same time, I did not take my eyes off my ticket to success in life: Education. I was a member of an important leadership training organization on campus and would switch from fun loving activities to academic focused activities at the appropriate time. I would congratulate my younger self for balancing both sides and making education a core focus.

3.    Positive Relationships: My younger self was a friend to all. There was never a thought of discrimination with anyone based on age, religion, class, sex etc. I would visit the homes of friends and feel instantly comfortable. My younger self was very trustworthy and trusting too. In some ways though, I was too trusting and got hurt as a result. At the same time, once recognized, I was able to separate myself from any toxic relationship or relationships that would lead me down the wrong path. Although wiser, I will let my younger self know that in many ways, I am still the same. My younger self has shaped my present self. My law practice today is focused on litigating against all forms of abuses, discrimination, and workplace issues that often deprive others of their dignity and self-worth. I treat everyone as equal. My younger self must know however that while I relate with all, I am careful about those that I let into my inner space due to negative experiences with some that were given the keys to my inner space in the past. Having said that, always network and maintain positive friendships with the right people.

4.    Material Things: My younger self would recall that I did not grow up with affluence but was not too poor either. There were many times of financial struggles. All through, I was contented and did not allow this to affect my self-esteem. At the Nigerian Law School in Nigeria, I attended like many others, with children of rich and influential members of the society. The successes of the parents of these classmates of mine served as inspirations for me to do well in life. I would inform my younger self that success is not about the circumstances of your birth but your efforts, work ethics, relationships, and integrity. Hard work is worthwhile if it encompasses determination, self-control, focus, knowledge, networking, and integrity.

5.    Health: I would tell my younger self to take care of his physical and mental health because at the time, I worked around the clock with little rest. Some of the minor medical concerns I have today would not have been present. I now deliberately pay attention to my health and try to balance work with adequate rest.

6.    Family: As a young lawyer with a young family, I spent time with my family but did not spend as much time as I would have liked with them. I was committed to making a success of my law practice and taking care of members of my immediate family, extended family, and others. My younger self must know that I was lucky that my children turned out alright because my wife was there for us. I would advise my younger self to be deliberate in spending quality time with his family.

7.    Spend Wisely: My younger self often invested based on emotions and the recommendations of others without due diligence. My younger self also relied on business relationships with others that did not invest time in the business. However, as I grew older, I became more cautious and formed business relationships with individuals with the same mindset to succeed. My younger self must always remember that he could be abandoned in his old age by those he laboured for during his active years if he had invested in the wrong people and failed to invest in his children, spouse, and self.

8.    Positive Outlook: My younger self did not take things personally and always had a positive outlook on life and things. I would thank my younger self for this foundation to my older self as this attribute has served me well. Having been through several ups and downs, I continue to stay true to having a positive outlook on life.

9.    Delay: I would remind my younger self of the years of delay in the United Kingdom when I was trying to obtain legal status. In those years, many of my friends and colleagues were on the expressway of their career journey while I was stuck in the traffic of sideroad in mine. Although a trained lawyer in Nigeria, I had to make do with non-related jobs as a cleaner, security man etc. With perseverance and positive attitude to life, I made my way to Canada, got back to the appropriate career expressway and my career took off positively. Today, the delay is history. My younger self must never allow any delay in life to affect his focus in achieving his goals.

10. Happiness:  My younger self was a happy person who loved jokes, music, dancing, drinks et al. My older self still loves the same. So, my younger self has influenced my older self positively. Happiness was important to my younger self and still important to my older self.  My younger self must realize that being happy is impactful to the soul, to others around us and can help open doors. Share a laugh always!

11. Home & Love: Although my younger self never really had a permanent home address, each place of abode was a home full of love and positive relationships. Like many, my younger self suffered heart breaks but kept going with a compass to find true love. His focus was not about outward beauty but inward beauty, true love, strength, and integrity. I would applaud my younger self for his perseverance in the search for true love that led to the building of a true home by my older self. With a spouse and children who genuinely love and care for me, I look forward to coming home daily. Opening the main entrance door into my home brings peace, joy, and happiness. My younger self would be proud of my simple but happy home.

12. Leadership: My younger self hated doing things alone. He loved to collaborate with others. He believed in learning from positive minded leaders, leading others and leading with others. Same with my older self. My younger self would remember that setbacks had happened but each time, he had picked himself up, removed the dust of disappointments, learned from his mistakes and the mistakes of others, and brought together a new team. My older self is today surrounded by partners and staff who are leaders in their own rights, and we make one another better. To my older self, leadership must be focused on lifting others up.

13. Respect for Others: My younger one would treat others as he would like to be treated. It was important for him to empathize with others, respect others, appreciate every little assistance and be thankful for everything. My older self will always be thankful to my younger self for this foundation that still holds true today.

14. Communication: My younger self spent time developing some “big” English words to impress others as that was expected of lawyers in the jurisdiction he grew up at. He later learnt in life that the simpler the better. I would tell my younger self that an effective communicator is one who is understood by the individuals he/she is communicating with. My younger self understood the importance of improving on his listening skills and stayed away from employing negative language against others notwithstanding their disagreements. I would remind my younger self that despite all that is happening on social media space, he can still make his position known without engaging in indecency or the use of negative language against others.

15. Travel & Knowledge: My younger self had no fund or means to travel widely but my older self has done the opposite. I would inform my younger self that both experiences are good. Staying grounded in my local areas helped in broadening my experience about my language, culture, and relationships. The many travel experiences of my older self-have exposed me to the ways of life of others and has helped me to understand and respect others more. My younger self must continue to seek knowledge through the experiences of others.

16. Religion: My younger self was lukewarm about his religion: Christianity. My older self takes his religious belief seriously without discrimination against anyone on any ground having the understanding that God created us all and informs us to love others as ourselves.

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.