A Conversation with My 16-Year-Old Self

Enjoy the process but work hard.


If I could tell my 16-year-old self something, it would be to conjure up some down-to-earth explanation of how hard work really does pay off. That younger self would probably do wonders if forced into this epiphany, then being your average passive high school student- reluctant and unsure and not acquainted enough with the so-called ‘growth mindset.’ A small but appropriate warrant for narcissism, coupled with an exciting lecture about how one’s time can be invested into working towards a goal would be ideal.

Goals back then were summarized into the desire of exiting high school better than I had entered, though I was in no hurry- enjoying the passive days of no serious responsibilities and going out.

My 16-year-old self could possibly do wonders with the realization that just an hour a day of exercise would speed up the comfort that was then (and always) wanted, and would later come. If you (I) could suck it up for maybe an hour and a half, or two hours of enjoying some movement, lifting, and sweat, exercise could be the revealing example of how pain really often means progress. It can even be enjoyable and easily desired as a habitual part of the schedule- profit. Profit of physically and energy.

At the same time, hours can be invested in prioritizing schoolwork. Course material does test the attention span, its true, especially when I was rather adjusted to waltzing around from class to class laughing at everything unnecessary. But what is equally as true is the fact of you already being there on campus and investing time already, leaving poor study habits and failures to be the real key of wasted time. Education after high school may not be for everybody- but it is for many who desire to funnel their time into maximizing opportunity rather than dwelling in positive or negative free time vibes.

My 16-year-old self was only slightly on the brink of these priceless realizations. The only one manifesting then really was somewhat of a turning point in my life- albeit small- as it was around this time that I began to run in the weeknights around my block. It wasn’t yet the self-promise to put all effort into the gym and trying to test myself truly, but it was the beginning of a change that really pointed my life and mind in the right path.

Weeknights of running around the surrounding neighborhoods would eventually transform into just the right medication that any young man or woman benefits from, and for that, I would tell my past self that I was choosing to engage in just the perfect pastime.

I would also tell this teen to spend a some time trying to encourage the enjoyment of the process. My 16-year-old-self was surely similar to all my other peers in the way of wanting something overnight. The constant desire for something, whatever end-goal it might be, was always so immediate and urgent. Surely this is something that many of us struggle greatly to grasp, my current self and even future self included- the idea that it is such an important life tip to remember how to enjoy the process of something far more than worrying about the final result.

This helps not only to alleviate the pain of constant desiring, but also helps in the way of actually producing something rather than always thinking about the end prize and how it is deserved when it’s almost certainly not. Whether it be the car by next week, or the date by tomorrow, or the short story tonight, or anything else that requires careful pre-requisite work, the fact remains that it is a far better gambit to put the time and care in the process of attaining, rather than being stuck in the daydream of enjoying what’s to be attained.

The ‘growth mindset’ might be the most important and priceless thing I could lend to my 16-year-old self. There are so many ways to interpret the little trials we experience in life everyday, and I believe now more than ever that it is the way we respond to them that matters now and for tomorrow.

This may be the greatest struggle — the constant battle of trying to tweak attitude, but it just may be the key to life and the progress we all desire for it. The mindset toward growth is the one that doesn’t have me fuming after getting a parking ticket, but instead has remained level-headed with the realization that it was me who decided to park in the staff parking lot for over three hours.

A mindset for growth helped me more recently in the dilemma of my right leg being injured. Yellow and purple is the color of the skin around my hamstring after pulling it from an accident with a friend- but it was me and me alone who decided it would be fine to wrestle him for a moment (50 pounds heavier), and so it goes that I am at peace with the reality during recovery.

Many 16-year-olds would do well with being at peace, as well as taking on a mindset that helps in so many life tests.

Brandon Burnette is the former politics editor of SAC.Media who now attends the University of San Diego where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism.