4 Rules I Would Give My 26-Year-Old Self

Published on
August 17, 2023

Below, I will share with you four rules I would offer to my younger self.

Before I do, allow me a moment of reflection.

I am a Navy Chaplain, presently serving with the Marine Corps. Several months ago, I decided that the time had come to retire from active duty. As I am writing this, big Navy has officially approved my retirement request. I will retire on September 1, 2023.

Recently, we attended our last Marine Corps Birthday Ball. During this celebration, as the chaplain, I offered an opening prayer. Before my prayer, we took this picture:

After we arrived back at our hotel room, I decided to post the picture and a short reflection on my social media channels. This was my last public prayer at a Marine Corps Ball. I noticed that I look old (especially considering the young people I work with). The thing is, I am older now. And there is something I know.

I have a base of learning and wisdom built over the 30 years since I was twenty-six. I have overcome obstacles, learned, and accomplished many things.

And all this learning and experience has taught me much about what matters in life and what doesn’t. A lot of the things I used to care about, I don’t anymore. And things I used not to care very much about are now important to me.

These are my four rules for life. My life rules won’t be the same as your life rules. Still, these rules will help you toward your best life.

Life Rule #1: Know God

Rule #1 for my 26-year-old self: Know God and be known by him.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps at 19, turned 20 in boot camp, and celebrated my 21st birthday on the island of Okinawa. I entered the Corps searching for my identity and unsure about my understanding of who God was. I reaffirmed my commitment to the Christian faith while on the Pacific island of Okinawa.

You may disagree with my faith commitment. We are free to choose our understanding of connection with God. Today is more than 30 years since I was 26. I was convinced then and am convinced now that God is a present reality and he makes a difference in our lives.

Knowing and being known by God, having a connection with your spirituality and spiritual practices has been shown empirically to improve the quality of life. Today, I would tell my 26-year-old self to stay true to the faith I learned growing up. It will make a positive difference in your life.

Life Rule #2: Know Yourself

Rule #2 for my 26-year-old self: Know Yourself. Practice self-awareness.

I recently spent a great deal of time reflecting on this first rule. The posts are here and here. This first rule is a commitment to the idea of self-awareness. A commitment to knowing yourself at the deepest part of your being. When I turned 26, I had just left the Marine Corps after serving six enlisted years. I turned 20 in boot camp. I had been molded into a Marine. The Corps served me well. I knew myself better, and I had grown as a man. I also knew that continuing in the Marine Corps was not in alignment with who I was.

When you gain self-awareness, your interior and exterior worlds will be aligned. You will gain passion and energy. An aligned life allows you to move boldly toward making your most significant contribution.

Life Rule #3: Believe in Yourself

Rule #3 for my 26-year-old self: Believe in Yourself. Don’t allow self-doubt to reign supreme in your life.

Over the last 30 years, self-doubt has been a constant companion. As an Enneagram One, I deeply desire things to be done right. Though I don’t seek them out, I see the flaws in things. And my internal voice can be self-critical.

I would tell my 26-year-old self to work on silencing the critical voice in his head. Find people who can help you understand where your value lies (see Life Rule #4). Believe in yourself, and believe you have something to offer the world.

Life Rule #4: Connect Yourself

Rule #4 for my 26-year-old self: Connect Yourself. Connect yourself to people. People like friends, mentors, communities, and family.

I’ll admit this is an area of weakness for me. I recently wrote about four things fulfilled leaders have in abundance. One of the things I mentioned was connection. Though I have lagged in this area, I have grown to value connecting with people.

I like to blame being an introvert. An introvert’s circle of trust is generally small. This has always been true in my life. Over the last 30 years, I have grown significantly in my ability to relate to people. Still, I have excluded people who could have brought immense value to my life.

My 26-year-old self had successfully completed a tour as an enlisted Marine. Hindsight is 20/20. The thirty years since I was 26 have demonstrated that rules such as Know God, Know Yourself, Believe in Yourself, and Connect Yourself would have served me well.

Your turn. What rules would you offer your younger self?

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