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A picture of innocence

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”- Mark Twain

"...although there were a few blots on my teenage copybook, only a couple of them are truly cringeworthy..."

I found some old photographs the other day of me in my teens. Fading with age, these 1970’s images of the friends I had, the cars I drove and the places I went were remarkable because they seemed to show me in locations I’ve never visited, with people I don’t know!

But it was the power of the photographs to affect my other senses that I found overwhelming.

Through them, I began to relive some of the feelings and sensations I had when I was a scruffy teenager. I felt, momentarily, like the youth I was then rather than the person I am now – and it wasn’t an entirely pleasurable experience.

Don’t misunderstand me; ‘teenage-me’ has little to be ashamed of; although there were a few blots on my teenage copybook, only a couple of them are truly cringeworthy. Nevertheless, I felt distinctly uncomfortable experiencing those sensations of forty years ago.

Why should that be?

Maybe it’s recognising now how little ‘teenage-me’ knew about anything, yet recalling how at that age you think you do; maybe it’s that sensation of having no idea what direction life would take (although I now know that’s up to you); maybe it’s perceiving everyone else to be cleverer, wittier or more intelligent than ‘teenage-me’ (and usually all three) so they surely wouldn’t be suffering any of my doubts or insecurities…

This is called ‘teenage angst’ and I’m sure we all experienced it. But momentarily reliving this long-forgotten angst confirmed to me what I’ve believed for a long time, which is this:

If we never allow ourselves to stop learning and if we continually strive to be the best that we can, we will come to experience genuine contentment and satisfaction in later life. Living this way means that the older I get the happier I become. In the photographs I look like someone with an awful lot of learning to do. The greatest gift I could bestow on ‘teenage-me’ would be to endue him with the life-experience of his next forty years.

The energy and chutzpah of a teenager combined with the wisdom and tolerance of an old guy would, surely, be a killer combination!

Although I’ve yet to meet such a man – and I probably never will – I came across his polar opposite in one of our BIM Workshops the other day: the mature guy with the charms of a truculent teenager!

Speaking in public and running workshops is incredibly rewarding, especially when someone thanks you for making a genuine difference for them. Occasionally, though, a presentation is not so well received by the odd audience member and they will have no hesitation in telling you at length – and at some volume – why changing the familiar ways of doing things is simply impossible.

I am reminded of one of my favourite sayings:

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” – Henry Ford

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