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What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Summary

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What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 PDFA Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World

Are you an angsty teenager or a somewhat lost student in your early twenties?

What would you give for a crash course of no more than 200 pages which may help you find – and even make – your place in the world?

The good news is – you don’t have to give anything.

Because, by proxy, we’re giving it for free:

Here’s the summary of Tina Seelig’s “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20″!

Who Should Read “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20”? And Why?

Someone – maybe George Bernard Shaw – once said that wisdom is squandered by the old, while youth is wasted on the young.

In other words: life would have been much better if we had the wisdom of our old selves in our younger years.

Fortunately – books such as this one make that possible.

And since the wisdom you’ll find here is actually timeless, you can even forget about the 20 from the title! It’s never too late to learn these things.

This is the kind of stuff I wish I knew now,” comments Guy Kawasaki. “Tina is doing us all a big favor by giving us a roadmap to life!

Tina SeeligAbout Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig – in the words of Robert Sutton (which most of her students share) – “is one of the most creative and inspiring teachers at Stanford.” Fittingly, the courses she teaches are on innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

She boasts with a uniquely diversified portfolio, having earned a Ph. D. in Neuroscience from Stanford Medical School, to subsequently work as a management consultant, a software producer, and an entrepreneur.

She has received many awards, such as the National Olympus Innovation Award, the SVForum Visionary Award, and the Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering.

So far, she has written 17 books, including “inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity” and “Insight Out.”

“What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Summary”

According to Mag Jay, your twenties are the defining decade of your life.

If so, you better listen to Tina Seelig’s advice – since following even some of it may effectively redefine your life!

The best part: “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20” is a short and entertaining book comprised of just ten easy-to-read impossible-to-forget chapters.

The first one, “Buy One, Get Two Free,” starts with an interesting question: “What would you do to earn money if all you had was five dollars and two hours?”

If your answer is “Buy a lottery ticket” or “Go to Las Vegas,” (or even set a lemonade stand), join the multitude: these are the answers most of Seelig’s students give.

However, the ones who actually end up earning the most money are those who don’t even use their five dollars. They reinterpret the problem and free themselves from the limitation: “What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?”

Don’t believe it’s possible?

Just think of Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald, who started with one red paperclip and traded up his way to a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan, in 14 transactions and no more than one year!

Indeed – everything is possible!

Removing the limitations of a problem may mean changing the world in the long run.

The catch is to see the problem as an opportunity!

The second chapter, “The Upside-Down Circus,” uncovers how: Cirque du Soleil, for example, was created when Guy Laliberté, a Canadian street performer, decided to challenge every assumption about what a circus could be.

In doing so, he transformed the problem – the circus industry was all but dead at the time – into an opportunity and a success story.

Seelig uncovers the underlying philosophy of this transformation in Chapter 3, “Bikini or Die.”

Namely, you can take on impossible tasks if you just realize that no matter how good, every rule can (and is all but meant to) be broken:

Knowing that you can question the rules is terrifically empowering. It is a reminder that the traditional path is only one option available to you… there are boundless additional options to explore if you are willing to identify and challenge assumptions and to break free of the expectations that you and others project onto you.

There are always and everywhere things that can be improved!

Seelig uses an interesting exercise to prove this in her classes, telling her students: “Please, Take Out Your Wallets”– which is the title of chapter 4.

In no more than thirty minutes, all of her students (young, old, professionals, amateurs) realize that their wallets can be improved.

And, even better – some of the improvements “require little more than a good designer to make them feasible right away.”

So, why shouldn’t you at least give it a try?

At worst, you’ll fail – and you’ll know how to do it better the next time!

After all, that’s “The Secret Sauce of Silicon Valley” (Chapter 5): a failing forward resume.

None of your idols – those entrepreneurial giants in Palo Alto – made it work from the start:

If you do take a risk and happen to fail, remember that you personally are not a failure… Keep in mind that failure is a natural part of the learning process. If you aren’t failing sometimes, then you probably aren’t taking enough risks.

In the sixth chapter – “No Way… Engineering is for Girls” – Seelig explains how one of the worst things you could do in life is guiding yourself by other people’s words and recommendations for a career.


Your goal is to “identify the intersection between your skills, your passions, and the market.”

Of course, sometimes you’re going to need some luck to “Turn Lemonade into Helicopters” (Chapter 7).

But, the best part is that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.

Even the Romans knew that: fortune favors the brave!

However, while you’re working hard, don’t forget that your life is interconnected with the lives of thousands and millions.

So, “Paint the Target Around the Arrows” (Chapter 8) and create a network of people who may help you in the future by helping them and, simply, being nice to them.

Don’t ask “Will This Be on the Exam” (Chapter 9): this is life and you have only one chance to live it! Everything is and will be on the exam.

In other words, your one and only life is not a good place to start quarrels, to not try, to miss opportunities, or to look for excuses!

It’s the place and time for mounting a heap of “Experimental Artifacts” (Chapter 10) – the proof that you’ve given yourself permission to forge your own path through life!

Key Lessons from “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20”

1.      Always Act Like You’re in a Foreign Country
2.      The Rule of Three May Change Your Life
3.      Never Miss an Opportunity to Be Fabulous

Always Act Like You’re in a Foreign Country

Remember that scene in “Friends” when Chandler finally sees New York?

The reason why he hadn’t seen it before – though spending all his life there – is quite simple: he thought he knew everything about it.

The truth is – he didn’t. None of us do.

So, if you want to see things from a different angle, learn how to be observant and open-minded, optimistic and friendly.  

Always act like you’re in a foreign country, aware of your surroundings and taking an interest in all things and people.

That way, you’ll actually see them.

The Rule of Three May Change Your Life

The Rule of Three is not a new concept: as Seelig informs us, the U.S. Marine Corps has used it for some time.

And that’s all the evidence you need that it works!

And what they’ve found is – through years of trial and error – that “most people can only track three things at once. As a result, the entire military system is designed to reflect this.”

So, limit yourself to three core priorities!

You can do the rest of them later.

Never Miss an Opportunity to Be Fabulous

We really like the ninth chapter, so we’ll leave it to Tina Seelig to cap this summary:

Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous… This means going beyond minimum expectations and acknowledging that you are ultimately responsible for your actions and the resulting outcomes. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, and you won’t get a second chance to do your best.

Final Notes

Tina Seelig’s “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20” offers more than just advice; it presents a roadmap to life’s possibilities.

By challenging assumptions and reframing problems as opportunities, Seelig empowers readers to navigate their paths with confidence.

Through engaging anecdotes and practical exercises, she demonstrates that success is not about starting with everything but about leveraging what you have creatively.

So, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur, a recent graduate, or someone simply seeking inspiration, remember: that life’s limitations are often self-imposed, and every moment is an opportunity to redefine your narrative and make your mark on the world.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Quotes”

There's a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. We often say we're trying to do something-losing weight, getting more exercise, finding a job. But the truth is, we're either doing it or not doing it. Click To Tweet

Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous. Click To Tweet

Attitude is perhaps the biggest determinant of what we can accomplish. Click To Tweet

Even though it is always difficult to abandon a project, it is much easier in the early stages of a venture, before there is an enormous escalation of committed time and energy. Click To Tweet

The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. Nobody will pay you to solve a non-problem. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20” is one of those very special books that can turn your life around and which comes only a few times in life.

Short and energetic, well-written, and full of practical advice, it’s a book that will teach you how to look at the same problems from a different angle – which makes all the difference!

Once you finish it, this will become your new mantra: “Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous.”

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