Sir Anthony Seldon: The things I wish I could tell my younger self

10 April 2018

This article is a part of our Skills Young People Need for Work in 2030 campaign, with the i newspaper, helping share what skills leaders of today think are going to be the top ways young people can prepare for the careers of tomorrow. Be sure to follow #Skills2030 to see their top advice over March.



Sir Anthony Seldon: The things I wish I could tell my younger self

”Here are some things that my older self would advise my younger. First, learn the difference between hard work and smart work.

I have spent far too much of my life working overly hard, whereas if I had done a little less and thought a little more about what I was trying to do, I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort. If we do not reflect fully on what we are doing, we can end up expending vast amounts of energy. The best question to ask yourself is “Why?” Making lists of objectives, asking others for candid advice, and responding to criticisms positively rather than defensively are all good ideas.

Second, prioritise happiness and self-fulfilment above worldly success. The world is full of miserable individuals who may have been outwardly successful rising to the top of their companies or organisations. But inwardly, they are howling with pain, and often come over as tired, abrasive and humourless. In truth they are merely exhausted too much of the time. The more we can ascertain our core values, and live truthfully to them, the happier and more fulfilled we will be. Period. Three, realise that education is life-long. I believed when I left school aged 18, or university as an undergraduate aged 22, that my education was over. How foolish. It was barely beginning.

I have learned so much more every year after university than I did at university, which is not to knock higher education. It is to say it could be much better done. I wish I had carried on with my rudimentary foreign languages, continued to learn a musical instrument, and attended economics classes. I still do not understand economics, and am not entirely convinced that all economists do either.

Four, prioritise family and friends. We choose our friends, but our family chooses us. In both cases, we could be doing far more. All my life, I have spent far too much time with people who are not my true friends, and insufficient time with those who are. Nothing matters more than family, I can see now more clearly towards the end of my life than I did at the beginning. Somehow, time spent with family seemed to be less exciting than that spent with friends. We cannot relive our earlier days, but we can draw lessons from them on how to live more wisely for the rest of our life. We can also, with luck, pass on that wisdom to others.”

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Buckingham, is a leading contemporary historian, educationalist, commentator and political author. You can read the piece in the i newspaper

Our Skills 2030 campaign will continue with more speakers across the UK. Keep up with the coverage of this talk series here.