At community Q&A site Ask Metafilter, one member asks “What is a life-changing realization that you wish you’d had sooner?” The results are a compelling mix of not-so-obvious career and life advice. Some of our favorites:

  1. “A lot of epiphanies come at the end of an unpleasant process. That process is not only necessary to achieve the epiphany, but part of the epiphany itself. As such, distilling that process down to an axiom isn’t as valuable as going through the process itself, however grueling it might be.”
  2. “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
  3. “HR works for management, not for you. Never go to them with a problem.”
  4. “Not making a decision is still a decision.”
  5. “The traditional road to education and success is a trap. But it is actually a road. So if you don’t take it, you’d better have some damn good alternate routes planned.”
  6. “It doesn’t matter if you’re right. It matters if people like you. I think this is one of the mistaken lessons a lot of kids pick up from school, that it’s all about having the right answer and if you’re the guy with the right answer, it doesn’t matter if all the kids hate you because you get As anyway. Sooooooo not the case in the working world.”

Have one to add? Let us know below.

  • bo white

    My humble addition: “You can’t get good answers from bad questions. It’s always worth the extra time to clarify the question, so that the answer is ultimately helpful.”

  • Jean-François B.

    The best thing in Life is that’s being YOUR Life. Lead YOUR way, don’t be Lead; Influence the world around you, don’t wait to be influenced ; Be proactive, avoid reacting; Act on what you control, don’t waste your energy; ENJOY!

  • D Parker

    Mine, in a way, is a caveat to number 6: just because someone you work with is friendly doesn’t make them your friend. Maybe this shows my naivety, but I got stung on this a couple of times, before it sunk in!

  • Vincent Nguyen

    I realized people don’t worry about us as much as we think. They’re busy wondering what others think of them and it becomes this cycle where everyone is stuck stressing over others’ opinions. It’s very liberating and I wish I knew sooner.

    • Sean Blanda


  • Elena Lee

    Don’t get married when you are too young and immature. That was my Life-Changing Realization .

  • Arlet Villanueva

    I’ve read it as an advice to young people: “You have to work hard and excel, even if you don’t like what you are doing.” So far, that is the most difficult career advice that I have gotten, and it’s burning me out.

    • Keane Angle

      Totally. Working hard at something you hate will destroy anyone’s soul. The better phrase would be “work hard and excel at what you’re passionate about”. (or if what you’re passionate about can’t make money, even after you’ve tried, then “work hard and excel at a job that you’re, at the very least, content with”)

  • januarylark

    “Most everyone else is winging it too – no one knows exactly what they’re doing, so relax and just go with it”

  • Sarah Peterson

    I have always been encouraged and inspired by Milton Glaser’s words (roughly paraphrased) that going out and doing work is much more important than just being talented and having the world at your feet without any effort. He said that at Push Pin Studios, they simply were looking for work, doing work, and then later discovered they were doing something entirely different and inspired. Kinda like the 99U motto. Good advice, I’ve found!

  • Andy Westmoreland

    #4: “Not making a decision is still a decision.”
    Rush: “If you choose not to decide you still have mad a choice” 🙂

  • N Stone

    Other than someone who loves you, never think for a moment that anyone else has your best interest at heart. Everyone’s default mode is: how does this affect me and what can I do about it for my interests.

  • jschoder

    My favorite one actually comes from a cartoon (Frazz):
    Do what you love.
    Love what you do.
    Make the world a better place.
    And don’t pick your nose.

    The last one helps me not to take myself or others too seriously.

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