August 14, 2017
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Be brave, don’t give up: advice we would give to our younger selves

If you could talk to your middle school or high school self, what would you say?

Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images

What advice would you give to your younger self? At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Allstate asked participants—some of today’s most innovative thinkers and creators—what wisdom they could have used in their youth.

We decided to ask our very own experts who have contributed to The Renewal Project this past year to share their own advice. (The Renewal Project is made possible by Allstate.)

Last week, we heard from Liz Forester of the Cleveland nonprofit DigitalC and Jimmy Chen, the founder and CEO of the social impact startup Propel.

In the second part of our series, we hear from two CEOs, one who’s helping to change the face of tomorrow’s engineers and scientists, and another who is transforming the way we donate to charity. Here is their advice:

Be brave, and don’t worry so much

Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. She’s also the author of the upcoming series of books by the same name. She said her advice would be to challenge yourself: “I would tell myself to be braver, to worry less about perfection. I should have gone outside of my comfort zone—I thought I was terrible at math, but I should have given computer science a shot. The image at that time was that computers were for boys. Today we’re trying to change that image for girls. You can’t be what you can’t see, so we’re trying to provide an image of what a girl who codes looks like in our book series.”

Take risks

Stephen Garten is the founder and CEO of Charity Charge, a program that allows consumers to donate their credit card rewards to charity. He said he recommends this advice: “In times of uncertainty, I give myself the ‘rocking chair’ test. I imagine myself as a very old man sitting in a rocking chair. I ask myself if that old man would be proud and happy for me to be pursuing the given action or career move I am contemplating. When I put myself in that state of mind usually the answer is to take the risk and move forward. A life filled with fear, doubt, and uncertainty is crippling. For example, I faced what seemed like an insurmountable amount of rejection to launch Charity Charge and get our partnership with Commerce Bank and MasterCard off the ground. Many times I wanted to quit. But I knew that the old man in me would be proud that I gave it a shot, that I tried. I don’t want to live a life of regrets.”

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project is an effort by Allstate to highlight, support, and celebrate ordinary people creating extraordinary community renewal.