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A letter to my 14-year-old self

Dear Johnnie,

I know you won’t appreciate me calling you that, but it’s how I think of you, my younger self. You’re 14 right now. I’m 40 years older. I’m writing this letter to you because a colleague at work has suggested that I provide you with some advice that might help you to become #WORLDREADY.

(That’s not a spelling error. In 2019 we spell some words with something called a “hashtag”. I’m not sure that I can really bring myself to explain why. There are some things you may just need to wait to discover for yourself.)

I know you’re not going to take much notice of what I’m writing. You don’t like receiving guidance from adults. This is a trait that’s going to stay with you, I’m afraid.

But here goes…

Believe in yourself. I know that at the moment you are full of doubts. You are struggling to work out who you are and what sort of a person you might want to be. Our mum often quotes Polonius in Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” It’s good advice. Even if Polonius was an interfering old bore.

Do your best. Choose what you love to do at any moment and try to do it to the very best of your ability. Don’t give up when things become challenging. Sticking at something is a virtue.

Have respect for other people. Try to keep to the Golden Rule of all the world’s great religions – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and also a slight development of it, “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

Be fair and honest in all your dealings. Do the right thing. Even when others aren’t.

Stand up to bullies.

Enjoy the journey. Life is not a race. You are going to have the opportunity to experience some amazing things. Don’t be too impatient to move on to the next opportunity before you’ve truly made the most out of what you’re doing now.

One day, that Factor 15 sun-cream that you dislike so much will be seen as impossibly weak. When Factor 50 becomes available, start using it.

Help other people.

Don’t make too many plans. Almost everything worthwhile you will go on to do in your life will happen by accident – and when you least expect it.

Keep practising the guitar.

You will grow. You don’t like being shorter and less mature than your friends at the moment. Let me reassure you. You will be as tall as them when you’re 17. And your voice will have broken.

Don’t stress about relationships. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That first kiss will happen. Sooner than you might think.

Study hard. But do other things as well. What goes on in the classroom really is only half the story.

Run. I know that cross-country isn’t popular at school and that your friends don’t understand why you enjoy it so much. Don’t let them put you off.

Travel. Remember the excitement of going to France when you were 10 and everything you learned? Imagine what you might learn if you were able to travel all over the world.

Be prepared for your life to change. You may not end up being an actor. Just saying.

Take risks. But calculate them.

Finish your Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Then go on and do your Silver. And then your Gold. Doing your Award will help you put into practice some of what I’ve written to you about – and build habits that will equip you for life. (And incidentally, the Award might eventually figure rather more strongly in your life than you might expect.)

Final piece of advice: On December 12th, 1980, persuade Mum and Dad to buy as many shares as they can afford in a company called Apple.


With much affection,


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