You’ll never work for us again.

My daughter Logan’s beautiful 20 year old eye. Eyes are amazing things, don’t you think?

When I was in my early twenties, I was convinced that hard work led to success. I often put in 60-70 hour weeks. I thought my standards and work ethics were very high.

I have long since rethought my notions of success.

Working with a light heart and open mind is way more fun and profitable.

Even though I still might be working long hours some weeks, it never feels that way to me anymore. Nothing remarkable ever comes out of being stressed and tired or grouchy. I have learned with practice to manage my energy, not my time. And for me that means managing my reactions.

At some point in my 20’s, I was “managing” a group of freelance artists.

One day this older women called me and told me she couldn’t come in for the day. I was really counting on her and knew it would be a struggle to get our work done without her help. She offered no explanation except, “My family needs me today.” I blurted out. “Great. They can need you everyday. You’ll never work for us again.”

Yup. I actually said that.

I later found out that her husband, the father of their three kids, had been diagnosed with cancer. I felt so small when I heard that news. No words of apology ever felt right.

There are many stupid things I wished I had never said, but that one tops them all.

It’s a life lesson that pops up in my mind once and awhile, when I overreact or when someone overreacts in my presence.

This year one of my goals is simply to RAISE MY STANDARDS.

In how I eat, live, the work we do AND most of all how I react.

At a time when everyone is making goals and long lists of resolutions let’s do something a little different. What do you know now that you wished you known when you were in your twenties?

Come on, share what you know now. and what you wish you’d known at 22?

  • Kim Banks

    I wish I knew that so much of the stuff that I worried about at 22 would never come true. I used to agonize over every little mistake, any awkward conversation or any opportunity that didn’t come to fruition. Instead of just moving on, I feel like that anxiety held me back from growing and accepting that sometimes things just don’t work out your way (in your career and personally).

    I see this now in some junior colleagues and I try to tell them, “It’s O.K. you’re going to make mistakes – just learn from them. Don’t let it stop you from putting yourself out there.” While I value quality work, there is no one in the world who is going to hit the mark 100% of the time – the trick is finding the bright spots in anyone (coworker, friend, spouse, etc.) and trying to replicate those successes so you bring out the best in them.

    Thanks for sharing. Also, I hope you’ve forgiven yourself for your reaction many years ago.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Hi Kim. I have forgiven myself. Good point. I will say I think 20 somethings are a bit more laid back as a whole. Or maybe we are just lucky at Brain on Fire! Happy 2013! This is going to be a great year. I feel it.

  • Jeff Hora

    I wish I’d known how being centered in the moment not only allows me to focus on the important things in front of me, but allows me to live life instead of worry about it.

    • Robbin Phillips


  • Kate Thompson

    Being 22 and just now entering this place popularly called “the real world,” I found this blog post especially freeing and encouraging. Thanks for that.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Oh Kate. Promise me you will always stay as free as you are now. I like that word. You are super shiny smart by the way.

  • Jeff Ogden

    I’m glad that we all grow smarter and more patient as we age. In fact, today when confronted with that situation, I would ask “Why?” Why does your family need you?” Open questions reveal insights, like her husband’s cancer.

    Looking foward to your show, Robbin.


  • Kerry Armour

    At 22, barely out of college and just starting to work in my degree field I wish I’d known that it was OK to move away from what I went to school for. I realized most of the way to my degree that I REALLY didn’t want to go into that field. But I kept at it thinking I had to, took me 10 years to make a shift and a lot of negativity built up in my head.

  • Allison DeFord

    Three things I would tell my 22-year old self:
    1. Don’t waste time worrying — spend your time creating!
    2. You’re perfect and wonderful just the way you are.
    3. Stop pleasing and start serving.
    (oh, and find the joy in every little thing, even the baby poop under your fingernail during that very important meeting when you’re 33…it will later turn in to delicious fodder for your future blog!)

  • Evonne Benedict

    Robbin – on my 55th birthday a few months past I wrote a letter to my 25-year-old self on this exact same thing. On my list of what I would have told myself – Help more people. Help more people. Help more people.

  • Justin Cofield

    When I was 22, I thought I had my entire career/life planned out. I was going to do X for such and such time, then I was going to be doing X by 25, then be X by 30 and retire by the time I was 42. HA! While it’s good to have plans/life goals/be ambitious etc., I have learned (in the 7 years since then) that each decision we make, whether large or small, causes ripples that can be felt down the road. A decision I made to temporarily move to California when I was 23 gave me the opportunity to meet the woman who I married 6 months ago. Bottom line: in your early 20s, you don’t have to know everything, be open to opportunities, and crush anxiety. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, and it will work out for the good of your life. Let’s see how this will be built upon over the next 7 years!

  • Michael Gibbons

    Robbin wow…pretty bold and remarkable to share that…at 51 with two kids in college ….i’ve been most miserable and dispassionate in my field of choice (used lightly) I tell my kids “Do as I shoulda not as I dida” goofy but do what moves you, follow your passion young BEFORE it’s too late – much easier to make a change when you’re in college then when you have two in college… if I had, had the foresight back then I’d be working at a place like BOF!

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