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Things I wish I knew as a Teenager

If you are in your teenage years, this is for you! These are 4 concepts that were not taught in school, but extremely important to pick up.

1. Comparison is a thief of joy

We all have that one friend who would come crying to us for getting a low ‘A’ or an almost perfect paper. I admit, I hated them. I find it difficult as a teen to not label them as being insensitive as I struggled to accept my even worse grade and having the need to comfort them. However, when the roles reversed and friends who scored lower came to me for comfort, I was better able to empathise with them and at the same time, feel undeniably better about myself. Such scenarios occur because we are prone to comparing ourselves to others and weighing our worth against our score percentile. This, however, can take away learning pleasures and create a toxic environment for learning. As I grew older, I also realised that everyone has different sets of expectations and having a higher grade does not always imply a higher satisfaction for everyone. Hence, the advice I would have given to my younger self will be to just focus on my own goals and to recognise that everyone has different personal benchmarks in life.

2. Don’t be afraid to explore

If I could name a regret I have in my early schooling years, it would be being too restricted with myself and being afraid to explore new things. Part of the reason is that I came from a strict family and many things require approval from them. As a result, I habitually shunt away from different opportunities. Instead of fully heeding my parents’ advice, I should have more conversations with them to understand their stance and also try to explain my rationale in wanting to explore new activities because they were not unreasonable people too! I believe school is a safe place to grow and learn and discover your strengths and weaknesses. Hence, seize all opportunities in front of you and fully enjoy every experience! Besides, there are always lower opportunity costs for trying out at a younger age!

3. Personal Finance

Throughout my academic year, I first studied how many oranges remained when John took 5 from Mary and proceeded to solve for x in all the algebraic expressions. I even went further by interpreting complex numbers which essentially meant non-real or fake numbers. Despite the great academic achievement, I was not taught how to handle my finances such as how to budget, what insurance is, or how to file a tax. Later in my Uni years, I then discovered that the concept of budgeting is very useful and can actually be really straightforward! This allows us to plan out our finances, ensuring that we are spending within our budget and also working towards our financial goals. One concept many abide by is the money jar technique where they allocate money into different jars or accounts for different purposes. To start small, you can have 3 different jars for ‘Spend’, ‘Save’ and ‘Share’. The ‘Spend’ jar contains money used for daily expenses, the ‘Save’ jar contains money to be saved up for a longer-term goal such as for the latest pairs of sneakers and the ‘Share’ jar contains money to be donated to charities of your choice! Having this knowledge as a teen can allow you to develop good saving and spending habits from a young age and reduce the struggles you may face when you transit into adulthood. Give this method a try and see if you can have better control over your finances.

4. 80/20 Rule

This is also known as the Pareto Principle, which claims that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input, implying that 20% of what we study is responsible for the majority of our results. With multiple subjects to juggle within a limited time, we aim to identify the 20% core concepts, before drilling and mugging extensively for them. A quick way to sieve out the important topics is to use the time spent on teaching as a gauge. The longer the time the tutor spent on explaining the concept, the more important it is. However, this does not imply that we should concentrate entirely on the 20% and ignore the remaining concepts. Having known this principle merely provides you with the guideline to work smarter and study more efficiently!

Last but not least, as cliché as it may sound, time flies! Savour the last few years of being able to spend 8 hours every day with a group of friends, all with the common aim of completing school! Teenage years can be a challenging transition period in which you are treated like a child with limited autonomy but also expected to mature and grow up quickly. Nonetheless, that is the beauty of this phase and I believe you can embrace the wind and sail through any storms!


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