As an Entrepreneur What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

01/24/2017 02:47 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2018

What are some huge life lessons you've learned that you would want to tell your younger self? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Jordan Ritter, CEO of Atlas Informatics, formerly of Napster and Cloudmark, on Quora.

1. Spend deliberate, intentional time thinking about what you value most, what's truly important to you. It's an incredibly hard thing to do, to face your own truth, figure out what things you like, recognize things you don't like, risk discovering unexpected things about yourself. But, that's what it is to learn to live with, and ultimately love yourself, and through that, learn truly to appreciate and love other people for who they really are - fantastically diverse, amazing and deeply flawed human beings. The answers you arrive at are going to change throughout your life, so it's really important to engage yourself regularly in this internal dialogue, too. But if you can begin to quantify what's truly most important to you, and make your peace with it, you can understand yourself and see better how decisions you make serve or work against you in ways you never realized, and then optimize towards things that make you happy and therefore keep you at your best.

2. Building empathy for myself has been the No. 1 most powerful tool for discovering those new sources of happiness. Life constantly presents me with opportunities to explore and grow in surprising and serendipitous ways. And once you get good at doing it with yourself, only then can you truly do it well with others.

3. Be a lifelong opportunist, always be yessing - but only in accordance with your values, otherwise you're going to find yourself in some very unhappy places quickly. So many things I've achieved in my life were simply answering knocks at my door. Of course, you need to get good at listening for the knocks.

4. Hack your perspective around what failure means, to yourself and for others. One of our mantras at Atlas Informatics is that every failure is an opportunity to learn. From a neuroscience standpoint, being right and succeeding doesn't actually build that many new neural pathways. However, attempting success, yet meeting with failure, that's where learning truly happens. You can't be a better person if you don't try, or if you never fail.

5. Be a Kind person, be an Honest person, and be a Loving person. For those of you reading this, these are the last words my father wrote to me just before he died when I was 17. He was trying to impart important wisdom on me, which I didn't get at first, simply because I was too young. Later in life I came to understand how profound the message really was.

Expectations are a difficult and complicated thing to live up to, and we often move through life with preconceptions of what they are, in my case from my father. We end up spending most of our lives living up to the wrong things. What his letter did for me was clarify, in a profound way, that expectations are actually two things: hopes and expectations. Later in life, his words helped me define what kind of person I needed to be, and released me from all these other hopes and constraints I had incorrectly placed upon myself. It freed me to become something greater, and I believe that was the gift he was trying to give.

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