A letter to my 18 year old self, by Damien Sinclair of Festo Didactics

At age 18, I was living at home, working part time and going out with a girl who would become my lifelong partner.  I’d just started my first year in an Engineering degree, because that’s what I thought I wanted to do. My map of my future didn’t stretch much past the next 12 months.

To this point, I hadn’t travelled much, but that was fine. I hung around with my girlfriend and best mate on the weekends, went to parties, worked on our cars, went camping and led the life of an 18 year old. Life was mostly simple.

In the coming years, much was to change.

My career path diverted from where I thought I was going, changing from Electrical to a Civil engineering focus after my first year of Uni, a decision that still baffles me a little.

I married the love on my life, bought a house (at around the same time). Finished my Engineering degree part time while working full time in a job I loved, two actually.

A change in circumstances was followed by my first major career change, and one that has led me along my current path.

I now have a grown family, have travelled the world, progressed to be a manager in a company I’m passionate about and have made time for my family, hobbies, sport and work.

30 years on, there is so much I wouldn’t change and a few things I would.  I don’t have all the answers now, any more than I did at 18, but certainly much more experience and different perspective.

So here we go, some advice to a younger me.

First and foremost, don’t stress the small stuff. I know that every decision at 18 seems like it will affect the rest of your life, for better or worse.

At 18, and without the benefit of some life experience, there are many moments. Yes, some of them will be defining, but regardless of the outcome, learn, grow and move on. Don’t stew on the negatives. Embrace the positives.

Have a good work ethic and work hard. This will take you a long way and will give you some great opportunities in the future, both in your career and life in general.

Find something that you enjoy and if you don’t find it, make a change. This can be a scary proposition, but the rewards are worth it.

Take time for yourself and those around you. Think about how much you commit to and make sure you can manage what you do commit to.

Learn to manage your time effectively, and put some plans in place, long and short term.
I don’t mean that you should plan everything by any stretch, but make sure the important things are considered.

When opportunities arise – take advantage.  Don’t be afraid. Regardless of how daunting they may seem at the time, each opportunity, in both life and work, will help you to grow and learn.

Know the rewards and the pitfalls. Do some research.

Challenge yourself every day. Don’t become complacent and content to stay on the easy and familiar path. Take opportunities and if they don’t appear, make opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to speak with new people. Start up conversation. You may be surprised by where they lead. The art of conversation is a dying one. The connections you make today may have some astounding part to play in your future.

Learn to speak confidently and effectively in all areas of life. Speak to a crowd as easily as a friend. Believe in what you are saying and be educated, and the words will come naturally.

Learn about money and finances. Some good basic knowledge will get you a long way. Invest in your future and in yourself.

Good friends are important. Make friends and make time for them. Good friends will always be there.

Family is more important. Kids grow up quickly. Take the time to be in their lives as much as you can. These times are precious and continue to be.

Passion in what you do is important. In work, sport, hobbies and life.

You can never have too many hobbies. (Just need a bigger shed)

Damien Sinclair is the Australian and New Zealand Manager of Festo Didactics, a global leader in basic and further training in industry. As a provider of skills development for manufacturing and process automation, their services range from educational equipment for training facilities to training and advice for industrial production companies.