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Older Men Are Revealing The Advice They Wish They Listened To When They Were Younger

It's quite normal to ignore advice from older people when we're young. Yet it's also normal to have regrets about not following past guidance. So I asked older men, specifically from the BuzzFeed Community, "What is the one piece of advice you wish you listened to when you were a younger man?" and a lot of answers were honest and thoughtful. Here's what they had to say below:

1."When I started working, my dad said, 'Every paycheck, set aside $50 in a separate account.' Through a combination of not having a lot of money and wanting to enjoy myself, I didn't. By the time I turned 30, I was almost $40,000 in debt through a combination of student loans and credit cards. Now, in my late 40s with a dog, a cat, and two young teenagers, my wife and I still have about $20,000 in credit card debt. If we hadn't fallen into a *very* lucky housing situation, I don't know how we'd survive. That $50 every two weeks, compounded over the last 25 years, would've been a reversal of fortune for me."

Man at desk reviewing papers, with a lamp and computer, in a home office setting

—Anonymous, 48, California

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2."Don’t worry about being cool. Hang out with people who have something going for them. Some direction, [whether it's] a purpose, goal, volunteerism., drive, fitness — it rubs off. I realized this a little late when I had made many poor decisions. But I challenged myself to hang out with those I admired and wanted to be like. It was a turning point."

—Mark, 55, Canada

3."When a relationship is beginning to blossom, pay super close attention to the parents of that person, particularly their qualities — good and bad. Your prospective partner will have absorbed the good qualities but also will have to have dealt with the bad ones or you'll be the one dealing with them. Insecurities, trust issues, addictions, or other forms of abuse — and lack of empathy for others and animals."

Two people smiling and embracing for a photo in a room with floral wallpaper
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4."Don’t let anyone else tell you what 'being a man' means. You’ll figure out how to be your own man. Everyone’s definition of a 'real man' is different and personal."

Moist And Savory Daisy

5."My mother advised me in my teens to read books that girls read, as they really do think differently. I thought that was ridiculous. I ignored her advice. With hindsight, it would have served me much better than all that science fiction I read."

Man in casual shirt sitting on a couch, reading a book with interest
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6."When I was training to be a pilot, my instructor told me to always keep my mind 10 miles ahead of my aircraft. This is great advice for flying and for life."

—Andy, 55, France

7."Find good positive male role models. Don't learn about 'manliness' from someone on TV or what kids at school say is manly. Find actual well-adjusted adults who are worthy of emulation."

Two men practicing ballet with one man instructing the other, both focused and arms extended
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8."Talk to that woman, and take the rejection, move on, but don’t be afraid if she says yes."

—Anonymous, 57, Maryland

9."Thank your parents for the cool things they did for and with you. Let them know you appreciate what they did. Even if you don't fully appreciate it now, when you're older and look back and truly do appreciate those things, it may be too late to say anything because they're gone. Also, get ready to realize they were actually right most of the time. I find myself thinking, 'Damn, they were totally right...'"

Two men embracing in a comforting hug, with others in the background
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10."I would tell my younger self that yes, you're a guy, you aren't broken or weird or anything else you're going to call yourself over the years. You're someone without the vocabulary to explain: 'I'm not a girl!' and you'll get there someday. Just keep going, and I promise you, the shit you went through is gonna be worth it someday."

—Elliot, 40, Pennsylvania

11."I wish I knew, or someone had been more clear at the time, that life can be so much more than just Friday and Saturday night parties or going out to bars or pool halls. Small-town life was fun but there’s so much world out there to see that I missed out on for years because I thought I would never be able to get out of town. It took failing for years after high school for me to finally be willing to try a life in the military before finding out how small my little world was. Knowing how much more life could have been if I had started earlier makes me sad for the lonely, broke kid I was; if I had only listened closer to mentors and less to my small-minded friends, I could be so much farther along than I am now."

Three friends taking a close-up selfie, smiling and making faces

—Anonymous, 43, Virginia

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12."This probably would apply to anyone, not just men, but: care less. Care less about what other people think. Care less about the things that stress you out to the point they make you sick or lose sleep. We often care too much about things that don't matter or seem like big deals at the time. Then, in hindsight, we go, 'Why did I let something like that make me feel so bad?' It isn't to say there aren't things we should care about, but it is important to step back and view things with perspective."

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13."When I was in my late teens, my grandpa, who was super old at the time, like 50, told me to take it easy on my body, or I’d regret it when I was older. I was young and bulletproof, so continued to be reckless with my body. My now 60-year-old neck and knees wish I had heeded his advice!"

Man sitting on a couch with hands clasped, showing an expression of discomfort or pain
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14."Don’t snark. Build people up instead of trying to make a quip at their expense. One of my biggest regrets is that, as a shy and socially awkward youth, I often defaulted to making fun of others as a way to project my own insecurities. I finally figured it out, but it’s lonely when you have the double whammy of being the quiet, anti-social kid on top of driving people away by lashing out or making stupid jokes. My self-confidence as an adult is much better because I learned to be happy for others and how to genuinely express it."

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15."Reflecting on my past, [I'd say] rushing into life’s milestones — marrying at 21, having four kids by 32, and then divorcing at 34 — was a path fraught with challenges. Now, at 51, I see the value in the advice I once ignored: caution against hurrying through life. This journey taught me the importance of patience and careful consideration, especially for young people contemplating marriage and family. Early commitments introduced complexities and financial strains that lasted for years. My advice now is straightforward: don’t rush. Life’s significant decisions need thoughtful deliberation, as time is precious and should be used wisely for personal growth and preparedness."

Child sitting on a chair outdoors enjoying an ice cream cone
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16."Be patient with your parents. Mine were always good people, but I expected perfection and held their mistakes against them for years. I rebelled, left, and they let me find my path. It took raising my own kids to realize, 'Oh yeah, they were simply as dumb as I am now.' Thankfully, we found forgiveness, and we grew close again before they passed. Now, my kids are older, and they’re frustrated by my own incompetence and imperfection. They’ll figure it out. Or not. They’ll find their own path too."

Eric Lipton

If you identify as a man, please share let us know in the comments below what advice you wish you listened to when you were younger.