Book Summary: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig

Quick Summary: In What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (2009), Tina Seelig draws on her experience as a Stanford professor, consultant, entrepreneur, and author to give solid advice on how to succeed and find effective solutions to any obstacle. She presents ideas that are the complete opposite of the traditional success lessons taught by educational systems around the world.

You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Summary

Lesson 1: Problem Solving Through Creativity

We are presented with numerous opportunities throughout our lives. There is always a problem that needs to be fixed no matter where you look. Some issues are minor and easily resolved, while others are much more serious and involve global issues.

However, you can always use available resources to come up with innovative solutions. Many people use this as a definition of entrepreneurship because an entrepreneur is someone who is constantly looking for opportunities to use creativity and turn problems into vast opportunities through very simple and limited means.

The majority of people believe their problems are unsolvable and thus dismiss creative solutions that are right in front of their eyes. They compartmentalize their problems and look for the most common solutions, rather than taking a broader view. Most people are also unaware that all problems can be viewed as opportunities to develop creative solutions.

Lesson 2: An Attitude-Based Strategy

We’re not used to accepting problems. We are constantly taught to avoid problems or to complain about them, but the truth is that we have numerous opportunities to challenge ourselves every day. We have the freedom to view the world from various perspectives, which allows us to approach our problems in new ways. The more problems we attempt to solve, the more self-assured we become. We come to see them as opportunities.

Our attitude is the most important determinant of our success. True innovators never turn away from a problem. They face them with confidence and challenge conventional wisdom. The size of the problems we can solve is limitless, and addressing a problem usually begins with identifying these problems. Frontliners, for example, face so many problems every day that they stop noticing them and are unable to devise a strategy for dealing with them.

Recommendation: Make Passive Income Online

Lesson 3: Let Go of the Rules

Every day, we are given signs of what we should do, as many instructions guide and push us to follow certain traditions and standards. We also limit ourselves by following many rules, and others encourage us to do so. We frequently define ourselves by our jobs, our homes, our cars, our income, and our social standing. We make incorrect assumptions every time we define ourselves.

In order to break free from rules and guidelines, Google cofounder Larry Page once told an audience to develop healthy relationships with difficulties. He encouraged them to think big and set big goals instead of small ones. Small goals can be accomplished in very specific and limited ways, and they frequently fail, whereas large goals can be accomplished with broader resources and in multiple ways.

One of the most difficult aspects of beginning seemingly impossible or difficult tasks is that those around you tend to discourage you, and once you set your main goal and decide to take on the challenge, it is difficult to move beyond traditional means.

It is thus beneficial to break some rules and recognize that your wildest ideas may eventually produce the most interesting results.

Lesson 4: Seize the Opportunity

Our world is divided into two types of people: those who require permission from others to do anything and those who grant themselves permission. Some people look for motivation within themselves, while others look for it from outside sources. There is always an open space to fill, and there are numerous opportunities awaiting you to seize. Creative people find novel ways to fill gaps and holes left by others who were too preoccupied with taking roads that others had chosen for them.

There are numerous opportunities available in any complex situation. Even if you don’t feel like seizing them, you can always find a way to put your skills to use with a little imagination.

Recommendation: Make Passive Income Online

Lesson 5: Fail and Try Again

Tina Seelig requires her students to create a resume of their major failures in life, whether personal, professional, or academic, and to detail what they learned from each of these blunders. They all realize that they have gained a new perspective after finishing. They have learned to accept their past mistakes by viewing their experiences through the lens of failure. Many of them keep their failure resumes up to date.

When Seelig first heard about this concept, she thought it would be very effective in demonstrating that failure is an important part of learning and development, especially when you’re pushing yourself and taking on new challenges. Experienced professionals are hired not only for their successes, but also for their failures.

Failure provides numerous opportunities to learn and ensure that you do not repeat the same error. It also demonstrates your willingness to accept challenges that will help you improve your skills. Many professionals believe that if you don’t fail at least once in a while, you’re not challenging yourself.

Lesson 6: Look Beyond Your Passions

Many people will probably tell you that in order to succeed, you must pursue your passions. It’s easy to give this advice to someone who isn’t sure what to do with their life, but it can sometimes be misleading, because passions aren’t enough.

Passions are just the starting point. You essentially need to understand your talents and how the world perceives and values them. If you are passionate about something but are not very good at it, then following your passion will be extremely frustrating. You could also be passionate about something that does not have a market.

However, if you are talented in an area with a large market, you will develop a great career by combining your talent with what the market has to offer. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up in a job for which you have no passion or skills and for which there is no market. The best-case scenario is when your interests intersect with your abilities and the market. If you find that spot, consider yourself lucky because you will have found the ideal job that will enrich your life rather than just provide you with money.

Lesson 7: Bring Luck Your Way

Lucky people are usually optimistic and have high expectations. They are self-satisfied individuals who always manage to capture positive vibes regardless of the outcome. Their perpetually positive attitude influences everyone around them, transforming negativity into positivity. A friendly, optimistic, open-minded, and observant attitude aids in the attraction of luck.

The world is full of doors that lead to endless possibilities; we just need to find the will and courage to open them. It takes a lot of effort to be aware of your surroundings. You must learn how to do it correctly, and even if you do your best, you may miss out on important information. Lucky people not only pay attention to their surroundings and become aware of their surroundings, but they also devise novel ways to combine their knowledge with their experiences. There are numerous opportunities available to everyone, but very few people know how to take advantage of them. Those who are fortunate, on the other hand, know exactly how and when to leverage their knowledge and network.

Recommendation: Make Passive Income Online

Lesson 8: Thank Others

Appreciating what others do for you influences how others perceive you. Because everything has an opportunity cost, if someone takes the time to do something for you, they must have missed out on something for themselves.

It’s easy to think that your requests are insignificant, but when the person you’re looking for has a hectic schedule, all requests are the same to them. They must stop what they are doing to attend to you. For these reasons, you should always thank the other person for doing you a favor or assisting you with something. Because few people do this, you will undoubtedly stand out from the crowd.

Remember that there are only fifty people in the world, which means that throughout your life, the same people will play many roles and will constantly appear in your life, surprising you. The person standing next to you could one day become your boss, an employee, a client, or a member of your family.

Lesson 9: Raise the Bar

Seelig always reminds her students to seize every opportunity to shine in every PowerPoint presentation she uses in class. She promises to always do her best to teach them, and she expects the same in return. She also tells them that while she doesn’t mind giving them all straight A’s, they should aim much higher. As a result, her students consistently outperform her expectations.

They enthusiastically embrace the idea of being fabulous, raising their own bar all on their own. Students appear to be waiting for this kind of motivation. They yearn for permission to give their all and shine brightly. However, in most classrooms, this is not the case, and students are content with mediocrity.

Allow yourself to challenge limitations and see the world through new eyes. Experiment, fail, try again, write your own script, and put all of your skills to the test. That is something Seelig wishes she had known when she was twenty.

To avoid failure, it is easiest to confine yourself to traditions. This is convenient and straightforward, but it can be dangerously limiting. Each of us must decide how to see the world in a unique way.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Review

Tina Seelig’s insights are inspirational and motivational. She uses real-life examples from her classes and students, and she draws inspiration from professionals such as Perry Klebahn, Bernie Roth, and Richard Wiseman. Her motivational advice is also based on research from various sources and videos, which she details in a notes section at the end of her work.

In short, what I learned most from the book is to seize every opportunity to make yourself fabulous. Now it’s your turn to read this book to make sure you do not miss a chance to find your place in the world.

About The Author

Tina Seelig is a businesswoman and author from the United States. She is a Stanford University professor and was previously the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, or STVP, which aims to give engineers and scientists a closer look at entrepreneurship and equip them with the tools to become entrepreneurs in any situation they face.

Seelig frequently promotes the idea that personal attitude determines luck and success without taking into account socioeconomic differences or outside factors, which can be unrealistic at times.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Quotes

“There’s a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. We often say we’re trying to do something-losing weight, getting more exercise, finding a job. But the truth is, we’re either doing it or not doing it.”


“[I]t’s important to know whether you’re putting energy into something that has the potential to pay off. This is one of life’s biggest challenges. We often stay in dead-end situations way too long…hoping the situation will improve.”


“First, opportunites are abundant. At any place and time you can look around and identify problems that need solving….regardless of the size of the problem, there are ususally creative ways to use the resources already at your disposal.”


“T-shaped people ” those with a depth of knowledge in at least one discipline and a breadth of knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship that allows them to work effectively with professionals on other disciplines to bring their ideas to life.”


“Even though it is always difficult to abandon a project, it is much easier in the early stages of a venture, before there is an enormous escalation of committed time and energy.”


“[I]f you have talent in an area and there’s a big market for your skills, then that is a great area to find a job.”

View our larger collection of the best What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 quotes. 

Further Reading

If you like reading the book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, you might also like reading the following book summaries:

Related Lists

Or, browse all book summaries.

How To Get Rich By Reading and Writing?

You must be an avid reader who is hungry for knowledge if you are reading this book summary. Have you thought about making money using your reading and writing skills?

Thanks to the Internet, the world has undergone a massive change in recent years. Blogging has now become the best way to make money online.

Since no tech experience is required, as long as you’re good at writing, you can easily start a blog that generates cash flow for you while you sleep. 

Warren Buffet said, “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”

Instead of looking for a 9-5 job and staying in your comfort zone, it’s better if you become your own boss as soon as possible.

Find out how to build a blog and become a wealthy blogger today!

Recommendation: Make Passive Income Online

Leave a Comment