This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Jash Dholani. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

12 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was A Teenager

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  • Cold emails will do more for your career than anything else.

A cold email is an email sent to someone you don’t know with a professional aim in mind. A cold email is not always an email. LinkedIn requests, Twitter DMs and Instagram DMs can broadly be put under cold emails too.

Writing cold emails is how I got published in Newslaundry and DailyO. Writing cold emails is how I first got paid for reviewing books. My college roommate has done remote internships that paid him more than most jobs. How? He developed a niche — cryptocurrency security — and sent out cold emails. Hundreds of them. He reached out to startup founders, professors and others in his domain “relentlessly”Most of them ignored him. Some of them wrote back. Even a 1/100 strike rate is good enough.

The act of writing cold email forces you to define who you are, what you want and where you are going. No amount of lectures, career counselling seminars or assignments will give you the clarity that your first 10 cold emails will.

So, write cold emails. The sooner you do it the faster you will grow. Reach out to people you admire, people you want to work for, people you want to be like. Offer to write for them, intern with them, help them grow their business or research with them. Writing cold emails is how driven people make their luck.

  • People hire their friends. So be friendly.

No one can care about you, help you, mentor you, hire you or promote you if they don’t know you. Be friendly. Go to new places and strike up conversations. Keep in touch with those you find impressive. If you’re invisible, opportunities can’t find you. Become visible.

  • Don’t talk about your plans. Show your portfolio.

If you’re a graphic designer, build an Instagram page. If you’re a writer, build a Substack newsletter. If you want to be a filmmaker, make one and upload it on Youtube. It’ll be bad. But the 10th one will be good (most people don’t last to their 10th anything).

Plans are basically dreams spoken out loud. Everyone has them. Few do something about them. You can’t differentiate yourself by talking about your plans. But you can differentiate yourself by showing your portfolio. So build one. You have all the tools you need — and most of them cost nothing.

  • People are attracted to people with clear minds and concise speech. So learn to think clearly, and use fewer words to make your point.

You will become a clear thinker by reading clear writers. So read Nietzsche. If Nietzsche is too heavy, read Will Durant. If Will Durant is too heavy, read Naval’s tweets. Using more words than necessary is disrespectful of people’s time. Cut to the chase. Talk in full sentences. Don’t ramble.

  • Diet matters.

If you don’t eat right you will not have enough energy. I recently shifted to a protein and fat heavy lunch. Now I don’t feel the afternoon slump in energy. Here’s what I eat: 4 eggs, 100 gms of paneer and some veggies. It won’t work for everyone. Figure out what diet makes you energetic. The sooner you start experimenting, the sooner you will discover what’s right for you.

  • Buzzwords are your worst enemy.

Buzzwords serve a very transparent goal: to hide your confusion. I get it — at your age, you are confused about a lot of things. I’m confused about a lot of things as well. But buzzwords are a coward’s way out. Buzzwords are vague — they can mean anything. Buzzwords are solid on the outside and pure gas from within. Buzzwords are fake answers to difficult questions. Using buzzwords will help you get out of uncomfortable situations temporarily at the cost of permanently destroying your ability to find the truth.

Embrace your confusion. Embrace your ignorance — Google stupid questions. If you don’t get something in class, raise your hand and ask the professor to repeat what everyone else pretends to get. Remember: you never need jargon to explain something you truly understand.

  • Meaningful goals protect you from depression, drug habits and shitty people.

There is an arrow inside you that is only happy when it’s rushing at a target. Without goals, why not drink every night, whine about life with others as clueless as you and feel horrible about yourself in moments of honest self-reflection? Set goals that genuinely excite you. The goals can be physical, professional or whatever you want them to be. Just remember — they have to set your pulse racing.

  • Without heroes to look up to, you will be lost.

Admiration is an essential emotion. Without people to admire, you will never become your best self. We build statues and write biographies of heroic men and women. We do that because we do not want to forget these people. And we don’t want to forget them because they remind us of what we are capable of.

Here are some of my heroes: Jordan Peterson for the way he combines psychology, philosophy, political science and theology to tell a unified story of what it is to be human; Robert Silverberg for his extraordinary writing talent; Joe Rogan for reaching excellence at so many different crafts.

Who are your heroes?

  • Stupid people think of the next step of the journey. Smart people think of the destination.

Don’t just think of where you want to go to college. Don’t just think about what you want to major in. Don’t just think of where you want to go for your masters’ program. Instead, think: where do I want to end up when I’m 30? When I’m 40?

Do I see myself working for someone? Do I see myself working for myself? What am I doing today that is taking me closer to my ultimate destination? The pit-stops only matter if you know where your finish line is. But the world encourages you to obsess over the pit-stops and put off thinking about the finish line till as late as you can. But there’s no need to make a mistake just because everyone else is making them.

  • Understand — and embrace — the relationship between risk and reward.

What do UFC fighters, F1 drivers and film stars have in common? Two things. They typically earn a lot of money and they typically take on a lot of risks. People have died fighting in cages and racing cars. What about film stars, you ask? They risk personal humiliation each time the camera turns to them. Their failure is public — out there for everyone to mock. 

The failure of the lighting department, on the other hand, leads to a bad movie experience but doesn’t lead to personal humiliation for anyone. When was the last time you googled to find the culprit of a badly-lit movie and then tweeted to thrash them? If you want more money or fame than the average person, you’ll need to take more risks than the average person.

  • Exercise and sports are non-negotiable.

Exercise will teach you that when you want to give up you can always go a little further. Sports will bring you to the present moment like nothing else will. The more you push your physical limits the more you will bring that mindset to the rest of your life.

  • Spend more time understanding yourself and less time pleasing yourself.

You are a mystery to yourself. Why do you desire the things you do? Why do you avoid what you do? You don’t know. Here’s how you can start. Reflect on your behaviours that you don’t quite understand. Think of yourself as an animal whose body and mind have been shaped by millions of years of evolutionary forces — because that is who you are. Read Genome by Matt Ridley. Think of yourself as a social being who’s constantly influenced by his peers, family, friends and strangers — because that is who you are, too. Read Games People Play by Eric Berne.

The more you understand yourself, the more you can live with confidence. Don’t waste time pleasing yourself. Pleasure wafts away like the smell of a dying flower. Find something more solid to cling to.

If you liked this article, you would love my IG page: @dictionaryofideas.

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  1. Simranjot Kaur

    wow!! such a good article to read and learn.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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