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What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World Hardcover – April 14, 2009

140 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Seelig, executive director of the entrepreneurship center at Stanford's School of Engineering, presents a thoughtful, concise set of observations for those making the unsteady transition to adulthood. While the majority of her advice is intended for would-be entrepreneurs, her accessible lessons should come in handy for those in any field, as well as those still trying to decide on a field. Culled from her personal experience as an entrepreneur and teacher, as well as the stories of entrepreneurs and students she knows, Seelig avoids (and at times dissects) cliché and provides informative discussion throughout, despite a narrower focus than readers might expect. A chapter on acknowledging, learning from, and even seeking out failure ("Fail fast and frequently") provides valuable advice and comfort for the fearful, including Seelig's own "failure resumé" (broken into professional, academic and personal failures). The chapter titled "Don't listen to career advice" helps readers avoid the pitfalls of oft-heard, wrong-headed maxims like "follow your passions" and "stick to the plan." Readers will either be relieved or frustrated that Seelig doesn't provide any numbered steps, bullet-pointed recaps or self-assessment quizzes, but she makes the most of her knowledge and authority with a friendly, efficient voice.
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“Tina Seelig is one of the most creative and inspiring teachers at Stanford. Her book ought to be required reading. I wish I had read it when I was 20... and again at 50.” (Robert Sutton, Stanford University Professor and author The No-Asshole Rule)

“Anybody who wants to live an entrepreneurial life filled with purpose and passion needs to read this book. It’s chockfull of practical tools and tips to bring out the best in each of us.” (Steve Case, Chairman of Revolution and The Case Foundation, and co-founder of AOL)

“Forget 20--This is the kind of stuff I wish I knew now... Tina is doing us all a big favor by giving us a roadmap to life!” (Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop and author of Reality Check)

“Tina is the most inspirational creativity voice I know. Her book is much better than a whack on the side of your head. It’s a whack on the side of your soul!” (Geoffrey Moore, Author, Crossing the Chasm, Dealing with Darwin)

“Few people have done as much to champion innovative thinking as Tina Seelig. The principles in her book will surely spark new ideas. It is a must-read for the next generation of entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans alike.” (David Kelley, Founder IDEO)

“Wise, witty and packed with stories of those who are making a difference and some who are making a fortune...The only trouble is that you will need two dozen copies to give to everyone.” (Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up)

“This is a great guide to moving in more exciting, creative, and fulfilling directions, written by a person who is an expert at doing so. But if Tina Seelig had known any more when she was 20, the world probably could not now contain her. “ (Jim Adams, Author, Conceptual Blockbusting)

“Seelig is a sharp observer and a gentle and thoughtful writer. Recollections of her own circuitous career path, along with observations of behavior of friends, family, students and colleagues are fertile ground for her. (Miami Herald)

“True, it’s written by a woman (a Stanford University professor, no less), but this ‘crash course in making your way in the world’ is full of realistic tips that help put things into perspective.” (Sacramento Bee)

“It’s almost impossible to read the first line of Tina Seelig’s book and not grab pen and paper to jot down a river of pent-up ideas and possibilities . . . A galvanizing document, [it] gives us -- more than anything else -- permission to develop our dreams.” (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061735191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735196
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Jai Won Rhi on April 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Reorient your brain and body to creativity and innovation!
This book will make you want to become an innovator so bad.

I'm a 20-year-old Stanford sophomore who learned what Tina wished she had known when she was 20.

As a freshman, I took her class "Creativity & Innovation," mainly offered for graduate students. When, on the first day, Tina said "Creativity can be learned," I was skeptical. I simply thought her class would be no different from typical college classes with competitive individuals, problem sets, and grade curves.

The class was given the first assignment to come up with the best and the worst business ideas. My teammates and I were enthusiastic about developing fantastic ideas and scribbled total nonsense for the bad ideas when the time was running out.

I was baffled, however, when Tina ripped up all sheets of paper with the good ideas and gave us the bad idea submitted by another team. The idea was "selling used hypodermic needles." We laughed out loud at how terrible it was until three seconds later when we all turned silent and questioned, "Wait, is this really the worst idea?" We ended up coming up with a really clever plan that involved selling used needles to doctors who need small tissue and blood samples for their experiments. We even felt as if we could start selling used needles right away! Besides learning that it is always worthwhile to question our assumptions, my classmates and I were no longer competitors but awesome business partners!

Tina taught us that there are no bad ideas and how to redefine problems in different ways. In following assignments we got to redesign the cover for a large national magazine (and they even used our idea!
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ghost(Ghost(M)) on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
- Watery book, especially the first seven chapters.

- Signal-to-noise ratio low.

- Good pointers in chapter 8, though somewhat loosely written, unclear.

- The remaining two chapters of the book not w/o substance but very diluted with verbiage.

- Many touching PC examples of amazing do-gooderism, suitably "diversified" and multi-culti. Feels legendary, fairy-tale-like (e.g., graduating w/ a PhD from Yale, dropping everything, buying one-way ticket to Afghanistan (yep), decamping there with no specific plans or anyone waiting for you, all of it with the goal to help poor Afghan people. Well... in reality that would end up with being blown up on IED and having one's head cut off by local mujahideen there, preceded by a gang rape in case of a female. But hey, that's an advice book, right? So, OK, another do-gooder s'en va-t-en guerre, or at least such is the tale -- fine, PC content requirement satisfied; moving on. Btw, this brings to mind Emerson's "thy love abroad is spite at home" -- why not save on plane tickets and commit all do-gooderisms in your favourite friendly neighborhood trailer park located but a stone throw away from your posh and tony gated community of care-filled do-gooders so concerned about "disenfranchised" and so excellently "progressive"? S'pose doesn't sound as majical and good overall. Maybe something else. Who knows. Annoying histrionics and probably not true.

- Written OK, though obviously with the goal in mind of fattening an article into a book.

- Many references to BS "advice" books by dudes like Randy Commissaire or this lifelong Californian hack with an over-inflated Apple past whose name I forget (kinda like motorcycle).
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jill Daniel on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How many times have we heard the expression, "Follow your Bliss" (at least you hear it alot in LA where I live!!) but where is the practicality in that, especially in today's economy?? I thoroughly enjoyed Tina Seelig's wisdom and realistic inspiration throughout "What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20" but especially on this topic. Tina says, "It'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's always a mammoth challenge to separate your desire to make something work from the reality of the probability that it will work." I have seen that with many career twists and turns before I found the job that utilizes my skills best and is something the world wants and will pay nicely for. Tina's book helps you to look at what isn't working in your career and turn it around to your benefit.
I enjoyed Tina's viewpoint about being practical with risk-taking too while not letting risk restrain your potential.
She says that if you are going to take the high-risk/high reward road, only do so if you're willing to live with all the potential consequences. You should fully prepare for the downside and have a backup plan in place. Tina writes, "Experts in risk management believe you should make decisions based upon the probability of all outcomes.including the best and worst-case scenarios, and be willing to take big risks when you are fully prepared for all eventualities."
If you want a roadmap to a great career looking at the big picture vision without losing sight of necessary practical details and passion along the way, I highly recommend Tina's book.
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