Teach Them Young (Things I Wish I'd Learned as a Teen)

Episode 36

About the Episode

There are TOO many things that we didn’t learn as young people that we should have. Maybe the adults around us thought we were too young, or maybe the grown-ups in our lives didn’t have the time because they were also blindsided by what they did not know.

Regardless, as adults, we’ve realized the mistakes we have made and how much we didn’t know and want the kids we love to know better and do better.


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In this episode, Luvvie discusses the things she wishes she’d known as a teenager, and how these lessons led her to adapt her second New York Times bestselling book into Rising Troublemaker: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens. She shares how you can help give these valuable cheat codes to the teens in your life and how to help get this book in the hands of 5000 young adults.

My mistakes don’t define me.

I am so much more than some of the worst decisions I have made.

—Luvvie Ajayi Jones

About the Guest

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is a three-time New York Times bestselling author, speaker and podcast host who thrives at the intersection of humor, media, and justice. Her critically acclaimed books Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual (2021) and I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual (2016) were instant bestsellers and established her as a literary force with a powerful pen.  Her newest book and first book for young adults Rising Troublemaker: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens (released May 17, 2022) debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Wisdom from the show


Creating a life that is authentic, bold and purposeful takes audacity. It takes disruption. That is what it means to be a professional troublemaker. Professional troublemaker is a book. It’s a podcast, and it’s a life habit.

I’m your host, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, best seller of books, aficionado of authenticity, and sorceress of side-eyes here to bring you conversations with world movers and change agents who have gotten where they are through their tenacity, truth telling and commitment to making good trouble. They’re disruptors. From time to time, I will even do deep dives on topics that are on my spirit. My hope is that this show compels you to do big things in a world where we have so much to fear. Let us loan you courage. Listen in.

Be too much. Use your voice. Save your money. Don’t sign up for that credit card. Stand up tall, even when you fall. You will fail, and that’s okay. Learn and grow from it. You are not your worst mistakes. You deserve goodness. In all things.

These are some things I wish I would have heard growing up. Hell, these are all things that hearing them now, still hit me. They are still relevant.

But imagine if I heard this 20 years ago. If WE had heard these before we left the confines of home.

There are so many things that I wish I could tell my younger self. So many things that I wish I knew that would have made this journey of life less confusing and chaotic. So many things that if I had affirmed to me growing up, would have created ease of mind.

As teenagers, while we were learning about isosceles triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem, folks weren’t being fully honest with us. We were being taught how to be amazing test takers, but nobody was telling us not to sign up for that credit card in college and ruin our credit for two decades. Folks never told me that when I start working, I am supposed to negotiate my salaries. Nobody told us that to be well-functioning human beings, our job was NOT to people-please our way into bent backs.
There are TOO many things that we didn’t learn as young people that we should have. We were too busy wishing we were grown, not knowing that being an adult is a whole scam. Maybe adults thought we were too young, or maybe the grown ups in our lives didn’t have the time because they were also blindsided by what they did not know.
Whatever the reason is. We got grown and realized how many mistakes we’ve made, and how much we didn’t and don’t know.

All of this is what I’ve put in my book RISING TROUBLEMAKER: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens. Which is out in the world on May 17, 2022. But available to preorder right now!

I started thinking about my nieces and nephews and godkids. Thinking about all the young people I know and love. And thinking about the things I was being taught at their age. And the things I wasn’t being taught.

I’ll be dambed if the young people I know and love go into this world knowing about the mitochondria and whatever it does to the cells, but they don’t know how to ask for more, how to dream audaciously, how to build a squad, how to show up better for themselves and for the people around them.

I like to create the work that I wish I had. I like to create what would help ME. That’s why I adapted my 2nd book (and 2nd New York Times bestseller) Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual into RISING TROUBLEMAKER.

Teens today deserve to know what we didn’t get a chance to. I want to loan them the courage that the world tried to insult out of us adults at their age. In the book, I put the cheat codes and lessons I wish I learned as a teen, and some that I am still learning continuously.

Let’s talk about 5 of those lessons.

One. I wish I had known I didn’t have to be ashamed of what made me different. And that one day, I’d look back on that time and go, “I’m glad you weren’t like everyone else.”

Being hard to forget really comes in handy as an adult. What makes you different is your superpower. So, go ahead and be too much. Because no matter what you do, or how hard you try, someone somewhere will still think you’re still TOO something. You might as well give them a real reason to think so. Be the youest you that you ever youed. You will always be TOO something to someone.

Too loud. Too quiet. Too aggressive. Too sensitive. Too short. Or too tall. Too thin. Too Black.

When people say we are TOO something, they aren’t just noticing something about us. They are requesting we change that thing about us. That we become smaller or less. Then, we in turn, feel self-conscious and fix that thing.

Being accused of TOO MUCHness is to be told to take up less space. Being TOO MUCH is to be excessive. How do you combat that? By being less than you are. And that concept feels like nothing other than self-betrayal. The opposite of too much is too little. I’d rather be too big than too small any day. BE TOO MUCH.

Two. That popularity in high school does not affect how happy your life ends up being as a grown up. In fact, there are lots of people we knew to be popular in high school and then Facebook informs us that was their peak. Which is so unfortunate.

Not fitting in comes in so handy because the only way you go from there is UP. Hold on to that for the days when you’re feeling especially down. You will find your amazing tribe some day.

Lesson three – my mistakes don’t define me. I am so much more than some of the worst decisions I have made. It’s important to give myself grace not only for the mistakes of the past, but for the future ones that I am bound to make. Everything is temporary. Even your toughest times.

Failing is not the point. Your lessons and how you move forward are. Failure is painful, it is usually unexpected and it can knock us on our asses, but it’s necessary and essential for us to live with impact.
Lesson four – adulting is a scam. Here’s the real truth. The grownups in your life don’t have it all figured out. They’re trying to get it together in the best ways they know how and they’ve fallen on their faces many times. You just didn’t know it.

So it’s okay to feel lost and uncertain and feel shaky at times. Even your parents, teachers, mentors; they go through the same thing at their big age. Adults do not have all the answers, so don’t expect you will.

Five – I wish I’d learned to ask for more money, and manage money earlier. Because in your hands, the money will not only serve you but serve the world. In the hands of a disruptor for good, an abundance of money becomes a form of economic justice, put to work for all our betterment. (And credit cards are not free money, so make sure you learn that as soon as possible too!)

THE KIDS NEED THIS BOOK, Y’ALL. These brilliant current and future trailblazers and disruptors need to hear all of this. I wanna be Auntie Luvvie who loans them courage to be these dope growing humans, who take up space without apology. THAT is what Rising Troublemaker will do.

If this is something you struggle with as a parent, and have struggled to infuse in your kids, this book can help you work through it together.
I wrote this book for me when I was 17. Many of us did not get that we can always draw lines and we deserve for them to be honored. This is the book I’m gonna give my niece who is about to graduate high school, to better prepare her for this world.

This book talks to them without talking down to them. I’m bringing FULL auntie energy, old slangs and all. I want this book to be their verbal mentor, and I’m excited for teenagers everywhere to get their hands on it.


BUY COPIES for the young adults in your life, your organization, library, school and students

Parents, administrators, troop leaders, librarians. RISING TROUBLEMAKER: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens is available in HARDCOVER, eBOOKS, and AUDIOBOOK. Of course I narrated the audiobook! Grab it wherever books are sold starting now! It will be in your hands and in your ears May 17, 2022. It’s the perfect graduation gift this Spring; the perfect “I want you to win” gift! Go to RISINGTROUBLEMAKER.com and get a copy or 2!

SHARE with your networks and on social media

SPONSOR BOOKS for educators and classrooms

We want to get RISING TROUBLEMAKER in the hands of 5,000 young adults! We believe that deeply in the value of the information in this book.


Commit to buying the book in bulk from an independent or small bookstore.
Email us at books@aweluv.com with amount you’d like to buy (25, 50, 100, 250, 500… it’s up to you), and we’ll connect you with a great bookstore. Place order for your copies of Rising Troublemaker! Team Awe Luv will ensure that the books gets to teenagers across the United States, through educators who have expressed need.

CHOOSE RISING TROUBLEMAKER for your book clubs and discussion groups

The book is an incredible conversation driver, with topics and takeaways that are actionable, and when done, can be life changing.

Use our Rising Troublemaker Discussion Guide to hold helpful discussions about tackling fear, speaking the truth, and building a squad in a world that is often throwing obstacles in our paths.

Listen, algebra is a scam. Adulthood is a scam. Taxes are terrible necessities and you owe the world your truth. You owe the world your full self. And that’s what I hope kids get when they walk away from this book when they close these pages. I’m really proud of what I did here.

RISING TROUBLEMAKER is out in time for graduation, on May 17, 2022. And you can preorder it right now, everywhere books are sold. Grab those copies for your kids – the kids you may have given birth to, and the rest of the kids who you love.

Buy a classroom set for a teacher that is already changing kids’ lives every day in the classroom.

Buy copies and donate them to your school’s library. I want to get RISING TROUBLEMAKER in the hands of as many teens as possible and I would love to have your help in doing it.

Parents, teachers, aunties, librarians. PREORDER IT RIGHT NOW! Drops on the world May 17, 2022!

So thank you for tuning in to another episode of the Professional Troublemaker podcast. If you love what you heard, I have three asks, Have you subscribed to professional troublemaker in your favorite podcast platform Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, wherever you listen to podcasts, leave a rating with a five star review your insights and comments help us gather more professional troublemakers into our community. And it lets us know what’s working. What’s your liking what what is connecting with your spirit, and then go to text lovey.com on your phone, text podcast. That’s how you’re going to join our Text Squad. You can talk directly to me. Yes, I’m getting these text messages. Let me know who you’d like me to be in conversation with what topics you want me to deep dive on and so episode just join our Text Squad. Again go to textluvvie.com and text podcast. Until next time, make some good trouble

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