Travel more.
Work smarter.
Love harder.
Leave toxic relationships behind.
Believe in yourself.

If you could tell your younger self just one thing, one piece of insight, one lesson to change your life — what would it be?

In this podcast, Think Tank of Three takes a trip down memory lane to share what we would tell our twenty-something selves —
and it might just be something you need to hear today.


[AF]: Audrea Fink

[JH]: Julie Holton

[KJ]: Kathryn Janicek

[00:00:00] [JH] Travel more, work smarter, love harder, leave toxic relationships behind. Believe in yourself. If you could tell your younger self just one thing, one piece of insight, one lesson to change your life– What would it be? Think Tank of Three is taking a trip down memory lane to share what we would tell our twenty-something selves, and it might just be something you need to hear today.

[00:00:24] [INTRO]

[00:00:57] [JH] Welcome to Think Tank of 3. I’m Julie Holton, here with Audrea and Kathryn. On this podcast we are sharing words of wisdom from our wiser, older selves-not old but older, right? So, it’s easy to look back and think of all of the things we wish we would have known a decade or two ago. But what if those wise words could help someone else? Now, that’s the theme of today’s podcast. So Kathryn, I’m going to kick it off with you because I have no doubt that your look-back could help a young journalist or a young entrepreneur who might just be starting her career. What is one thing that you would tell a young 20 something, K.J.?

[00:01:36] [KJ] Get out of the bar! What are you doing like three nights, four nights, in the bar?

[00:01:46] [AF] Seven nights!

[00:01:46] [KJ] I tell this to my younger clients now. I would also tell a 20 something Kathryn to spend less time drinking with your co-workers after work and maybe more time joining volunteer committees or even-gosh! You know, you don’t have to be an old, gray-haired person to be on the board of a charity, of a nonprofit. And the reason why I say this to join a volunteer committee or get involved with a nonprofit is: you can still have that amazing conversation, that networking (gosh there’s drinking involved also in volunteer work for sure), but you could also meet people outside of your circle. You can meet people who aren’t at work that you’re not going to spend nine hours with every single day Monday through Friday. And also you’re going to grow as a human being a lot faster. You’ll learn about different people who are not in your circle. You’ll also learn about things that you’re really interested in because maybe you got into this career because that’s what you majored in and that’s what your parents told you to get into or what you dreamed about since seventh grade. But you are going to learn so much about other people’s careers and who knows. Like in our 20s we’re not completely formed. Something else might spark, and all of a sudden you’re going to go, “That’s really what I want to do. I look up to that man or woman. And that’s really the kind of career I’d like to have.” And then another thing is like for a journalist; I will sometimes coach them on. You’re going to get a lot of news tips like, just the general. If you’re working in a newsroom every day, if you’re getting out there and you’re learning you’re seeing 12, 15 other people at a volunteer opportunity you’re going to get to know your community that you’ve just moved into. Like say you’re at a new job and you’re in a new city, gosh you’re going to be able to meet new people very fast and you’ll be able to learn a lot more about the community than if you were just sitting on a bar stool hanging out with the four co-workers that you happen to go to the bar with after work. So I would definitely say volunteer earlier in your career. I think I joined my first board at 28 or 29 and should have definitely done that sooner.

[00:03:56] [AF] That’s such a good point because when we think about, you know, where you’re at in your 20s in a professional setting you’re probably not in your dream job, right? Everyone’s got to sort of pay their dues in the beginning, so you might be working at a job where it puts food on your table, but it’s not necessarily the dream, right; the end goal. If you’re going to networking events and volunteering and sitting on a board, one: it’s going to help you professionally because you’re going to learn so much more about how other people work and operate and how to communicate with those people. It’s going to help you develop in a way that just you’re not going to get; I mean you’re not going to get at the bar for sure; but you’re probably not going to get it at your 20-some year old you know maybe entry or mid-level job. And then I also think whenever you get back to the community, that’s just a space for personal development and we can always use more of that.

[00:04:48] [KJ] Totally.

[00:04:49] [JH] Audrea, you’re up. If you could tell your 20-something-self just one thing, what would it be?

[00:04:56] [AF] Don’t stay past your “Best by date.” You know those labels on food where they say this is best eaten by this date? I learned that that label is actually mostly marketing and it’s like a liability. So when your milk says you know drink by March 27 it really just means they can’t sell it past March 27. But it’s still good probably for another couple weeks. And that analogy is very perfect when you’re thinking about where you’re at. You need to be prepared to leave situations that aren’t serving you anymore. If you’re at a job that you’re not growing, you’re not making the money you deserve, you don’t feel like you fit in the culture. Sure you could stay an extra year and you know put in the time and maybe develop your resumé a little bit longer. You can look like you started a job a little longer. But you’re going to end up really resenting that last period of time. You going to end up resenting staying somewhere where you’re stagnant. You might get comfortable staying where you’re stagnant and so you stay even longer and eventually what was just a job that didn’t serve you anymore is now a job where you’re part of the toxicity. And I think for me I can think of a handful of jobs where I should have left and I stayed a year or two years past where I was effective and I stopped being the kickass person that I know I can be and started being really Debbie downer because I hated it. I was bitter and resentful. And this applies regardless of whether it’s a job; whether it’s a relationship, right? How many women have stayed in relationships long past their due date? It can mean a city, it can be your apartment. When you set yourself up so that you can kind of pick up and go- pull up your stakes if you will, and leave, then you set yourself up in a place so that you’re continuously moving towards development, whether it’s personal or professional. Don’t stay. Don’t settle. Leave even if it’s scary.

[00:06:56] [JH] I love this. Okay so Kathryn says be more well-rounded. Get off the bar stool and join a community board right. Audrea: don’t settle, she says to her 20-something year old self. I love this, this is great. If only we had known then what we know now! So here’s mine: Don’t wish your life away. So I get a little personal here because this is something that I’ve been talking about a lot recently with my friends and family and I find myself saying this to some of my younger employees who are in their 20s because I feel like I spent too much of my twenties wishing I was in a different place in my life instead of living everyday in the present thinking of all of the should-haves or could-haves. And for me it was mostly the should-haves. So I say forget what society says you should do or what status you should have, what your life should look like, and go with what works for you. Go with what feels right. So when I was in my 20s I wanted to be married. And not just married, but married with kids. I wanted that even in my early twenties. Here I already had a crazy successful career: executive producer by 24, the 13th largest market in the country. That’s where Kathryn and I met. I owned my own home– actually it was my second home in Minneapolis. I made great money, I was in good health, and yet I still wasted my time year after year wishing that I had more. I never really took the time- and I shouldn’t say never. That’s an exaggeration. I was happy, but I didn’t take the time to truly be grateful for what I have and I really wasn’t aware of what I had. So now fast forward more than a decade later: I’m not married. I have two amazing nieces and a nephew who is awesome. I’m not a mom, and yet I couldn’t be happier. Most of the time, right? You know, most of the time. But here I am if I had really spent every year, year after year, for the last 10 or more years wishing away my life and just wanting something so specific that I still don’t have: Ouch. What a way to waste a decade. Because really I was happy all along, I might have been anxious about what society thought of me, but I was happy and I would have been happier in my early 20s if I had stopped wishing my life away, because we all want for what we don’t have. So I say just ignore what society tells you about who you should be and what you should have, and focus instead on who you are.

[00:09:24] [AF] That is an amazing, amazing point and I wish someone had told me that in my 20s. I can remember being in my 20s thinking I wish I had all of these things. I spend so much money buying things to make me look more professional because I didn’t feel professional enough, and I wish I had just let it go because it doesn’t matter what other people think, right. I spent money on junk trying to look more “adult.” I remember I had a coach in high school who told me that she spent her 20s incredibly self-conscious about her body-and she said she had an amazing body at 20-but she was self-conscious about it because it wasn’t Barbie doll, right. And that’s what she was raised to believe. She at 50, when she was talking to me said, “I’m fat, I’m ugly, and I am so much more confident in my own skin than I was ever at 20 when I was beautiful and had a banging body.” And I remember hearing that and thinking I don’t wanna waste my life worrying about whether my body’s perfect. And now that I’m older I also feel same way, right. I feel much more confident in my skin now that I’m- not young- not in my early twenties than I ever felt worrying about my body when I was 20 and wondering like is this sexy enough? Or is this professional enough? Or is this whatever?

[00:10:55] [KJ] You shared a very sexy picture of yourself on Instagram this week. And I was like if I could just have 50 percent of Audrea’s self-esteem, I would be so happy because you have a very strong, beautiful body and you posted a picture of yourself in a bikini on Instagram this week.

[00:11:15] [AF] I did!

[00:11:18] [KJ] I was a little jealous. I’ll be honest because I’m like she knows she’s beautiful. And she posted that picture not to like show the world that she’s beautiful, but like, she was having a water fight with her husband and they had guns out like water guns. You work out and you hike a lot. You have a great figure and I was looking at that powerful stance that you had. And I have to say, like when Julie was talking about the wishing, I remember: if I look back at all my twenties and thirties, I wish I was thinner. I wish I was prettier. Whatever it was, blonde, whatever it was; but really the thin-thing always came out with me. And I look back now I look at pictures, and I’m like I was finne. I was thin. I had pretty curves, I had great hair, and I’m like, yet my memories of my 20s and 30s are like always wishing that I was better looking. And that’s really crappy because that’s like 20 years. So I definitely committed to myself in my 40s but I’m not going to spend myself wishing, “I’m not gonna do that video, not gonna do that photo shoot until I lose 20 pounds” because that’s just crazyland talk, isn’t it? I mean that’s definitely what I wish anyone in their 20s: to not repeat that.

[00:12:39] [AF] So it’s so funny you brought that picture up. So I was actually really self-conscious about that picture, not because of how I looked in it but because there are people I work with who follow my Instagram. So it’s not like I’ve overcome this right. I literally thought: if a stranger sees this picture I don’t care. This is my body. It is what it is. You know, my husband loves me, my family loves me, my friend loves me, and my worth is not defined by that picture. But then I thought if my co-workers see me in this are they going to take me serious? Right. Specifically the males.

[00:13:15] [KJ] You had a gun in your hand they’re gonna take you seriously.

[00:13:16] [AJ] It was a powerful water gun too. It was my nephew’s. So everyone has their insecurities. And I still had self-doubt, and I think you know we could have a whole podcast on self-doubt, and the way we look, the way we feel about the way we look. But I do think it’s important to stop wishing you were something else because who you are is so incredibly valuable, simply because you exist on this planet, but then you add to it all the- your volunteer work right, your board effort, the fact that you’re on a podcast trying to help other women rise up just because it’s important to you. I think that is so much more valuable than, you know, one picture that doesn’t really tell the story of who you are. It just shows you had a bikini on. Also: fun fact, I borrowed my sister in law’s bikini top because I didn’t have one. And I was wearing her shorts which were a size too big and my shorts were falling off because they were so wet. And my brother in law’s dad was over. So right after that picture I also was like oh god like I’m half naked in front of this man I don’t know.

[00:14:28] [JH] So what you’re saying is, we didn’t even get the best picture of you?

[00:14:32] [AF] Yeah you didn’t get that panicked look of like oh my God there’s a person I don’t know and I don’t have enough clothes on.

[00:14:38] [JH] So important to let go of what we think society says we should be doing or how we should look. And so I want to know, listeners, what would you tell your 20-something-year-old-self. Join our private Facebook group let’s talk about it there so that it’s this conversation amongst friends. But I want to know, because I knew what you ladies were going to be talking about today and I still learned something. I love this, so what would you tell your 20 something year old self? Maybe it will help someone else.

[00:15:09] [AF] Maybe it’ll help us.

[00:15:11] [KJ] Absolutely. And join us as we continue this conversation online right now at We blog weekly, subscribe and you’re going to get a first alert email! It sounds so official- and find us on social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And of course in our private group on Facebook as Julie just mentioned, where we talk about all kinds of really good topics. If you have any questions or topics to discuss that you’d like to be on one of our next podcasts, send us a message at

[00:15:41] [OUTRO]