Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. And while we can’t time travel to visit our younger selves and advise them on the workings of life, we can reflect on lessons learned. We asked successful men and women across the South to share the words of wisdom they would bestow upon their younger selves given the chance. Their responses are enlightening and, occasionally, humorous. Read along as they share sound advice based on years of experience in their industry and beyond.

Jamie Pfeffer | Pfeffer Torode Architecture | Nashville, TN

“Trust your gut, and don’t be afraid to take a risk. A risk at 20 has far less impact than a risk at 30 or 40. Risks don’t have to be financial but can be an untraditional path you take. All of those experiences add up to the person you are, the places you will go in your life and career and will help guide your decision making because you will have a greater perspective to draw upon. Saying yes to opportunities that are in line with your goals and interests typically pans out with some sort of upside, so don’t hesitate when something presents itself that perhaps wasn’t always on your radar. And do not play in an intramural flag football league with college students when you are in your mid-30s. You might tear your ACL.”


Davi Crimmins | “The Bert Show” | Atlanta, GA

“I would advise my younger self to just say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes your way. No responsibility is beneath you. These are all stops on the path to your career, and don’t be that person that just waits for their turn to talk. Listen, care and then react.”

Davi Crimmins, Co-Host & Assistant Producer of The Bert Show | Image: Hales Photo

Davi Crimmins, co-host & assistant producer of “The Bert Show” | Image: Hales Photo


Feizal Valli & Rachael Roberts | The Atomic Bar & Lounge | Birmingham, AL

Rachael: “Be present and ask questions. If you’re actively engaged in your professional career, odds are you’ll meet a lot of people with wisdom to share. It’s easy to gain knowledge from people just by starting a conversation with them. Before I started my career, I had opportunities to meet inventors, activists, politicians, entrepreneurs — whom I now wish I’d had the presence of mind to speak to and ask questions of. I think that if you’ve stopped learning, you’re doing it wrong. I now try to engage with others in a thoughtful and inquisitive way, and it helps me to continue learning and improving as a professional and as a person.”

Feizal: “Don’t be afraid to leave. I overstayed a lot of things even when all the signs for me to leave had been there for some time — and not just relationships, jobs where I wasn’t learning anymore or growing in my field. At one job, I carried my “two weeks notice” letter around for a full year before finally turning it in. Even my time in New Orleans — I went back to New Orleans three separate times over 14 years. And New Orleans has a heavy hand when it’s showing you the door, and I never clued in and ended up wasting a lot of time. It literally took an act of God, Hurricane Katrina, to get me to leave.”

Feizal Valli & Rachael Roberts, Owners of 2018 James Beard nominated The Atomic Bar & Lounge | Images: Rachael Roberts

Feizal Valli & Rachael Roberts, Owners of 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, The Atomic Bar & Lounge | Images: Rachael Roberts

RELATED: The Atomic Bar & Lounge: A Creative Cocktail of Local Flavor & Fun


Gavin Duke | Page|Duke Landscape Architects | Nashville, TN

“Take time to engage those around you and develop friendships beyond your work environment: serve the community, give of your time and expect nothing in return.”

What Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self?

Gavin Duke, Page|Duke Landscape Architects | Image: Page|Duke Landscape Architects


Judith Winfrey | PeachDish | Atlanta, GA

“If I had a time machine to go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell her to stop making herself small. I spent a lot of my young adulthood thinking that everyone knew more than me, was smarter than me and had everything figured out. I thought of myself as inadequate and less than. I kept looking for the key that I could use to open the door to being a different kind of person. I looked for it in school and in experiences, in status and wealth. I finally found that key, but it wasn’t external at all. I found it through developing my own self awareness and the realization that everything is up to me — who I am, what I accomplish, what I have, my moods and emotional state — these all originate from within. That young woman wasted a lot of time worrying about how she measured up and thinking she never would. Instead, I would tell her to figure out what she wanted from life and go get it. Life’s a lot more fun that way.”

Judith Winfrey, President of PeachDish | Image: Kate Blohm for PeachDish

Judith Winfrey, President of PeachDish | Image: Kate Blohm Photography


Kim Lee | Forge | Birmingham, AL

“Conflict is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very healthy and helpful part of creating healthy relationships and building a successful business. Do not be afraid to address topics that may feel uncomfortable — it is actually fighting for your business. And through this, you will learn that it is just as true for personal relationships. I will not say this has been an easy lesson to learn over the past few years, but it is a lesson that I am very thankful I have experienced firsthand.”

Kim Lee, Founder & CEO of Forge | Image: Eric & Jamie Photography

Kim Lee, Founder & CEO of Forge | Image: Eric & Jamie Photography


Cynthia Daniels | Cynthia Daniels & Co. | Memphis, TN

“I would tell myself to get a passport and jump on a plane to explore the world at age 30. Enjoy making experiences by yourself, even when a group of friends can’t join you. Don’t stress over not having your career path figured out after college, because it tends to change over the years, and it’s okay to start over at any age.”

Cynthia Daniels of Cynthia Daniels & Co. | Image: Jo'V

Cynthia Daniels of Cynthia Daniels & Co. | Image: Jo’V


Lyn Mabry | Living Spaces by Lyn | Louisville, KY

“Believe in yourself. Follow your talents. Put yourself out there no matter what.”

Lyn Mabry, Living Spaces by Lyn | Image: David Stewart of Ad Cat Media

Lyn Mabry, Living Spaces by Lyn | Image: David Stewart of Ad Cat Media


Christine Pullara Newton | WXIA-TV Channel 11 | Atlanta, GA

“The advice I would tell my younger self is to calm down and think it through! I’m Spanish, Italian and Cuban and very passionate about life. Now, that can be a great quality, but it can also create problems. I would advise my younger self to RESPOND rather than REACT to things. Take a deep breath, think things through and respond after careful thought and consideration of the options available to you. It’s not easy. I certainly haven’t mastered it, but it certainly makes for a more peaceful, productive life!”

Christine Pullara Newton, TV Host at WXIA-TV Channel 11 | Image: Sara Hanna Photography

Christine Pullara Newton, TV Host, WXIA-TV Channel 11 | Image: Sara Hanna Photography


Julie Couch | Julie Couch Interiors | Nashville, TN

“Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of failing. Start now. Take the first step. Even if the end goal is overwhelming or the obstacles seem too great, almost anything is possible if you just take it one step at a time.”

What Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self?

Julie Couch, Julie Couch Interiors | Image: Leslee Mitchell

RELATED: Interior Design Crush: Julie Couch


Victoria Nwasike | Ballantyne Breakfast Club | Charlotte, NC

“Trust that every life experience, good or bad, will not be wasted and can help propel you to what God has destined you to be.”

Victoria Nwasike, Chair, Ballantyne Breakfast Club | Image: Northwood Office

Victoria Nwasike, Chair, Ballantyne Breakfast Club | Image: Northwood Office


Cindi Earl | Cindi Earl Fine Jewelry | Nashville, TN

“To my younger self: your mother was right. You are beautiful, you are smart, you can do anything. To my younger business self: it takes more money, more time, more work than you can ever imagine, you know that. What you don’t know is … that statement never changes.”


Lauren Mabry Cater | Wyndy | Birmingham, AL

“Believe in yourself and seek opportunities especially if they feel they are outside your comfort zone. Work hard on building resilience because setbacks happen, and they are the best lessons! And build relationships, engage leaders in your field and community to learn from.”

Lauren Mabry Carter, Wyndy | Image: Charity Ponter


Joanna Conley | TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center | Nashville, TN

“The advice I like to give young professionals is to not be afraid of change or taking risks. Instead of viewing the risk as a negative situation, accept it as a new and exciting challenge. However, it is always a good idea to have a game plan for how to tackle the new project or opportunity. Also, when considering different career opportunities, there are many factors to contemplate. One important aspect is making sure the opportunity will allow you to partner with a leader who will advocate for you, give you feedback to help you grow and push you to take on new challenges outside of your comfort zone.”

What Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self?

Joanna Conley, CEO, TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center | Image: TriStar Health


Helen McTyeire Drennen | RealtySouth | Birmingham, AL

“We are in the business for the long term. It is about relationships and not just a transaction. It is so important to work with others the way you hope to be treated. This applies to not only your clients, but also to how you value and work with all parties throughout the process.”

Helen McTyeire Drennen, Realtor, RealtySouth | Image: RealtySouth


Pamela Sessions | Renewal House | Nashville, TN

‘Take advantage of every opportunity made available to you because you may not get that chance again.”

Pamela Sessions: “Focus on two or three of your priorities at a time as your ‘to do’ list will always be long.” Image: Ashley Hylbert


Tracy Morrison | Norton Healthcare | Louisville, KY

“When something makes you nervous or scared, push your way through it. You will be proud of yourself in the end. Find your creative side, even if you think you don’t have one. Write poetry, paint a picture, journal your thoughts or learn to meditate. You will find that as you get older, these skills will calm you during stressful times. And travel as much as you can. It makes you realize that the world is a bigger place and there are interesting people who have different points of view than your own.”

Tracy Morrison, MSBC, System Director, Marketing and Communications, Norton Healthcare

Tracy Morrison, MSBC, System Director, Marketing and Communications, Norton Healthcare


Louie Bishop | Bishop Hearth & Home | Memphis, TN

“Have patience with yourself, the people you surround yourself with and the game plan you set for your business. Some of the best ‘deals’ I have ever made are the ones I did not rush into and ultimately walked away from.”

Louie Bishop, Owner, Bishop Hearth & Home | Image: Louie Bishop

Louie Bishop, Owner, Bishop Hearth & Home | Image: Louie Bishop


Laura Williams, MD | Gynecologic Oncology of Middle Tennessee, TriStar Health | Nashville, TN

“Create a workday, whether in the office or the OR, whereby I can maximally enjoy my patients, partners and colleagues. Working with staff members who value the same things that I do such as efficiency, highest quality patient care and positive patient interactions makes the long days pleasurable and something to look forward to. Taking at least 1/2 business day off during the week allows me to recharge and accomplish personal agenda items with decreased stress, and I would advise my younger self to make that a top priority. You are playing the long game to maximize quality and quantity of working years.”

What Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self?

Laura Williams, MD, Gynecologic Oncology of Middle Tennessee, TriStar Health | Image: TriStar Health

Now, take a moment to think about the advice you might give your younger self — you may just be surprised at how much you’ve grown!

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