What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: CDN$ 28.50
  • You Save: CDN$ 10.63 (37%)
FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca.
Gift-wrap available.
What I Wish I Knew When I... has been added to your Cart
+ CDN$ 6.49 shipping
Used: Very Good | Details
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: All items ship from the USA.  Arrival time is usually 2-3 weeks.  Appearance of only slight previous use. Cover and binding show a little wear. All pages are undamaged with potentially only a few, small markings. Save a tree, buy from Green Earth Books. All books guaranteed. Read. Recycle. Reuse.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World Hardcover – Apr 6 2009

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
CDN$ 17.87
CDN$ 14.14 CDN$ 7.98

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harperone (April 6 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061735191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735196
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #241,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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)

About the Author

Tina Seelig has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University Medical School. She is the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, and is the author of the international bestseller What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. In 2009, Seelig was awarded the prestigious Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering for her pioneering work in engineering education.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 4 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. Pretty on Dec 10 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a great tool. Even though some of the concepts and theories described in the book are well-known, the author succeeds in getting her lessons through short stories and experiments. She also shares bits of her own experience, which makes it very relatable. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for tips and insights on how to find out what you want from life and how to actually start and go achieve it. Very inspirational, but not aggressive in a typical self-help book way.

I bought it and read it in two days. Already bought another copy and will probably get several others as gifts for friends.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arle on Feb. 17 2011
Format: Hardcover
An inspirational and thought provoking book. Teaches you to approach life with new ideas and urges you to be more risk-taking.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ken on Nov. 10 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Light reading. Good for people thinking about entrepreneurship or feeling unsettled about what path they want their life to take. A little basic for those who are immersed in it already.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
By Nola on Dec 14 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Funny book, easy read.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 122 reviews
113 of 133 people found the following review helpful
Can't Wait to Innovate! April 17 2009
By Jai Won Rhi - Published on Amazon.com
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!); I got to try on a 3-carat diamond ring in a private salon at Tiffany's as part of a study on consumer experiences; and we set up the entire frozen yogurt shop into the classroom as part a class project on innovative companies.

Unlike other books of the sort, Tina's book avoids ambiguous principles embellished with fancy words but rather suggests ready-to-go strategies that you can implement in your daily life right away. Furthermore, she gives you good examples, that stimulate you and give you the nerve for action. You will end up being an active "doer" after reading this book. (For instance, I employed her methods to reinvent my messy closet!)

I'm truly happy that now the whole world can share her insights on creativity and innovation. Her book is a "crash" course, yet a very thorough, inspirational guide on how to change yourself and the world! I hope you all share the special excitement that I had while learning from her. Although I love the title, as you read this book you will see that it is never too late and there's no time to hesitate to become innovative.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Practical Passion Oct. 30 2009
By Jill Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
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 challenges...it'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.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Needs to be shrunk to a 20-page brochure June 13 2013
By Ghost(Ghost(M)) - Published on Amazon.com
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). Resting one's argument on known BS mongers' oeuvre doesn't inspire confidence -- and indeed, in most cases it's rather gratuitous and inconvincing.

- No typos.

- Usage errors present but not overwhelming. Still strange for a highly educated person (PhD in neuroscience and a Stanford professor) from a comfortable family background to write: "... Steve Jobs. As the founder of Apple and Pixar, his success stories are legendary" (p. 87), or "As a job candidate, your goal is to find out if the job your are exploring is right for you." (p.154) . No major harm but grates on the ear; irksome. The book's published by Harper, btw., which is a major publisher. Where's editing? Well, all right, we know these days all they do is hire a few fake reviews of five-star denomination in lieu of working on the book so as to produce a clean product.

- Final thought (not a criticism): there's a bit of conflict in this book's intent: the information there would be most effective if known at a young age (title is good), but a young person will probably miss most of the advice because of the lack of life experience. It's a paradox: the target reader will probably be deaf to the advice herein, while a grizzled old veteran will be able to appreciate the ideas but doesn't need to learn them 'cause once you're past thirty you'll probably have figured it out yourself. Still, who knows, worth trying: worst case, it'll be in one ear and out the other -- so what, no harm's done. Maybe something will stick? Who's to say. Once again, this is not a criticism; more like realisation of one of the absurd aspects of the human condition (we live forward but understand life backward... can't remember who said that (wasn't me, I'm quoting) but this is what I'm talking about).

Bottomline: would pull four stars if stripped of babbling and shrunk to 20 pages. Writing acceptable though editorial intervention would sharpen and focus the text (and clean up the usage). Not a must read, but OK -- not a must-avoid either. Main defect -- too much verbiage to wade through to get a few nuggets. But there _is_ some value there. Three stars seems fair.
153 of 202 people found the following review helpful
Stopped reading after the 1st chapter: Scalping as innovative entrepreneurial technique? "Stanford" branding disappoints June 3 2009
By UCB Student Innovators - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Open letter to Professor Seelig:

I picked up your book eagerly when it came out, because I'm a Haas Business School student wishing to make a contribution to this world through entrepreneurship. But I stopped after the first 10 pages or so, and made sure to flip through the rest of the chapters to make sure I wasn't missing out on some big message. I was disappointed.

"What would you do to earn money if all you had was 5 dollars and 2 hours?" Seemingly harmless and interesting experiment, but your example of the "winning" team had me furrowing my brow in disbelief that a Stanford professor would laud this team for rigging restaurant reservations and taking a commission cut as being "innovative" and "creative" thinkers. Are you serious?? Can nobody else see how ridiculous this is?

Umm....hello? It's called SCALPING. Scalping is not a novel, innovative concept. Anyone can do it and earn $600 in two hours - ethical people just choose not to.

Innovative: 0. You can find ticket scalpers anywhere, from crowded sold-out railroad stations of third world countries, to rock concerts. These ticket scalpers are often street kids who don't even have a high school education and are just trying to survive to feed themselves. How is this "creative thinking" by privileged Stanford students?

Unethical: 1. Those unsuspecting people who are outside waiting in line aren't "benefitting" and "happily paying" for a spot, they've been duped out of a spot, and are unfairly waiting in line because these Stanford students took up a fake spot in the first place. That's like creating an anti-virus software company and then creating a virus so that you can make money from your anti-virus software. It's a cruel and meaningless way to make money.

Contribution to Society: 0. Who likes middlemen whose sole purpose is to take a commission? Haven't we as a society been working to eliminate travel booking agencies and wanting to deal directly? It's a huge annoyance and unfair rig in the system. And it's easy. Anyone can do it, but it's reprehensible, and we simply choose not to because it's wrong.

After you laud this team for scalping, you go on to describe how they creatively got the females to sell the spots. Umm...hello? Sex trafficking? Need I go on?

Stanford is supposed to stand for something - a place for big minds and big ideas that will transform and contribute to our society in a positive and benevolent way. Instead, your "two hours and $5" exercise is inadvertently training a cohort of immoral and unethical business leaders, who will make no contribution to society, and will try to eek out selfish advantage at any price. Enron-in-the-training.

What would you think of Stanford if you were patiently waiting in line at your favorite restaurant with your wife, only to find that a bunch of Stanford business kids had rigged the system by taking away all the spots ahead of time to turn a profit? Sure, scalping can be a business opportunity Stanford students are allowed to take, but they should not, because they're supposed to be better than that. Aren't Stanford students better than that?

So what should entrepreneurship at Stanford look like? Why don't you train your students to study macroeconomic trends, identify entrepreneurial opportunities in Asia's shifting markets, how to save our failing economy, or analyze big-picture ideas like Warren Buffet does? Why are you training them to employ get-rich-quick tactics that any street kid in the developing world or city ghettos already know, and then complimenting them for "winning" the exercise and boasting about it in a non-contributing book? You forgot one vital component to the exercise: must contribute to society and be of social value.

Please, Prof. Seelig, let's teach our nation's brightest minds to be big-picture thinkers and effective philanthropists like Warren Buffet, not get-rich-quick people like Guy Kawasaki who for all we know probably made his actual money from his books and audio tapes. By teaching this approach, you're basically saying Kawasaki is qualified to be a Stanford professor too. Aren't you of a better ilk than him?

By having the "Stanford" label of approval on these methods, you are harming others even more, because college-aged kids all over will think that well, if Stanford approves, it must be ok. It is NOT okay to scalp money and make a living by tricking unsuspecting people into paying you a commissioner's cut.

I'm 26 years old, and I know these principles without reading your book. It boggles my mind how this book could be touted as innovative and creative. I learned nothing new, and worry for the kids who will take away the wrong message.

In fairness though, your intentions were probably good, just misguided, and there were a few good tidbits later on in the book - like the "failure resume" - a good practice that teaches humility I hope. Just please do away with the "2 hours, $5" exercise, or at least, modify it to include principles of decency, and teach your students ethics and how to be upstanding moral citizens worthy of Stanford's branding.

Instead of "Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous"...at another's expense...how about "Never miss an opportunity to do the right thing"? It's a dangerous mix when you encourage intelligent minds toward selfish attainments that disregard the greater good. Intelligence can be used for good or evil, and these intelligent kids need your guidance toward good if they're going to be our world leaders, helping the less fortunate.
85 of 111 people found the following review helpful
Nothing exciting in this book May 24 2009
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a student at Stanford, I was required to read this book for a class immediately upon its release. While the book contains many interesting anecdotes, that's all the book really is. There's nothing in the book that you can use to transform your life, career, or business, and thus I give the book only two stars. There are enough books out there that simply tell you what is important, but very few that actually teach you how to implement it.