Katy Perry, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Others Share What They Wish They'd Known as a Teenager

Clockwise from top left: Michael Jordan, Bill Nye, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bill Gates, Katy Perry and Misty Copeland. Reuters; Getty (3); Reuters (2)

In 1966, Newsweek published a landmark cover story, "The Teen-Agers: A Newsweek Survey of What They're Really Like," investigating everything from politics and pop culture to teens' views on their parents, their future and the world. The article was based on an extensive survey of nearly 800 teens across the country, and it also profiled six teens in depth, including a black teen growing up in Chicago, a Malibu girl, and a farm boy in Iowa. Fifty years later, Newsweek set out to discover what's changed and what's stayed the same for American teens. The result, "The State of the American Teenager," offers fascinating and sometimes disturbing insights into a generation that's plugged in, politically aware, and optimistic about their futures, yet anxious about their country.

"Take some time to disconnect from your devices and connect with yourself—whether that's 20 minutes a day by meditating or leaving your phone in the car on a hike—to allow your mind to have an uninterrupted train of thought, which breeds creativity."
Katy Perry, pop star


"Know that this is just the beginning. You are finding your feet, voice and identity now, but your growth is far from over. Be patient and work incredibly hard. There will be many opportunities if you are open and use all of your resources. However, be careful not to step on people to get to where you want to go. The world is a small place, and it's nice to know you have presented your best self throughout your journey. Value and appreciate those who have been there to give you advice. It doesn't make you weak to accept advice. Having mentors in your life will help you to learn from them and not repeat their mistakes. They'll help you to be better, smarter and stronger. What the future holds for you is so exciting: Take it on and accept the challenges with care and strength. Know that we want the world to be a better place and you hold the power to make it so."
Misty Copeland, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre

"If you're like me, being a teenager makes you nervous. Oh, the questions! Am I going to go to college? Do I need to go to college? Where? Am I popular, or well-liked among those I'd like to like me? It goes on and on. In the theater or show business, there's a saying: 'If you quit being nervous, quit doing it.' The key is to turn that nervousness, about whatever it may be—college entrance exams, learning to drive, learning to flirt, learning which people, and especially which parties, to avoid—into excitement. Then a second bit of advice: Get enough sleep. It's surprising to me even now, but while you're asleep, you're growing. Your muscles get stronger, and your brain gets bigger. Being a teenager is like settling into a class and encountering a pop quiz. You can't quite be sure what's next, but if you keep balance in your life, you'll achieve great things as you grow. We adults want you to be great at what you do and change the world."
Bill Nye, TV show host, activist and noted "Science Guy"

"It seems unavoidable that you will develop some kind of paralyzing insecurity in your teens. It happens to everyone—everyone—and, commonly, it carries over into adulthood. These insecurities will hold you back in every aspect of your life, so be brave and talk to someone about it. It really helps. Or maybe stop following Kendall and Kylie on Instagram. Constantly comparing yourself to others is no way to live, and I hope you find that out sooner than I did.

Also, sleep in as much as you can."
Nikki Glaser, comedian and star of Comedy Central's Not Safe

"Solve the hard problems. This year, Melinda and I addressed our Annual Letter to high school students, because you're the ones who will ultimately be solving the problems that keep the world from being a more equitable place. Imagine life without energy: no electricity, gasoline or any other source. That's what life is like for about 1.3 billion people—18 percent of the world's population. They're stuck in the dark, denied all of the benefits and opportunities that come with power. If we really want to help the world's poorest families, we need to find a way to get them cheap, clean energy. Cheap, because everyone must be able to afford it. Clean, because it must not emit any carbon dioxide, which is driving climate change. (In 2015, the world emitted 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide.) Today's clean-energy technology holds a lot of promise, but to cut our emissions to near zero and make energy affordable for everyone, we're also going to need some new inventions. Many young people are already actively involved in climate and energy issues, and I'm sure they could use more help. Your generation is one of the most globally minded in history, adept at looking at our world's problems beyond national borders. This will be a valuable asset as we work on global solutions in the decades ahead. If you're someone with some crazy-sounding ideas to solve our energy challenge, the world needs you. Study extra hard in math and science. You might just have the answer."
Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

"If you ever find yourself asking whether you should speak up or quiet down, the answer is speak up. That doesn't mean you have to be loud if you're not a loud person; it just means that your ideas matter and the world will be better if you find an authentic way to share them. Every year, Bill and I write a letter about issues that are important to us, and this year I wrote a lot about the power of cultural norms—those unwritten rules that say things like what it means to 'act like a girl' or 'be a man.' The problem is, norms are so normal that most people can't even see them. For example, you probably don't realize that girls do many more chores than boys do. The best way to get over harmful norms is to look at the world with new eyes and talk to as many people as you can about what you notice. If enough people start questioning why certain things are the way they are, then there's a chance they will change. I know there's a lot of chatter these days about how social media is affecting teenagers—some people think your screens are making you less engaged in the real world—but I believe you have something serious to say, and you're lucky that you have so many ways to tell anyone in the world what's on your mind. Please, let your voice be part of the conversation."
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


"The best piece of advice I can offer is to not be afraid to fail. When people think of me, they think of championships and winning, but behind all of that was a lot of hard work and trying and failing. No one gets everything right the first time. By working hard and learning from your failures, you come out stronger and smarter in the end."
Michael Jordan, basketball star

"When I think of my middle school years, I just remember them being so crazy and so confusing. It was hard for you to look past your school hallways. You feel that is your entire world, because at that time it is your entire world. But just know that there is a bigger, more beautiful world out there. Keep your head up and know it is a beautiful world we live in and things will get better. Don't be a bystander. If you see someone getting hurt or getting picked on, if you see someone eating alone at school, go sit down next to them and introduce yourself."
Aaron Paul, actor

"As human beings, consistency is our toughest challenge. To be the same person every day, to be better every day or to evolve into a different person. Consistency is the foundation for all. Be consistent! The Earth has done it—for 4.5 billion years, to be exact!"
Von Miller, Super Bowl 50 MVP

"I think it's a nice perspective to realize that high school is just a phase. This is the opposite of good advice, but I feel like I was way too stressed about every single mark that I got, trying to be a little bit of a perfectionist. You kind of live in this little bubble of high school, and it's really cool to look at some of the people who came out of my school and see what they're doing now. Almost all the people who have the worst time in high school end up being the coolest individuals. I sometimes love the knowledge that some of the biggest 'weirdos' in high school end up being the coolest people to know in adulthood."
Carly Rae Jepsen, singer and songwriter