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Hey, Colleague: 20 life lessons I wish I knew in my 20s

Not sure where life's taking you? Here are some tips.
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Travel often, if you can.

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Hey, Colleague:

I just turned 21 and I think I’m already going through a quarter-life crisis!! I’m just so unsure about my life and worried about my future. With Covid and everything, I’m feeling a lot of uncertainty and social media is giving me tons of anxiety. I’m still in university and still not sure what I want to do with my life. Should I already know by now? I would be grateful for any kind of direction! thanks!

— Anonymous


I began my career at 19 and resigned at 28 to travel and work for myself. I am turning 35 this year and I’ve been doing that since then. It hasn’t been easy but the journey has been incredible.

In my mid-20s, I thought I had everything together but my biggest lesson was that NO ONE EVER DOES.

We are all making it up as we go along.

I was a self-taught designer and programmer and I already accomplished a lot. I had my own apartment, a successful and exciting career, a committed partner, an active social life, and an iron-clad mindset I created through an obsession with fitness.

When I left everything behind at 28, I travelled the world and experienced REAL life — outside of the conventional life, many of us know.

I’m going to give you 20 life lessons I wish I knew in my 20s.

1. With age comes experience and wisdom

People are afraid to age, which is inevitable, but age is just a number — another label. If we identify ourselves through our energy and experiences, our life will feel like an adventure. I never want to be the same person I was last year because life seems to get better every year.

I found the courage to step out of my comfort zone and everything behind at 27 to travel the world feeling like I had accomplished so much already — but that was the problem. I wondered what else was out there.

Now at 34, I look back to myself even a year ago and sometimes think, “wow I was still a baby!” Even in ONE year’s time, the experiences, insights, and lessons I’ve learned were remarkable.

2. There is so much more to the world than you can imagine

Everything — every single lifestyle you can… and can’t imagine… exists. Trust me.

I lived a conventional white-picket-fence life where you were supposed to go to college, get a stable nine-to-five job, and have kids but I always knew there was more... and there was definitely a whole lot more.

I can't imagine going back to a simple life even though experiencing all I have creates a paradox, which is a topic for another post.

I’m only 34 but I feel like I’ve lived a few different lifetimes. I’ve literally immersed myself fully into a multitude of lifestyles, people, and environments: from a white picket fence middle-class upbringing, living amongst the top one percent, new money, old money, to starting a business in one of the poorest towns in Canada.

3. Use your 20s to build good habits and discipline

I was able to stay grounded through all my adventures because I became an athlete in my 20s.

Enjoy your 20s but don’t forget about your future.

I was always intuitive growing up and I always tried to make decisions that would hopefully help me later in life — from the classes I chose, my career path, the friends I kept in my life, and my decision to not have kids until as late as possible and travelling as much as I can. I knew at some point I would have to ‘settle down’ and be an adult but my intuition told me I needed to enjoy my freedom before I was instilled with more responsibilities.

Trust me, you will need them when responsibility only grows.

Adulting is hard and when you’ve built a solid foundation, it’ll be a lot more fun. Habits make things feel effortless — just like breathing or brushing your teeth. They are behaviours that are hardwired into your brain.

4. Stop caring about what people think because everyone is too preoccupied with themselves

Once you stop caring about what other people think, your life will get exponentially better.

I mean, ask yourself: do you go around judging people? Most people don’t. But if you do, I’d have to say that you have a lot of inner work to do because perception is projection.

5. Your environment will determine your outcome

The beauty about leaving high school and being thrown into the wild of the real world is the privilege to build your circle because you are the product of your environment.

Unapologetically audit the people you see often — you don’t have to cut them from your life right away but limit time spent with people who don’t share the same values. However, always aim to inspire and give people a chance to grow — but also set and maintain your boundaries if there is no progress.

For example, the ones who seem to still have that high school mentality or those who don’t share the same lifestyle and values you are thriving towards.

Have you ever heard the quote, “you are the average of the people closest to you”?

I learned this the hard way. This is an uncomfortable truth but if you look around, people who hang out together tend to have similar values and they even start to look alike. I am not judging but knowing this gives you the power to be who you truly want to be.

Don’t feel bad either — you aren’t losing friends. You are finding out who your real friends are as you grow as well.

Life is short, time is the most precious commodity, and we have a limited amount of energy to give.

While you’re at it, audit the content you consume, the shows you watch, and even the music you listen to. These will all have an effect because your subconscious mind never turns off and is always listening.

6. Find a hobby that will keep you fit and healthy

You’re not going to stay young and recover fast forever so it’s never too late to start building healthy habits.

I was extremely active in my 20s. I would go on epic bike rides, started a run club, and do Crossfit and Grouse Grinds before the sun rose after a full night of partying.

Trust me, it’s not enjoyable as you get older. Your body continues to wear and tear as you put it through stressors and those can compound if you don’t have healthy habits to aid in recovery.

Unfortunately, many people don’t start until later in life, or even after their kids grow up — and I firmly believe you should have these habits instilled early on because there’s also a high probability of you passing overall good genes to your kidsThe study may be on mice, but fathers who exercise may have smarter babies… if there was a chance it was true, wouldn't you want the best for your kids?

It will be one of the best gifts you will pass on to your offspring. I believe it's our responsibility if we want to have children to prepare them for life.

For women, pregnancy and parenthood will be easier because you will have more resilience from the mindset you develop from an active lifestyle, and bouncing back from pregnancy is easier if stay in shape.

Research shows that exercise prevents cognitive decline and it's the best thing you can do to keep your chronological age young. Even Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. David Sinclair (the father of anti-aging) say exercise is the best thing you can do for anti-aging.

7. Nurture your emotional intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify, understand, manage, and regulate one’s emotions, as well as those of people around them.

The faster you level up your EQ, the faster you will level up in life.

This will help arm you with the tools to create better relationships and be a better friend, colleague, and boss because EQ makes you a more likable and compassionate human being.

8. Not everyone is going to be like you

And most importantly, you aren’t going to like everybody.

Fair?

As human beings, we are wired to be social creatures so we all may have a tendency to people-please. People pleasing comes at its price for you and everyone around you. You try to be there for everyone thus burning yourself out and forgetting to prioritize the people who truly matter — the people closest to you.

The solution is to create boundaries and protect your energy. You only have so much to give.

So let’s normalize the fact that not everyone is meant to be friends or in relationships, and that’s OK.

Live unapologetically and do you. Your tribe will stick around.

9. Aim to understand, not agree

Having a growth mindset requires having an open mind. That means you will openly accept everyone’s perspectives and not take anything personally.

Studies show people perceive those who disagree with them as biased but aren’t we all biased?

Our views in life are based on our own experiences, upbringing, and environment. Input will change perspective and we are receiving never-ending input from our environment every second of our lives, consciously and unconsciously.

If you can understand that, you will know that not one person's perspective can be the same.

Disagreements always lead to arguments because people are trying to make the other person understand their point of view when it’s impossible to fully grasp since no one lived your life but yourself.

To maintain peace, agree to disagree. You don’t win anything being right other than an ego-boost.

Remember, perception is projection so anything you don’t like about others is something you don’t like about yourself. Those are traits of your shadow being suppressed unconsciously.

Become aware of them to let them go.

This one lesson changed my life.

10) Surround yourself with people different than you

The most dangerous thing you can do is to get stuck in your bubble because the world is a gigantic place with billions of vastly different lifestyles. To get out, make friends with people who:

  • are older and younger than you
  • have different hobbies and interests
  • have opposing views
  • challenge your views
  • calls you out when you are doing something wrong

This requires you to be able to gracefully accept constructive criticism because we are all blind to our faults. It’s our brain’s way of protecting us from our “dark sides” that we don’t want to acknowledge in ourselves.

No one wants to hear their own flaws. It hurts.

When you surround yourself with real friends — the ones who call you out — so you can learn and grow instead of being the same stagnant person for the rest of your life.

11. Stay curious and never stop learning

Curiosity never killed the cat. It killed those who stayed stagnant.

The world is evolving exponentially and learning will keep your brain sharp and your heart full.

The most interesting people in the world are interesting because they are constantly learning and searching for new experiences.

How else will you have a story to tell?

How else will you inspire someone else to create a life they love?

12. You are not stuck to one career

We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Recessions are inevitable because nothing lasts forever.

Gone are the days of working for one company forever.

Expect to change careers a few times throughout your life because that only means you are growing as an individual.

13. You don’t need to settle

Trust me, there is still time — to settle into careers and relationships.

Learn as many skills as you can.

In our current economy, it’s in your best interest to be well-rounded because layoffs are a part of the landscape. Technology is advancing at exponential rates which means change is inevitable.

I don’t mean to scare you, but we should keep up — and we can make it fun along the way by embodying learning and staying curious.

Date lots to find out what you don’t want.

Relationships often fail or end up in divorce because people have too many expectations in the beginning, or don’t ask the right questions. Like it or not, a relationship is like a business… you need to know and trust your partner has the resilience to show up and be there for you through thick and thin.

14. Life will never get easier but you’ll get better at it

As long as there’s life, there will always be suffering — it’s part of the human condition.

If you want to get better at life, chase experiences, embrace change, take risks, fail, learn, and grow — this cycle will repeat over and over.

Life is going to be constantly changing so be ready to change with it.

People who refuse to adapt to change are the ones who will suffer the most.

15. Nothing lasts forever

Knowing this will help you navigate tough times.

Breakups, drama, exam stress, endless all-nighters, hangovers… and even being 20.

Ironically, I had a pretty carefree 20s with no drama, breakups and such but I was faced with tough challenges in my early 30s. Peace doesn’t last forever!

Luckily, in my 20s, I purposely forced myself to step out of my comfort zone through fitness so I was armed with the resilience and tools to deal with challenges when they finally came.

All I can say is I'm grateful to have experienced my first hardship in my early 30s than 40s! The earlier the better — so start getting out of your comfort zone as early as you can in life.

Remember: "This too shall pass."

16. Travel as much as you can. Even move somewhere.

Travel opens your mind and lets you experience different ways of living so you don’t get caught up in your bubble.

Those who have never travelled are usually those who resist change because they haven’t seen the world. It’s one thing to read or watch movies, but your brain needs to actually experience something to truly believe it.

You can’t trade the experience for anything!

Do this before you get married or have kids. It may make you a more well-rounded parent — traits you can pass on.

If you are young or have financial freedom, don’t be scared and take the dive! You won’t regret it.

It’s also much easier to find remote work now than when I was in my 20s. The world is full of abundant opportunities.

17. Start investing as soon as you get your first job

The power of compounding. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this.

18. Use social media to your advantage or don’t use it at all.

Unless you are using it to learn or grow, it will ruin your life.

  1. Train your brain to stop scrolling. Instant gratification is making you dumb because your attention span is getting shorter and people are forgetting how to read.
  2. Meticulously audit all your social feeds. Don’t waste time (the one thing you can never get back).

Did you know most people are content consumers? Be a content creator and publish content that inspires other people to live a better life through writing, art, and storytelling. You don’t need millions of followers — just a handful of true fans so you can change lives one at a time.

I’m old school and have watched the internet evolve since Web 1.0 since I was an early adopter. I always chose to live in real life but I do use social media.

However, the content I consume is strictly curated so I only see content that inspires me or helps me grow. I follow health influencers, doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs because they align with my vision. I rigorously hide anything that doesn’t align with my values.

What about you? Write down clear and concise goals and make sure the content you consume is in alignment. Anything else can be a distraction.

19. Take risks, courage is a choice

Live life so you will have a story worth telling.

How to be courageous:

  • read books
  • travel often
  • talk to as many people with different perspectives
  • be open-minded
  • do something that scares you daily
  • surround yourself with adventurous people

20. No one is coming to save you

You are responsible for every damn thing that happens in your life — the good and the bad.

You cannot control your external world but you sure as hell can control your internal world so understand, anything you attract is a reflection of yourself.

It is up to you how you choose to react.

Did someone disagree with you? Are you going to:

  • Fight back, creating a negative environment and disturbing your own inner peace?
  • Let it go and agree to disagree.

Attaching to conflict leads to internal suffering. Detachment is power.

Once you learn to be accountable for your own life, the world opens up to you because you now create your own opportunities rather than wait for things to happen.

You can start by being mindful of the energy you give off and how it will affect those around you.

If you attract bad energy, the laws of attraction state that you are giving off bad energy, so in order to attract the opposite, look inward and work on yourself because you are the only one who can shift your energy.

The quicker you own up to your mistakes, the faster you will level.

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