I remember when I turned 20 years old.
I felt like a king. I felt godlike. I felt like I would breeze through my third decade of life and obliterate obstacles with supreme ease. Little did I know that this would not be the case.
I ran into some “bottlenecks” that slowed my progress down to a grinding halt and even made me take detours.
After some serious introspection, I came to these realizations the past couple of years. You can take this and apply it to your own life or you can take it with a grain of salt.
Or…you can even point your finger and laugh saying: “Haha, what a loser“. Either way, here’s 24 lessons I’ve learned in 24 years of living.
1. You’re not as awesome as you think you are
So…you graduated summa cum laude from a top school and you think you deserve a job served up to you piping hot on a platter.
Graduating from college is great. But in life you don’t get an A just for showing up.
You’ll just have to be battle tested and thrown in the fire time and time again, to make you realize that you truly don’t know much.
2. Give yourself more credit than you’re due
We can do a lot more than we believe we can.
I used to have very little confidence in my ability to produce results even when people would praise me. I would think them to be either delusional or I would just brush it off.
Don’t do that.
Whenever someone says “good job”, just take it with grace. Own your accomplishments.
3. People don’t give a fuck
They truly don’t.
The sooner you realize, this the better.
Most people don’t care about you, your problems, your dreams, or your family.
They just see you as a tool to use to further their own ends and get results.
You’re an adult now. You could go off and get killed in war and no one would bat an eye (except your family, I’d hope).
Which leads to the next point…
4. Being manipulated can be incredibly easy
In a world of instant gratification, it is very easy to prey on people’s insecurities. For example:
“If you do really great on this job, there’s potential for growth/a full time position”
“Full time salary with stock options and uncapped commission”
“Most applicants to this job make at least 60k after the first year”
If you hear/see anything similar to these… RUN. Don’t walk. RUN. Just run, dammit..
5. Charisma is underrated
Speaking of social intelligence, charisma is SO important!
Merriam-Webster defines charisma as “: a special charm or appeal that causes people to feel attracted and excited by someone (such as a politician)”.
Many people think that charisma is a trait that you either have or you don’t. This is incredibly inaccurate. Like most things, charisma can be developed through action (usually uncomfortable action).
6. Focus is underrated as well
If there was one attribute I wish I developed earlier on, it would be focus. It would have helped me immensely.
A lot of early opportunities were missed due to a lack of focus and lack of discipline. A person who knows what they want and is able to actually concentrate to its attainment rather than a bunch of half-finished products is a fearsome individual.
You should try to hone the two in bold daily.
7. So is hustle
If you want to create anything of value, you’ll need to work. Anything you can think of wasn’t created just from doing it once. Twice. Or even three times.
It was developed through intense work, sacrifice, and laser-sharp focus.
If you want to create an ideal foundation for yourself in your twenties, you’re going to want to work hard when you have the energy.
8. You don’t have as much time as you thought
This is one of the most frightening parts of life: it slips through your fingers so fast. Even when you’re not watching it, it goes.
And if you don’t think a day matters, well… yeah it does. That day you didn’t work on your project when you were supposed to, it matters. It all matters.
9. Life is paradoxical
If there’s one hard lesson that I’ve gotten over and over again, it’s this one. Life makes no sense much of the time and it is very random and chaotic.
I find that the harder I try to do something, the less it yields to me. When I go about it in an easy-going or almost carefree manner, the more it yields to me.
I try to keep this in mind. More effort doesn’t always lead to more results.
10. Only you can save yourself
I find that one of the great downfalls of the modern era (or maybe even past eras) is that most people look to something or someone to save them from the state that they’re in. This can come in a variety of forms.
You might think having a relationship will save you from crushing loneliness, having a better net worth will save you… it won’t.
11. Organization CAN save you, though
One of the major things that has helped me in the past few years is ruthless organization.
Make sure you are organized.
12. Obey the primal inclination
In his illuminating book Mastery, Robert Greene discusses what he calls “the primal inclination”. This is a concept where a person’s uniqueness expresses itself in childhood. This hints to what you are good at and love to do.
This may highlight a good area for you to explore.
13. Small victories matter
Going along with the above, the small victories matter the most. They help set you for those big wins.
Why go after small goals? You may get discouraged if you go after something that’s too large and you don’t accomplish it. When you do something that’s smaller, you get excited when you complete it.
That excitement has the momentum you need to propel you into the stratosphere towards bigger goals.
14. Your health is your greatest asset
At my age, it’s easy to do things to your health that would be detrimental to other people. Excessive drinking and drug use won’t hit you as hard as it will when you advance in age.
You’ll be able to bounce back from certain illnesses with ease.
Overall, your healing factor will be tremendous.
But eventually, it catches up with you. No way in hell will I be able to get away with the same stuff I did at 20 at 50 years of age.
15. Being physically active is one of the greatest things
Speaking of heavy lifting, I greatly enjoy working out.
Lifting weights really did/does a great number of things for me:
- It increased my confidence
- It allowed me to see that the mind is the final judge
- It makes me feel a lot better
I used be a HUGE couch potato. I’m talking eating tons of candy, tons of junk food, playing video games for stretches at a time… Yet I wasn’t fat… I was rail thin. My metabolism was burning everything in sight.
Yet I still felt terrible. I could barely run without getting winded and my testosterone levels were at an all time low.
When I started lifting weights in late 2012 (albeit with the wrong exercises and terrible form), it did wonders for me. It was hard at first, but I stuck with it and now I reap the results.
I still have a long way to go but I am so glad that I discovered the joys of working out for myself. It made all the difference.
16. The Law of Compensation is always in effect
This may be the hardest lesson I’ve learned. This is universal law hits me like a sledgehammer every time because I how true it is.
In his essay on Compensation, Ralph Waldo Emerson discusses how the universe is in perfect polarity.
If there’s day, there’s night.
If there’s sowing, there’s reaping.
Keep that in mind.
17. Treat everyone with respect until otherwise noted
18. Give the benefit of the doubt
Going along with the point noted above, this applies to life in a heavy handed way. Always give someone the benefit of the doubt until you’ve seen otherwise. People may call this naivete, but I truly think otherwise.
It’s always good to give people a fair shot before you cast judgment.
19. Journey > Destination
At this age, it is very difficult to keep this in mind. You become so much greater as you try to achieve a goal than when you attain it. I’ve noticed that I’ve become a whole different person as I try to attain my goals, whether it’s bursting past plateaus in the gym, working on projects, or simply trying to exercise more discipline.
It truly is an exciting process and if you pay attention to how you start to change, it’s really humbling. That’s one of the reasons I try to challenge myself everyday.
20. Experiences can be worth more than money
The saying “money can’t buy everything” is true. I’ve had so many transformative experiences in the past couple of years, to put a price tag on them would be diminishing their grand importance.
Value them more than the financial cost it takes to get them.
21. Skills are the currency of the modern world
As I grow older, I am starting to realize the heavy importance to developing and mastering skills and skill sets. This dawned upon me in college but you truly are compensated by the value you bring to the marketplace.
22. Your mind controls everything
The mind is the greatest determinant on how we see life and interact with life. If our mind is lagging and dragged down with all sorts of negative emotions, we can’t be our best selves. If we can’t be our best selves, we can’t be happy. If we can’t be happy, then… there’s not much enjoyment we’ll get out of life, is there?
Check out my SUPER EPIC post on James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh if you want to learn more about this.
23. It’s not as great as you think it is
Going along with the concept of the journey is better than the destination, I’ve realized that the attainment of a goal is not as great as we think it will be. It often tends to come with a feeling of “bleh”.
That job you wanted? It’s definitely not as good as it looks on paper.
That girl/guy you wanted? He/she is not as good in a relationship as they are out of it.
Anything you can think of, it’s just not as euphoric as it is in our mind’s eye.
24. Start something
I’m saying this once again because I truly think one of the most underutilized resources in modern society is time. Especially for younger people like myself. Everyone thinks they have an unlimited amount of it because we can’t see it.
We can’t see oxygen either…but we’d sure as shit notice that it was gone if it ever did suddenly disappear.
“When I have more time I’ll start that business.”
“When I have more time I’ll go to the gym.”
“When I have more time I’ll read some books.”
The funny thing is… we don’t get more time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Greg Plitt said it best:
“The thing about good enough is we don’t know about what good enough is. We don’t know until the nth hour, the final hour, when everything is on the line. That’s when we find out if that’s enough. And if we come up short – man…doesn’t that suck.”
These are only a few of the lessons that I’ve learned since becoming an adult six years ago. You’ll notice how much I talk about the necessity to do the work and do the work well. That’s because I’ve learned that work makes me happy. I feel so much pleasure when I take a massive break and just unwind after a long period of work. The rewards I reap are better and life is just grand.