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.
Even if you’re one of the most self-aware college grads in the world, I can guarantee that you have significant blind spots.
Hell, I’m pretty sure in 10 years I’ll be looking back at my 24 year old self and laugh at him because he thought knew a lot.
But on the flip side…
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.
We often don’t remember a lot of our success, that’s why it’s so hard to feel good about ourselves. That’s why I make it a point of duty to always write down my successes for the day in my journal. Whether it’s small wins like finishing a task at work or larger ones like hitting a new personal record in the gym, I make sure to note it. That way, when you look back over your journal in a year, you’ll be like “Goddamn. I really am getting better.”
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..
A few months after graduation, I was called to come in for an interview. The setup was kind of odd. People were coming in and sitting down, being called in a room. After like a minute they just walked out the door. I didn’t like the vibe, so I politely turned down the offer.
More research was done and I found out that it was pyramid scheme/multi level marketing set up.
I had another situation where I was an intern for a start up. It started out well, but there was one problem: I was getting part time pay for full time work. I asked to go full time but then was told in an indirect manner that there was no place for me there. I quit shortly thereafter.
Manipulation is very subtle.
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)
Charisma is the ability to make others feel important…to feel good about themselves. In a world where most people are looking out for Numero Uno, this is a great skill to have.
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.
Especially on the weekends.
If you go out and get thrashed every weekend how can you expect to create anything of value with your free time? I knew a lot of people in college who would be nursing hangovers until 4 in the afternoon. By the time you get up, eat, and actually start on something productive, guess what? It’s time to do it all over again.
Entire blocks of years can get wasted doing this.
If I were to the value of time sooner, I would be lightyears ahead of where I am now. It’s just a shame that it took some perilous circumstances in my own life to figure that out.
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 physique will make you happier (it can but it is often short lived), or that shiny new toy will make you feel complete.
This problem is twofold:
- Most people are looking to “arrive”
- No one can help you but you
I’ve noticed that there’s an insistence in “arriving” somewhere or getting to the final destination. Most people fail to live in the now and only project themselves into the future, which doesn’t exist.
Along with that, you’re the only one who can save yourself from certain doom. No amount of motivational speeches, networking events, or affirmations will save you. They CAN help… But you have to put in the work.
A lot of people are looking to “get the hookup”. No one is going to hook up you, man. Once you’ve crafted something proper, then you meet the right people, that’s where the magic happens.
But no one will do it for you.
11. Organization CAN save you, though
One of the major things that has helped me in the past few years is ruthless organization. Having things in their right places… Noting down events… Making sure I have an accurate system to keep things in check and on time. Making sure that I’m walking in alignment with my goals.
I use a variety of tools for this, chief among them being Wunderlist and Google Calendar. It helps to keep me on track with my goals and it helps to keep me organized. I can’t remember everything, so these take huge mental weight from me.
I plan on eventually revealing some of the tools I use to be more productive, so stay tuned for that.
Notice I said that they CAN save you because they can. But once again… it all comes down to you and if you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and work.
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.
For some, it may be the use of mechanical skills like playing sports.
For others, it may be the exercise of intellectual discipline such as the study of Physics.
Whatever it may be, you need to obey that raw and unfiltered desire and go after it full force. That’s the only way that you’ll achieve true satisfaction and true happiness in life.
I am fortunate to have aspects of my own primal inclination integrated into my source of work. For that, I am thankful.
If you’re stuck in a dead end job and feel you have no way out, know this: you do.
If you live in the first world (especially the US), you live in one of the most resource-laded places in the entire world. You can do whatever you want to do, if you’re willing to sacrifice for it.
So take the time today and rediscover your primal inclinations. Write them down. Take steps to pursue them, and you’ll see how your life opens up for the better.
Need help discovering your primal inclinations? Look no further.
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. No way.
I also feel it’s sad that a lot of people around my age take their good health for granted. Superior mind and bodily health constructs the base that all of your successes build upon.
Once I stopped eating junk food and doing all other sorts of bad stuff, my mind became a lot clearer.
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.
This may seem like a “duh” thing but no, it goes much deeper than that. Everything truly does have a cause and effect.
Don’t set your bed in the morning, it’s crumpled until you return.
Don’t pack your lunch the night before, you either spend money and eat out or you pack in the morning of (rushing on the way).
There’s so many ways this law is applied. It’s in how you do things (do things right and you won’t have to do them again). How you treat people (the Golden Rule).
It applies to the small things and it certainly applies to the bigger things.
It’s one of the main reasons why I’m paying a hefty debt to life as of right now. If I obeyed this law years ago, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.
17. Treat everyone with respect until otherwise noted
I think one of the most unfortunate consequences of our society is the need to classify everyone and everything into a hierarchical nature.
These are better than those.
This is better than that.
She is better than him.
This leads to a greater lack of respect for things that seem lower than other things. This shouldn’t be. Everything and everyone has a purpose and place in the universe and that place should be noted. You don’t treat someone with acclaim just because others do or they can do something for you.
If someone treats you with disrespect by no means should it be taken. However, there is no reason to treat someone with disrespect right off the bat. You never know who will do you a favor one day.
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.
Who can put a price tag on hiking with your best friend in a national park?
What about having the blissful feeling of hanging with family you haven’t seen in awhile?
What about seeing incredible views of the sun rising or setting in places like The Great Wall of China?
I’ll answer with this: I don’t know but I do know that you can give me those experiences over a thousand dollars any day of the week.
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.
That’s one of the reasons why chemical engineers are highly paid and Starbucks baristas aren’t (not that there’s anything wrong with being a barista).
In my opinion, it’s important to develop a mix of “hard” skills, “soft” skills, and “life” skills to create a well-rounded toolset that you can draw upon at any moment. I definitely plan on expanding on this in detail in a later post.
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?
This culture has a tendency to get people so messed up… So jaded… So crazy. Because of this, I realize the importance of guarding your mind, of not letting bad influences seep in. From advertisements… television… media. Negativity everywhere. Danger everywhere. The goal is to make you seem less than you really are. To diminish you. Don’t let them do that to you.
You must guard your mind and watch your thoughts. You must always be ever-vigilant. That’s the only way you’ll get to where you want to be.
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. We only get a certain allotted amount. When we use it up… it’s up. 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.”
So start that business. Go to the gym. Read those books collecting dust. Start that Roth IRA. Time is on your (our) side, especially if you’re my age.
The power of compound interest is on your side. The sooner you start, the more time you have to create something constructive. Your successes will build and build and build on one another with more time.
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.
I also used to be a huge slacker. I firmly believe that if I tried I would have easily gotten a 4.0 in college. Instead, I lost the will to persist because my head was clouded.
Oh well, that’s all in the past. Onward and upward I say.
I hope you enjoyed this list. If you found it brought value to you or would provide value to someone else, pass it along!