The most important things I learnt in my 20’s.
My friend Kwabena recently sent me a tweet with an article titled “20 Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make In Your 20s”, and suggested it would be inline with how I think.
As is often the case with Kwabena, he was right. I agree with most of the comments that my morals are inline with.
I read the post in the morning on the way to work and it has been on my mind since. While I agree with most of the comments I think the post left out some important things I have learnt.
To be fair, I should point out: I might not be all that qualified to comment on the things you should avoid in your 20s as I am 26 at this point, but I feel there are valuable things that I have learnt and my life is quite different to how it once was as a result.
Here are what I would like to suggest you consider if you are about to venture into your 20s, in no particular order:
1. Don’t absorb shit information.
If you want to make a good decisions you need to know what the situation really is. You should want to avoid gossip, heavily biased, ignorant opinion and pointless bullshit about past events which get in the way of you building your future.
Remember that each publication is put out to surve a purpose. Some are for political manipulation, some entertainment and some to inform.
Select information sources that are trusted by decision makers and read them regularly.
2. Make lists. You might have a good memory or whatever, just keep lists.
When working on something you should want to produce the best results every time. Lists allow you to focus on what you need to do now, knowing you won’t overlook other things that need to be done in time.
Create and maintain lists. Ones that you can manage on the go if possible. (I recommend Asana or Workflowy.)
3. Don’t put off decisions.
It can be a good decision or a bad one, preferably the former but in the long run it doesn’t matter. Making a decision is the first step towards getting what you want. You might make mistakes but you can fix them on the way. If you put off making the decision, you will only prolong the situation you are in until you convince yourself that you will only mess it up.
Look at the options available to you, select the one that appears to have the most benefits and minimal negative repercussions and work at it. Seek advice if necessary.
4. Don’t confuse fear and respect.
To be fair I learnt this is secondary school but it is incredibly important and I believe a huge number of people misunderstand the two.
For me the difference boils down to this: if someone fears you they are waiting for the opportunity to stab you in the back, if they respect you they look forward to the opportunity to helping you.
You want to be respected. You can’t sustain and won’t enjoy the life of someone who is feared.
Be honest. Work hard. Always.
5. Don’t be to afraid to ask for help.
You don’t know everything.
There is always going to be someone with more knowledge or experience than you, be it technical or just generally, which is fine.
Where you need help emotionally reach out, trust me things can rapidly spiral out of control.
Reachout to someone, or an organisation you can trust and be ready to put the work in.
6. Don’t stick with the unlucky/ unstable.
A young lady once told me not to do business with “unlucky people”. She was and is, correct.
In my experience people who are “unlucky”, normally bring the misfortune on themselves as they overlook basic things, which prevent the things they want to avoid from happening.
Look out for the signs of constant complaining and random things going wrong constantly, then keep your distance.
7. Make new friends.
Do all you can to meet a wide variety of people. Spending all of your time with the same people/ locking yourself away by playing games/ spending all your time on the internet, you get into a routine which limits what you are exposed to and makes it harder for you to do something significant.
It can also lead to deep frustration because you can’t fulfil wants/ needs that aren’t being catered for by “pass-times” or the group.
Ask for introductions. Go to networking spaces, take classes, get involved in sports, learn to talk to strangers.
8. Don’t put off things you enjoy or want to experience.
People who know me will probably have heard me say: “Don’t limit yourself by other people’s opinion of themselves.”
Everyone can be and deserves to be happy. Especially you. You have to live with yourself 24 hours a day, 365/ 366 days a year, for all of the years you are alive. Moreover you are on earth for a limited amount of time so don’t put it off.
Find a job you like, get good at what you would need in order to secure that job and keep getting better.
Try new things, discard the ones you didn’t like and do the ones you liked again.
9. Don’t overlook importance of working with good people.
More often than not, what you need is results. You can’t do everything, there just isn’t enough time in the day and if there was, there is probably someone more capable than you anyway. You also begin to expect more from yourself because the quality of work around you is high.
Work out how to find people who are good at what you need, be nice to them and let them get the results you require.
10. Make sure you understand the difference between “like” and “desire”.
Most people say they desire something but aren’t wiling to put any effort in. Which means they would like that thing but they do not truly desire it.
How many times do people tell you they want to be “rich”? or they want to own that super car, but spend all the time at the pub?
The reality is they’d rather carry on watching football or a reality TV show where people are pretending to act the fool, than put the work in. These people won’t get you anywhere.
If you really desire something you will be willing to give up sleep, miss that fifth night out, go through the pain of lifting the extra weight… you will sacrifice your reputation for it.
Don’t be one of those people who talks about what they would like, be one of the people who is chasing what they desire.
11. Action does not = results.
As mentioned earlier, more often than not you want the results; a nice car, a home, lovely children, an amazing wife or husband. These are results of your actions.
Going to work, day in, day out and doing what you are told wont get you that promotion but, doing more than what is asked of you, will.
Every now and then you need to step back, look at what you are doing and make sure what you are working on now, really is inline with what you want as a result, then act accordingly.
12. Solve the problem once.
Make solving the problem the first time you come across it a habit. The last thing you want to have to do is to go around solving the same problem again and again which prevents you form moving on.
Figure out what the cause of the problem is and put a solution in place that you can prove is the best available.
13. Don’t assume anything.
Your assumptions about someone or something are normally you choosing to take on someone else’s bias. This person’s priorities or experience, or lack of, can stop you from fully engaging and getting the most out of opportunities.
Equally don’t assume because you don’t understand why someone has done something a different way to the way you would, that they are stupid. They probably have different experiences to you, which would lead to them having a different decision making process.
Get involved. Ask questions. Take precautions where possible.
14. Question everything.
Most people let things happen to them and wonder why things never get better for them. Don’t be one of these people.
You don’t always have to question everything out loud but, you should always question everything; “Am I happy here?”, “Do I agree with that decision?”, “Was that well thought through?”, “What are the repercussions of this, if things don’t go the way I hope?”.
15. “Influence is more important than money”.
I can’t remember who said this but someone said it to me recently; “If you land in a new country with no friends or connections you will run out of money, but if you have influence you can always get access to what you need”.
Again, work hard. Be nice and contribute.
16. Don’t hoard stuff.
Marketing dictates that you need everything. All of it. Now. You can’t get by without a new phone, a tablet, a laptop and a computer, to check the status updates of people you don’t like on Facebook in-between texting/ emailing the people you do like. You also need a pair of trousers for each day of the year, more specifically ones that are on trend.
You will end up with piles of worthless crap if you are not careful, each time you by a £500 mobile phone, you are £500 further away from booking a holiday or building up capital that you could invest in something that will eventually lead to passive income so you don’t have to worry about money when you retire.
Put buying things other than food, rent and utilities off for as long as possible, eventually you realise you’d rather have the money to buy something more significant.
17. Just because someone is around you, doesn’t mean they are your friend.
Good friends take care of you, they are loyal, they guide you, they support you, they take time to listen, they push you out of your comfort zone. They inspire you. They are there to celebrate your victories and to pick you up from the pool of mud you fell into face first, because you need them.
You need to be all of these things too.
18. Man up
You will make mistakes.
Making mistakes is fine because is shows you are trying to grow by venturing into something you don’t have much experience of, but you were willing to try. If you accept that you got it wrong people can help you fix whatever it is and then you wont make the mistake again. If you try and shift the blame onto others and then it transpires that you are full of shit, you don’t deserve respect or help.
Equally if you know deep down that you are right about something, let people know. Don’t run the risk of keeping it to yourself, it’s not about being able to tell people “I told you so” it’s about doing what is right, for everyone.
Don’t let pride or fear get in the way of progress. State what the situation is and prepare to move things forward.
Too often people say, “I could have been this…”, “I could have done…”, “It should have been done like this…”.
They couldn’t have, because they didn’t show people. They didn’t put their ideas out there, they didn’t prevent the disaster from happening, they didn’t put the album together, they didn’t put any money down. They talked and they dreamt or watched it all pass them by on TV.
The world can’t know what you are capable of unless you show us.
Lace up your boots and get on the pitch. Write that article. Paint that picture. Apply for that job. Volunteer. Put an MVP together. Intern. Show some support, sell, ask her out… do something and do it now!
20. Don’t copy everyone else and expect to be worth more.
By emulating others you make yourself less valuable. If everyone has the same qualification or ability, why should I pay you more than the others that are applying?
If you want to earn more than the people around you, you need to be better than the vast majority of them at something of value and let these people know you’d be of value to them, with results.
Do something different. Solve a problem in your community, travel, make something, campaign for something… It’s not enough to have ideas alone, you have to do something. Something the people who can afford to pay you will notice and appreciate.
That’s what I have learnt.
I’d really like to know what you have learnt in your 20’s. Feel free to send me your thoughts below…