This year, I leave my twenties behind. Looking back, here are some things I did wrong, some things I learned, and some things I wish I discovered sooner.
Most of the ideas you have now will embarrass you later.
Take out student loans. Buy a car. Get married. You are about to enter a decade of debt. Borrow as little as possible. The poorer you are in your twenties, the richer you’ll be for the rest of your life. The world feeds on the young.
Get out of university by age 22. Don’t be the person who refuses to graduate.
University is wonderful, but you have to decide what you want. Think carefully about your assumption that more education equals a higher paying career. For most careers, four years is enough.
Never be the drunkest person at the party.
Drive slow. Not everyone gets out of their twenties alive.
Your parents miss you. Call them.
Develop a hard skill. Like programming.
Ask people questions. It makes people like you more. Ask them anything: where they were born, what their parents do, what they want to do with their life. This works for getting a job (ask questions at the interview) as well as finding someone to love.
Any awkward silence can be cured with a simple question.
Read at least three books on personal finance. Like it or not, money is a central fact of life.
If you want to make art, answer the question WHY.
If you want to make money, answer the question HOW.
Example A: WHY do some people take off their sunglasses when talking to you in the street, while others leave them on? What does that say about two different types of people? I could put that in a novel.
Example B: That infernal globe of fire in the sky hurts my eyes. HOW could I make it less painful? Would a pair of dark glasses help to protect my eyes from the light? People might pay me for that.
Spend less than you make. Even if it’s $10 less than you make. It’s a simple habit. You’ll also notice that most of what I regret turns around debt and money. That’s because people spend most of their lives getting out of the debt they begin to accumulate in their twenties.
Travel. Children are on their way. So ride a motorcycle through Thailand, drink rum in Cuba, enjoy being young.
Don’t travel too much. There is nothing romantic about being 29, broke, and refusing to leave your literary friends in Germany to return to the reality of your life in America. Travelling is a vacation, not a philosophical vocation.
Read poetry. But for god sakes there’s no fucking living in that.
Read Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.
Get a job in the best and biggest company you can right away. It’s easy to leverage down (big company to small company), but hard to leverage up (dog-walker / part-time graphic designer, hey Google! Want to hire me?).
The good ones find a way. The next time you hit a roadblock remember this.
What do you want to do? Write a novel? Start a company? Be a world-famous photographer? Get started right away. Practice trumps theory.
The next time you are about to lecture someone, to preach at them, or to brag and show them how you are smart and they are dumb, remember this quote:
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
You will be a different person at the end of this decade than at the beginning. For that reason, you will probably ignore all of the advice above.
At least then remember this:
“Life is a cruel teacher. She gives the test first, then the lesson.”