1. Work the shitty jobs.
Sweat your summer away by making pennies reffing youth soccer and making snow cones at the neighborhood snowball stand. It’ll teach you the value of money at a young age. Work the retail stock position. The Jimmy John’s delivery driver job. Work every position in a restaurant. Be a customer support phone tech. It will show you a side of the hospitality industry everyone needs to see at one point. And will give you empathy. And patience.
2. Say YES to travel.
Say yes to trips. Say yes to exploring. The more you see, the more you learn about yourself, others, and the world. It will open your eyes in more ways than you could ever imagine. The younger you are, the easier this will be. Go while you don’t have many responsibilities! Anyone can list a million reasons why it may not be the right time, but when is the right time? Book a ticket and go!
3. Say NO to over commitment.
You know that feeling you get when you’re physically and mentally drained? Sometimes we are hit with the urgent realization that we are not super human. We burn out. Make time for the nights where you hide in your bedroom with good smelling candles and your favorite Pandora playlist. Never underestimate the power of a slow night. Ain’t nobody got time for a mental breakdown.
4. Think before you speak.
Everything sounds better in your head and some things are better left unsaid. You might be mad at your boss, parent, sibling, friend, or significant other. Just remember that words hurt and they can’t be erased. One wrong thing could get your fired, grounded, hated, or broken up with. Sometimes your dog can be the best listener.
5. Take care of your body.
The way you treat your body now will effect you for the rest of your life. Not to mention the older you get, the harder it is to bounce back from “a few extra pounds.” Five extra pounds quickly turns into ten and next thing you know it’s twenty. Your mental health is best when you feel good about yourself. Nobody likes feeling self-conscious. Get fit.
6. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Have you ever had a complete stranger be an asshole for no apparent reason? I’m sure we all have! Maybe it was in the grocery store, at the gym, at school, or in a restaurant. Before you give them a taste of their own medicine, stop and think. What if they just had a terrible day? Maybe they lost their job, had their significant other leave them, found out a family member was diagnosed with cancer, or had a spouse or child pass away. You never know what someone might be battling inside. Always try to react with kindness, even when people may not deserve it.
7. Commit to yourself and your goals.
I have noticed people go through phases of extreme focus and utter disregard for themselves. Don’t allow jobs and relationships to consume you so much that you forget what you want for yourself. A healthy work environment or romantic relationship shouldn’t deter you from personal growth. Personal growth takes time and effort. Keep chasing those dreams!
8. Be intentional.
This is probably my favorite life motto. Nothing happens by chance. You have complete control over your own destiny. Set your goals and make things happen. So often we lose track for days, weeks, and months before we realize we’re not really living the way we want to. Living intentionally means you have to work to get the life you want. Make a list of what you want and start taking steps to get there. I’m not talking about material things, but about life experiences. What do you wish you did more often? What type of person do you want to be? Compare those desires with your current life and adjust accordingly!
9. Ask for help when you need it.
People can’t read minds. Sometimes our pride is too big to admit the reality of how we are feeling, but guess what? Nobody is invincible. There is going to come a time when you are lost, overwhelmed, scared, or lonely. We’re human. When this time comes, do yourself a favor and ask for help. Asking for it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re brave and honest enough to admit when you’re down. And maybe you don’t even need actual help, but need understanding or support. Friends, family members, and co-workers are much more likely to show empathy and assistance if you’re honest about whatever situation you’re in.
10. Communicate your needs.
Communicating your needs is best done prior to something being an issue. If you are upfront about your desires, people don’t have to guess where you stand on things. I find this to be especially true in relationships. People will be able to fulfill your needs easier if know what they are, and if they don’t find your needs important, they will likely walk away and save you from wasting your time. Bye, Felicia.
11. You’re never too old to learn.
Are you 29 and unable to cook anything other than grilled cheese? Are you 35 with a Master’s Degree and a family? Are you 18 and on your way to Harvard? You may be 60 with grown children and grandkids. You’re never too old to learn. Around age 16 we all thought we knew everything, and I believe that attitude often never leaves people. Egos get in the way. Don’t be naive. There is always something to learn.
12. Be a good person.
What goes around comes around. I believe that statement is the truth. If you treat people like crap, you will get crapped on. Simple as that. Be nice and do the right thing, because you never know who might be watching and it makes more of a difference than you’d think.
13. Respect yourself enough to walk away.
Actions speak louder than words. If someone treats you poorly, it makes them a shitty person. Don’t give it months or years. Walk away. Someone who loves you and respects you will do everything in their power to make sure you are happy every damn day. Know your worth. And if you don’t know it, let me remind you: You are perfect the way you are and there is someone out there that will love the shit out of you. They won’t hurt your feelings daily, make you feel belittled or unwanted. You will believe them when they say, “I love you” and their words and actions will be in sync. Your efforts will be appreciated and reciprocated. They will choose you every single day. Anything less than this is something that you are better off without. Know your worth!
14. Not all debt is bad.
A credit card is the only reason I was able to fund a six month backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and Australia. It was the best debt I ever had and once I returned home I didn’t swipe the card again until it was all paid off. I didn’t mind working extra hours to pay off the best experience my of my life. Bad debt is the kind that keeps accumulating for no reason. Credit cards can also be used to build credit or accumulate free flights and rewards. You can work the system to your advantage, but don’t let yourself get in over your head.
15. Create meaningful relationships.
And don’t settle for mediocre ones. Surround yourself with good people and put in the effort to be a good friend. I watched a Ted Talk once that referenced a study that proved people with bountiful friendships, healthy marriages, and productive interactions lived significantly longer than those who stayed in unhealthy marriages and abusive relationships. People with the less desirable relationship connections had worse health and were unhappier people in general. We were created to smile, laugh, and interact. Talk to that stranger on the plane. Be the friend that goes above and beyond. Be the spouse you would want to have. Good relationships equal longer, happier lives.
16. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
I think we all get to a point where our bitterness gets the best of us and we consider guarding our heart, but I encourage you to stay open. Don’t close yourself off to people and stop yourself from forming deep connections. Stay vulnerable. Vulnerability shows bravery and courage. It shows authenticity and depth. It shows potential and promise. We were meant to love and be loved. Let yourself do both.
17. The world is bigger than you.
What do you think comes after this earthly life? I encourage you (if you haven’t already) to explore your spirituality or work to be stronger in your faith. I encourage you to be open and willing to try new things. If there is a little curiosity in your heart, it’s not by accident. Everything becomes a little sweeter when you follow those curiosities and find where you truly belong. Believing and trusting in something bigger helps us to not take this life so seriously. Let go of ego and explore.
18. Care about your family. You only have one.
You were put on this earth with one family. It doesn’t matter if they’re blood, adopted, added, or makeshift. A family is a connected group of individuals centered around love, acceptance, support and (I’ll say it again) love. So be a good sibling, a good parent, a good relative, and don’t screw your family over! These people should know you would do anything for them. Family drama is more common than anyone would like to admit, but it’s usually never worth it. Apologize when you’re wrong, forgive if you have a grudge, and make amends when needed. Give them tough love if you have to, but always remember love can conquer all if you let it.
19. You aren’t perfect. Apologize when you screw up.
Life is a constant learning curve and there will be a point when you hurt someone. When that time comes, acknowledge it and admit your mistake. Give a genuine apology. There is nothing worse than a half-ass apology where someone feels just as crappy as they did when you hurt them. There is honor in honesty and growth in admitting you screwed up. Say sorry and mean it.
20. Don’t grow up too fast.
Everyone moves at a different pace, but enjoy your youth. Your years are limited and as cliche as it may sound, you never know what day will be your last. So try not to get too caught up in adulthood. Make time for fun. Keep being silly. Make the most of your freedom until you’re ready to settle down. Travel far. Make mistakes and learn from them. Grow up, but always stay young.
21. Take leaps of faith.
The fruit is always sweeter on the limb… or something like that. Take chances. Be okay with accidental failure. Try new things. Be spontaneous and change your mind. Start journeys where you don’t know the outcome. They will all teach you things about yourself. Plus, you never know what might be on the other side. There is nothing more boring than a safe life. Mix it up and go for it.
22. Success isn’t the same for everyone.
Some people measure it with money. Some people measure it with fame. Some people measure it with experience and memories. Some people measure it with family. Some people measure it by the amount of Instagram followers they have. Everyone’s idea of success is personal to them and that is okay, but I hope you measure it in terms of what means the most to you. Success to me is being 85 and content with the years I’ve lived. What does it mean to you? What are the things that are going to mean the most as you take your last breaths? Because those are the things you should focus on.
23. Be yourself.
I read a quote by Steve Jobs once that explains this better than I ever could: “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”