I recently came across the following question online – “What are some of the things you should avoid or try doing in your first 30 years of life?” Since I’m in my mid-40s, I thought I’d give this young questioner my two cents.
As I was formulating my answer, it got me thinking about how important your 20s are. It’s the time to shape your identity, establish your habits, and determine how you’re going to live your life.
You have time on your side, so you can afford to take some more risks. The hope is that you’ll take the right kinds of risks that will turn into rewards down the road.
1. Live in a Cosmopolitan City
I highly recommend living in a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population. Pick a city where you can meet people from all over the world with different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
When you live in a diverse community, you come to realize that people are just people. There are good and bad in all colors and creeds. You no longer fear people who are different, and in fact you’ll start to embrace and enjoy those differences.
2. Travel as much as possible
For some of the same reasons as #1 above, the more you travel, the more you’ll learn about other cultures and other ways of life.
Whenever you get a chance to travel, take it. There are so many amazing things to see in our world: cosmopolitan cities, coastal villages, ancient ruins, mountains, glaciers, deserts, and so much more.
Many people put off travel when they’re young. They either think they can’t afford it or they want to focus on their careers first. But with proper planning, your 20’s can be one of the best times to travel and explore the world.
Just like living in a diverse city, traveling will expose you to other cultures, types of food, belief systems, and ways of life.
3. Challenge yourself physically
Your physical body is an amazing organism. If you take care of it, you’ll feel better, live longer, and move throughout life easier.
Your 20’s are a great time to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Use this time to see what you’re made of, set goals, and push through boundaries.
There are a variety of challenges you can explore: 5K’s, 10K’s, Half and full marathons, triathlons, mud races (like Tough Mudder), bike races, and hiking / climbing expeditions.
I would also recommend finding one or two exercises that you actually enjoy doing, so you can develop a lifelong habit of physical fitness.
4. Start a small business
Even if it’s just a sole proprietorship e-commerce site or blog, running your own small business will teach you so much more than taking a business class or working for others.
You’ll learn about finances, accounting, cash flow, operations, site design, user experience, basic legal concepts, sales, customer relations, and more.
When you work for someone else, you’ll never have the same “skin in the game” as you do with your own business. Running your own business forces you to quickly learn, adapt, apply, and change constantly.
5. Learn about finances & investing
If you only learn two financial concepts your whole life, make them dollar cost averaging and compound interest. Using these two strategies, especially from a young age, should put you in pretty good financial shape when you’re my age or older.
Dollar cost averaging is the technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price.
Compound Interest can be thought of as “interest on interest,” and will make a deposit or loan grow at a faster rate than simple interest.
You can start with as little as $100 per month. Retirement accounts are perfect vehicles for this, because they automatically invest your money at the same time each pay period. And if your employee matches, then that’s an even bigger bonus.
6. Learn to meditate / Deal with stress
They say there are only two things in life that are certain – death and taxes. Well, I say there’s a third – stress.
No matter how privileged your life might be, you will find yourself under stress. There are too many things outside your control that cause stress — mean people, bad weather, unreasonable bosses, crazy politicians, terrorism, diseases, you name it.
Suffering from chronic stress will wreak havoc on your body and your life. It leads to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, higher risk of heart attack, infertility, and more.
The best way to deal with all this stress is to know how to calm and center your mind, and the best way to do that is with a daily meditation practice.
7. Develop a love of reading
The typical American reads an average of only 19 minutes per day. Reading offers multiple benefits, including reducing stress, enhancing your memory, and boosting your analytical ability.
Set aside at least 30 minutes every day to read something. I’m not talking about a blog or social media post, but an actual book.
It can be fiction or non-fiction, hard copy or electronic. The more you read, the more you learn, understand other viewpoints, and develop your curiosity and creativity.
Do you remember going to the library when you were a kid? Why not take advantage of all the free books at your local library? Or if you prefer ebooks, Amazon offers a large selection of free ebooks on Kindle.
Your 20’s can and should be the time of your life. A time to explore the world, to take some (calculated) risks, and test your limits.
You not only can have fun during your 20’s, but you can also use that time to set up the rest of your life for happiness and success.
And don’t forget it’s never too late to do any of these things. Life’s meant to be experienced, no matter what your age!