I still feel 21. Like I’m Peter Pan stuck in a time warp.
The reality is I’m a 37 year old grandpa.
It feels weird to be this old. As I’ve progressed through my 30s, I’ve been contacted by more 20-somethings for life advice. Who am I to share wisdom? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve learned a thing or two.
Here’s some honest, tough-love advice for 20-somethings (some advice can work for other ages, too).
Take a risk or you’ll be doing the same sh*t for the rest of your life
Open strong, they say.
Let’s not mess about. This one hurts like hell so let’s rip the band-aid off. The norm in society is to play it safe. To find the path to a predictable job via a pitstop at college and then do it for decades.
We pick a path in a hurry and hope it works out. To change paths from one to another feels way too hard, so we settle.
It’s what I did in banking. Deep down I didn’t give a crap about banking or helping people open up savings accounts that’d destroy their financial future. No.
But it felt too hard to change.
People knew me as “the banker.” They assumed I worked some high-profile job, when in reality, I spent way more time than I care to admit being stuck in a bank call center. I avoided risks.
Changing industry felt hard. Going from employee to people leader made me feel imposter syndrome. After more than 5 years I finally started taking risks. And I failed.
The first career change blew up in my face. I got fired. People laughed.
The pivots after that didn’t work either. Then I finally quit working a job forever and that made me sick for 6 months. Now it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, because if I hadn’t made it, I’d always wonder “what if?”
What ifs feel terrible later in life. Trust me.
Get the hell off zero
Many 20 year olds I meet have way too many questions.
They’re stuck in planning mode. They overthink, overcomplicate, and scare themselves to death with all the options.
The trick is to get off zero. Go out there and do some stuff. Experiment. Execute. See what works. Talk to some people. The #1 aim for a 20-something is to get off zero and show proof-of-work.
Chasing down endless mentors doesn’t count as work.
Mentors want to mentor you after you’ve got off zero and can show some results, or at least some attempts.
Being good at networking online is massively underrated
I’d trade everything I learned in 4 years of higher education sound engineering study for a 3 month course on networking in direct messages.
My dad always said “It’s who you know, not what you know.” He’s right. I’ve always gone places faster than most people I know, not because of IQ, but because of my ability to get around the right people.
I’m not afraid to shoot my shot and send a DM. I aim to start conversations instead of ask strangers for stuff, which is what most people do.
Figure out how to reach hard-to-reach people. One clue is to hang where they hang. If they’re at an event in Austin, Texas … then go.
If they’re in some secret Discord channel, then try to get an invite. Do free work if you have to in order to get access. Just don’t be a lone wolf.
Lone wolves become lonely and are miles away from opportunities.
No one cares about you. They care what you can do for them.
This is where a lot of 20 year olds go wrong.
They want to know what someone can do for them. They’re desperate for help. Even worse, they want free help from busy people who’ve achieved 10x what they have. That’s not how the world works. Soz.
Strangers don’t care about you. Read that again.
Even your friends and college contacts don’t care about you as much as you think. What people care about is what you can do for them.
Maybe you’re a good listener. Maybe you have high status in a field. Maybe you have plenty of money. Maybe you have skills they want.
But make no mistake, they know you for what you add to their life. Find out what this is if you can.
Most college degrees are useless for 98.9% of careers
I don’t love college.
It used to matter years ago when access to information was hard to get. Now the internet and AI have sent the cost of information to $0.
College is a business. They sell you a dream so they can make money.
The public records of their profits and fee increases over the years are known by most people. If you want to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer … then sure … maybe think about a degree.
But for most other careers college is useless.
The new skill we all need more of is creativity. That’s what has the highest value. It’s why the creator economy has gone mainstream. This new section of the internet isn’t about writers, or Youtubers, or TikTokers. No.
It’s about a shift in the global economy.
Creativity is now achieving the highest status. Creatives — such as filmmakers, writers, poets, musicians — for the most part, always got paid the worst. That narrative is shifting because AI and technology have made knowledge work, that led the way for decades, worthless.
Some call this era the digital renaissance. I call it the rebirth of creativity.
Take advantage of it. Become a creative.
Writing in public gives you an unfair advantage
There are too many 20-somethings who are ghosts.
No one knows they exist. You google them and nothing comes up. So a stranger like me, or an employer, assumes you’re a nobody. The point of writing online isn’t to become a millionaire. It’s to share ideas.
Ideas attract people. People create opportunities for you. So write.
Starting a business will rip your pretty little face off
Entrepreneurship has become glorified.
In the 2010s, it was all about becoming a startup founder with 100s of employee lemmings saying your name and having a super-high startup valuation that got you to unicorn territory.
The recession fairies murdered these fake rainbow unicorns in their sleep. In the last 2 years, it’s all been about one-person businesses or small groups of creators making money online.
I support this movement. But make no mistake, starting any type of business — no matter how large or small — will rip your face off.
You’ll have to wear many hats — accountant, lawyer, customer support, software engineer, Chief Marketing Officer, etc.
Anyone who thinks it’s easy will fail faster than the Donald Duck president trying to reinvent his credibility after endless scandals.
Business will hurt. It’s painful. It’s hard. Good.
A hard task like starting a business will teach you more than a comfortable job in an air-conditioned office ever will.
Everybody should start a business at least once in their life. The free education is worth 7-figures later in life.
The news will trash your mind
The ideas that enter your head program your mind.
The subconscious is a powerful beast that most of us are unaware of and we struggle to tame. Stay the hell away from poisonous information like the news. Cable news is even worse.
And stay away from toxic political debates on the tweet app too. It does you no good. The news has to be negative for people to want to pay attention. Negativity is addictive. So is “Breaking: the sky is falling in.”
Fill your mind with lessons from history and timeless books like “Man’s Search For Meaning.” You’ll get further in life.
And you won’t become a negative little a-hole.
Alcohol is the most useless liquid in the world
They tell you it’s fun.
You feel out of your mind and can briefly escape reality for a bit. It’s a great way to put off hard decisions. But it solves nothing.
More importantly, alcohol kills brain cells which you’ll need in life. And it destroys your energy levels which you need to put up with all the curveballs that life will throw at your pretty little 20-something face.
Booze is a snoozer. Avoid.
Those who are cool and party become bums later in life
Nightclubs seem fun.
I should know as I spent most of my 20s trying to become a DJ. I wanted to live life in the nightclub and never go home to my basement bedroom.
The people seemed so cool. They looked like they had everything.
Fast-forward to my 30s, and when I Facebook these same cool cats, they all ended up nowhere. Most of them turned to harder drugs. Or they just exited from society and ended up on a beach in Bali.
When we’re in our 20s it’s all about being cool. Later in life it becomes apparent that status is useless. People get tired of cool.
In your 30s, what’s cool is having your sh*t together. Maybe settling down or buying a house to get away from the landlord thieves.
You won’t reach this point in your 30s, though, if you trade your 20s for the devil that looks cool in Prada.
Usefulness over coolness.
Being offended is the fastest path to Loserville
People will say stuff you don’t like.
If you have any level of success, like I’ve had, losers will come after you with pitchforks. It’s not you, it’s them. They want what you have.
I see far too many 20-somethings get offended too easily. One tiny rejection or failure and they’re down in the dumps.
Society is full of losers.
It’s why social media is packed with sh*tposters who try to get a reaction. Or gaslighters who want to light your ass on fire.
Making you offended is a modern-day sport. Don’t fall for it. Mute and block every damn day.
If you don’t learn about money, you’ll always be broke
Life will be even harder than it needs to be without money.
Money will be on the brain every day if you follow the sheep off a cliff and think money is evil or doesn’t matter.
In my 20s, I became addicted to finance books.
The year I was 26 I read hundreds of money books. It set me up for life. I learned the truth about inflation. I learned what a central bank does and how they infect the money supply. I learned how money loses value.
That financial education has saved me from working more hours than I need to. It’s the best investment in yourself you’ll ever make.
Use and abuse a 9–5 job to learn
Choose learning, not logos or bosses.
Hop, skip, and jump from one job to the next. Learn about an industry. Figure out the business models. Understand the basics of marketing. Get good at building systems. And just use a job to learn.
Once you’ve learned enough, then use what you’ve learned to build something after hours. Maybe it becomes a business. Or maybe it’s just a side hustle you do to boost your salary. But never fall for company loyalty.
If your career isn’t full of learning, it’s dying.
A big ego is the #1 thing you want to avoid
I’m lucky to spend time with people who earn 7 figures or more a year. The problem is many of them aren’t nice people.
- They start to chase status.
- They let money get to their head.
- They do burnouts in Mercedes Benzes.
- They hire personal assistants to shield them from email.
- They stop answering DMs from people who’ve helped them.
And worst of all, they act busier and more important than they are.
It’s a giant pain in the ass … and I hate it. What it does is repel people from your life. Ego is the enemy, as author Ryan Holidays says.
A big ego is like a virus that keeps people from you. And people are what make life good. So drop the ego. Lower your importance.
Making a million bucks doesn’t make you a god.
Money isn’t the answer to happiness
Money is a mirage that looks like the goal.
It’s not. Money is the path to personal freedom. That’s where good things start to happen. And when we chase money what we’re really doing is trying to spend our days doing stuff we want to do.
That’s code word for “we want money to help us escape normalcy so we can chase our obsession.”
I’m doing it right now. I’m using money to do everything I can in my power to write full-time and do nothing else.
Make your goal full-time obsession.
Having kids may sound like a terrible idea
I never thought I’d have kids.
I can barely change my own nappy at 37. But now I have a little snot ball of a daughter, I see the world differently.
Kids are a lot of fun. They’re underrated. But they’re not for everyone. You really have to go on a journey of self-discovery to see if it’s right for you.
If you have no idea whether you want them and can’t decide, my advice is take the plunge and do it. I’ve never met a parent who regrets it.
But in your 20s, it’s probably too early for kids. Just keep an open mind.
Now is the greatest time in history to succeed
Humans always love to think the past was better.
It wasn’t. Life was harder. AI is in the process of upgrading human productivity. There’s a good chance bullsh*t jobs like sweeping the street won’t need to be done by humans anymore. That’s a big win.
We also have new forms of digital currencies, social media, a global workforce that can work from anywhere, and software to fix almost any problem life can throw at your scrunched up face.
What a beautiful time to be alive.
Dating apps cause you to judge people based on looks
I’m gonna call it.
Dating apps brought out the worst in humans. It turned us all into pin-up beach babes for strangers to stare at. Creepy.
Looks are shallow.
It’s the worst way to judge a person or meet them for the first time. A sexy moron who can’t count to 10 probably won’t make a good life partner. And looks fade over time. You also get bored of looks too.
Try to avoid dating apps in your 20s. Meet people in real life or at work.
Retiring at 25 is possible
But you’ll hate it.
It gets boring, fast. Nothing to do, no purpose, no meaning in life. Take mini-retirements instead. Replace retirement with work you’d happily do on a public holiday. Just quit the retirement p*rn fantasies.
You don’t want it, trust me.
Don’t hate the rich. Learn from them.
It’s cool to eat the rich.
To chuck Elon and Zucks into the ring for a cage fight. But hating rich people gets you nowhere. It makes you a loser.
Learn from people who are wealthier than you. Even if you don’t like their personality, focus on what wisdom they have to offer.
Because everyone has wisdom to give you — especially the people you dislike or disagree with.
Exercise strengthens the mind beyond belief
The gym isn’t a place to build muscles.
The fitness influencers got it wrong. The gym is where you achieve mental fitness. It’s where you do hard things and beat personal bests. That’s the sort of learning that’ll set you up for life.
Because most will hide at home in their pajamas by the log fire in their wooly slippers to avoid ever needing to face discomfort.
A mind softens in all that comfort.
Pretty soon the smallest grievance or the tiniest of tasks is enough to overwhelm them. Then they’re crying for self-care, work-life balance, or whatever other popular numbing trend is in fashion.
As my mentor always says: “Just do hard things. It builds mental toughness that can break through anything.”
Public speaking gives you an unfair advantage
Look up Toastmasters.
It’s a place that exists in most countries where you can learn public speaking. Being able to communicate is a superpower.
It gets you in rooms with people smarter than you and gives you confidence you never thought you could have.
If you can go a whole day without your phone, it’s a sign of big things to come
Smartphones haven’t made us geniuses. They’ve made us dumb.
They were supposed to be a second brain, but they’ve become a replacement for most people’s brains. It’s why traffic lights now have lights on the road. So the phone zombies don’t get hit by a car.
The ability to limit the time spent looking at a phone in your 20s, becomes an advantage in your 30s and beyond.
No one wants to be around a distracted human.
Most things that happen on a phone aren’t important. They just feel that way. Learn to have big chunks of time away from the phone. Do a week of no phone, if you’re feeling like James Bond in the Golden Eye movie.
Future regrets are far more motivating than future pleasure
Let’s finish here.
There are two ways to be motivated in life: pain and pleasure. The biggest cause of pain is regrets. It’s what those on their deathbed have reportedly said hurts the most right before they die.
Psychology says pain motivates us far more than pleasure.
So think about all the things you’ll regret not doing in your 20s and beyond, and you’ll have one of the greatest forms of motivation to ever exist.