“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
— Tom Bodett
When you’re a child, your parents pretty much stick up for you, comfort you in hard times, and cover for you when you get into the slightest messes. When you’re a teenager, your friends do the same things for you and you for them. But when you’re 20-something, you really learn how difficult things can be. You know at this time in your life, you need to be mature because you’re not a kid or a teenager anymore — you’re an adult.
When you were younger, you probably always told yourself, “when I grow up …” Well, here you are. When you’re 20-something, you’re seen as an adult and hopefully, treated like one. “When I grow up …” becomes reality. The more you learn about life and how to handle difficult times now, the more equipped and ready you will be to live the successful life you were meant to live.
I’m still a 20-something and I’m sure I have many more lessons to learn. But here are 20 difficult things I’ve learned so far in my twenties:
1. Life is not an audition. You only get one chance to live this one life. So don’t waste it. Days add up to months. Months add up to years. Years add up to decades. Don’t get so far out that you look back and realize you didn’t live the life you were meant to live.
2. Consider your choices. Nothing can ruin your life more than overthinking and overanalyzing when the facts are before you to move forward. In the same manner, stupid decisions made in haste can hurt your joy and destroy years of your life.
3. The relationships you maintain and nurture are worth more than the best job, the biggest car, and the finest house combined. Good relationships with family, friends, and co-workers are priceless.
4. Complaining is the conductor of the longest train ride to nowhere. Quit whining. Either you change your situation, you change the way you think about the situation, and if you can’t change either one, you let it go and move on.
5. Love is a choice. Love is a commitment. Love drives us to improve and be better. Love does not have to hurt. Do not settle for love just to get out of a present predicament or leave present circumstances. Guard your heart. Let yourself be loved. But be sure you are also capable of giving love.
6. Talk is cheap. People will judge you by your actions, not by your words. Likewise you should do the same. When people tell you something, don’t just believe it based upon surface value. Back up. Think with your big head. Give the person room to support their words with action.
7. Comparing yourself to someone else is the key that opens the door to heartbreak, anger, depression, and disappointment. You will never measure up to anyone simply because you are not them. You are you. Act like it.
8. Embrace work. The common denominator among all successful and productive people is hard work. If you want money, work for it. Work which converts to money results in more of what you want.
9. Discover your passion. Passion is a result of value. You will be passionate about what you value. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just discover it early and never stop pursuing it throughout your life. Practice your passion and you will never be bored, stressed, or broke.
10. This life you are living is not all there is. Our lives don’t end after death. We keep on living — just in another world. Live in light of eternity.
11. Nothing you face in this life can tear you apart, break you down, or set you back — unless you let it. Every joy, pain, heartbreak, failure, rejection, and obstacle is for your very good. None of this compares to the hope and joy that God has established for you to experience in this life and the next one.
12. Failure is necessary for success. There will be no success without failure. When you meet failure, don’t run from it or fear it. Embrace it. Let it teach you something. Let it beat you up and knock you down. Then get back up and do whatever it is you were doing better and smarter. Failure is one of the best teachers you will ever have.
13. Money sometimes talks louder than words. Don’t let people control you, buy you, or manipulate you with money. Money has a tendency to grow feet and run away. Don’t let money define you or make you. It is a faulty foundation and a flimsy house.
14. Privacy is one of the biggest lies that has ever been told. There is no such thing as privacy. God sees everything. The computer encrypts everything. The NSA knows everything. Don’t waste your time and energy hiding your flaws and failures. Live a transparent life so you won’t have to lie, hide, and run. Has anybody ever told you that running makes you look guilty?
15. Trust is more important than talent. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if people don’t trust you, you will not go far with them. You can have talent and a dozen other qualities but if you lack authenticity, you are not the total package.
16. What you think matters. To have something to think about, read good books, write about what you know, engage in stimulating conversation, and be open to new ideas.
17. If you have a place to stay, clothes to wear, food to eat, something to do, a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, feet to walk with, hands to do with, somewhere to go, good people around you, and any portion of good health, you are doing much better than millions of people in the world. Be happy. Be grateful.
18. Avoid getting into fights and arguments. It really doesn’t get you anywhere. It only wastes a lot of time and energy and often doesn’t solve any problems. Just leave it alone and let it go. But if a fight walks up to you and knocks you upside the head, leave it all on the field.
19. Be balanced. Everything is not all bad and there are some things that are pretty good. Be serious — just not all the time. Be funny — just not all the time. Life is made up of both work and play, yin and yang. Learn the difference.
20. Be humble. Ask for forgiveness when you know you should. Extend the same when others have done you wrong. Keep your heart and your eyes open for ways you can serve. Besides failure, serving others in some capacity is the second greatest teacher.
At 20-something, I am still learning … and growing … and improving … and getting better. Little by little. Day by day. If you’re smart, you will keep learning and growing too. The 30-something years come with their own set of lessons. At least, you will be prepared.
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
— Helen Keller