My twenties were great. You go through what feels like so many different stages of life. I went to all stages of dating; single, dating, relationship, engaged and married. I went from being a student and having all kinds of side-jobs, to traveling full-time, to holding a full-time job. I got a professional degree. I changed jobs. I got promotions. I failed too. I messed up relationships. I lost friends. I learned a lot.
Now, I have the privilege of mentoring, coaching and pastoring people in their twenties. Unsurprisingly, some of the challenges they face, many of us have faced. And one of the things that I find most difficult as a pastor and a coach, is that many of us don’t learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before us.
So I trust these seven lessons I have learned during my twenties will be useful to you as well – whether you are in your twenties and facing these challenges – or maybe these are useful for you as you are leading people in their twenties.
It’s okay to ask for help
I agree, this season is all about discovery and growth. However, not all of that discovery and growth needs to be done alone. It’s valuable to learn from the mistakes that people around you have made. It’s not smart to make the same mistakes that others have made and label them ‘self-discovery’ – though I do understand that sometimes, we need to fall flat on our faces ourselves.
It’s actually okay to ask for help. It’s wise to listen to mentors, friends and leaders. It’s even alright to listen to your parents. I took some opportunities and also passed on some opportunities with the help and advice of mentors. Sometimes that required me to trust someone else’s advice over my own instincts. That is really tricky. Especially for those among us who think they are smart themselves (that includes me). It’s actually smart to look at the decisions others made and to observe where it has brought them. Your twenties are the best time to be asking questions. And it’s okay to understand that it might not be time to be answering all of those questions yourself.
Your twenties are the best time to be asking questions. It might not be the time to be answering all those questions yourself.
Don’t overthink everything – make a decision
This is a really simple one. Sometimes we spend a lot of time on thinking, re-thinking and re-re-thinking our options, our experiences and the paths that lie before us. Does this sound familiar? How long does it take you to choose something to watch on Netflix? Or how long does it take you to answer his/her text message?
Focused decision-making, getting good advice and not second-guessing our decisions all the time will really help you. It might help you to understand that most of the decisions we make are not for life. Usually, you can alter your decision after giving something a good try. So don’t be too afraid to go for the wrong option and just make a decision.
Along similar lines: don’t compare yourself too much with others. I really understand that not comparing yourself with others is difficult. And sometimes comparison can be helpful. But the comparison trap is that you compare your own run-of-the-mill with someone else’s highlights. Understand that you are on your own journey and it’s okay to learn from others, but it’s not okay to compare yourself unto paralysis.
The comparison trap is that you compare your own run-of-the-mill with someone else’s highlights
One of the things I did for far too long was keeping all my options open. During high school, I did not know what I wanted to study, so I wanted to keep my options open. I chose my subjects not solely based on my interests or strengths, but mainly by what would give a lot of options after graduation. During university, I did the same. I didn’t know what type of occupation I wanted, so I kept my options open by not specialising too much. I did the same with my relationships – both in friendships and in romance. I learnt that keeping my options open is not always the wisest thing to do. Postponing decisions does not make them easier! Don’t overthink – and actually learn how to make good decisions.
Postponing decisions does not make them easier
After I graduated, I went on a long trip to Australia and New Zealand. After I came back, I needed to decide on what I wanted career-wise. I had kept my options open. I did not decide on a career, but decided to apply to many different companies in different fields and was able to choose where I wanted to start. After talking to many options and talking it through with my parents and some people I consider mentors, I made a decision. Instead of working for a big company and following a more traditional career path, I chose a young and swiftly growing consulting firm.
I turned out to be terrible. It was a great company (and still is, and has only continued to grow), but I really did not fit the company or the work. So I left within the trial period. It felt like failure and it felt like I had messed up. However, looking back, I learned a lot about my preferences and what I find important in a workspace and in content of work. Making mistakes isn’t fun, but we learn a lot from them. So I am not encouraging you to seek out to fail, but failure is far from final. If anything, it sets us up to grow. So take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll come out a bigger person on the other end of it.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post on things you should be doing with your finances. You can find it here. All of these tips apply! However, if there is one of these things not many people start doing whilst they are still young, it’s investing.
I think it’s best to start investing when you are young. You might think that the amounts that you can invest now can’t match the amounts you can invest when you are a bit older and earn a bit more. Though that is true, when you have more to invest, you will be thankful you starting investing young. It’s better to learn when the stakes are a bit lower. Additionally, I would say that there is simply no better time to start a good habit than today.
When you’re a little older, you’ll be thankful you started investing when you were a little younger
You will take advantage of compound interest. Every bit of interest or return that you earn now, will be multiplied over the years of holding that investment. So if you want to grow your finances – even if that’s not a goal now, but you think it might be in the future – start investing now. Don’t wait for the ideal circumstances.
When I turned 18, I started investigating the stock market a little bit. I remember talking about it with my grandfather and reading up on some companies I would be interested in buying. It was all small amounts and I don’t think I am holding anything that I bought way back then anymore, but it gave me good experience and made me comfortable with the stock market. That still helps me today.
On that note, it is really important to develop healthy habits. Whether that be working out, reading, eating healthy, being accountable – we all need healthy habits. And your twenties are the perfect time to set them.
There is simply no better time to start a good habit than today
I started going to the gym in my twenties. I don’t go anymore, but I have always kept up working out 2-4 times a week. I set the routine to read every morning, even before work. I have a routine to read my Bible and pray before I leave (or stay home) for work. I have set a goal to read 20 books a year – so I get into a routine of reading. I have been accountable regarding relationships, my personal finances, and my professional and pastoral responsibilities. It has helped me grow and it has helped me correct my course before I really needed redirection. Now is a great time to develop some habits – better to take the effort now than later!
Think learning, not earning
The truth is that this period in life sets you up for the future. I understand that might feel like a lot of pressure, but it means you have the opportunity now to choose. Honestly, you can change directions at any time in the future too, but for most people the sacrifice of changing course might feel larger.
Because you now have the opportunity to choose and right now is more about setting yourself up for success (whatever that means for you), you need to set your mindset wisely in this period of your life. It’s not about what you can earn. It really is about what you can learn. Results are important, but growth is even more important right now.
Choose a job that gives you the opportunity to grow in the way you want to. Once your learning curve flattens or you decide you want to develop differently, discuss it with your employer. If nothing can change, find a place where you can develop the way you want to. This article in the Washington Post indicates that your lifetime earnings are probably determined in your twenties. Don’t let that scare you. Just know that you don’t have to peak now. Set yourself up for future success and keep a growth mindset.
Follow through on your commitments
The last is one has to do with following through on your commitments. One of the results that I have seen is that many young adults keep their options open and are completely okay with canceling on commitments last minute, because better options came along or some other reason. Can I encourage you to keep your word? Everybody loves a reliable person.
Everyone loves a reliable person
If you say you will be there, be there. If you can’t do something, be honest. You are still growing and developing, but you are not just growing your capabilities and personality, you are also growing a name for yourself. Following through on your commitments will make others trust you and it’s a personality trait most people love, because reliable people are big people.