The 8 Biggest Life Mistakes You Can Make in Your 20s

by Alexander Heyne · 62 comments

Let’s face it, many people tell you that your 20’s are for making mistakes, right?

Others have told me that “your 20’s are your wealth building years.”

Yet another person has told me that “your 20’s is your last chance to be sexually promiscuous and participate in orgies to dionysus.”  (Thanks…. )

But very few people have told me there are some life-changing mistakes you can make in your 20’s when you don’t have shit figured out.

These are the top ones I’ve seen. Where do I see them? I literally am referring to many of my closest friends and other acquaintances I’ve met on my travels.  These “mistakes” are ubiquitous. Some you can fix. Some you can’t — and they may alter the course of your life, forever.

So — from looking at the mistakes I’ve made, as well as those of my friends, these are the worst mistakes you can make:

The Not-So Obvious:

1) Avoiding Asking Yourself the Hard Questions

Except for being the perpetually lost demographic, we 20 somethings are also famous for avoiding our problems.

Some of us, a small percentage, actually continue to put off life… indefinitely.

And you know why that is?

It’s not because we’re slackers.

Its not because we’re lazy.

It’s not because we don’t know what we want (even though that’s true too).

It’s because resistance has beaten us, and we are too fucking scared to ask ourselves the hard questions. We’re afraid of the answers that might bubble up.

You’ll be sitting on a beach in Thailand talking to one of these people and they’ll go on some long diatribe about how “it’s bullshit how the world is run” or how “money is everything back in my country” or how “I’m trying to live a spiritual life.”

But in reality many of them are cowards. It’s easier to get fucked up 4 nights a week than stay sober and face the reality of your life.

Guess what. Lots of other people hate their jobs. You’re not special. But only a small percentage do something about it. They take the courses, they read the books, they learn the skills, they make the network, then they make a change.

So what are the hard questions you need to ask yourself? 

If you’re lost, just admit it, we all are. You’re not alone.

If you really don’t want to go back home to live in the 9 to 5 grind, there are other ways around it. But you need to have the emotional maturity and the cojones to admit that and know that the road may be long and difficult. But that road is always more fulfilling than living on some beach in southeast Asia, retreating, and just cultivating your little plot of land.

Somehow we all know what our path is, but many of us choose to ignore it for one reason or another. It’s time to stop being afraid, and ask yourself the hard questions. What do you really want to do?

2) Living Someone Else’s Life

By far, and I mean by far, the #1 reason you see many adults (your parents) freak out and join the half-life crisis club, is because they spent their youth doing things they should have done, instead of things they wanted to do.

They spent that time becoming a New York City finance guy instead of backpacking in Thailand.

They spent that time stuck as a corporate rat despite the fact that their inner entrepreneur was trying to claw its way out.

They became a lawyer even though they always wanted to be a school teacher — because dad said you could never make enough money as a schoolteacher.

And guess what happens when you “wisen up” and “get logical” and “act realistic?”  You harden up. You stop giving a shit about childish things like dreams, you think long-term travel is for hippies that live in Thailand and do drugs.

You think that “pursuing your passion” and “living your dream” is for douchebag college 20 somethings – not for mature, grown up, adults.

But the worst part – and I mean, by far the worst part – is that somewhere down the road, maybe 2 years, or 5, or 25, this creeping dissatisfaction with life enters your world.

“What the fuck am I doing all this for?” 

Whether that’s at 25, or 50, those little stirrings of discontent show up. First in your job, then in your life. Your relationships start going haywire. You start going haywire. Your life goes through a new incarnation.

And it was all because you ignored your gut.  So I don’t really know what else to tell you other than this: You already know what you want, you just have to go for it. It will be one of the hardest things you ever do in your life. But it will be the single, most worthwhile thing you ever do.

There will be a hundred and one reasons to be swayed by someone else and go into a life you don’t want.  There will be your parents who want you to grow up and be a successful, contributing member of society.

There will be your friends who want you go off and do what you want.

There will be acquaintances that tell you to hustle now and stack that cheese, and you can retire early – maybe as early as 40.

But only you know what you really want to do, and at the end of the day you’re only looking yourself in the mirror.

3) Thinking You’ll “Figure it All Out” And Then go do Something.

Guess what. Most people live their entire lives without figuring it all out, and they don’t end up doing shit.

You’ve heard this a million times before, but there is almost never a perfect time.

Yeah I’ll admit some of us get lucky. We get that sweet business introduction. We get a scholarship to live abroad. We get a hook up from mommy and daddy.

For the rest of us? The more time you spend thinking, the more time you spend screwing yourself over. Grow some big-boy balls and take action.

I recently talked about how thinking is one of the major causes of unhappiness.

The same is true about “figuring your life out.” Trying to think it through is the absolute worst idea. I can tell you this because I’ve done it myself and it didn’t get me any closer to figuring out shit – and that’s when I learned that it’s fundamentally flawed.  You truly don’t know something until you’ve done it. So go do it.

“Which one will I like more? Being a doctor, lawyer, or teaching English in Korea?”

Here’s what you do:

Shadow a doctor. Shadow a lawyer. Talk to a family friend who is a doctor. Talk to a friend who is a lawyer. Go teach in Korea.

Yay! In 1.5 years you’ve answered the question you would’ve guessed about for the next 40 years.

4) Making Expensive Financial Decisions When You Don’t Have a Clue What You’re Doing.


This is the “caveat” part of #2. Doing something is more important than trying to think it through.

However – doing something  (when you don’t know what you’re doing) that costs $100,000, like grad school or an MBA, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Just my 2 cents of course.

But “I’ll see how I like psychology” is not the same as enrolling in a PhD program in clinical psyche.

If you want to know if you’d like a PhD program or would like being a psychologist, how about shadowing one first? Go into an office and actually talk to one. Creep around their place of work. See what they actually do all day. Sometimes it’s a lot less glamarous than you’d think. Also talk to PhD candidates and shadow them, because you’ll be one of them.

That’s one of the reasons I opted-out of being a doctor. It looks great on the outside – I love medicine, love biology, love helping people.

But when I did some research, guess what I found?  You spend 5 minutes with a patient. You don’t even let them talk and say “So what’s bothering you?”  You are confronted by sales reps of pharmaceuticals all the time. JAMA/NEJM and the other major research journals are filled with full-page pharmaceutical ads.

Even the good physicians complain about the system.

Not what I signed up for.

Go with the minimum viable product methodology – find a way to see what it’s like before committing. And no, attending med school is not “seeing what it’s like.” That’s called “an easy way to burn 100k” and “being a dumbass.”

5) Being Dissatisfied in a Job But Doing Nothing About it

Why do I consider this such a sin? Such a life mistake?

I consider it a big mistake to stay in a situation you’re unhappy with (when you’re young) because it’s one of the only times in your life when you can be uber-selfish and just go do whatever the hell you want on a whim.

That means you can quit 10 jobs and still have a safety net. You don’t have to worry about a spouse or kids.

The only things holding you back then are….

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Laziness – looks tough; I’ll pass.
  • Lack of information (You tell yourself, but it’s a lie, it’s actually laziness. There’s no such thing as lack of info in the internet age. It’s lack of action.)
  • Not knowing what you want (and feeling like you need all the info before you act)

Well guess what. I say this a lot but I’ll say it again: your work occupies a shit ton of your waking hours. And when your work sucks, your life sucks pretty hardcore.

Spending 7 am to 6 pm thinking about your work in some way, shape or form?  Awesome when your work is good; terrible when it’s bad.

If you DO want to go into business for yourself, I wrote an overly simplified guide here.

If you don’t — and you just want more pay in your job, more freedom, or just more fun, then you’ve gotta do more research.

Check out this ultimate guide here to finding “Your work” in life.

And check out the ultimate guide to flow-testing.

This may be the last time in your life you can start or quit 10 different jobs, or businesses without losing much.  What’s holding you back?

When you get married or have kids you have 1/2 the time, and 5x the responsibility. There will never be an easier or better time to quit a million jobs until you find one you like, or go into business for yourself.

6) Getting too comfortable.

Guess what? When you die, your coffin will be really comfortable – lots of nice padding in there.

Many of us looooove comfort. We love sitting down with half a box of krispy-kremes to a nice movie on the couch.

Many of us would rather write about (or read about) interesting lives, than go do it ourselves.

It’s like this epidemic of 20 something male wannabe MMA fighters. They watch MMA all day, and then start weight lifting.

3 months later they think they can take out anyone on the street. Wake up. 

This is a big gripe I have with many bloggers talking about living “big lives” and breaking the mold. Many of them live ordinary lives and they just write about the life they wish they could be living.

The problem with comfort is that it’s boring. You don’t acquire life experience through comfort and familiarity.

You know that thing called Flow that I’ve talked about a lot? It happens when you get slightly uncomfortable.

It’s like when you’re learning a new language and you show up to class sweating through your clothes. You have no idea how to say the words in the new language, so it’s nerve wracking. But 6 months later you have some basic skills.

That’s how LIFE IS.  When you start doing things that make you uncomfortable you grow.  If you want to know the secret to getting good at just about anything, it’s this - as soon as you get comfortable, find a way to make yourself uncomfortable again.

Choose growth.

We are happy when we’re growing.

7) Settling & Giving Up

Settling, rather than being a “mistake” is pretty much the path that the vast majority of people take.

We decide to make a bargain with life.

“Alright, I’ll get the job that I may or may not like, you pay me, I live a quiet life, get drunk friday and saturday, and then suck it up. I’ll meet a nice girl and marry her, and then we’ll have some kids, I’ll play with those kids for 20 years, spend 20 years in retirement, then die a quiet death.”

The people that stop fighting have unfortunately believed the lie that it’s time to “get realistic.” So what do they do? They hunker down, get a job, and get a life.

Unfortunately, I’ve received 100’s of emails from just these kinds of folks who woke up one day and said “Shit, this is not the life I wanted.”

They tell me that life went like this:

College (+ debt), work (to pay off debt and “be realistic”), get married, have a family, buy a new car, stay in debt and continue to work.  And then around 40-50 that creeping feeling that they haven’t done anything with their life other than purchase things.

I recently knew someone that died from cancer in his late 30’s — and one of the things he just could not shake was this one thing he kept telling me over and over:

“I spent my entire life buying stuff. Buying a nice apartment, filling my nice apartment with nice stuff. Buying nice clothes. Not even going on vacation. And now I find it ironic that I’m giving it all away to friends because none of it matters. So what else do I have to show for my life? Nothing. I spent 30 years accumulating nothing.”

It was scary to me. And unfortunately that’s where I find most of my friends who have “given up.”  They just settle in and buy all the trappings of a comfortable but boring life.

8) Believing in the Retirement Lifestyle

This might sound funny – believing in retirement, a mistake?

Yeah, and here’s why: believing in retirement (and acting accordingly) is a totally different way of life.

If you ask me, the entire idea of stacking cheese today so you can save it for tomorrow is flawed. Yeah of course you need to save money. Yeah of course you need to plan for tomorrow.

But deferring your happiness for 40 years and then start living?

I’ve got friends that got jobs right out of college, and being “settlers” they settled down into comfortable but boring lives. 4 or 5 years later, they’re still doing that. Some of them are still dreaming about starting businesses or traveling. They fantasize about waking up without an alarm. They wish they could work on stuff they love.

But unfortunately, the idea of “deferred” gratification is so built into our society I know that very few of them will escape. They’ll get so stuck into their work that 28, 29, 30 roll around, and they’ll get married – and then they get really stuck.

One of my friends finally decided that he wast tired of it and wanted to make a change, so he asked me when the perfect time was.

So I told him this:

For many of us the stars never align, the clouds never part, and the sun never shines. You just have to pick a day when you’re in a good-fucking mood for an adventure, and go for it.

You can’t store up happiness. You can’t store up life stories and experience. A lost day is a lost day. One day putting off your dream is just another day you’re getting further away and losing time.

You and I both know that “one day” never ever happens. One day becomes 40 years. Ask your parents. Ask them what dreams they’ve put off. One day becomes 40 years very, very quickly.

What About You?

Would you add anything to this list? What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made (in your 20’s or otherwise). What other advice would you give to 20 somethings?

Images: Road, Lantern Things, I hate my job,Never Give up, Retirement

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Buntu Redempter February 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

This is so true, It’s hard to make yourself uncomfortable. But comfortable is boring too.

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Worldly Canuck February 22, 2013 at 1:02 am

You’re right on so many counts. It’s hard to chart your own course in life. It’s hard to tell people to mind their own business. I followed my own plan since I was very young. It certainly wasn’t the plan that others had for me, but I stuck it out, worked hard and made a go of it. Now, decades later, I am so glad I did. Sure, I’ve made mistakes. But, they were my mistakes, not someone else’s. So many of my friends and co-workers got sucked into the standard, unhappy life that you mention. They are truly miserable people. “I’m doing it so that my kids will have a better life” is code for: I truly fucked up my life and maybe my kids will be smarter than I was. Nope, probably not, buddy.

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Alexander Heyne February 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi Worldly Canuck —

I think I need to frame the last sentence you wrote, “I’m doing it so that my kids will have a better life” is code for: I truly fucked up my life and maybe my kids will be smarter.”

Agree 100000%, and not many people have the foresight or self awareness to realize they are living life “by default” and getting very, very stuck.

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Shanna February 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I’ll go the other direction– the best thing I did in my twenties is get comfortable starting from scratch.

Because, let’s face it– We’re going to have to pivot, probably dozens of times in our lives. But when you’re scared to start over from scratch, you hang onto the shitty way too long.

I got used to starting over, and I learned to legitimize my past experiences as stepping stones to my new passion. It’s all just grist for the mill, right?

A friend of mine shared some advice an aunt gave her. She told her “get used to travelling when you’re young, build the skill of navigating new cities on the fly. When you’re old, the fear of not being able to handle that will make it so much harder for you to go where you want.”

I think that’s very accurate, both in principle and in this example. We hate to flail, and as we grow older we develop our core competencies so we flail less, but our tolerance for flailing steadily diminishes, until we’re locked in a job or skillset that we hate or has become obsolete. Whoops.

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Alexander Heyne February 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hey Shanna –

Verrrry interesting. And I totally agree, when you’re afraid to start over you DO hang on to the shitty way too long ( I hear this all the time about relationships that should’ve ended a long time ago).

Starting from scratch does indeed suck tho – so maybe the crucial life skill is resilience? I like the idea of navigating new cities on the fly (Or maybe making new friends in new cities) but that’s always been next to impossible for me. So I kinda never end up setting down roots, especially when it comes to people.

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Shanna February 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I think it might better be described as overcoming our reflexive avoidance of discomfort– and I think the best way to do that is to practice being uncomfortable, so that you remember it’s not so bad!

You know, you can practice setting down roots the same way you practice navigating new cities. Find a community and take up your place in it!

Alexander February 27, 2013 at 9:32 am

Buntu — Yep, totally agree! Easy things are comfortable. They also don’t stretch us though and bring us anywhere new.

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Buntu Redempter February 27, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks for the interesting post, Alexander.

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Buntu Redempter February 27, 2013 at 9:38 am

I am 20-year-old, and yesterday I had to make probably the hardest decision I’ve made and quit my job.

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Alexander Heyne February 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Buntu —

Sounds awesome, so what’s the next adventure for you?

Lauren March 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

So much “yes” in this post. Love it. For me, being 24 is hard because I feel like everything is a balancing act. You have to enjoy your life and travel and see friends, but you’d also like to create some financial stability for yourself, so you can’t keep buying plane tickets every weekend. You want to meet a lot of interesting people, but you also need to spend time developing friendships instead of just meeting dozens of people and never really getting to know any of them especially well. That’s part of where the “what am I doing?” and “is this right?” struggle comes in, I think.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s right and what’s wrong, and I think it also is different for each person. I try to trust myself, and avoid spending each time questioning myself/having regrets.

As for the retirement mentality. YES. I never understood why you would slave away in a lifestyle you hated only to enjoy yourself when you’re in your 70s. Life is short, health isn’t guaranteed, so enjoy your 20s, 30s, and 40s while you’re in them. Obviously it’s wise to save up money for retirement, but you should also actually enjoy your life while you’re living it.

Great post, as always!

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Alexander Heyne March 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Hey Lauren !

Yeah, it’s extremely tough. And everyone has their own advice for you – it seems like half tell me “Go get the job now so you can start making money by the time you have kids,” and the other half tell me “nooooo go far away, travel, live abroad, go crazy.”

I’m with you – last year I made a list of what I think is the most important stuff in life, and then I just go with my gut from there.

Yeah, I am extremely against the whole retirement thing. That doesn’t mean I don’t save or don’t plan for it, but (knowing myself) I will never retire. I’m not happy without work.

And there’s the whole health thing… I live in a town of wallstreet bankers, and it’s a typical story hearing a guy retire at 45 and then dying 5 years later from a massive heart attack. Not worth it.

True that homegirl! Glad we’re on the same page ;)

Alex

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Shouga April 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Yesss yess yesss yess!!

This post/article should be taught at school..instead of the stupid stuff they teach us… I will personally teach it to my kids “if ever”

I had it both ways.. I lived as a settler for 5 years + 4 years in college thinking I am having a perfect future waiting for me…
Then…Ah! BOY! The moment I signed and submitted my resignation letter …! Good things started happening , feels AWSOME to take an action, to be in control of ur own fate …”like A boss ,LoL”

There were times when my conditioned mind would tell me to regret it and go back to work and just be “realistic”
But , know one tells u this : U MAKE UR OWN REALITY ..
So stop wasting ur time and energy on things that don’t make u happy … And start plotting out ur reality the way U want,( not the way mom or dad or the boss wants) .
Hold on through the tough times. Waste ur energy and emotions on ur own business ..and what’s better than making ur life ur business?? ..
After a while it will get easier.. U’ll see how .. I can’t tell u how wonderful it feels to be in-charge . It’s really rewarding . Living your dreams is soooo realistic if u want it to be . If u let it ..if u worked for it .

Thank u so much for this post,, I respect and honor u.
I wish and pray and hope from deep down of my heart that everyone learns this and start taking actions and get lucky and blessed of living their dreams ♥

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Alexander Heyne April 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Hey Shouga —

Lol, maybe in the future I’ll speak at high schools and universities. Dunno if they’ll like me though ;)

Totally agree! Ignore the entire concept of “being realistic” – everyone does make their own reality, even if they aren’t doing anything – it’s a decision.

Thanks for stopping by :)

– Alex

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Andrew May 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Settling for the first woman to show interest in you. That’s one of the biggest killers imho. We have high standards for everything yet fail to use these standards to screen our future wife (or partner for those of you who do not believe in marriage ;-)

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Alexander Heyne May 31, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Haha interesting point Andrew!

So let me ask you this: Why not settle with the first woman to show interest in you?

What if the first woman to show interest in you happens to also be an amazing woman, where it just works? Years pass, and still, it works?

I think sometimes, you’re right, this can be a fatal mistake. Like marrying your first kiss.

Other times… I feel like this falls into the “ridiculous life rules by society”, like the “rule” that you have to sleep around before getting married.

Thoughts?

— Alex

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Eric July 10, 2013 at 7:09 am

Dating does not necessarily have to do with sleeping around. It’s about finding out what types of personalities you are compatible with and what your shortcomings are in dealing with and taking care of a partner. Break-ups can teach you how to better preserve a future relationship, through mistakes that you made that made the past relationships unsalvageable. It’s not about sleeping around. Even my Mormon friends are constantly dating around, even if they don’t get past handholding and snuggling.

And as for finding the woman who “just works,” 1) often times the actuality is that when you’re desperate and someone finally agrees to touch your genitals you will form a physiological bond with this person that drives you to mentally overlook crucial issues and turn a blind eye to mistreatment or detachment through self-delusion. It gets worse as the relationship plods on (and “years pass”) and there’s this fear of being single again which forms an inertia akin to what you yourself espouse to be the root cause of unhappiness in people’s working lives.

One’s very concept of what constitutes a romantic relationship that “works” or how “amazing” a partner can be, or even what defines a healthy coupling will be severely hindered by his/her limited romantic experience. In my opinion one’s taste in romantic partner, like his/her taste in art or cuisine, is meant to be developed and refined. When you were a kid and could not buy your own food, and found out about Cheetos, didn’t you think it was the best and that you could eat it for the rest of your life? Weren’t you suspicious and fearful of any new food introduced to you that was not Cheetos? And no matter how much others told you some other food was good, you would not take a bite, because you didn’t know what was in it, or it didn’t look like what your limited mind thought food should look like. Your first good thing is almost never your best thing, horizons ought to be brazenly broadened in every aspect of life.

As for the people who you claim have a first love that is also their best love: They are a handful of outliers, whose stories are intriguingly unique and thus get passed around frequently, making their situations–arrived at inherently not by replicable design–seem far more possible than they really are. People love hearing about events that just fatefully and congruently snap into place, in a world build around unpredictability and trial-and-error. And IF you just happen to be that someone who’s just begun your love life and have already met “the one,” you’re still young and it doesn’t hurt to double check. If you love someone, let them go, and if they return they’re yours, and yadiyadiyada.

Lastly, there’s something to be said for achieving sexual compatibility. A Mormon female friend of mine did not have sex until she married this guy, and found herself quite unfulfilled carnally. Their eventually collapsed marriage had several other problems, but this definitely was a huge strain in their relationship.

Rooster October 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Wise, very wise. Wish I’d seen this in my 20s. But if I had I’m not sure I’d have known what to do anyway, like most people.

This get a grip and change your life stuff is fine if you have a big vision or dream, but most don’t. I did in my 20s but then it changed into something else as practicalities finally got involved. I don’t regret it but it put me back years financially.

Anyway, I’m almost 40 and feel like I’ve truly wasted my sh1tty life, despite the US$130K a year job, travel and the rest of it. And it’s too late now.

Don’t do that.

PS, looking back, the weeks I spent backpacking in Thailand really sucked. Shit country, shit scene. OK to get wasted on a beach for a few days and that’s it. Bangkok was cool though.

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Rooster October 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Here’re my tips, if you’ll permit.

1. Don’t do a ‘cool’ job unless you’re very sure you’re going to be very good, and it’s hard to be sure like that. How many journalists or graphic designers and yes, actors, do I know scraping by now and wondering why they picked such a tough game and watching their friends earn five, ten times (yes, easily) as much. If you’ve no real idea what job you want then something in the public sector is good, if you can stand it. Job for life, pension, all the sick leave you want, easy times. Hell yeah.

2. Try and meet a ‘life partner’ by your late 20s. Many of my friends treated their late 20s like their early 20s. Recognise they are different. Make sure your pick has a job on easy street (see 1.). Believe me when it comes to having kids and one day retiring and waiting for death you will be laughing your heads off at everyone else, while vehemently defending how you ‘earned’ it (yeah right).

3. Mind your health. Don’t be a dick like me and start running and doing endurance sports in your late 30s with all the other idiots splashing big money on carbon bikes and the rest. I could’ve been doing this in my mid 20s, and so much faster and, well, better too. But again, nobody thinks to do this.

4. I see several references to backpacking above. I spent years on the road. Some fantastic memories. But I wish I’d done a bit less and got going in ‘life’ a year or two earlier. People who didn’t backpack always assume they missed out. They did, but not all that much. And if you do go ‘travelling’ then bust out that whole SE Asian scene awhile too, if you can.

5. Don’t worry about restarting your career in your 20s. You get a few ‘credits’ before employers might start to think you’re flaky, so try a few things. Enjoy.

6. Don’t end up like this.

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Alexander Heyne October 23, 2013 at 12:12 am

Rooster, this is fantastic, thanks for sharing.

A great set of counterpoints from someone who has already gone a few years further down the line.

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Michael November 3, 2013 at 6:00 am

Fucking inspiring post, thank you.

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Alexander Heyne November 6, 2013 at 7:59 am

Cheers Michael !

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Alana January 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm

After reviewing the article and all the comments below, the thought that struck in my mind was “The grass is always greener on the other side”.
It doesnt matter what you do with your life, most of us will always wish we’d done it different.

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Alexander Heyne January 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Alana,

You are spot on. I’ve noticed this in everyone I’ve ever talked to – even those who did it right.

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Nick January 20, 2014 at 11:00 pm

It make me rethink of my life again while i was in my late 30s now.

I am glad that i found this.

It had made me reconsider my actions towards the life i wanted.

In all in all, our life are pretty much fixed! There is a defaulted route that we are expected to follow. If we dont, then we are the odd ones.

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Alexander Heyne January 22, 2014 at 12:50 pm

You’re right Nick – but it’s important to make sure you figure out what you want… rather than what you SHOULD want.

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Wlad Huber February 10, 2014 at 2:48 am

Great Article. I absolutely agree and also believe that we should use our twenties very wisely and try a lot of different things such as a new career or a new way of living in general. The twenties are for exploring and to set our course in life.

Have a great day!

Wlad

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Laura February 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

All great stuff, Alexander.

But it’s not just for 20-somethings… The truth is, no matter what age you are, you’re going to make mistakes. But it’s from those mistakes that you learn and you grow—at your own rate, and in your own time.

IMHO, I feel the most important thing you can do for your young self is get to know what YOU want, whether it’s planning for retirement or starting your own business. Then find the courage to embrace that YOU. Then be OK if it all changes one day.

I met a man on a plane who had his own business for years, then he got tired of it, so he got a 9-to-5 job. Now he’s much happier. My point being, there’s no formula for happiness.

Realistically, there will be many times in your life when you wonder, “what if I’d…” no matter how many countries you’d traversed or how many chances you took. And if it really matters to you, you can’t let fear stop you from trying something different when those questions arise.

Life is a journey, with a lot of ups and downs. Be true to yourself, and try to enjoy every mishap and success along the way.

Best of luck, and thank you for the conversation.

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Alexander Heyne February 13, 2014 at 8:12 pm

IMHO, I feel the most important thing you can do for your young self is get to know what YOU want, whether it’s planning for retirement or starting your own business. Then find the courage to embrace that YOU. Then be OK if it all changes one day.

This is great, great advice Laura. I agree completely.

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saomit March 8, 2014 at 3:19 am

great post

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Alexander Heyne March 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Cheers Saomit!

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Steve April 30, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Alexander,
First off, thanks for this post.

I have a unique situation and was willing to get your input on it. I am 27 years old and live with my parents.

I am a convicted felon (possession with intent to distribute Marijuana). Fortunately, I was working as a contractor/intern at the company I currently work for at a very small consulting company (federal) for a few months prior to my actual conviction. Strangely enough, I was given the full time offer after proving myself as competent a week after my official conviction in court (I was sentenced a year in probation, so I did not get jail time – but still, given a life punishment of being a convicted felon). As soon as I got the e-mail offer, I spoke to my CEO and COO immediately, letting them know that I am grateful for the offer, but giving them a heads up that I just got convicted. They appreciated my honesty and gave me the full time offer anyways.

Here I am 3 years later. Miserable. Technically, I shouldn’t even be working cause I did not pass the background checks, but my boss still lets me work under the table because he can leverage me for cheap, knowing I can’t get another job with my record. Also, I work hard and they appreciate that, but I have no potential for growth here. Basically, I am working for a paycheck.

Here’s my dilemma. I want to quit so bad and chase my dreams, but I have the fear that if I quit, I will not be able to find another job in the future due to me being unemployed AND most importantly, that felony.

I have trouble even finding part time positions. I have been looking activity for months, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

I am at the point where I just can’t stand my job. I feel that I’m wasting my life away. I know deep down in my heart what to do, but that fear of uncertainty got me staying here Also, I am very grateful to have this job with my situation as people without records don’t even have a job out there.

I got a lot of savings and still live with the folks. What is your input and any advice to give me the courage to quit? Or should I just stay until I find something else?

I know I did this to myself and I am not making excuses. However, your article inspired me. I am 27 years old in my prime and feel like I a robot.

Any words of wisdom for my situation?

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Alexander Heyne April 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Hey Steve,

Why not pursue your dreams WHILE you’re working there? It doesn’t have to be either or – many of us are pursuing out passions on the side, part time, until they can support us (WHILE working full time).

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bess May 1, 2014 at 1:20 am

0. Believing and listening to my abusive mother and letting her control my life well into adulthood.

1. Transferring from a state college to an expensive private college on a student loan

2. Picking up Dance as a major….you know…to go along with my art history major.

3. Moving overseas for grad school in Art History

4. Letting my age define my life

5. Feeling competitive with other women about everything

6. Never dating

7. Blaming all my mistakes on the system or my parents

8. Not getting help early in life for learning difficulties and severe depression.

9. Letting shyness and anxiety destroy my life

10. Lacking the courage to kill myself at age 10.

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Alexander Heyne May 1, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Bess,

Time to forget about all those things, and get started building the life you want then :-).

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Matt June 7, 2014 at 1:26 am

I can say in some ways your parents do know ‘what is best’ but at the same time it’s your job to filter the advice and filter out whatever kind of audible hysterics it can get them into. It’s like listening to whining children, as your parents were once young too. So unless it is coming through the pipeline as mature advice which you can pick and choose what to apply to your own needs, just ignore and immediately sound off what doesn’t work for your livelihood. In regard to anxiety, it’s also how we learn to cope with it that is a part of our growth and learning process. As well, the dating process sometimes is appropriate or inappropriate depending on our circumstances and readiness to accept strong ties and bonds to others. In other words, do not put yourself down or blame yourself for lost opportunities when you can still achieve them, starting today!

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Eric May 22, 2014 at 6:34 am

- Having a “never take back an ex” policy. I lost a good woman because of that. I had the whole macho “she’s not allowed to make mistakes” thing in my head, and I wish I had given second chances a lot more freely.

– On that topic, having this complex about forgiving. Forgiving and just chilling out about things would have made me a better man.

– Thinking I had to “sort my life out” before doing anything else, i.e. my job. I put my job above my ex, and told her I’d think about her when I got my life sorted. By the time I did, she was gone.

Basically, forgiveness and second chances. As a 20-something year old man I thought I knew it all and had very rigid ideas about people. People change, people grow.

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Alexander Heyne May 22, 2014 at 10:15 am

Powerful words Eric.

Thinking I had to “sort my life out” before doing anything else, i.e. my job. I put my job above my ex, and told her I’d think about her when I got my life sorted. By the time I did, she was gone.

I have this same complex too, I think it’s pretty common with men – we want to figure our own shit out before we really commit in a relationship.

What would you have done differently in regard to “sorting your life out” before choosing the woman? Focus on both of these things side by side?

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Eric May 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I would have let her come back and just let things happen as they may. Letting her back into my life wouldn’t have stopped my job hunt, to be honest, I think I was just searching for excuses to not forgive her. The fact is, life happens, and having only one focus in your life is never going to be realistic.

I think men in their twenties have a lot of issues about needing to have everything sorted out, but the problem is you will never have everything sorted out. And the perfect girl for you won’t always be perfect, she’s human and she will make mistakes. I realise now that she would have forgiven me if I had made mistakes against her, and I wasn’t man enough to do the same.

Mike June 3, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Alexander,

Great stuff. This post speaks volumes to what I am experiencing now as a 23-year old. I thought I might share my story.

I graduated college in 2013 as a Finance major and took a job in operations at a wealth management firm, but cannot stand my boss (Although I am fortunate to be able to work in the field of my major). He is incompetent, always on vacation, and not that knowledgeable of the industry. I understand it is his business and he can do what he pleases, but I feel I am being taken advantage of and quite frankly, I am not learning and not enjoying it.

On top of this, I want to move into the research/portfolio management side of the industry, but feel my current job is not preparing me well to make the switch. As of now, I want to work in research but I still don’t know if it is exactly what I WANT to do (and that is what scares me). A part of me has this strong urge to quit my job and just travel, but I know that if I want to work in research, I will have to make some sacrifices and work my ass off to get noticed and get a job. I am willing to put in the hard work and dedicated hours to work in finance, but there’s a small nagging voice in my head saying “what if it is not what I want to do later on in life,” “what if it is not all cracked up as I think it may be” and “if it isn’t something I want to do, will I have sacrificed these years to do things that may have been more enjoyable like traveling, playing music, etc.”

I also joke and say this is my “first-world” problem, but nevertheless it is something that bothers me. Since I was a kid I always thought about what the future may entail (to a fault) and was always reluctant to take a chance. Now it is…Do I take the chance and make the sacrifices to pursue something that I may or may not enjoy later on, even though it intrigues me today? Is it worthwhile to just quit my job so I have more time to focus on what I plan to do in research? Do I just pick up and travel someplace and take a big chance? I am the only one that can answer these, but any thoughts or advice would be awesome.

Thanks.

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Alexander Heyne June 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Hey Mike,

Here’s my advice:

Definitely take the risk and see if it’s right for you. You’ll never know unless you try it, right? Worst comes to worst, you can still quit your job and travel the world before figuring what to do when you get back again.

“Do I take the chance and make the sacrifices to pursue something that I may or may not enjoy later on, even though it intrigues me today?”

Go for it – only one way to find out.

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Mike June 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Alexander,

Its funny you said, “Go for it – only one way to find out.” After thinking about it some more last night I arrived at the same solution. Do I not go for it and regret it later always wondering “what if”? Or do I just do it so I at least know that I tried. I will go with the latter. I like my chances.

Thanks

Leah July 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I am 20 going on 21 in October. This has really got me thinking and now I am planning a trip to Dreamworks studios to watch, in person, what animators and producers do. I am tight on money because of my car payments, but that only means I need to work hard, play hard ya know? I dont want to waste another minute daydreaming about things I could be working toward NOW. Or better yet, doing now.

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Alexander Heyne July 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm

DO it Leah! Rock on

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Constance July 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

“Big boy balls”. That’s mature writing.

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Alexander Heyne July 17, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I write for 20 somethings, remember? :-).

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Full-clip July 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

Thxs for a life changing experience I will take note and bring it forward.

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Alexander Heyne July 18, 2014 at 9:57 am

Cheers Cody !

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Christanna July 25, 2014 at 2:20 am

Wow, sounds SO great. You really have it all figured out. Because we’re all f**king enlightened the minute we stop taking ourselves seriously but get our shit together at the same time. This is hypocritical and stupid. There’s no advice column that covers what everyone goes through in their 20’s. You’ve basically ruled out every single scenario that someone could end up in and painted some utopian picture of what we “should” do, how we “should” live. Half of this, you don’t even realize you’ve done or are doing until all is said and done. How does one possibly realize in the moment that they’re investing their money and resources in something that they’re going to hate. Reminder: we change a LOT from age 20 to 30, we’re all discovering ourselves and exactly what we like and dislike. I majored in biology and chemistry (40,000 in debt), and now I’m working in restaurants as a sommelier. My interests changed. That’s NORMAL. That doesn’t mean I made some gigantic mistake by investing in something I believed in at the time. This article made me feel like a giant piece of sh*t who’s done everything wrong, so thanks a lot.

PS- Hindsight is 20/20, motherf**ker.

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Luke August 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

what a load of shit…

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Alexander Heyne August 21, 2014 at 10:17 am

Hey Luke –

Guess it was true, huh? Otherwise you wouldn’t have been offended :D

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A.F. August 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

This is nice, but it still does not help me because i’ve no idea what i want to do with my life. :(

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Lisa August 25, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I agree with most of what was said in this article. At 29, I quick my job in financial accounting to teach Slam Poetry to inner city students. I had to do me and finally realized that most of the fears and self doubts that I had were stories I was telling myself. Before you consider accumulating wealth and/or buying property you should first figure out what purpose you want your life to have. What do you love to do and how can you spend your life doing it? Focus on that, before you try to keep up with the non-existent American Dream and find a life partner. You will never find happiness in accumulating material objects. You will only find it when you are actively doing something that really matters to your heart. Some people spend a life time looking for things that have always been inherently inside of them. Focus on what you want to do, not what you want to have.

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richard parker September 2, 2014 at 11:21 pm

seriously what does it matter if you did or didn’t do something with your life? whether you are a bum or an oil tycoon you’re still going to end up pushing daisies! just blow your brains out already!

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Alexander Heyne September 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

Why blow your brains out? Isn’t there lots of fun stuff you’d rather do before dying?

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ahmed October 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm

my english isnt good enough to describe my feelings but people like u make this world a better place :) god bless u
greetings from egypt:)

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Twitter.com November 14, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 8 biggest life mistakes you can make
in your 20s. Regards

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Alexander Heyne July 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hey Eric,

Re: your “just works” assessment, you’re right, that happens to people. Hopefully though at some point we’d get a moment of self awareness (or a friend who sees it) . Also though I think sometimes certain people constantly fall into situations like this, and others rarely find themselves in this situation.

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Alexander Heyne June 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Totally Mike! I’m with you on that one, easy.

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