The Worst Advice You Can Get in Your 20s

by Alexander Heyne · 29 comments

Advice Thumb


Listen, when I was a kid around fourteen years old, I still remember talking to one of my dad’s friends.

So we’re on the back porch and it’s a beautiful summer night.

He’s got a cigar in his mouth, and my dad has a cigar in his mouth.

I was asking him (my dad’s friend) advice for the future, because I explained that I was going to college in a couple years – so he unleashed a bit of his wisdom.

“Dude, I’ve gotta give you just one piece of advice – make sure you really enjoy those college years, because from then on out, it’s all work and all suffering, so make sure you really take the time to enjoy those years!”

And even though I was only fourteen at the time, I very clearly remember the emotion I first felt:

Fuck that! why the hell would I want four years of my (hopefully 95+ year life) to be done by the time I’m 22? Does that really make sense?

Whether you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re going to get a lot of advice from a lot of different from people.

People have advice about everything.

And guess what?

A lot of the advice might be good, but a lot of it sucks too.

Here’s the thing: everyone has advice for everything, and the irony is that the less successful a person is in any domain in their life, the more likely they are to want to give you advice.

You’ll have fat friends giving you weight loss advice, to divorced people giving you marriage advice, to people who have struggled their entire lives giving financial advice, or miserable people giving happiness advice.

Unfortunately, the average person giving you advice is probably giving you – no surprise – average advice.

Because of this, there’s actually a very big danger in taking advice – and there are two things I personally use to vet advice to see if it’s really good for me.

Why You Shouldn’t Take 99% Of the World’s Advice

The Curse of Getting “Advice” in Your 20s

My first core principle here is simple:

Do not take advice from the average person.

Thankfully, I spotted this when I was a really young kid, like an overweight person giving me weight loss advice or an unsuccessful person giving theoretical success advice, or the college advice from the guy that was miserable after the age of twenty-two.

Why the hell would I take his advice when he obviously didn’t do a very good job of being happy after that time?

The paradox is that average people have even MORE advice because they haven’t lived it (so it’s all theory).

Take a look at this “tale of two friends” you might get advice from.

One friend comes home and bitches about his job every day.

Then you have another friend who maybe has gone through a process to find her dream job or build a business.

You’re getting advice from both of them, and you’re trying to figure out who to trust since, “they both make sense.”

One might’ve seen other people do it, but the other has lived it (so they can describe the internal struggle and problems that arise).

Then to make the problem even worse, you probably googled the same thing: How do I find my dream job? How do I land more interviews? How do I become more successful?

Now you’re stuck with an almost unlimited amount of advice you can’t even possibly use in one lifetime.

What do you do?

Ask yourself two questions.

Question #1 To Ask Yourself

Do they have the life

The very first question is… do they have the life I want?

Really, think about that for a second here.

This might really be the most important question.

Is the person giving you fitness advice fit?

Is the person giving you financial advice at least sort of financially healthy?

Or is the person giving you relationship advice in an obviously good relationship?

Are they living it?

That’s the first piece.

There’s a lot to be said for people who know things but who haven’t lived them (see #2), but nothing can replace being in the arena.

There are a lot of “virgins talking about sex” in the world, which would be like watching a gladiator fight to the death and claiming that you know something about being a gladiator.

The truth is, you don’t know shit about the arena unless you’ve been in the arena.

The entire plan you have about dodging, moving, slashing, and taking blows goes out the window when you see someone draw your own blood, and the adrenaline level is so high you piss yourself as the other combatants come out.

Nothing can replace the arena, which is why I value the advice of people in the arena the most.

They can tell you things about the internal experience of goal-achievement that nobody can.

Question #2 To Ask Yourself

question 2

And now, question #2: have they coached someone through it?

When you go to the doctor’s office, chances are your doctor hasn’t had crohn’s disease, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis… but they’ve treated thousands of pateints for those things.

As a result, they know what to look for, they know the signs and symptoms and they know exactly how to treat the conditions.

The other thing is simple: have they coached somebody else through this?

A doctor hasn’t had every illness, but knows how to fix them.

A coach may not have 100% been in your situation, but if they coached dozens or hundreds of people they can often spot the weaknesses, flaws, and strengths in the people that succeed or don’t.

That’s actually the approach I took in my book Master the Day.

I actually was never overweight in my life, so where was my credibility?

I Interviewed dozens of people that lost 100+ pounds and kept it off by changing habits, then applied it to friends and clients, and got them results.

That became my new compelling story.

Changing Your Story


This is really, really important because there’s a lot of fucking horrible advice out there.

Most people just haven’t lived advice – think about it – we’re in an epidemic of people telling you to get a safe job who are miserable, or people telling you to find your passion (because they never went down that path).

When people haven’t lived advice, what do they advise their kids on?

Their mistakes. What they think is right. What they see others doing.

I spotted early on that most people giving me advice did NOT have the life I wanted, so I had to create benchmarks early on (and put the puzzle together by myself).

Sometimes this means ignoring the people you most respect.

Sometimes it means ignoring your best friends, your family, or your parents.

Sometimes it means ignoring all the advice from your teachers and mentors.

And sometimes it means you just have to get yourself bloody in the arena, figure things out for yourself, and learn what works by getting punched in the face and swung at.


What was the worst piece of advice you ever got? Share below.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Yomna Ashraf August 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm

“Dont study art it will get you nowhere” was the worst advice I ever heard I know it now but at the time I was applying for colleges I really believed in it and studied architecture Instead. After graduation im now studying what I love to do.


Alexander Heyne August 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Love hearing this Yomna! How’d you have the courage to do it?


Alex Nemo Hanse August 24, 2016 at 7:42 pm

The college advice was horrible. Have fun in college. Don’t settle down or get too serious because college is about fun. etc etc.

Worst advice ever! I missed out on so much! What is considered as fun to them isn’t necessarily fun for me.

You live and you learn. But I am totally with you. Don’t take advice from average people.

This may have inspired me to throw something up on Medium in a few. Thanks a lot!


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:12 pm

I got really similar advice Alex, and I would’ve lived differently if I knew better.


Darren August 24, 2016 at 9:56 pm

“Grow up, go to school and get a job”. Though that might not be the most terrible advice, it was too convention and general for me. Now, I’m working to get back on the path. 90% of what I have truly learned and has stuck has been through experiences and education I have genuinely wanted to wanted to pursue. Not someone elses advice.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Hey Darren,

Sounds like your journey was similar to mine, aka we followed the typical path somewhat, but almost everything good came from following the path we chose.

And congrats!!


Raechel August 24, 2016 at 11:33 pm

The worst piece of advise that I got in my early teens was from my own Mother. She told me to marry a rich man so that I wouldn’t have to work and struggle like she did. Then the second piece of bad advise was my ex-husband telling me NOT to become a nurse… which was my passion. He said nursing was too stressful and I didn’t have the personality for it. I listened to both people and now at 59 I am divorced with a mediocre job and no degree. I should have followed my heart.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Sorry to hear that Raechel :-(


Charles September 2, 2016 at 1:56 am

Hey Rachel

If the stats are to be believed, you probably have another 35+ years in you! And I sense that heart, even though not followed, is still pumping.

So my (unsolicited) advice to you – just go out and do it. 59 is the new 20!

Strength to you.


Alexander Heyne September 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm

+1 million to what Charles said.

Stephanie August 25, 2016 at 8:40 am

I was going to post the exact same thing, Yomna! “You can’t make a living doing the arts or anything creative.” That’s why I ended up doing maths and science after age 16.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Yeah this is unfortunately exceptionally common advice.


travis peters August 25, 2016 at 8:51 am

I have taken the worst shi#$est advice you can think of which has led me to having no career and still no direction of what I want to be and now I’m in early 30’s male. I really just have no clue whatsoever where to start or even picture what I want from myself I feel so low most days it’s beginning to hurt me within.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Travis, reverse engineer it – what was the bad advice? Now what’s the opposite?


travis peters August 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Like people promise the world when you are youngoing to go into crappie jobs which has left me without a trade and just totally lost. There is other stuff I can’t mention on here. Thank you for replying

LDM August 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm

The worst advice I heard was “it is bad to be an outcast, you have to go with the crowd”. Sometimes you are an outcast because you are capable of independent thinking. And there is a price you pay for independent thinking. It is free to be a sheep. It is easy and convenient to be part of the herd. To not be a “weirdo”. Sheep hate those who don’t take the easier path like them. If you don’t think like them, they will isolate you, they will try to win you over, they will say that you should make friends and smile more.
If you listen to them, you will be greeted by the easy path, the warm waters of mediocrity.
I was in the right path once, but I listened to them. I gravely regret that.
It is hard to think differently. If you are ostracized by sheep, you should not be ashamed, you should be proud!


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm

100%…. “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of lambs led by a lion.”


Ioanna August 26, 2016 at 9:40 am

The worst piece of advice? Let me see, there’s so many! For one, that I should get married and have a family while I’m still young and attractive. That my friends will all get married and no woman wants to befriend another single woman cause she’s scared she will lose her husband, meaning I would be friendless and husbandless for the rest of my life.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Hah, wow, that’s a tough one. Yeah parents can be really bad about the “get married in this time frame” thing.


Alan August 26, 2016 at 10:08 am

All the worst advice I’ve ever gotten is with personal relationships. As Alexander mentioned, it always came from miserable and divorced people. I feel this has been a huge hindrance to me throughout my life. Besides that, I’ve found almost no advice in this area applies to anyone else, because no relationship between two people is ever the same. You can be given stories about what happened to two people, but that may or may not apply to your situation.

Like the article says: you need to figure it out on your own!


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Very true!


Farah August 26, 2016 at 11:49 am

The advice I got was that I shouldn’t study Psychology cause it’s going to be hard to find a job and secure a future. Glad I didn’t listen to them as I’m now a proud psych student who can’t wait to live and learn the way I want to!


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Love it Farah – glad to hear it’s going well now.


Stephanie August 27, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Just like Farah people told me I shouldn’t study Psychology. However, I listened to them. I got a Bachelor’s in Health Administration and I still haven’t found a well paying job. I’m unemployed and at 31 I have to start all over to pursue my career in Psychology. I wish I was strong enough in my early 20s to make my own decisions and not listen to people’s inexperienced advice.


Alexander Heyne August 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Me too Stephanie – but now you have the life experience to make that a reality, right?


william September 16, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Hey Alex in the doctor example you spelled patients wrong


Jo October 11, 2016 at 3:32 am

I’ve been advised not to share my feelings with my partner because they might leave me. I’ve frequently been told just to leave things and let them blow over. This has taught me to run from problems with others instead of facing them. I’ve been taken advantage of so many times because I was too afraid to speak my mind in case it put people off me. For most of my life I felt like I was the one making the most compromises. Then I realized that those people I was running around after were making me unhappy anyway. I’ve also found that others respect us more when we are true to ourselves.


keerthi December 26, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Hi Alex, I found watching your videos very effective than reading. Hope you make more . Thanks.


Alexander Heyne August 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm

You’re welcome travis – and yeah, ultimately some of those hard knocks and bumps are what it takes to get to where you want sometimes.


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