20 hard lessons every 20 something should learn before it’s too late

Someone recently told me that “At 24 you can’t possibly know anything about how life works.”

I beg to differ.

Your 20’s are experimental. It’s when you take risks, learn about yourself, and start building towards the future. This is the decade where we gain perspective and find our footing.

Your 20’s matter.

With that said, here are some of the hardest lessons I have learned so far:

Trust will get the best of you.

There are a lot of selfish people out there who will do whatever it takes to advance in society.

If this means throwing you under the bus to get what they want, so be it.

Prepare yourself for some very difficult conversations with someone you once admired.

Your inner circle will change.

College friends will move.

Family members will pass.

Work colleagues will change.

Keep surrounding yourself with people who make you better and maintain healthy relationships even if someone has momentarily left your life.

Be the person others want to follow.

Constantly prove your worth by elevating those around you.

This doesn’t just include close friends and family- put time into making positive impacts on everyone you interact with.

Health is really important.

The working world can be a stressful place full of long hours, surprises, and challenges. Physical and mental health should always be at the top of your priorities for a longer, happier life.

Enjoy the process.

There will be mistakes. Don’t think of these moments as failures but as learning opportunities.

Every step of the journey happens for a reason. Don’t become so enveloped with the end goal that you forget to enjoy the moment.

Find a mentor (or three).

In the digital age, your network is like gold. Who you know can change the course of your career and open up unimaginable opportunities.

Always keep your word.

Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.

And never try to be someone your not to get ahead. The truth always finds a way.

Work doesn’t end at 5 PM.

Read, write, reflect, find a hobby, build a business, do everything in your power to make life a little more interesting.

The one track path to success our parents followed no longer exists.

Success is a moving target.

No one really knows what they want yet. I’m 24, working full-time, averaging 100,000–200,000 impressions per month writing, and making a decent amount of money on the side while doing it. That’s not success.

Truthfully, I don’t know what is.

Journal way more often.

I get it, journals evoke a sort of fabricated romanticism relegated to struggling artists and poets. I thought that too.

And then I bought one.

On both a personal and professional level, I can say this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Quite honestly, it changed my life.

Take the risk.

Your 20’s are the open window to make that move, try that job, build that relationship.

Some things won’t pan out. But the ones that do will be worth it in the end.

Be vulnerable.

Before you can be honest with anyone else, you need to be honest with yourself. The image you projected no longer matters- in a dishonest world full of social media, politics, and greed, people crave authenticity.

Acknowledge how little you know.

A diploma doesn’t mean you can run a team successfully or solve real challenges.

There’s a whole lot more to accomplish than you think.

Don’t envy anyone.

Most people aren’t as successful as they proclaim. And if they are, just take what they did and do it better.

Use technology when you need it.

I think a lot of our problems could be solved with a little discipline.

Put your phone down once in a while and communicate. Our interpersonal skills are deteriorating quicker than our attention spans.

Find solace in silence.

Busyness and noise lead to distraction, not growth. Don’t settle for fake forms of quietness by purchasing the latest noise-canceling device. Silence is an art and takes careful practice and dedication.

There is power in silence. And silence is golden.

Build something for them.

Rewards come in unlikely places.

Don’t always motivate yourself with money or fame. Find an audience that actually cares about what you have to say and create something for those individuals.

Read, read, and read some more.

A recovering addict taught me about empathy.

A child soldier showed me that my lowest moments could be far worse.

A shoe salesman helped me understand how luck really works.

You get the point. The stories of others will help you write your own narrative.

Hurry up and fail.

Life is hard.

Once you know what failure tastes like, everything else becomes a little easier.

Your most valuable asset is time.

It doesn’t feel like it, but life is just getting started. Time is still on your side.

Make the most of your 20’s because before you know it, they will be over.

How do you want to look back on them?

This article first appeared on Medium.