Harsh Life Lessons Every 20 Something Should Learn
— Updated on 31 May 2021

Harsh Life Lessons Every 20 Something Should Learn

— Updated on 31 May 2021
Boss Hunting
Boss Hunting

This post was written by Thelonius Poon and first appeared on Quora.

1. Don’t follow your passion, it’s a trap. Chasing your passion is one of the most brainwashing statements our generation has ever been told.

Many people are confused about what their passion truly is, especially when young. The most common passions worldwide include swimming, sports, reading etc. which are not available jobs for most people. Most people wouldn’t even like doing these things anymore if they had to monetise it somehow.

Many of us can discover that we are capable of being passionate about practical and ordinary career paths. This is because what creates real job satisfaction and a passionate feeling is first achieving autonomy, competence, and having a good relationship with your coworkers. These three qualities can be found at many practical jobs and can make even the most strange jobs totally awesome to do every day. They should teach this idea in school.

Not everybody has to be an Olympic swimmer to feel super passionate about their career. We as humans are flexible and are entirely capable of finding tremendous job satisfaction in non-rockstar career paths. You would be shocked to know many office admins report tremendous career satisfaction with their jobs because they are able to work autonomously, are given more responsibility when they become highly competent, and if they have a good relationship with their coworkers it can be a sweet job.

Conversely, being a rockstar and playing music all day can be an absolute nightmare of a career path. Why do you think so many rockstars become depressed and kill themselves with drugs and hookers? Do they seem totally blissfully happy and zen about their working conditions? They’re separated from their families half the time and are a slave to a tour schedule.

2. Love in your 20s will serve as your teacher, in your middle life as your foundation, and in your old age as your fondest memories. If you are in your 20s, many relationships will fail and not work but function as learning exercises. Because of this, don’t stress so much. It’s all just practise until you’re married.

If single, learn to be happy by yourself and not rely on a partner for validation or happiness. You can’t make somebody else happy if you don’t know how to be happy yourself. Two badly adjusted people who are not harmonious between their heart and mind cannot balance each other’s weaknesses out. We must be balanced in order not to disrupt the balance of another. You want your partner to bring out your best traits, not your worst traits.

Too many people cling to relationships in their 20s then end up breaking up anyway because of a work relocation or the like. Our 20s are still pretty volatile, plan for that. It’s normal to date and stuff, just don’t act like its the end of the world if you’re single. One day you’re going to be married to the same person for the last 60 years and will reminisce about being alone.

3. The real working world sucks and is difficult, but that doesn’t give you a license to take the easy way out. The nature of business in general is difficult and involves labour, but that is the price of earning your livelihood. Pay your dues and it will become easier over time.

Everybody’s parents went through it, along with their parents. School is an incubator that makes everyone think the real world is easy and linear. The real working world is difficult and you will fail many times but that doesn’t mean you’ll fail forever. Usually, through persistence, you’ll slowly start chipping down the wall and be able to breakthrough. You need to go through “The Dip”. (Read Seth Godin)

4. The jobs that are super linear are often insanely competitive and crowded on the way up. The jobs that are dreamy but hard to get often involve extraordinary talent and dedication, along with a lengthy filtering process.

Know yourself and decide what you’re good at and choose accordingly. Accept the fact there is no easy way out of this. You must work through the dip to reap the benefits of passing where your classmates have failed. There is no other choice. Everybody is way too optimistic about this and often get hit with a serious dose of reality when they face real unemployment. Even parents hooking it all up for you is still not making it because you lose your autonomy to them. Making your own way in this world will always be fully dependent on you.

5. A lot of women in their 20s still really don’t know what they want, but they think they do.

Not just women, but guys too. This is advice for guys my age. Some women legitimately believe marrying a rich guy they don’t love will fulfil them. Others believe they can change men. Many people in our society are not self-aware and think logically rational dollars will fully be able to fulfil their souls. It won’t, we need a balance of both love and material expectations met to be happy.

Date somebody who’s realistic and well-adjusted and never pander to a girl who doesn’t have an accurate perspective on what love is actually supposed to be. Not all women are like this obviously but society has brainwashed quite a few women (and men too) to adhere to false gender stereotypes. Be fully aware of this and protect your heart. If you give it away too many times it will become broken and you won’t be able to love properly anymore.

6. If you want to be rich, famous, or attempt something risky, be willing to fight tooth and nail for it before the age of 30, don’t wait. Be willing to starve and live way worse than most of your peers if necessary during the dip.

After 30 it can become harder to chase your dreams, especially if you are a woman who wants to have kids younger. People get mortgages, have children, and can’t take as many risks. Your 20s is your time to mess up as much as possible. You can still dream chase after your 30s but you might have more responsibilities to deal with. Get messy while you’re young and free and can afford to wreck yourself.

I have a lot of friends who say they want to change it all up after 30 but I have yet to see that. You need to push really hard if you want to eat something that’s not served on the regular menu of life. If you want to start your own business or do something risky, do it now whatever it is. You don’t need to peak now, but you need to at least start the struggle now.

Sacrifice everything for the dream life you want now because when you’re older – you literally can’t. It’s totally worth giving up a decade of your life so you can live 50 years of pure awesomeness. There is no real race in life, every person’s actual life path is different and there are no statistics to define that. It’s just much harder to dip in your 40s and 50s than it is when you’re in your 20s.

7. Your friends and family do not always know what is best for you.

They know your past and where you’ve come from but that isn’t what is going to define the rest of your life. As an adult, you need to make decisions for yourself, your job, where you’ll live, and who you’ll marry. You don’t have to disrespect their wishes but you also need to think for yourself. They will not always unconditionally love you, and they also may not want the best material life for you either.

They also don’t want you to hurt yourself, become depressed from failure, suffer, be poor, or have heartache. This is why many parents try to protect their children and tell them to take safe jobs and live a safe life. They want you to marry the safe girl who’s a kindergarten teacher and would make a perfect mom. Life is not about safety. Life is about doing what you actually want to do. They want you to have the perfect safe material life, even if they know your soul won’t ever be fed what it needs to feel whole.

Family is not always important. Ask anybody who’s ever had an abusive parent. It’s only as important as you deem it, make that choice for yourself. Think for yourself. Know what you want as an individual.

8. There are a lot of mean selfish people out there who are not self-aware of how destructive they are to others.

It is not always their fault. They often were programmed that way and can’t help but hurt people unconsciously. Steer clear of these people. They will slowly destroy you if you let them. They can’t help it. Part of them might be nice sometimes but if they can’t control their demons they are broken inside.

9. You can either choose a happy, conventional and stress-free life or you can choose a very interesting, but more difficult meaningful life.

A life of meaning often involves challenges, change, pushing boundaries, and is going to be more stressful by default. A happy, conventional life will be more stable and normal but you’ll never witness the ultra high’s or lows, maybe just your wedding night. The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness.

99% of people just want a steady paycheque, job security, a 401K, a mortgage, marriage with 2.3 kids, and 10 paid vacation days a year. This is a good thing, this is how society functions and maintains balance. If you want to do something else with your life you have to be willing to sacrifice that normalcy, at least initially. The world is not cut out to have 10,000 Elon Musk personality types running around game-changing.

10. Accept the fact you cannot predict the future and humans are notoriously bad in general at predicting their own futures.

Generally speaking, your future will have some good things and some bad things happen to you. Hopefully a balance of both but that’s what makes life worth living. Without suffering we do not appreciate health and normal everyday life. Without death, we do not appreciate our youth. Life will always contain some form of agonizing pain and moments of sheer bliss. Accept them for what they are, good chocolates or real shitty ones.

11. Money is important, but only up to 70K a year per spouse.

Really look at those statistics and plan your life accordingly. Ask yourself what you would do if you had $20 million and never had to work. How would you define your existence?

Would you still work your job, or does it give you absolutely no sense of societal fulfilment? Being broke is absolutely awful and poverty is something no human in this day and age should ever have to experience. But a life of working a job you hate is also a form of slavery. Free yourself.

12. Ask yourself if you would regret this when you’re 80 when making any decision.

That will always give you some perspective. Even if it makes you a more reckless person, perhaps that’s who you’re actually supposed to be.

13. Change in life is ridiculously slow and gradual, often almost unnoticeable until you hit a snag. We often overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what is possible in 2–3.

I think one of the best metaphors for this is actually school. Things tend not to change in one day, they take years of studying, small little things every day that adds up to be your life. The only really important dates in school are your exams, which are maybe 5% of your time spent there. You spend 95% of your time preparing for that other 5%. The student that spent an hour extra every day studying will most likely always do better on the final exam. It’s the little things that add up to big things.

Falling in love takes time and is gradual. Working towards your dream job takes time and is gradual. Parents dying is gradual, cancer can take years to fully kill some people. Friends drifting apart is gradual. Starting a successful business is gradual. Becoming an alcoholic is gradual. Abusive relationships start slowly and get worse over time. We do not lose our souls in a single day, we lose it little by little. Be fully aware of the type of person you are slipping into, for better or for worse.

This is how newly rich people adjust from buying their first Porsche to buying 10. The first Porsche happens overnight but the next ten happens over the next decade until it’s not exciting anymore.

Gambling is another great example, ask anybody how they got up to $1 million buy-ins. They slowly climbed their way up to it. Another metaphor? Climbing Everest, you do it day by day. It doesn’t happen in a single day. So I urge everybody on here every day to be fully aware of the type of person you’re building yourself into, or the type of person you’re allowing yourself to devolve into.

14. Time spent in the material world will give you all the information you need to slowly align the values of your soul with your trappings of the physical dimension to reach your harmony. This is why most old people are at peace.

If you’re on here looking for an answer and can’t find it, rest assured that life will eventually just hand it to you. The wisdom of Quora is just a shortcut to save you some time. But if you can’t find it here, be sure the world will one day provide it to you. Just when is the question.

About Me: I’ve worked as an artist and men’s fashion designer for the past 7 years and have been through the start-up rollercoaster. I’ve seen a lot of epic failures and have also seen some tremendous successes in my time. I advocate dream-chasing. My fashion label is on www.nozo.ca

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