5 Things I Wish I Knew In My Twenties

5 Things I Wish I Knew In My Twenties

It’s up to you to live the life you want to lead.

In your early twenties, it’s realistic to think that you have 10 years of freedom to pursue your goals before ‘settling down’, getting a real job, buying a house and starting a family (if that’s what you choose to do).

The average age of a first-time parent in Australia is 30 (and rising). The average age of a first-time homeowner in the United States is 33.

With these stats in mind, it’s obvious that your twenties are a unique time in your life. Want to see the world? You can. Want to study for 10 years? You can. Want to start your own business? You can. Want to do nothing? You can.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to pursue your goals after your 30th birthday. It just gets harder. There are more external factors that influence both your time and your decisions.

When I reflect on my twenties, I spent the first half of it failing university and having an incredible time at college.

Would I have done things differently? Yes and no. Yes, I could have pursued my goal — of starting a business — sooner and with more focus. No, because I made life long friendships that I wouldn’t change for a second.

The second half of my twenties was spent working incredibly hard building a business. I absolutely loved working towards my goal.

Now 30, with a beautiful wife, gorgeous child and moderate mortgage, here is a list of 5 things I wish I knew when I turned 20…

1. You will never have more free time in your life (until you retire).

“Time is our most precious asset. Use it wisely.” ~ Unknown

Apart from study and work that may take up to 8 hours a day, the rest of your time is yours to do as you please.

No children, maybe no partner, your time is there for the taking. Having this much time means that it is incredibly important to use it wisely. It’s also incredibly easy to waste.

Determine what you truly want, and employ your time in pursuit of that cause.

With your goal in mind, use your time with purpose.

If time is your most valuable asset, then your twenties isn’t a time to waste it.

2. It’s your chance to be selfish.

Based on the stats, you likely won’t have a mortgage or children.

Having a mortgage instantly means that the financial noose is tightened. You have repayments due whether you like it or not. Having children means that your time and focus shifts to their wellbeing (as it should!).

When you have no real commitments, aside from maybe a job or study, you are free to explore other endeavours. Now is the time to chase your goals with a level of energy and commitment you never knew existed. You are in total control of your life. You answer only to yourself.

It’s your chance to be selfish and pursue your goals with pure single-mindedness.

Embrace it and chase it!

3. You can take risks.

When you’re not constrained by debt and don’t have people depending on you to survive, you are freer to take risks.

In truth, most perceived risks aren’t that risky at all.

Humans are conservative by nature. It’s how we have survived and thrived for millennia. However, we now live in a world that is incredibly different to that of our distant ancestors. Those risk averse biological traits that saved us from lions, generally do not apply. If you’re not at risk of physical harm, then what is the worst that could happen?

Take a good hard look at the downside.

Weigh up your current situation and determine the worst case scenario. How bad could things get if you take that risk and fail?

Could you lose all you money? Perhaps. But remember, money isn’t a finite resource. It can be accumulated again.

Could you lose time? Definitely — so make sure you learn something valuable in the process, regardless of success.

And the big one; regret. Will you regret not taking the risk?

Take a good hard look at the upside.

All going to plan, what’s the best case scenario? How good could things get if you take that risk and succeed?

Could starting your own business help you achieve financial freedom?

Could you enrich your life by travelling the world?

Could changing jobs lead to a new opportunity?

It’s common to hear the saying, ‘the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward’.

Often this is true. However, in your twenties, the downside is so insignificant in the grand scheme of your life, that it’s almost riskier to stand still and do nothing.

You can harm your future simply through inaction.

Take the time to assess the risk’s merits. Are you being reasonable and rational? Are others’ opinions holding you back? What is stopping you?

If you’re still struggling, begin with working out how you can minimise (or internalise and accept) the downside. This will help you to feel more confident to work towards your goal.

This is your time to take the jump!

4. You can work harder than you ever have.

Most goals require time and effort. Using time effectively and applying effort requires discipline.

When you combine discipline with free time, magic happens.

Instead of wasting time, maximise it.

In your early twenties, commitments are minimal and time is there to use. This gives you the platform to work harder than you ever have in your young life.

If your goal is to gain a promotion, work longer, harder and with more focus. If your goal is to start a business, dedicate yourself to it. If your goal is to travel, determine how you can work hard to fund it.

Turn off the TV and get it done.

5. You can decide what you want to do.

When you’re at school, your parents, the government and the education system generally decide what you do each day. Once you’re on your own in your twenties, out in the world, the decisions are yours.

This tremendous freedom can be a blessing and a curse. Without direction and goals, it is easy to switch on autopilot.

It is incredibly important to reflect on what you are doing, and question ‘why?’.

It’s easy to simply go through the motions. Goals are merely dreams. You begin thinking ‘I wish’ instead of ‘I am’.

‘I wish I had a better job’, instead of, ‘I am working towards a better job’.

“Think and act, instead of think and dream.”

Too often, we drift through life doing things that are ingrained in us, that we think are expected of us, or that we have always done.

You need to become critical of your life.

Ask ‘why’, and ensure the answer aligns with your true self.

After all, you’re the one living your life — not your parents, friends, bosses, co-workers, relatives or strangers.

It’s incredibly liberating working towards your goals. Not someone else’s.

It’s up to you to live the life you want to lead.

Scott Tonges

Scott Tonges

I’m Scott. I’m a web designer & developer who builds digital products. I co-founded an EdTech business with my wife called Teach Starter.