If you are in your 20s, you are sitting on a powder keg of opportunity. Many may be stressing over the world’s struggling economies, crippling debt, and political unrest, but many others are using those same challenges to launch their life’s calling and propel their careers forward.
Every major issue in the world today carries with it the seed of opportunity. Many our age have already identified them and built incredible projects with little resources.
Think about it: you are coming of age in a time where the internet and smartphone ecosystems have effectively obliterated the access points to every major industry.
You have youth, vitality, and imagination at a time where every imaginable skill and system of knowledge is available to you online (where you can guide your own way towards developing an expertise in any field with no upfront investment).
You can take as many risks as you want in an era where a full-time job is no longer needed in order to feed yourself (while you save your time and energy for the pursuit of your dreams).
You may feel crippled if you have inadequate resources or a mountain of student loan debt to carry with you, but you are probably forgetting the fact that large sums of money are no longer required in order to build large scale products (or content that can reach mass audiences).
Our generation is full of examples of individuals who built their visions with zero capital and no help from powerful individuals, through the graces of their own social networks and the value of their ideas.
You can be a part of this list of millennial success stories. You can make something with nothing and live the life of your dreams….so long as you don’t drift through your 20s.
Don’t know if you are drifting? Here is how you can tell:
1. Keeping yourself from executing on your dreams because you are “still not ready”
Fear is one sneaky bastard. We commonly think of it as a rational thought that clearly verbalizes some danger (“I should run away from a lion”), when in reality, fear always hides inside a rational argument that makes us feel smart, wise, and superior.
When we think:
“I can’t talk about my idea because it would be stolen”
“This dream needs more time before it can truly be ready”
What we are really thinking is:
“I need to find some way of rationally explaining why I am too scared to act right now, because that thought does not align with my own concept of myself”
All your rational explanations about why you are not ready to act on your dreams are clever ways of masking your fear of failure. To address the fear of failure, here is something you should know:
You will fail.
You will absolutely taste temporary defeat before you get to experience any form of success. Pick the biography of anyone you admire to see this law in action. You never get to succeed if you don’t fail, and you never get to fail if you don’t act.
Remember the first draft of anything you do (be it your dream blog, song, screenplay, documentary, startup, mobile app, or cold call) will be weak and fail. The second and third will be better, but they will also fail.
It will not be until many tries later that you will get any sort of traction, because that is when you will have polished your idea enough times for it to be worth something.
2. Prioritizing your social life
Have you ever heard of the shit principle? The shit principle is a very graphic way of illustrating one of Socrates’ most important lessons: universally agreed upon truths are often accepted as the truth without the slightest form of questioning.
If everyone in your life (teachers, school buddies, parents, and celebrities) had always told you dog shit tasted great and eating it was a necessary component of success, it would be something you would find yourself pursing with gusto today.
You would envy those who have more and feel unworthy or inadequate if you couldn’t get your hands on it. You would love the smell and taste of it.
If your only reason for believing something is that everyone else believes it, you should question it immediately.
One of the more limiting shit principles of our time has to do with the social life of a twenty year old.
We are all under the impression that our 20s are supposed to be one big party (an endless search for leisure and excitement that we can proudly portray on our Facebook feeds).
This leads us to feel a certain level of shame when we don’t think we are aligned with that “truth”. We may be prompted to invest more than is necessary on social activities, and pursue more partying than we really need.
Going out three times a week and having a social budget that exceeds 25% of our income is as excessive and unnecessary as always staying in and never having contact with the outside world.
When we overspend, or over-prioritize our social lives, we are unintentionally taking away from our own futures. There are opportunities waiting for us behind afternoon classes, online tutorials, or quiet nights building our dream careers. Beware of the shit principle.
3. Prioritizing your dating life
Notions about dating and romance (the timing of when they are supposed to happen, their role in our overall happiness, and their obligatory role in our adult lives) are a big part of the shit principle.
Unquestioned ideas about how many long-term relationships we are “supposed to have” and when we are “supposed to meet our soulmate” are responsible for the biggest amount of regrets people have about their choices throughout their 20s.
The quest for romance and marriage, and our psychological linking of it to happiness is a dangerous trap.
Across the world, twenty somethings who haven’t found the love of their life feel like there is something wrong with them. Why wouldn’t they?
Everyone thinks that they are supposed to find THE ONE before their 30s, and everyone knows what it’s like to have everyone ask you why they “are still single”.
Many got married to someone who was totally wrong for them, or dated someone well past the expiration of their relationship just to keep themselves from thinking that they are somehow “abnormal”.
Many invest way too much time on Tinder, Grinder, and OKCupid thinking that they won’t be happy until prince or princess charming arrives. Meanwhile precious time is wasted on their incredible life goals.
Two years ago, my deepest darkest secret was that I felt totally inadequate for never having had any sort of serious relationship at “such an old age” (27!). I probably invested 5-10 hours a day thinking about a boyfriend (where I could get one, when I would get one, or why I hadn’t found one yet).
Then, a few months shy of my 28th birthday, I met an incredible guy who beautified my life in ways I could have never fantasized about. It was that moment when I realized that I was doing nothing wrong and I had wasted way too much time worrying about it.
Throw out the clock and the universally agreed upon timelines of a “proper life”. Enjoy your freedom and make the most out of being single.
I am not saying “forget about your dating life”. Just don’t let it become an obsession or a source of shame. Other important things also demand your attention, and finding it should not be a priority in your 20s (in my opinion).
4. Seeing yourself from the outside looking in.
Growing up in the society that we did, we often view ourselves from the outside looking in, thinking more about how others perceive us than who we truly are (or what others want for us than what we want for ourselves).
Those of us who grew up with parents who clearly defined their objectives for our lives know this condition all too well.
When we have been told for decades that we are one thing, it is incredibly difficult to figure out if the reality could be something completely different.
Beyond what our parents want for us, there is the no less twisted idea of what our friends and acquaintances want for us, which also contaminates our perceptions of what we want for ourselves.
It easy to convince yourself that you actually want something that goes completely against your nature when everyone around you says you should go for it (the shit principle at its finest).
Beware of the fear of criticism. Many young creative minds have ideas that are so out of the ordinary that they fear they will be criticized or laughed at if they make them public.
If they never go on to execute them, it will be incredibly tragic for all of us.
What others think of you is none of your business. Give them your life choices and you can be sure that you will never be happy.
5. Refusing to save
I have never met a young professional who didn’t say they wish they had the discipline to cook their own lunch so they didn’t have to spend $6-14 per day to feed themselves.
We’ve all been there, and we all know that discipline is much harder in theory than it is in practice.
We also know that we have the ability to change in a hot minute. We’ve all gone through periods where we dread working out before suddenly finding ourselves becoming exercise gurus.
We’ve all gone through periods where our place looks like a garbage dump before finding ourselves being incredibly organized and tidy. Discipline is a habit that can be built which only gets stronger with inertia.
You can do it and you can start tomorrow.
You may think you don’t have enough money to make your first app, launch your own website, or invest in the stock market, but if you packed your own lunch, downgraded shampoo brands, limited your night club outings, placed a ban on buying iTunes songs, and limited other useless indulgences you absolutely would.
You could have saved up $10,000 in the past three years. Why not give yourself a gift and save up $10,000 in the next three to make up for it?
The secret to creating new habits is to become aware of your choices and the patterns that lead you to making them. The simple act of downloading a personal finance app like Mint and reviewing your choices every day could lead you to make actionable changes.
6. Investing more than 3-4 hours a week on entertainment
With the economic conditions so ripe for opportunity, and the world so ready to see more projects from millennials come to life, we should not be seeing data showing millennials investing 10-20 hours a week on online streaming and/or video games. You may feel devoid of savings, but you have a huge asset hiding quietly in your pocket.
That asset is time. You could be investing it in “stock” that actually yields high returns.
There is nothing wrong with watching TV or playing a video game to unwind. The mistake comes in forgetting that those activities come with an opportunity cost.
There are dozens of equally exciting leisures that would actually increase your net worth.
A monthly membership on Lynda.com or Skillshare is less than all the money you spend on Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo and Cable. Lynda is the Netflix of online tutorials, where you can learn programming, graphic design, video editing, and a million other useful skills on demand.
You can plug it into your TV and pretend that its Netflix, except this type of streaming will actually pay you back. Sound boring? Try it out – it can be incredibly exciting to learn how to do things that could increase our professional freedom.
I never thought it would be possible to work out, clean my room, do the dishes, or commute to work while learning. I never thought Audiobooks could be a respectable substitute for books, or that they would actually be more effective at delivering information which would stick in my mind long after I was exposed to it.
I never thought I could learn as easily as I listened tho the same three songs on my iPod every day (or as fun as watching an entire season on Netflix).
Listening to Audiobooks is as easy and effective as listening to engaging radio programs. Every book unlocks a door of opportunity by giving you new skills, inspiring innovative ideas, and giving you the knowledge you will need to go after every dream that you have.
7. Refusing to draw up a definite objective with a clearly defined plan
I used to be of the opinion that writing down a definite goal for your life was a limiting, narrow-minded exercise.
There was a time where I would have told you that it was more important to live in the moment and enjoy what you have than obsess over a specific long term goal.
We’ve been told so many times that “success always come to those who work hard” that we have started to believe it represents an actual law of the universe (many people work hard for years and never get anywhere).
As I look back, I can see that version of myself checking job postings every other day while picturing 17 different fields and career paths I could pursue.
One moment I was going to write a short film and the next he was designing a new app. A few months later I was looking at masters programs for data sciences before pivoting to writing a blog.
Definite objectives with clearly defined plans are immensely powerful. You can’t say that you want to be “a famous actor” without thinking about how you plan on getting there before you turn 30 (going to auditions is not a clear plan).
You can’t say that you want to “sell your first company” without understanding the problem you intend to solve and the state of the market you want to enter (as well as the common misfires those who have tried and failed have encountered).
Not having a plan and a deadline is the perfect way of remaining in the “idea stage” for the next decade or two.
Even if you don’t want to produce content or start a business, defining the most educated and informed path to your dream job is the best possible investment of time you can make at this age.
I credit Napoleon Hill with changing my mind on the value of having a clear and defined objective. He personally interviewed some of the most successful men of our time, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison (among 500 others).
His seminal work, “Think and Grow Rich” is credited with pulling millions out of the Great Depression, and being the foundation of thousands of fortunes throughout the 20th century. If you are getting started with Audible, I highly recommend checking his book out first.
When I took stock of all that I was interested in, and all that I wanted my contribution to the world to be, I came up with a definite objective:
“I will dedicate my life to helping people do X through Y.”
And a short-term plan with a deadline:
“By my 30th birthday, I will have accomplished X as a first step towards that objective.”
Ten months after forcing myself to complete this exercise, I have executed on every single idea I had been carrying with me for the past nine years.
As I find myself gaining traction and seeing progress towards my chief aim, I am grateful I took the time to decide what my dreams where and what I needed to do to get to live them. I’m sure many adversities are on the way, but I know my chief aim is the only thing I will never lose.
You have no idea how powerful that simple exercise can be.
For help figuring out your life’s purpose, book recommendations, and a personality report that will knock your socks off, sign up for Teledipity today (free now, free forever!).
Andrew Gabelic is the CEO & Founder of Teledipity, a free pocket life coach with an eerie ability to send you the right self-improvement content at the right time (based on your personality and life stage). Check out what it says about you!