Set yourself up for success
Your twenties are the years where you have these three things together.
Energy, time and freedom.
1. Education vs Experiences
Place a balance between these two. Flocks of young people today are disregarding the value of a degree, while we also have flocks of university students having little creativity and ambition to their futures.
It is far too easy for the younger generation to jump on the bandwagon in the debate between university and and practical experiences. Always remember that you don’t have to pick a side. The entrepreneurs may be vocal about the uselessness of the current model of universities, but the existing system, in most cases, still demands a higher education or degree.
Always ask yourself this question: “How is what I’m doing now going to be relevant to my future.”
Everyone has different life paths — don’t do something because somebody else is doing it. Find what speaks to your heart and soul. Your intuition is important.
For your own sake, be strategic in your decisions. Do not generalize the trends of how useless university is with the immersive value of education and discipline. Don’t confuse university with education. University is a platform for education, but does not guarantee it unless you let it do so.
Startups aren’t for everyone. Neither is university. Find what platform works for you. Find synergy in different areas of opportunity. Never place all your cards in one place. You need a fail-safe.
I believe that school was designed to help make us a better people by helping us dive deeper into subjects that we would probably never think about on our own.
Only you know what is truly best for yourself. Find that space from within.
2. Time & Energy
By the time you reach your thirties — you may realize that you have done completely nothing remarkable. Make your twenties super productive. You have the time, energy and spirit to pursue the crazy, while the seniors have all the money but no energy. What an ironic concept!
Your twenties are a critical part of your life because you have the chance to discover and take risks. It’s a time when people are more willing to hear you out. Your failures will be seen more as a part of growing up than f**king up.
Take advantage of this perspective. Think: “Why are we so amazed by these teens changing the world?” It’s because they are way beyond their usual levels of maturity. Expectations are powerful. Use this to your advantage.
Our human energy and capacity is much like a fuel tank. You can only do and go so much in 24 hours. Find things that maximize your value and efforts. An intersection of both is the golden key. There is no other time in life where you will be this energetic and creative.
Our limited resources as youth help spur innovation.
On the perspective of energy—self reflection and introspection can be just as powerful as your proactive actions. This is what we call at AIESEC the“inner leadership journey.” This inner journey consists of things like “life lessons” as a result of a challenging event that either suddenly or gradually teaches you a lesson over time. You can imagine it like maturing and growing up.
Time is your greatest teacher and most valuable currency
3. Positive Mindset
Opportunities don’t arise when you kill things before they even have the chance to flourish. Whether you’re a bus boy still learning the ropes or in a leadership position leading an entire organization, we all need a positive mindset to make the most out of what we’ve got. Everything is a learning experience. By thinking this way, you will be able to always get a win from any situation, good or bad. Failure shoots us down but also provides the greatest wisdom.
I stepped in to my national leadership position with little management experience, but I was immediately forced to manage a network of 2000+ people. If I didn’t believe in my potential, I would have probably dropped off seeing the challenge ahead of me.
By being positive, you open up more doors for yourself. Believe in yourself because you’re capable of far more things than you realize.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
4. Challenge Yourself
There is no better time to take risks. Fail fast and fail hard, recover smart.
You never know everything and especially in the beginning. And in your twenties, you are just getting started. A lot of times, the things you believe you are incapable of are simply mental barriers. They’re barriers that inhibit your ability to say “YES” and take a risk. We often shut ourselves down before we even get the chance to try.
I would have no way in hell have my job if I believed that I wasn’t capable. I thought to myself, why not. What’s the worst that could happen. You always win if you see it as a learning experience.
Entrepreneurs often say the same thing: “I honestly didn’t know everything, I just faked it till I made it.”
Always do something that enables you to grow as a person, you should feel afraid. By being afraid, you are stepping out of your comfort zone to grow and develop. Don’t stay comfortable or you’ll never get to grow to the person you were truly meant to be. Find a place that maximizes your potential for the future. Think long-term and don’t be blindsided by small victories or losses.
Don’t shoot yourself down before it even happens. Grow and take risks.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
5. Embrace Diversity
Surround yourself with people who are experts in their fields, mentors, and people who are also younger in experience. Much like a GPS, it requires multiple satellites to provide different angles of information. By having benchmarks on both sides of the spectrum, it will enable you to have more precision on where you are in life.
Much like a seesaw, you’ll be able to gain from both ends. By teaching the person with less experience, you are further solidifying your knowledge and nothing is more rewarding than helping others grow. While being mentored by the experts, you are growing beyond your traditional borders. The person next to you will always know something you don’t know.
I have a couple of mentors—almost like my own personal board of advisors. Some are much more senior, some are relatively the same age group as I am and they all provide valuable answers to my thoughts.
Diversity is powerful. It breaks down tunnel vision that all humans suffer from. It is exactly why people need to learn how to work together with different types of people. We all make up the human puzzle piece.
It enables you to become positive and also helps others feel more at ease around you. Smile more because it makes others smile too. You really need to smile because things will be tough, and often times, nobody else will be there for you many times around. You will become your own best friend and you need to learn how to lift yourself up.
“When you smile, others smile. Before you know it, the whole world is smiling with you.”
7. Follow Up
You can meet the coolest person in the world, but if you do not follow up, nothing will come out of it. Always follow up. Always make your messsage relevant and useful. What’s in it for them? Know the end goal. Meeting someone is 1/4 of the work. Follow up is the rest. It shows that you don’t just talk to talk, you can also walk the walk.
Don’t let your efforts go down the drain and be a business card collector.
Networking is like fishing, you may hook the fish, but if you don’t reel them in, you get nothing!
8. Be Authentic
If you’re not good at something, don’t pretend to be. Be yourself, because even if there are people out there who don’t like you, they probably aren’t the people you want to be around. Didn’t get the job even though you were qualified? Most likely it was a mismatch on culture. You wouldn’t be happy there anyways.
Find things that truly enable you to flourish and be your full self. You’ll perform better and even be happier.
People like real people. Find a space and place where you are 110% you. Nothing less. Never compromise on who you are because that’s your identity.
9. Everything will be okay.
Everyone has their time and place.
Think of Lady Gaga vs Susan Boyle — everyone has their different time and places to shine. Gaga is in her 20’s, Susan in her 50’s, everyone has different lives and purpose in life. Success comes at different stages of life and for different reasons.
We’re all born different people and we need to be okay with ourselves. Don’t feel like you need to know everything, cause nobody does. Find your time and place. We all have our own story.
GEN Y certainly suffers from some sort of anxiety. There is a lot of pressure on our generation to be the best they can be and get their shit going. It’s CRAZY. And sometimes they drive themselves into the ground forgetting about their own well-being.
10. Have Fun and Passion
Think about it. We live generally into our 80’s. It isn’t a lot of time. Life needs to be lived enjoyable and minor on regrets. Find your passion and purpose. What you choose to dedicate your life to should resonate with you and empower you.
You’ll also want to document your life. Not like a documentary, but to make memories. Looking back in your life is an excellent way to reflect and realize how far you have come. Nothing is more precious than being able to look back in time and say.. “wow.”
Don’t take life too seriously, because we’re at our best when we’re having the time of our lives.
“Be silly, laugh, embrace relationships, because life is best enjoyed smiling.”
I’m the youngest of my leadership team and it has enabled me to see things with great perspective. I believe that these lessons have truly shaped who I am today and may help others out there thinking the same things. I’d love to hear your thoughts and connect with you.
Gordon originally wrote and published this article on Medium