I remember 25 like it was yesterday. I was ready to take on the world, both delighted and terrified about the future, and determined to be a creative director at a small advertising agency that focused only on short-form branding videos and documentaries. I swore I would never wear a suit, never be in sales, never do power lunches, and never EVER live in Texas.
Five years later, I was packing a moving van on a journey to Dallas to launch a sales marketing division for the NBC television station there. There were suits hanging in my car, and my calendar was already filled with client meetings—most of them over lunch. I was elated at the opportunity. That five years offered a veritable lifetime of insight. And the years that followed proved to me that new adventures are worthy ones, that taking leaps from one career path to another isn’t as scary as it sounds, and that we should never stop learning, never stop growing, and never stop wondering what’s next.
For the past year, I’ve shared with you the 25 things I wish I knew at 25. Now we’re going to talk about the basics. My personal list is quite extensive—everything from not accepting all those great credit card offers you’ll find in your mailbox and always building relationships with the same care in which you’d build a home, to not getting a drastic haircut on a day when nothing seems to be going well (some advice is born from bad decisions).
Google “what I’d tell my 20-something self” and you’ll find a plethora of oft-quoted words from the likes of folks of Bill Gates, who said:
“Smartness is not single-dimensional, and not quite as important as I thought it was back then.”
Time has a way of teaching us that smartness does not equal wisdom, doesn’t it?
I’ve talked to countless folks from all different walks of life about what they wish they knew at 25.
What they have shared can be summed up in one powerful theme. And the wisdom that is shared for 25 year-olds is just as beneficial for 55 year-olds, because good advice is evergreen. Tuck this list away and return to it often.
So, what basic wisdom would I share with my 25-year old self? I would tell her—and you—this:
Invest WISELY in these four things.
1. YOUR TIME
“You’re going to overestimate what you can do in a year. You’re going to underestimate what you can do in a decade – or two or three (or in my case now, four). Allow yourself to think in terms of decades.”
(Tony Robbins, Entrepreneur and Author)
“Stop wasting time and energy on paying attention to the opinions of others. Stop trying to make them happy. Stop trying to prove them wrong. Start focusing on what you want to do with your life, it’s your only shot and it will be over soon. Also save some money.”
(Terry Weaver, Speaker)
“Travel more. Be independent. Eat doughnuts. Then, travel some more.”
(Heather Cloudt, Entrepreneur)
“This job won’t be your last job—unless you love it and want it to be your last job. Then cool! If not, you are not stuck there. And no, the only way out of that job is not to kill yourself.”
(Kandi Rose, Sales Consultant)
“Time is your friend. God is not in a rush. Slow down.”
(Rey Diaz, Executive Director of Orphan Outreach)
“For heaven’s sake, let yourself really fail once in a while—not some tiny little mistakes here and there, but big, glaring, confidence-shaking, dark-night-of-the-soul-inducing failures. Understand that no one—especially folks who are truly successful—simply coasts from achievement to achievement. The most accomplished people in the world fail and fail big. That’s how they learn so much and grow so quickly and become so interesting and wise.”
(Michelle Obama, Former First Lady)
“Traveling is worth packing your lunch to save up for a trip.”
(Sharon Stevens, Wellness Consultant)
2. YOUR MONEY
“Money decisions you make now will greatly affect the decisions you are able to make in the future. Time is on your side when it comes to investing and getting your financial house in order.”
(Jessica Garbarino, Founder of Every Single Dollar)
“Meet with a trustworthy professional who is interested in your best interests and will coach and help you plan for your financial future. Discipline yourself and manage money wisely. You will not regret it.”
(Migdalia James, Development Officer for TEAM)
“Don’t think today, or 25, is forever. Some of the choices you make last—like planning for retirement—but others don’t, like what job you take. Seek wisdom from those further down the path you want to take. Don’t be afraid to take some risks.”
(Janeen Kilgore, Entrepreneur)
“Whether it is a change of job, or an entrepreneurial dream, the less you NEED to spend each month, the easier it is to follow those dreams. Only go into debt if necessary for some kind of investment, like student loans, for example.”
(Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia)
“Even if is only $10 a month, save for retirement.”
(Jane Tuttle, Student Affairs, University of Kansas)
3. YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
“If there’s a choice between companionship and anything else—especially career—choose companionship. It’s the only thing that has the potential to last. Choose career and you’ll spend unreasonable amounts of time attempting to look younger than you are and feeling you aren’t succeeding. Fame is not acceptance.”
(Carrie Fisher, Academy Award-winning actress)
“Don’t waste your life chasing other people’s expectations for you. If you are not happy, make a change and those who genuinely care about you will be with you no matter what. Not all relationships are permanent, and that’s OK.”
(Alex Snow, Writer)
“Forgive quickly. Holding on lets bitterness take root.”
(Chris Holmes, Owner of Deep South Mercantile)
“Your jean size does not need to measure your self-worth. I wish I could’ve told myself to not sit out parties and opportunities because I thought I was too fat to be a part of them.”
(Ellen Ratcliff, Veterinarian and World Traveler)
“Whatever vocation you decide on, track down the best people in the world at doing it and surround yourself with them. Aim high and be ridiculously persistent. Your happiness is at the intersection of your passions and learning from great people. Be generous with your time and money–it has an amazingly fast payback. Be in the moment with everyone you love–and this frequently means tuning out work completely. And drive slow in parking lots.”
(Scott Weiss, Partner at Andreesen Horowitz)
“Start going to therapy before you think you need it.”
(Mikayla Dreyer, Behavioral Therapist)
4. YOUR PURPOSE
“Your job isn’t who you are, it’s what you do. Find your calling and live it out regardless of your job. You can be who you are anywhere if you listen to your call.”
(Scott Maderer, Business Coach)
“Instead of focusing on doing (as in “what do I want to do”) focus on being (as in, in what way should I develop my character). Jobs and even skills/abilities come and go throughout your life, so focus on developing the kind of character that remains sane and at peace by having a wise and long perspective. Being is much greater than doing.”
(David Bouchard, IT Security Supervisor)
“Trust your intuition. It’s nearly always right.”
(Karen Neumair, Literary Agent for Credo Communications)
“Whether they are aware of it or not, everyone else has a plan for you – a role for you to play. Don’t waste time playing on someone else’s stage or in someone else’s drama. Craft your own role. Make your own plan. If we live a life without intent, others will plan it out for us.”
(Kevin Christian Burns, Pastor of The Journey Church)
“Your identity and happiness are not found in your romantic relationships. Know yourself first. Take your time to understand what makes you YOU before you lose your identity in another significant other.”
(Derek Wittman, Licensed Therapist)
“You will encounter a lot of voices. But there’s only One voice that matters. Learn to listen first, then courageously follow where He leads.”
(Matt Ham, author and founder of YouPrint)
“No one has it all figured out yet. Be easy on yourself. Stay faithful where you are until the next door opens and don’t sweat your “purpose.” It’s simple – get up every day – love the Lord, love others, be a good worker, and have joy. That’s your purpose. Everything else will flow out of that and happen in its time.”
(Pam Parish, author and founder of Connections Homes)
What advice would you give your 25-year old self? What should be added to this list?