It seems like there are more and more things in my life that remind me I’m getting older on a daily basis. I experience and view life very differently than I used to for sure, but I also notice an increasing disconnect with anyone younger than me. I feel like everyone spends most of their twenties relating to people both older and younger than them. Maybe it’s because your twenties are a sort of “in between” period of life. Today’s culture has prolonged adolescence and, consequently, delayed adulthood. So we have this weird almost decade of our life that is meant to “figure yourself out”. But I also think this is some fabrication of culture so that certain industries can benefit. It has nothing to do with you and is NOT for your benefit.
As I near the end of my twenties (29 next month!), I don’t feel like I figured myself out. Well, I’ll say that I do think I know myself much better now and have definitely grown up a lot. But you know what else I feel? Failure. I feel like I wasted a decade of my life taking my time trying to figure myself out, which mostly consisted of a bunch of selfish acts that didn’t actually help my character or my life at all, and now I wish I could go back to 21 year old me and shake him violently by the shoulders and tell him “Stop screwing around! You’re just hurting yourself and everyone you know! Time to suck it up and be an adult and make something useful of yourself.”
So here is a short list of some of my recent realizations, for anyone who cares to know…
One more thing. I’m going to write this as though I’m writing to the 16 year old in all of us. It’s just easier that way. But I think its important to acknowledge that (spoiler alert!) It’s never too late to change your ways and have a new mindset and start doing things worth doing. So take from it what you will, and throw out the rest.
Anyway, as I was saying..
1. There’s not as much time as you think.
When you graduate high school, you think you have so much time to figure out what you want to do with your life. Then before you know it, you’re graduating college with a degree that probably won’t apply to anything in the real world. Again, you think to yourself “I still have a few years. Most people don’t get it together till their mid-twenties.” Then you’re 25, and still nothing to show for yourself. The never-ending cycle. Don’t wait! You’ve probably been asked the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This is actually the most important and telling question someone can ask you. If you dread this question, you’re probably in the camp of people who have no idea what you want to do with your life. Don’t feel bad. Statistically you’re in the majority. But it also means you’re not exceptional. But you can change that! Don’t let another day pass without making some real decisions that begin to define where you want to be in 5 years.
2. Taking risks is the key to a good story.
You’ll never find out if that dream of yours could have ever been a reality until you take some risks. It’s best to do this while you are young, single, and nothing is really influencing your decisions. Notice I didn’t say “nothing to tie you down” or “hold you back.” I don’t think it’s ever too late to pursue whatever is your passion or your heart’s desire. I just think once you get married or life happens and you have debt and a house etc., it just becomes more difficult to take risks, thus discouraging you from doing anything. But it’s never too late. (I’ll probably say this a lot, so get used to it.)
So make that move across the country to pursue an unthinkable career. Start your own business to see where it leads. Build something that makes you stable and financially secure. Be open to failing at things, because you will fail at a lot of things. But any successful person in the world will tell you it’s not that you fail, but what you learn from and take from failure that matters. But also make sure your risks are smart risks. Don’t just fall for anything. Use your head. God gave it to you for a reason.
The reality is that all good stories have an element of risk that propels the story forward. Risk is what sets you apart from everyone. Risk is what makes you tear up at the movie theater, ugly cry by yourself to a good book, and makes your heart explode with joy and envy when your friend tells you something unbelievable they have decided to do. So don’t be afraid of risk just because its risky. Weigh the outcome, and ask yourself “Am I happy where I am, or do I need to know where this leads?” Or maybe a better question: “Why not?”
3. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Life demands a lot from us. 95% of these things are completely worthless to us in the long run. It may seem like a good idea to go out with your friends tonight, but didn’t you also go out last night? And the night before? We often say yes to too many things and people in our life. I think we fear we will lose all our friends if we don’t say yes to everything. Or maybe we become inebriated with flattery and just can’t think straight. In either case, we are only hurting ourselves. People may think you are selfish or self-absorbed. But it’s never a bad thing to make decisions in light of the future you want for yourself. Successful people are very motivated and uncompromisingly committed to their goals. Our generation is quickly losing this quality, and the next generation doesn’t even know this quality. We have to start saying no to most of our commitments, so we can focus on the few that matter.
4. Find something you would die for and go after it.
You can find out a lot about someone by asking them what they would die for. Most probably won’t have anything to tell you. Or they will have some BS answer. But most of us spend half our lives trying to find something we would die for. Maybe for some, it’s their kids (hopefully all parents), for others, maybe it’s their Star Wars collectables. But for a select few roaming this tiny rock of ours, it’s helping teach orphans in Africa, building a school for women in the middle east so they can have an education, or fighting off armed rebels from killing entire villages, or fighting an endless war in the military. Some create empires, and some build families. Some causes seem bigger than others, but no cause is too small. And all good causes have a positive impact in someone’s life. Some causes make you money, others require you to give it all away. Find what makes your heart expand, your eyes well up with tears, and your stomach turn upside down, and do that.
5. People tell you things. It’s not all wise or true.
I recently read a good article titled “Why ‘Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel’ Is The Worst Advice Of All Time.”
In this article, she makes a compelling argument for not following the advice to travel just for the sake of travel, especially if you can’t afford it. Some people come from a family with more money than you. Some people just have access to more privileges in life without actually having to earn it. That may not be you, and that’s ok. Privileges earned are privileges that are appreciated. And earning things build character. Don’t rob yourself of that. And don’t just pick up and move somewhere without having a plan. Will you be ok? Probably. But what you are doing is creating a pattern of starting over. Though it might feel freeing, what you’re doing is training yourself to never commit to anything, and never develop anything, thus moving backwards, not forward. There’s just not enough time in your life to keep doing this. What do you call a writer who keeps starting over? Nothing. Because no one ever read the story.
6. Don’t miss the moment because you were trying to capture it.
I could write a blog on this image alone. This picture is so iconic that people will be looking back at this image as a representation of when our generations were disconnected from life because of mobile devices. This image represents so much about our culture. It’s hard to look at the old woman’s face and not feel a sense of bittersweet joy. Joy for living in the moment and taking it all in, but bitterness because you are most likely one of the people looking at the moment through your phone.
I think we actually figuratively do this with all our moments, not just the ones we are capturing with a camera. There is a great artist I recently found who used images of every day life to capture the disconnect with families because of mobile devices, but he removed the mobile devices to emphasize how truly disconnected we have become. It’s extremely poignant and eye-opening.
What I’ve realized, though, is there is nothing more devastating to productivity, goals, relationships, and over all quality of life than our phones. It’s the grand millennial epidemic that no one is talking about because they are all too distracted by the epidemic itself.
There is a guy my wife and I sort of know. By sort of know, I mean we call and bug him about once a month and ask him questions about life, and he tells us about what he’s doing and how to love people better. He’s helped my wife learn to love both of our families better, and he’s helped me see what risks are worth taking and what is really important in life. His name is Bob, and he’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. He continually impacts so many people, and he is always available to everyone. Always. One thing I’ve noticed about Bob, though, is that he actually uses his phone to talk to people. I called him today to ask him how much he uses his phone for social media. He said 0%. But he told me he’s received about 50 calls so far, and will probably have received 100 calls by the time he goes to bed. He actually uses his phone to just talk to people. Whatever they want to talk about. He’s there and he’s available. He told me its profound and powerful to make time for people. He told me Jesus made time for people. And we have the ability to make time for people, and that it’s one of the most powerful things we can do.
People like Bob don’t have time to be on Facebook for an hour. Those people are too busy doing things. They don’t spend their time doing something that has no impact on anyone’s life. There is so much to learn from these people.
This brings me to my next thought…
7. Find people who make you grow
We so often have friends who are in the same part of life as us, or maybe behind us in stages of life. It’s so easy to spend our time with those people. The problem is that if we only spend time with people like that, we are never challenged to grow. We never learn, we never adapt, we never see new perspectives or gain new wisdom. We usually fall backwards.
Its important to be constantly evaluating all your relationships based on the value they have in your life and the impact they are making on present and future you. I know this may come across as harsh or cold-hearted, but this goes back to the fact that in order for your time to matter, you have to be considering you above all else. Not in a selfish way, but in a health-related way. How are you taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep every day. Do you even think about it?
Relationships play possibly the biggest part on our mental and emotional health. Don’t take the quality of your friendships for granted.
8. The world doesn’t stop spinning for you.
Somewhere along the way, millennials became known as the self-centered generation. I don’t believe this is entirely true. I think we have just been vastly misled in where we should invest our time and how we should invest our time. But because of the culture we live in today, we are so encouraged to be self-absorbed. So I think it is good to take a moment to acknowledge that we are not the center of our own universe. You are not the center of your own universe. Yes, you read that correctly. But how, figuratively speaking, am I not the center of my own universe? Well, if we are taking the analogy to describe the world inside our own head, which we all have, then what I am saying is that it’s easier to think of yourself as a small part of that world, rather than the center of it. To put it another way, you are a character in a story, not the story itself.
Your life is giving a message. There is an over-arching theme to your life. Have you ever considered what that theme is?
Five years ago, my theme was this: This is the story of a man who was lost in his own mistakes, lonely, depressed, and perpetually making more mistakes to overshadow the old ones. Will he ever learn?
Two years ago, my theme was this: This is the story of a man who married the woman of his dreams, only to find that all dreams cost something, and he began the journey of a new self discovery towards being a fuller and more complete and healthy person.
My theme for today is this: This is the story of a man who overcomes his demons, takes risks, and finds God in the most unlikely places. He no longer looks to the past for his identity, but chooses to live for today, and finally understands that life is worth living when you live for what matters.
My theme for tomorrow, or 5 years from now will be different. Will yours?
This seems like a great place to stop. I could definitely keep going. But at running the risk of being redundant, I’ll call it quits with 8 thoughts.
I will say one more thing.
My 29th birthday is exactly a month from tomorrow. I’ve struggled for most of this year with fighting off thoughts of feeling like a failure in life. I feel like I haven’t done anything with my life and have failed everyone I care about. I feel inadequate, insecure, and ineffective. But recently I decided I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I don’t want to waste my time on things that don’t matter. I don’t want to be on my death bed and wish I had spent less time on Facebook and more time connecting with people and serving people and seeing the world. But maybe even more profound and easier to comprehend: I don’t want to wake up NEXT WEEK, or next month, or next year and regret the way I invested my time. I want my 30th birthday to look vastly different from my 29th. I want to say that maybe I spent a lot of my twenties wasting my life away, but I ended my twenties taking risks, loving people, seeing new places, learning new things, and investing in a life that matters.
What is it that you want to do? What makes your heart beat? What life do you want to live? How do you think you have wasted your time? Share all the things! Comment below! I’d love to hear your story!
Until next time.