What I Know For Sure: At 24

A friend lent me Oprah’s book, “What I Know For Sure” and said, “I thought of you when I read this. You should give it a read.” I’m no obsessive Oprah fan, but I was bored on a 5 hour flight so I read it. Oprah writes, “What I know for sure is that how you spend your time defines who you are…”

I thought to myself: How have I spent my time? What have I learned, and would I do anything different?

How I’ve Spent My Time

I stumbled upon my current job during my senior year of college through university recruiting. I rotated through various parts of the business, moved to different cities, and made some amazing friendships all during my company’s competitive analyst program. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time here for over two years, and I continue to learn from my coworkers and mentors around me.

However, since I haven’t gone to law, medical or business school, my over-achieving family and friends continuously ask me — “What are you going to do with your life?” I’m always flustered, and somewhat embarrassed, answering this question. In my head, thoughts whirl and immediately I think ‘what facet of my life may be a little better than this person’s?’ Depending on who I’m talking to, my answer varies with a focus on title, education or love life. But, why have I been behaving this way?

It seems like people in their 20s around me are doing bigger and better things (ugh, Forbes’ 30 under 30 list) — from the entrepreneurs who create their own beer delivery app to doctors graduating from an accelerated medical program. I can’t help but compare myself to these insanely intelligent and creative people. Ultimately, I end up spending more time thinking about what I could or should be doing, instead of actually taking action. And, I know many other millennials feel this way.

What I’ve Learned

I’m not living in the moment or appreciating what I’m doing today. I’m fixated on my unknown future, and I’m struggling to embrace what possibilities it could bring. Most of us in our 20s have such a strong fear of failing or being rejected — by family, friends, a significant other, senior leaders at work, or a dream graduate school program. The list of our fears goes on and on, and it freezes us — hindering our abilities to take risks, explore, and try new things.

Take a step back and notice — All these fears are created and induced by people like ourselves. They fear that the perception of their family name, leadership abilities, or reputation could be tainted. It’s all a never ending cycle of worrying about others judging us.

What I Would Do Differently

I would care less about how others perceive me, and more about how I perceive myself.

We’re young and can only be in our 20s once- don’t worry about salary, title or pedigree. Take risks. Say yes to things that scare you. Fail hard, fail often. Fail, until you do what makes you happy. And most importantly, surround yourself with good people- the enthusiastic, positive people who embrace you for you and care about what puts a smile on your face.

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