What are the harsh lessons you’ve learned in your 20s?

This blog is a response to a question originally asked on Quora.


When I was a young person, I was working in a plant, turning oil off of ships to make Crisco. There was nothing special about this position — long hours, little pay.

When I was a young person, I was working in a plant, turning oil off of ships to make Crisco. There was nothing special about this position — long hours, little pay.

I didn’t see the need for an advanced education or a higher life purpose. But all of that changed the day a wood beam fell on my head at work. I woke up in the hospital with a concussion and a new dream.

I wanted more in life.

This was more than a metaphorical lesson, it was a painful one — and it spurred me to take a new path. I enrolled in college, then law school. I landed a great job right after school. In short, I spent my life working hard and enjoying the rewards that came with the opportunities that were afforded to me.

How can I describe the value of my education? This was my ticket out of the small New Jersey town where I was raised. This was the ticket into a world where critical thinking and rationality was the preferred method of solving problems. This was the ticket for me to make that climb out of my working class background, a stretch — a reach towards a brighter future.

I won’t tell you it was easy. But I will tell you that a similar path is achievable today. It begins with the right attitude and a desire to better your life. Today, there is such an emphasis for young people to enter college with full awareness of what they’d like to study. Not only is this philosophy unsustainable, but it shifts the importance of the education away from the experience and towards the data of how successful the education will make the student.

My advice? Students should enter college ready to read and write and study a vast amount of subjects. They should be educated beyond their preferred major and they should be encouraged to develop hard skills throughout their studies. Teaching students to enjoy learning should be the new priority. If we can accomplish that — we’ll be raising a population of curious and open-minded students for life.

Looking back on my years of life, I am grateful for all of the opportunites that I’ve encountered. And I know that not everyone is as lucky as me. But I can tell you from experience — if a 2x4 lands on your head at work, don’t take it as coincidence. Read more. Study more. Grow more. You’ve got one great and wonderful life to live.