Picture this. A small college-town house with a living room big enough to comfortably fit maybe 20 people, at best. Including the people inside the living room and the crowd outside, there must have been at least 200 people at the part.
We made extra space by taking all the furniture out of the living room, but we were all packed in there like sardines. The party must have been going for no more than a half-hour and it was already clear the cops were coming any minute.
I didn’t care. It was my 20th birthday. I was blackout drunk. Probably popped or snorted something beforehand. Don’t remember. I’m wading around the party with no shirt on. The energy at the party was reaching a peak.
I turn the music down and tell everyone to be quiet. No one expected what came next.
Here’s what I said:
“There are way too many people in here, it’s way too loud, and we’re going to get busted, but I don’t give a fuck!” I turn the music back on full blast. I take two 16 oz keystone lights, crack them open, slam them together, and drink/pour them all over my bare chest like I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin from WWE.
The cops show up minutes later. I’m standing on the front lawn talking to them.
“Are you drunk?” they ask. I look down at my bare chest covered in beer, look back up, and say “Yes”
“Are you having a party?” they ask. I look behind me and see a hundred plus people scurrying out like cockroaches, and say “Yes.”
This was one of many, many, many, many wild moments in my 20’s. Looking back? I’d take nothing back. I’m 31 now. Let’s take a look at some of the crazy stories of my past and the lessons I learned looking back.
- Stop trying to impress people out of insecurity — I once drank an entire ‘tall’ long island in a single ‘pull’ as a dare. Why? Because I thought it would make me look cool. I don’t even remember the people I was drinking with that night.
- Life doesn’t care about your age when you make bad decisions — I was arrested for felony possession of marijuana at age 20, a few months after that party actually. Didn’t matter that I thought playing drug dealer was a fun game. The consequences were real.
- Overcompensating has the opposite of the intended effect — I used to be a loud-mouth who got into fights because I thought it made me look tough. It made me look weak. I used to sleep with as many women as possible and brag about it because I thought it made me look cool. It made me look insecure.
- People in your life are seasons — Your circle gets smaller as you get older. The people you think are going to be your friends forever tend to drop off. This is why you should be careful making decisions. I made a lot of bad decisions to fit into a crowd I wouldn’t dare associate with now.
- The upside of selling drugs — If there’s one upside to selling drugs, it’s that you learn how business works. You learn pricing, supply, and demand, how to reinvest profits, etc. Most criminals are just misguided entrepreneurs. If you’re young, take that energy of wanting to make quick money and put it into a real business.
- You’re always searching for presence — Drinking feels good in the moment, so does doing drugs, so does sex. But it’s not the physical sensations we crave most, it’s the fact that these activities keep us present and turn off the monkey mind for a little bit. I was using all of the above to self-medicate instead of facing my life upfront. Think about where you might be doing the same. Find ways to get present. I meditate, do yoga, and write.
- You’re also in search of enlightenment — Doing drugs wasn’t all bad. Sometimes they helped me reach enlightened states. Once, I did LSD. I can’t recall the experience, but I knew that I understood the truth about the entire world during that trip. I’ve been on the search for enlightenment my whole life. Now, I use tactics that are a bit more mundane like breathing exercises, journaling, and reading spiritual books. As far as trying psychedelics goes? That’s up to you, but it can show you a path.
- “Anger is fear clothed.” — I learned that phrase from the writer James Altucher. Any time you feel anger, you really feel fear. For me, I walked around with the angry macho tough guy routine because I was afraid people wouldn’t accept me just the way I was.
- Your mistakes can be used for good — I credit my writing career partially to the fact that I had a criminal record. I knew it was going to be difficult to impossible to get a corporate gig, so I decided to pursue a path that I could control. There are a ton of other mistakes made in my 20’s that I wouldn’t change at all because I can’t separate the negative and positive consequences of them.
- You can always change your life on a dime if you choose to — I went from drinking and smoking weed daily to dropping all those habits cold turkey. How? I looked up at my life at age 25, saw how pitiful my results were, and said enough is enough. I literally said enough is enough one day and I just stopped. I’ve been on my path every day since that moment. It’s been six years.
- Your past doesn’t predict your future — Think about the transformation I’ve made. So many people look up to me now. Little do some of them know I used to snort coke off of toilet seats in dive bars three nights a week. I went from a convicted felon with no hope for the future to a three-time author with a six-figure business, all because I decided I didn’t have to be that person.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt — A lot of people gave me second chances and tried to help me even when I was on the wrong path. I’ve had friends and mentors who welcomed me back into the fold even after I strayed from them. Some people are toxic to the point where you can’t associate with them, but try to understand them and see if they’re worth not giving up on.
- To change, you have to forgive yourself — I did many bad things in my 20’s. Illegal things. Things that emotionally and physically hurt people. I’ve made as many personal reconciliations as I could, but at a certain point, I had to forgive myself both for the way I was treating others and the way I treated myself. You can’t keep beating yourself up about the past forever.
- We’re all carrying pain and trauma — I grew up middle class. Nothing was wrong with my life, per se, but we all go through trauma. For me, it could’ve been my parents splitting up, or the way I used to feel they judged me, or a bunch of other little moments in adolescence that get to you. Life is hard and pain is unavoidable. For yourself, understand this so that you can learn to let go. Understand where your behaviors are coming from a place of pain. In dealing with others, understand that everyone has battles they’re going through, too.
- Everything in your life is part of your story, good or bad — My story gives me my edge. It’s what gives me interesting stories to tell. It’s what allows me to write in an edgier and crass way that people have grown to both hate and love. I use my story to my advantage instead of letting it negatively impact my life. I want you to see my scars. What kind of interesting life doesn’t have a few?
- If you’re in your 20’s, think long-term — There’s a book called the defining decade that talks about how crucial your 20’s are to your long-term success in life. You can make dramatic changes after that period, but your 20’s are a crucial time and can shape a big part of your future. I’m thankful I ‘snapped out of it’ and put myself in a positive to thrive by the time I hit 30. The party will end eventually. Have fun, but don’t end up one of those people aimless and wandering, still hitting up the bars every weekend.
- Your experiences are useful at any age — Some people say you shouldn’t be a writer in your 20’s or share your experiences. BS. Age is not a barometer for maturity or credibility at all. There are people in their 50’s who still haven’t grown up and 18-year old kids who have it all together. And you don’t need to have it all together to share your story. Just talk about what you know.
- Don’t be afraid to ‘leave people behind’ — If you start on a path of personal growth, some people aren’t going to want to come along for the ride. When I suddenly stopped drinking and doing drugs, a lot of my friends no longer wanted to be friends. We didn’t have much in common. They said I’d changed. And they were right. No harm, foul, or judgment on anyone, but sometimes this is the natural process that occurs when you evolve.
- Time is the ultimate judge — As time goes on, results start to reveal themselves. I was last placed in the race of life compared to my peers in my 20’s. Now, at 31? I’d say I’ve moved up the ranks quite a bit. The point isn’t to compare yourself to others, per se. It’s the opposite. Don’t let the current position and status of your peers be the end all be all judgment. Look forward to the future and see how things shake out in the long, long, long-term.
- Hold onto your dreams no matter what — I remember one night where I was blackout drunk and doing a Tweetstorm. One of the Tweets said, “I’m going to write a book someday.” Even in my haze, even after I’d spent so much time doing all the wrong things, I knew what I wanted. Again, use my story to juxtapose it with yours. You don’t think you can pivot now because you’ve been stuck in corporate for too long. try being stuck in jail! You still have time.
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement Grab your free checklist The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Profitable Skills Wanna keep in touch online? Follow me on Instagram here.