I regret being an asshole for most of my 20s. In other words, I had no idea that how you treat people affects the world you see.
It sucks to regret something. Here’s the thing: opposites evolve through life. I had to be a selfish asshole to see the power of quiet generosity. Without the regret, the shift that occurred would never have happened.
Regrets are bad for your peace of mind. You can’t go back. You can’t change what you did. You did the best you could at the time.
Rather than regret, why not reflect instead?
I was curious to know outside of my own experience what 20-somethings regret. People younger than you can teach you a lot. Here’s what I discovered 20-somethings regret through my research.
They Regret Not Understanding Investing
You work your butt off to earn money. Why wouldn’t you spend the time to understand how the product you store your money with (currency) works?
I regret not investing money earlier. I spent most of my 20s saving money in a bank account. The worst part is I worked in a bank. I should have known better. Now I know that one bad decision probably cost me at least a million dollars in investment returns and the missed opportunity cost. The lesson from all of this has made me plenty of money in my 30s.
Takeaway: spend the time to educate yourself on personal finance. An hour a week is all it takes to understand the money you trade your precious time and life for.
They Regret Caring Too Much About What People Think
Lots of people will tell you what you should do. You know why they do it?
They are projecting their own life problems onto you. They have a vested interest in you following their advice — it makes them feel better. What people think about you is none of your business.
I spent my entire 20s trying to impress people with material possessions. I worked at a hotel when I was 19 years old. One of the regular guests drove a bright red Porsche GT3. I begged him to let me borrow it. One day he did. I drove that sucker down every main road of Melbourne begging for attention. I wanted people to think it was my car. The truth: I was working for minimum wage at a rundown hotel.
You will see people in your career, too, who are obsessed with what other people think. They map out their careers based on mentors and feedback. Nobody knows the work you love doing better than you.
Caring too much about what people think is nothing more than asking for a permission slip to live your life. Throwaway your permission slip.
Rather than change other people’s minds, change your own mind. Bending the minds of others is for Darth Vader, not you.
They Regret Spending Too Much Time Partying
It’s fun to go out on the town. But if you find yourself partying every night then ask yourself this question: What are you trying to escape?
I used to DJ at nightclub on a Wednesday night. My set would start at 10 PM and go until 3 AM or later. I’d then go out drinking afterwards. Think about how crazy that is. Only insane people go out that late on a Wednesday night. The next bit is funny to look back on. I would go directly to work from the nightclub with no sleep. A zombie would have worked harder than my 20-something-Wednesday-self.
Excessive partying and drinking is a sign of future devastation. Escapism isn’t the answer. Facing yourself is.
They Regret Trying to Be Someone They’re Not
Many 20-somethings are professional actors. Do you know any actors who are over 20? I know plenty.
Changing yourself to please others will rot your soul.
You know who you are. You know what you stand for. You know what you like doing. You know who you enjoy spending time with. It’s not that hard to be yourself. What’s hard is to reject outside influencers from forcing you to be somebody you know you’re not.
They Regret Their Lack of Travel
Travel is made out to be the holy grail.
You don’t need to be a traveling barbie. People can mistakenly measure the quality of their life by how much travel they do. But travel is another form of escapism. Travel won’t heal your personal wounds. If you can’t be happy without travel then you sure as well won’t be happy with travel.
I’ve traveled to many countries around the world. I love it. Although, after all the travel it made me realize one thing: I love my hometown of Australia more than any other country. After two weeks of travel I’m bored of it.
Travel starts to feel the same after two weeks away from home.
I ran through Europe like a drug dealer on the run from police, going from The Colosseum, to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to an ancient castle in Spain, to the fishing villages of Portugal. Man-made objects began to lose their shine. Tourist sites became just another place to walk through and listen to a tour guide impress the group with hyperbole stats.
It’s nice to travel. It’s better to appreciate where you live.
After years of catching planes and circling the planet, I learned it was the people I met along the way that were the best part. And good people are all around us. You can travel ten minutes and meet a good person. Why do you need so much flashy travel, followed by an Instagram snap?
They Wish They Stepped out of Their Comfort Zone More
I don’t think this regret is limited to our 20s. All of us wish we had more courage. The thing is, you can. Courage is a choice.
You can practice courage. You can feel the physical signs of fear, let them be present, and then still take action. Don’t wish your life away. Do.
What have you got to lose? Not much. You could be dead tomorrow, so if you take a risk it doesn’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things. The downsides aren’t what your imagination makes them out to be.
Tiny comfort zone challenges to level-up your confidence:
- Ask a question in a public forum in front of a large audience.
- Post something witty on Twitter that people may troll you for. (Tweet Donald Duck if you like and you’ll see what I mean.)
- Escape dopamine for a day. Turn off social media, don’t eat any junk food, don’t complain, don’t stream tv. Just spend a day away from your vices.
- Order a sandwich. Ask for something extra in it. Bargain with the cashier to give you the added filling for no extra charge.
One more challenge…
- Go to a supermarket. Stand next to a checkout. Look for a person that is having a rough day. Watch all their grocery items be scanned. When it comes time for payment, walk over, and tap your debit card quickly. Watch the reaction on the person’s face. You’ll feel a little embarrassed. It will be an overwhelming feeling. You may find your eyes become a waterfall of tears. Breaking your comfort zone isn’t just about battling fear. It’s about rediscovering the humanity inside of you. That humanity connects you to every living thing. The trouble is, you forget your humanity.
They Regret Staying at a Job Too Long
Done this too many times. The goal isn’t to stay in a job. The goal is to learn from the work you do, and then change work when you’re no longer learning anything. If every workday starts to feel the same then you know something is up.
The corporate “we’ll take care of you” promise is dead. No company is going to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself.
Your skills are what save you.
They Regret Acting like a Bully
Bullying often looks like banter. It’s fun to talk trash. It’s fun to make fun of people. It’s fun to diss someone’s shoes. Many of us realize later in life that we were bullies in our 20s. I know I was. Remember this: Your words can make a person jump off a cliff.
Do this instead: Build others up. It’s the secret to an extraordinary life.
They Regret Taking the Traditional Route
Get good grades, go to college and get a good job is the advice many of us have fallen for in our 20s. The traditional route to everything is changing. A global health crisis magically made the office disappear. Nobody knows if offices will ever be at 100% again.
The internet changed everything. Older generations haven’t accepted that. Following the traditional route is dangerous because it’s based on the past. What worked in the past may be irrelevant in the future.
Your mother may have started an oil tanker business and done well. But if you follow the same path during an electric car boom, you could end up getting vastly different results. The best path in life is the one you research. The best path is one that is tailored for you. Explore your options. Experiment like Einstein. But don’t fall for somebody else’s life.
Copying makes your life unoriginal.
The regrets of 20-somethings often go beyond that magical decade in life. You might have just read about these regrets and thought to yourself, “I’ve felt like that too.” Regrets follow you around in life until you reflect on them. Take what you regret and use it as practical action to improve your life.
Regrets only last a lifetime if you let them. It’s not too late to change your trajectory.