Since your 20s are prime time to make mistakes and learn from them, here are some of the most important lessons you’ll have to learn if you want to get ahead in life. By the time you’re 30, you should be able to look back on the decisions you made in your 20s and feel comfortable with how they shaped your future.
Take these lessons seriously, keep them in mind while making important decisions, and they’ll serve you well as you head toward 30 and beyond.
1. Invest, don’t save
Money isn’t a goal, it’s a tool, so learn to use it. Start small with $10-$20 and see how you do. Then gradually scale up from there. There are plenty of great investment apps out there, such as Zerodha or Upstox that can make investing easy for novices—and even for people who don’t have much money.
If you start young and keep your investments on track, by your 30s you could be sitting on an attractive pile of passive income that will help pay down debt and support retirement savings. Remember: Your 20s are about making mistakes and learning from them.
2. Work out regularly
We all have a mix of good and bad habits when it comes to taking care of our bodies, but as we approach our 20s, making some positive changes is important. If you’re serious about losing weight and staying fit, working out regularly should be one of your top priorities. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, keeps your joints healthy and strong (which can reduce injury risk), helps boost energy levels and mood, reduces stress levels and much more.
In short: It makes us feel good! To start feeling better—and living longer—get up off that couch and get moving!
3. Read as much as you can
There’s so much to learn when you first start working, and there’s never a perfect time to sit down and really read up on your field. But your twenty-something years are exactly when you should be learning as much as possible about how things work in your industry. You can bet that if you don’t read up on what other successful people are doing, they will—and they won’t hesitate to ask questions or raise red flags.
Do yourself a favor and spend plenty of time reading best practices, case studies, and learning from mistakes of others. While it may feel more comfortable not reading, learning from other peoples mistakes can save you tons of stress later on.
4. Travel as far as you can
The world is a big place. The more places you go, and as many people you meet from around that world, you’ll quickly realize how small your corner of it really is. Even if traveling isn’t something you can do for multiple months at a time, set goals for yourself to visit places close to home—or even just to get out of your comfort zone. For example, when I graduated college, I decided I would visit Boston, MA by myself (I’d never been on an airplane alone before).
This trip not only gave me confidence and made me realize that airports weren’t so scary after all, but also showed me that 1) public transportation was very accessible and 2) there are actually some pretty cool things around here.
5. Learn how to cook
One of my greatest regrets when I was younger was never learning how to cook. As an adult, I could spend hours in a grocery store reading every label on all my favorite products, but if something more complicated than add water was involved, I wouldn’t know where to start.
However, it’s never too late! Pick up a few basic recipes that you love and make them over and over again until you’ve got them memorized. It doesn’t have to be fancy—there are hundreds of thousands of recipes out there that are so simple and delicious that they don’t even require recipes.
6. Relationships should make you a better person
Relationships are a two-way street. If you’re with someone who doesn’t make you better, then it’s not really a relationship—it’s an obstacle. In your 20s, learn to identify and eliminate those obstacles, so you can concentrate on what really matters: Learning how to be kinder to yourself and others.
7. Time Is Your Most Precious Resource
We often overestimate how much time we have. That’s why you must manage your time wisely and learn to say no—it’s a skill that will benefit you throughout your career. Think about what would happen if you added an extra hour each day to get things done instead of wasting time on social media, watching YouTube videos, or playing video games.
8. If work sucks, you’re doing it wrong
No matter what you’re doing—your job, your hobbies, your schoolwork—don’t give up. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like it’s pointless to continue working on something that seems impossible or that things will never get better. If you have a setback or challenge, don’t throw up your hands and go home; instead, push forward and figure out a way to make things work. And when they do work out? Celebrate! That doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind and spend all of your hard-earned money; instead, reward yourself for each step forward taken.
It can be as simple as an ice cream cone after a rough day or getting a massage for helping with a tough project at work. You deserve it!
9. Meet New People
Many of us have just a few close friends, but life is more interesting when you get to meet lots of new people. Make it a goal to talk to at least three strangers each week, whether they’re your bus driver or someone sitting next to you on an airplane.
Eventually, you’ll know many more folks who can help you in your career or connect you with even more people. Plus, every new person has something interesting about them that makes them worth knowing. Before long, your world will expand exponentially!
10. Don't Give Up
Experiencing failure, whether personal or professional, is inevitable. It’s part of growing and evolving as a person and professional. Whether it’s something to do with you personally or your business, it’s natural to be frustrated when things don’t go according to plan; take a step back from your frustration and ask yourself what can you learn from it?
If you can find at least one nugget of truth from every difficult experience, you’ll be able to pick yourself up and move forward more quickly than if you always assumed that everything is going according to plan.