About five years ago I pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do. I had a great job that paid well. I drove an expensive car. I had a nice condo and eventually a big house. People work most of their lives for what I had managed by the time I was 30. It was all so very unfulfilling.
I have no regrets, but if I were in my early 20s today I would do things differently. The economy sucks and job prospects are terrible. Why work a crappy job in the US when you can teach English, build schools, and do countless other things abroad while learning about yourself and the world? There is so much on offer around the world that I would head abroad and explore myself more. If I had to pick the top five things I would do different, they would be this.
- I would have studied abroad while in university and then traveled after I graduated. Instead, I spent that summer in California, came back to Seattle, and promptly started working 50-60 hour weeks. I should have headed to Asia or South America. I hear so many people worrying about jobs and I think, they are being so foolish! Don’t do what I did, don’t worry about working. Go travel! The cost is far less than you think and there are so many more possibilities.
- I would have avoided upsizing all the time. I would have remained in an apartment instead of buying a condo and then a house, I would have kept taking the bus everywhere instead of buying a car, I would not have bought so much crap. It is unbelievable how much money this stuff costs and continues to cost over time. It is not readily apparent, but the cost of ownership is very high—financially and emotionally. Most things aren’t worth it.
- I would have enjoyed myself a lot more. Anyone who knows me might be surprised by this statement. I do have a reputation for living life to the fullest, as they say, but that didn’t come until later. When I was younger I was always worried about my hair, my physique, my clothes, what people thought of me. I waited until some things were more difficult to do. I certainly did not realize or appreciate how attractive I was when I was younger. I would have exploited my youth far more than I did.
- I would not worry as much. Life has a way of working itself out. No matter how much I planned, things unfolded a lot differently than I anticipated. Looking back, all that worrying was for nothing. It accomplished nothing other than to stress me out. I would stop worrying and start enjoying. Most things aren’t really worth worrying about anyway.
- I would have spent more time on those people that are important to me. I would have developed deeper friendships; spent more time with my family. By the time I figured that out, friends had moved on and my mother passed away unexpectedly. We get less time than we imagine. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
Probably the biggest tip that I could give anyone is not to get hung up on frivolous crap, and most things are frivolous. Really stop and think about what truly matters to you. Will it matter in one year? 5 years? Put it all in perspective. What is truly important will stand out from everything that isn’t.