What I learned in my 20s
I turned 30 last week. In the weeks leading up to that event I was reflecting on my 20s. I was taking stock of lessons and applying them for my future self. Not taking time to stop and reflect, correct the direction, could easily end up in ruin. As they say: “if you fail to plan, plan to fail”. This article is a self reflection with most memorable lessons I took away from my 20s. I hope you too find them useful. If you have something to add - please do so! Email me or DM me on Twitter. I’d really appreciate your constructive criticism, especially when it’s based on your own experience.
If you never ask, you’ll never get.
Learn how to communicate your needs as clearly as possible. Or your needs will never be met. People around you can’t guess what you want. Your boss, friends, girlfriend, boyfriend, parents. You need to communicate well to get what you want.
Listen to your gut.
There are situations, where no amount of additional information helps you make a clear decision. People who have always been priding themselves for their brain (the scientific ones, the overachievers, engineers) tend to overthink and even suppress their natural tendencies. That’s definitely me. Listen to what you yourself really want to do. Where your body feels at peace just by thinking about that. Stop thinking about all the conflicting advice you’ve received. Follow what your gut says. It whispers silently.
Listen to your gut, heart, mind. In that order. Especially if you have a powerful mind.
Work with people. 1+1=3
Frustrated by inefficiencies of teamwork, I spent half of my 20s working as a solo founder. I had some successes and some failures doing that. There is a whole indie hacker movement, that makes such life and works style attractive and prestigious. Everyone WOWs at solo developers that are able to stack up 5 digit monthly revenues from their projects.
Even though it is indeed fascinating that you can do that, it is not an easy path. It gets lonely. Fast. Yes, it is possible to surround yourself with other solo makers and a community of founders to keep you going. But there is no replacement for a tight team and a cofounder. Daily interactions with someone you are on the same journey, someone who can be your sounding boarding and helps you push forward are priceless.
So find a partner you enjoy working with. Make sure you are different in some ways. Otherwise it’ll either get boring or you’ll hate each other. Mimetic rivalry is real.
Go out of your way to be around people you admire.
Set weekly calls. Set monthly calls. And spend quality time with them. If you can’t physically be with them, don’t default to DMs, pick up the phone and call. Don’t neglect the power of long form email. Make sure people are open to that too.
Move to the city/country with the highest density of people you admire, or the industry you want to be in.
Recognise 3 different types of people you want to surround yourself with
Those who are 1 step ahead of you, those on the same level with you, those who are one step behind you.
- Admire people who are ahead of you. Treat them like your mentors. Reach out to them. Be respectful of their time. Ask for specific advice, execute, keep them updated with your progress.
- People at your level. They’re your peers. Don’t compete with them, but rather collaborate. Try to work on bigger projects together. Support each other. Especially across industries.
- People behind you. Don’t disregard them whenever they reach out. Teach them what you’ve learned. By teaching others, you’ll learn how much exactly you have learned yourself. If you struggle to explain - perhaps you haven’t learned that much after all. But if you don’t teach - you will never know where you stand. You’ll learn more about yourself in the end.
Make sure not to confuse the three. That might set you back further than you think.
A common question, that I myself had, is why would someone want to mentor me?
To my mentors, if you are reading this, i haven’t reached out to you as much as i should have. Due to my shy nature or introversion :)
Focus on your Sleep, Diet, Exercise, Work. In that order.
Time and time again I find myself neglecting sleep. Whenever things go wrong in my day, I blame concrete obstacles and frustrations. But they are not the reason. More often than not it’s just lack of sleep. Also, don’t try and fake it with coffee or other stimulants.
Work out regularly
Hire a personal trainer for at least for a month or two. I should have done this way earlier! In my 20s I went to a gym at least two times a week. I’d spend 40 minutes improvising - lifting some weights, jogging, etc. I was sweating. It felt like I was working real hard!
But the truth is, I wasn’t better than a monkey bashing at a keyboard. Once I hired a personal trainer, I learned the correct form when exercising. The basics of lifts. Now I can start exercising on my own. I can finally see clear results. I should have done it much much earlier!
Spending a few hundred dollars on a personal trainer early on, will give you years worth of value going forward. Doesn’t matter how much you earn. It’s worth it.
What you need is closer than you think.
It’s tempting to chase the most unattainable goal, partner, investor, customer, etc. Typically the answer to most of your struggles is right in front of you. You’ve been just disregarding it. You’ve been trying to look too far, without noticing what’s in front of you, and maybe even been knocking on your door all along.
Look around you. Often the answer/solution to your biggest problem is right in front of you. It’s the most obvious one. However your ego has been disregarding it, in favour of an illusive shiny object high above. Be it gal/guy that you are trying to get noticed by, a VC that you are trying to get investment from.
Don’t follow your passion. Follow a purpose.
Passion is Ego. Purpose is something bigger than you. Find a purpose that excites you, that you can work on every day. Something you loose sense of time doing. Try to stay in that flow as much as possible. But dont forget to take weekly and monthly breaks to take stock of your progress. Get feedback from your mentors on how you are doing.
The reward for good habits is sustainable growth, the reward for bad habits is instant gratification
When you feel the lowest
Just remember that this too shall pass. Whatever’s happening feels like the end of the world. I’ve been in that state way more often than I should be. Lately I’ve learned just to let go and take a break.
If the situation does not allow you to take a break (you are in the middle of some high stakes process with other people involved) then ask for help. Be vulnerable. Open up to your friend and trusted advisors. Ask for help. But also do triangulate - ask opinions of at least 2, better 3, people whom you trust and who have experience in this domain.
Read long form content
Plans for my 30s
- Read more long form content.
- Leverage people - work, communicate, collaborate with more people. Do it early, do it often.
- Work out more
- Wake up early