“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” | Oscar Wilde
Now it’s pretty easy to make a broad statement that everyone enjoys their twenties more than any other period in their life. But I don’t think that’s what the “best years of your life” actually means. To me, the reason I enjoy my twenties is because most of the time I have the freedom of choice. That is, the freedom to determine my own destiny, whether this freedom ends up with me making positive choices in the long-term or negative ones.
Your entire life is about making mistakes and learning from them, but your twenties are about making as many mistakes as you can while people can still say that you’re “still young” and that “you’ll learn”. Now, this might sound rather negative, but remember you don’t really know if something is a mistake until after you do that thing, so there’s no reason not to take risks as long as you’re prepared for the possible outcomes of that risk. Your twenties are usually the time when you are the most independent and most adaptable to change. You can study whatever you want, apply for a job in any industry you want, and you can save up and travel much easier if you are still living at home. Don’t think about your future in the next five years. Try to think more short term as this impulse will naturally push you more towards a risk-taking environment and likely better reflect what you truly want.
So I’m talking very generally about risk here, but what kinds of risks should you take? That’s going to be different for every person I’m afraid. However, from my own experience I really don’t like taking risks that involve affecting my job or income. Essentially, I really hate spending or losing money and that makes it difficult to spend on things like travel, a new computer, a new phone, etc. But I find it really easy and exciting to try new activities that further my personal and professional development such as networking events and being involved in student societies.
That being said, I think it is important to lean towards the things you are uncomfortable doing and put yourself a bit further out of your comfort zone. This can be done by taking small steps and risks that lead you in the direction of something you feel you are uncomfortable doing. For example, would I book a trip to Europe tomorrow (if I could afford it, because I’m a poor student and I definitely can’t)? Absolutely not! The thought of that terrifies me. But would I book an AirBnB somewhere on the Sunshine Coast and then drive up for the weekend? That seems like a nice little break and is definitely something I can do. Many successful people have taken great risks to get to where they are today but it’s important not to compare yourself too much to them as you may stretch yourself too thin. Every person is different and we all have different choices in front of us. Gary Vaynerchuk is a renowned entrepreneur and has some good advice for those of us looking for direction in our twenties. Vaynerchuk has commented that your twenties are the time to work fast and “triple down” on the things you want in life. However, he notes that, if you are the kind of person that has many different ideas all the time, you should try and at least look into these aspirations lest you “be crippled by the ‘what-ifs’” (see his video here!)
My point is, that this experimenting process that gradually allows you to take risks and escape your comfort zone is exactly the kind of thing you should be doing in your twenties. Rather than waiting until you’re 33 and having a midlife crisis where you sell your house, quit your job, and decide that the best idea in the world is to set up an organic coconut milk stand somewhere near Sumatra, take smaller steps and try something new every week and who knows where you’ll end up. It’s always good to take risks but jumping headfirst into a change as radical as this is likely to be something you’ll regret.
Ultimately, use your twenties to explore and get involved with things outside of your work or university studies, chase your dreams and aspirations, take chances, fail, learn from your mistakes, and most of all….to enjoy yourself.