On Sunday November 2, I turned 30. The panic of turning 30 and not having made babies, under 30 lists and millions of dollars is replaced by the feeling you get after you’ve cried your heart out for an ex lover: emptiness.
Looking back at my second decade, or my #messytwenties, I see a blur of transitions, transformations, revolutions and lots of tequila shots. In a nutshell, in our 20s, we are mostly wrong — especially because we think we are so right.
Here are the 20 pieces of advice I would give to my 20-year-old self. Not that it matters anymore, but if you happen to be reading this and you are in your 20s, perhaps one will stick. And if you are in your 30s, feel free to laugh with or at me or both.
1. Don’t plan to be rich in your 20s. It will ultimately get you to focus on careers that you probably don’t care about, are not that meaningful and will drain your soul. Focus on working with people that inspire you, doing things that give you energy, solving problems that matter. And if you happen to be passionate about programming or design, then you will make some money too. Your 20s are the time when you have most flexibility and energy — don’t waste them chasing other’s dreams. Besides, the first 10 years of your career will direct the rest of it. Take your time in choosing.
2. Don’t work at a start-up, unless it’s your own. Working at hot startups means slaving away for free food, and equity you cannot afford. Start your own company or work at Google and do a passion project after 5 p.m.
3. Quit your job if you are not happy. Trust me no one ever looked back and said I wish I stayed in this job I hated and caused me self-doubt. You will find another job, I promise. You are probably in this job anyways out of fear. Which brings me to my next advice.
4. They say knowledge is power. I say knowing your fears is a super power. If you know them, they will less likely dictate your most productive decade. By the age of 22, I had not applied to any of my dream jobs. Turns out it was because I dreaded rejection. Just having this awareness, has helped me change my behavior, and despite the fear still go for things that may lead to a no.
5. Stop benchmarking your life to a Facebook feed. No, seriously. Comparison is a recipe for disasters and bad decisions. While it is hard to calm down what they call the monkey mind, try to notice when you are comparing. Trust me your life is very likely more interesting than your friend who is over-sharing their trips from Hawaii or Coachella. They would not be if they were actually having fun.
6. It is so easy to take things personal when you are in your 20s. Sadly, it is not always about you, millennial. I spent a lot of my 20s getting down on myself, blaming and hating. The truth is the real world is full of bumps, so when you catch yourself over analyzing remember this word: “next.”
7. Soulmates don’t exist. I spent a big part of my 20s looking for my soulmate only to find out soulmates are as made up as Santa is. This belief lead to numerous disappointments I could have spared myself. Focusing on meeting people you share interests with and connections, seasoning that with timing is likely to land you a decent relationship. But seriously, don’t force it.
8. Don’t take anyone for granted. My friend Noah once told me: any person can change your life. He is right. My mentor Chip Conley, who is as accomplished as a business person can be, responds to any email he gets, especially those from strangers with care and attention. Someone you may find uninteresting and ignore, may be the one interviewing you for a job a month later. A waitress you do not pay attention to, and be short with may well be the wife of your boss.
9. Be vulnerable. Besides, vulnerability is the birthplace of courage. I spent a big chunk of my 20s, pretending that I knew it all, that I was doing amazing and suffering in silence. As I began opening up in the past couple of years, I have attracted wonderful friends, grown tremendously, and was able to connect really deeply with the people in my life.
10. I hope you go to therapy in your 20s. If you do, you are likely to find out your parents are responsible for all your issues. Turns out you are too. I went through a phase where I attributed my vices to growing up in a broken household, during the war. That got me nowhere really, but feeling sorry for myself. Shifting the thinking that you are now responsible for your misery is so powerful. It gets you to change and improve.
11. It’s not the city that will make you happy, it is your community. I remember when I was 20, I longed to leave Lebanon because I felt miserable. I thought if I go to Dubai life would be better. “Beirut is just not my kind of city.” Fast forward to 22, still miserable I was packing back to Beirut. Every day, I meet people complaining about their cities. What I found is it is less about the city and more about the people you spend time during and after work. And that is why I call San Francisco home.
12. Work on your relationship with sex. It is not about the size and the performance. These matters turns out are trivial. Connecting to your sexual desires without censorship and identifying blockers, is not only a great way to know yourself, but also a recipe for amazing sexual relationships to come. Be open with what you want, it is unlikely he will guess you are into voyeurism. And no it’s not too late.
13. Don’t say, “This is not for me, I would never do it” — because you may, and you will. I used to say I will never wear free start-up t-shirts, North Face, go to Burning Man or camp. Well, I changed, and you will a lot in your 20s. Don’t write anything or anyone off.
14. You are not going to be a model. In fact, you are going to gain weight. I spent a lot of my 20s looking to lose weight and hoping next year would be the year I will be auditioned for Victoria Secret’s angels. So I waited to buy a pair of jeans. Guess what, I am still waiting to buy them. In summary, you look great as you are now, and you are never going to look as good.