Yesterday was my birthday. 29 laps around the sun (such a cliche when you think about it).
I’ve always been a rather reflective person, but I’ve never pursued writing down my reflections until now with the birth of you (my daughter Rylee, for anyone else who might be reading).
Crazy how becoming a parent makes you reconsider how to live your life. It’s also made me want to document the experience so you understand who I am, and hopefully will learn a couple lessons to avoid bad decisions (and make good decisions!) in your 20’s.
I was thinking of naming this post 29 lessons learned in my 29 years of life, but I felt that they would be repetitious and weak-sauce. So, I decided to distill my lessons down to 9, so they have a little more “umph” to them.
With that being said, these 9 years of my 20’s have been… a roller coaster.
Ups and downs. Sideways for a bit.
Good and bad, and definitely entertaining.
Let’s start with the most important lesson.
Life Is A Narrative
When you think about the world, it’s rather cold. We’re riding on a rock floating in space, and space doesn’t care. In fact, nothing in the world really cares.
A comment like that isn’t meant to be nihilistic, in fact far from it. It’s just a harsh truth, we live in a universe of cause and effect.
However, humans don’t think like this. I don’t believe we’re actually capable of thinking like this either. We crave stories. Our entire existence is a narrative. One big story we tell ourselves.
And you get to craft your own story. Sure, you’ll have circumstances you’ll have to deal with. You can’t choose your parents and you’ll have to deal with this at some point in your life, but remember, your story is yours to choose.
You can either be a victim of your circumstances, or you can be a hero because of them. That little voice in your head talking to you can be persuaded to help you. In fact, it wants to help you if you train it correctly.
The fun part of storytelling is you get to decide how the story goes. But remember also, you’re dealing with other people’s stories too. Most of their stories are about themselves – if in doubt, remember people generally only think about themselves, this will help you in the future – and some stories are going to be about you.
Hell, even I will put my own story on you. That doesn’t mean you have to accept it. You get to decide and craft the narrative of your life.
What will you create?
This brings me to point number 2…
It’s Your Responsibility
Take responsibility for your life. I read a quote that has stuck with me, “Who you are right now is the sum of all your previous decisions, you choose to be this person.”
This is… difficult to accept. It’s very very difficult to accept.
Because we want to create (you guessed it) a story about why we’re in this position of life. It’s out parents. Our lack of education. Born at the wrong time. Not enough friends, money, influence, and so on.
At the end of all those excuses, you’ll find something in common. You made the choice. It was your decision.
You might have had wrong information, you might have been tricked, you might have miscalculated, you might have been too early (or too late), or you might have been unlucky.
Doesn’t matter. You made the choice.
Now, the argument made against this is along the lines of victim shaming. How is a child who was raped responsible for that? Short answer, they’re not, but they are responsible for how they react to it and the story they tell themselves about it.
Often we can’t control shitty circumstances. However, we do have to accept responsibility for how we react to them, and what they mean to us. Again, this comes back to the story we tell ourselves.
Either way, I’ve personally found it more powerful to accept responsibility. At least then you have the power to make a change.
Learn To Sell
One decision I’m proud of is getting into sales. Personally, I think our family has a bit of a gift for it. My dad is a bit of a salesman himself (even though he doesn’t think so, and hopefully you’ll get to see what I mean as you get older) but he’s very confident about himself which can be pretty believable. Connor (my brother) is another natural.
I also have a bit of talent, but mine needed a lot of crafting and help from some very smart and capable people.
If you ever come across any hogwash about selling or sales being dirty, beneath you, scummy, or whatever adjective then mark those individuals down in a black book and watch how they perform for the rest of your life.
You’ll find they often underperform to their potential.
Sales is a noble profession – and not because I’m in it and have a bias – but because it’s only the transference of feeling about something. Plus, there’s honor in helping somebody solve problems which is the core of sales.
The transference of your feeling about how you can solve the problem of the person you’re speaking to.
Yes, there are bad apples in every industry and profession. There are people who will do anything to make money. Those individuals are typically easy to spot because they don’t last very long.
However, if you’re confident in yourself, that you’re doing the right thing, then sell as hard as possible. Convince people you’re important. Convince them to believe in you. Contrary to what people say, they want to be sold to. They want to believe in something. People want to buy.
Just make sure you’re selling them something that actually solves their problems. If you do, you’ll become a very rich woman (not just monetarily, but emotionally and spiritually too).
Party, And Get It Out Of Your System Quickly
Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that in my early 20’s I partied a little too hard. It was fun, and for me I let it go a little too long. It wasn’t until 24 that I think I genuinely got my act together and started forging a life I would be proud of (I’m still working on this, everyday).
There’s nothing wrong with partying, but get it out of your system quickly.
You’ll want to take drugs, which is fine, I don’t want to stop you from experiencing mind-altering substances (just avoid the hard stuff because they can be difficult to kick). Do it when you’re young and try to go through the phase as quickly as possible. At least your body will be able to handle it because you’ll find recovery time increases greatly as you get older.
It’s a hell of a lot harder waking up the next day after a long night of drinking and trying to be productive when you’re 30 compared to 20.
Also, you don’t want to be 35 and in the club trying to find a man. Trust me, good men, the ones worth exchanging your youth and time for, aren’t there.
Which leads me to…
Take Sex Very Seriously
Please, whatever you do, be very very very cautious about who you sleep with. Limit the number of people you sleep with to one hand.
The analogy my mother told me was this. Treat sex like duct tape. In the beginning, duct-tape is very sticky. Over time though, if it keeps attaching and ripping off of fabric, it becomes less and less sticky. Eventually, it doesn’t stick at all anymore.
Save yourself for the person you want to give wholly and completely to. I’m sure you’ll have friends who brag about one-night stands. Such is life in our age now, but remember, that’s another person who they’ve bonded with.
Ask yourself, would you be willing to have a child with this person? That question should be in your head before you ever sleep with them.
If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no.
I promise I’ll do everything I can to show you how a good man should treat women, both with how I treat you and your mother, but men are going to want you so you must be incredibly discerning and cautious.
However, the moment you know you’ve found the person you want to bond with. Give yourself completely to them with no restraint. Fall for them, bond with them, and love them fully. If it doesn’t work out (which sometimes it doesn’t) then at least you can look back and be proud of yourself for committing fully to a relationship.
It’s better to have loved and lost, than not loved at all.
Avoid Consumer Debt
Don’t go into consumer debt.
There will be A LOT of shiny objects you’ll feel you just need to get RIGHT NOW. Remember the whole selling thing?
Yea, lots of people are trying to sell you (which is perfectly fine, it just requires a keen sense of awareness to fight and over-sell their beliefs).
If you can’t purchase it twice, you can’t afford it. Don’t take out loans to get cars, clothes, accessories, trips, or anything else.
That doesn’t mean you can’t spend your money. In fact, I recommend you provide yourself with a budget to spend frivolously so you can celebrate your wins throughout life. Just don’t go into debt over it.
Compound interest is a bitch. And you might not think this right now, but you have very little time in life. It’ll go by in a blink. And during that time if you have consumer debt, you’re losing to interest every month.
You’ll find yourself fighting tooth and nail to pay it off in the future if you can’t manage your emotions well.
Invest In Your Skills
As you grow up I’m going to track your natural talents and interests. This way you can get a bit of a head start on learning the right skills suited for your life.
With that being said, invest in learning new skills every single day. Your mind, body, and soul are the single greatest asset class in the world. Nothing in the market beats it. No stock, bond, annuity, crypto, or whatever will even come close to how much your mind can be worth if you invest accordingly.
Invest in learning skills that you’re already a little inclined to do, but also learn skills that you might not like either.
At least if you know enough about a certain skill, you’ll realize when somebody is world-class and you’ll be able to tell if someone is bullshitting you or not.
Read, Read, Read
Become a voracious reader. Read everything you can get your hands on. Most of it will be useless to you but read with a passion unlike anything else in the world.
In my experience so far, reading is the single best skill somebody can learn to improve their position in life.
Reading builds your imagination. Reading allows you to connect intimately with the author. It provides you with untold worlds of opportunity.
Read fiction, read non-fiction, read magazines, read books, read essays, read anything that interests you.
I don’t care if it’s junk romance novels. Read them. Build up your mind, and reading is like lifting weights for your mind. It strengthens the muscle.
Apply what you read. See how it tests in the real world. Then read some more.
Believe In A Creator
I was debating about adding this here. I’ve had my own battles with my faith. I grew up Lutheran and in my early years felt a closeness with my Creator.
However, from 18-24, I spent a lot of time battling nihilism and atheism. For most of that time, I think I was depressed, trying to find purpose in life. In that period I found meaning by searching for God in mind-altering substances. I also spent a large portion of my time pursuing half-baked (more like fully baked, if you know what I mean) business ideas trying to get rich quickly. I thought the only important thing in life was money.
I’m often ashamed to look back on that period of my life because of how much wasted time was spent, but from this perspective, it was my own journey I had to take.
I failed out of UCF, failed at the app I invented with Nick, and spent a lot of time just treading water.
I was angry, hateful, and extremely bitter. Life was dark in those periods because it was empty.
There was no meaning to my suffering. It was just…suffering.
It wasn’t until 2017 when I came across Jordan Peterson that I realized how much of my life was meaningless. Floating in the wind, getting caught in whatever was the flavor of the moment.
It took time for me to come back to belief in a Creator. To believe in something greater than myself. But when I accepted that I’m part of a narrative, one bigger than my own, I was able to find peace.
It allowed me to let go of trying to control everything, realizing I can only control myself. And if circumstances arise which are out of my control, I have faith that it’s part of a greater plan.
Either way, I can still control my reaction to it. My creator gifted me with that ability, even if circumstances are less than ideal.
At least, that’s the story I choose to believe.
Hopefully, you’ll believe it too because it does make life more… meaningful.
Test these lessons out for yourself. Find people who employ these lessons on their own. See how it works out for them.
Hopefully, I’ve built enough character as a person that you’ll trust me at my word. I believe they’ll help you on your own path through life.
Maybe at some point, you’ll get to add to them with your own unique observations. Which I’m excited to hear.
I love you, Rylee.