How to Excel in your 20s (8 Ways to Thrive Today)

Life moves fast… especially in your twenties. There is an insane amount going on across all phases of life and for many individuals, your twenties is the first time you are in the driver’s seat.

Think about this, most of us up until the time of graduation are told exactly what to do and when to do it. As a child in high school, you are told when to wake up, how long you’ll be at school, and what you’re doing after. There is little to no independence built into the current system. I’d even argue that college, though it provides a marginal increase in autonomy, provides hand holding all the way through. The education system provides these defined “roadmaps” on how to excel.

In my own experience, working in collegiate athletics, I feel as if the “roadmap” to success was clearly defined. I was told to show up to work at 6 AM, followed by team/staff meetings, then the entire team and staff headed to practice, and so forth. To have success, I had to follow the playbook and give a little extra. There was clarity.

In my mid-twenties, I made a career change, and working through that transition changed my life forever AND for the better. The job I took was with a startup creative agency and similar to many startups there weren’t crazy processes and disciplines already in place. The “roadmap” or “playbook” didn’t exist yet and we were in full control of our destiny. The reason I bring this up is that for myself, it was the first time in my life I wasn’t handed the “playbook” to success. I had to figure it out on my own. This meant being accountable for building processes that allowed me to see success not only in my career but in what I wanted to achieve in my personal life.

A few articles back, I wrote (What to Learn In Your 20’s (click here for the full article). I hyperfocus on the 10 lessons I have learned since turning twenty.

Today, I will get more tactical for all you twenty-somethings who are being thrust into life with no playbook. I understand that life can get overwhelming and I hope this article can help provide some insight on practices you can do today to excel to bridge a more productive decade.

1. Redefine what it means to Thrive

The entire premise of Twenties & Thriving is to redefine what it means to THRIVE. Every individual has a different definition of what success looks like and if you want to build a happy and fulfilled life you must own your journey and enjoy the process.

I understand that it is easy to get caught up in the final destination/compare yourself to peers but one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received and something I highly encourage you through this exercise and practice is to surrender the outcome.

“The ultimate illusion of the human experience is control. The person you want beside you in battle is the guy who has surrendered the outcome and surrendered to the fact that he might die. When you surrender the outcome, you are freed up to be at your best, to be in the moment, and to trust your training. It is the one who has surrendered the outcome who ironically has the greatest chance of survival.” – Joshua Medcalf, Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall In Love With the Process of Becoming Great

2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable

This seems like a blanket statement and an idea that isn’t necessarily tactical, but I’d argue it is. Being uncomfortable is simply a symptom of having a fear of failure. You are starting a new job and it’s uncomfortable because you are unfamiliar with their software. You have never played an instrument so learning to play one in your twenties gives anxiety..

I’ve written this in the past and I will write it again in the future… ”discomfort is a catalyst for growth.”

The way you can get actionable in response to this point is to continue to put yourself in situations that inherently make you feel uncomfortable. Pick up a new skill, and network with individuals in your profession. It is normal to get that uneasy feeling when you’re unsure of the outcome but individuals who can get comfortable sitting in the presence of uncertainty break down walls.

3. Be your truest self

One of my colleagues called me out on this earlier in the week, so I am still tripping forward like everyone else. His advice was to “own my individuality.”

This statement got me going and I realized there is only one me. If I want to make an impact and leave an imprint on the world, I can’t do that through someone else’s voice, I can only do it through my own.

Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else. – Judy Garland

4. Be Vulnerable

My life took a big turn when I started opening up and being more vulnerable with others. I have always been somewhat outgoing but outgoing doesn’t always equate to vulnerability.

I’d shield my thoughts and opinions when speaking to individuals with higher authority. But I realized that regardless if it’s your boss, spouse, or a stranger; speaking your truth with radical candor can drastically change the trajectory of a conversation. I’ve noticed that when I am vulnerable first the person I am in conversations with is more likely to drop their shield and it allows for us to gain better insight/perspective on the subject.

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. – Crissi Jami

5. Dense Your Circle

This is hard. I have noticed it is hard to keep more than 5-8 strong relationships going at one time. Eight (8) is the very high end. That is still very difficult to manage.

The reason this is hard is that we all have a true love for all of our friends and family but I have found that the reality is time is finite and you have to prioritize who you spend and dedicate time to. I try to surround myself with people who have similar ambitions and moral compasses as me. I also am intentional about the phases of life these individuals are in. If you are only building close relationships with people in your age bracket it is hard to gain a broader perspective. Building relationships with individuals both younger and older than me has helped me keep fresh and diligent.

Keep relationships with people who fill your cup and that whom you also bring value to. The means of what is being poured into you will dictate the sum of who you become. Make sure those things align with who you want to be in the future.

6. Time Management

Figure this out and figure it out as quickly as you can. As I mentioned above, time is finite. If you can figure out a system to efficiently use your time, you can win life.

Time is something we all have and how you cash in on it matters. When I made my transition out of collegiate athletics, time management was one of my biggest obstacles. I had a tough time sticking to a schedule. I tried blocking time for different work and building a list of priorities. But I seemed to always be lacking in some area of my life.

This year I have made it a priority to manage my time more efficiently. I break up my day into three separate stacks; Morning, Work, and Night
(Here is an article on my Morning Stack (Routine)). And then through this app called Habit Tracker, I track my daily, weekly, and monthly disciplines. It helps me keep track of my time and discipline. For example, I committed myself to bike 10 miles and running 5 miles every week. It doesn’t seem like a lot but after five (5) months I can see the compounding effect of that work.

I will do a more in-depth look at what this process looks like.

7. Learn New Skills

I finished a book this week, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars That Drive Results. There was a quote in it that I wanted to share.

“People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.”

It is so important to continue to learn. Learning keeps your mind fresh and forward-thinking. It builds trust among your peers and colleagues and as you attack new skill sets you are practicing being uncomfortable.

Everybody retains information differently. Find what works for you. I like to read because I retain the information at my own speed. Some people may like podcasting or watching youtube videos!

8. Practice Mindfulness

Find ways to practice mindfulness. I believe that true happiness stems from being able to live and enjoy the present moment.

Some ways I go about this is through meditation and journaling. I’m not great at meditating so I don’t want to give too much advice there. I use the gratitude journal everyday and it has aided in me being able to appreciate the small things in life.

Again, life moves fast. And with so much going on I figured I could give you some tactical advice on the different ways I have been able to excel in my twenties. I would love to hear from all of you! How do you excel in your 20’s? Drop your answers in the comments below.

See you next time!

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