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10 things I learned in my 20s

These are the lessons that I’ve learned since I started my career at the age of 17.


Take care of yourself now

I thought youth was invincible. Even if you don’t eat well or sleep little, you’ll bounce back the next day. That is true until I started to feel pain in my back and my skin showed signs of premature aging. It was like an alarm went off in my head. I started to practice meditation, exercise, and follow a more balanced diet. Research also shows that there are activities in our 20s that create long-term health consequences; for example, not wearing sunscreen causes irreversible damage to the skin. So, take care and love yourself from right now. It’s never too early.

There will come a time when you feel lost and stuck

And this is very normal. I started my career when I was 17. I didn’t know what I was working towards. I didn’t know what I wanted in life. There were times in my career and personal life that I felt stuck, not knowing where to go or what to do next. I came back home and find shelter and love from my family. I calmed down, and thought about what I wanted, when I wanted it. No guarantee what I am pursuing right now will be my goal for the next 10 years. But at least, at this moment, I learn to find a goal to strive for and work hard to make it happen.

Dream jobs also need sacrifices

When you and I first graduate from high school or college, I’m sure we have in mind an idea of what our dream jobs are. I, for example, dreamt of being a famous fashionista, to be always so pretty, to wear expensive clothes, and to attend fashion shows all over the world. I knew little about how challenging this job could be: the public pressure of appearing “perfect”, the jet lags, the overwhelming schedules. I’m not complaining, but I wanted you to know going in that it’s gonna be harder than you think, but ultimately will be worth it. 

Ignore other people’s opinions

No one is perfect. You can do everything well and someone will still have something negative to say about you. There are trolls online and offline always trying to get you down. One of the most important lessons for me at the age of 20 is to ignore the opinions of people you don’t care about. What they say about you is usually not about you, but actually their own problem. So ignore them, don’t waste time explaining, and work hard to prove yourself.

Don’t give up

If you read biographies of famous people, they all started from somewhere. Oprah Winfrey was fired once. Jeff Bezos had to pack Amazon packages in his basement. J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter while unemployed. I do not think anyone with a difficult start will become a billionaire. Still, no one is a billionaire and gives up in the middle. Making mistake is part of being young, so don’t give up.

Don’t compare yourself to others

I see this as an essential lesson for the age of 20. We used to all go to the same schools and live the same lives for more than 20 years. Suddenly, now your friends are making more money, starting their own business, getting married, having kids, having life figured out, while you feel stuck. Don’t feel discouraged. Everyone has their own pace. Failure or success of others do not affect you and who you are and what your worth is at all. Your time is precious. Stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on achieving your goal instead.

Say sorry more

One of the most common mistakes you will make when you first start working is to make excuses instead of apologizing for doing it wrong. I went to work late because it rained, I submitted a report late because the power went out, I sent the wrong email because of a colleague, and so on. Your excuses will show that you are still young and not professional enough to take on your responsibilities. I knew it was scary to say: “This is my fault for not finishing the work. I’m sorry,” but that’s how you show your boss that you’re mature and responsible. 

Learn how to spend money save keep money

When you start to make your own money, how easy it is to spend all of your salary on food, shopping, drinking, traveling… The most “expensive” lesson of my 20s is learning how to manage personal finances, how much to spend now and how much to save for the future. And I am increasingly moving away from buying things (such as shopping for shoes and bags) and investing in more experience (travel, exercise, healthy diet,…).

Friends change 

Have you ever been shocked when your childhood best friends suddenly became very distant? Or has it been a while since you called some old friends? And when did they become “old friends”? When you turn 20, you and your friends will both experience major changes in life. Some people will stay with you, some people won’t. Understand that this is a sad, yet inevitable part of adulthood. Maybe your friends will come back into your life, maybe they won’t. I always try to keep myself open-minded and support my friends whenever possible. But  if people don’t respond or prioritize time for me, I will also walk away to spend time with people who do. 

Time is the most valuable thing

Finally, I hope that you will always remember to cherish this very beautiful time of your life. You might feel frustrated, sometimes sad, even sometimes out of place in your 20s. But time does not come back for anyone. Enjoy and use it well. Work hard, travel a lot, spend time with family and love yourself, that’s the most important lesson for your 20s!


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