20 Harsh Lessons Every 20-Something Should Learn Sooner Than Later

Nicolas Cole
4 min readOct 23, 2017

You have nothing to lose, even though you think you have everything to lose.

Your 20s are experimental years. Building years. Risk years.

Try it all. Fall. And then keep the good stuff.

Your time is actually really valuable.

Set a number for yourself.

What do you value one of your hours? If someone offers you work for less than that number, decline. If it will cost you less to hire someone else to do what needs to get done than what it would cost you at your valued rate, hire them.

Value your time.

Nobody cares.

Got mono? Broke a leg? Fell on your face? Bleeding everywhere?

Especially when it comes to work and business, nobody cares. Well, that’s not true — if you work with good people, they care. But they also don’t. They expect you will keep to your word and get done what needs to get done, or pass it off to someone else who can finish the job.

You suck at communicating.

Most fights stem from a lack of communication.

Fires, lack of communication. Misunderstandings, lack of communication. If you feel like you are over-communicating, you probably are — and that’s a good thing.

95% of friends are only your friends in certain surroundings.

Your bar friends are your bar friends.

Your workout friends are your workout friends.

Your music friends are your music friends, etc.

If you find someone who you are friends with regardless of what you do together, that’s a real friend. Prioritize them.

Your “successful” peers aren’t that successful.

I know it seems like everyone graduated college and is making six figures and vacationing in Paris, but they’re not.

That gold watch you see them wearing, you can buy at Macy’s for like $40.

All their new outfits are passed down from older friends. Their vacations to Hawaii, their dad hooked it up. In general, this is usually how it goes. Don’t worry, they’re all just as lost as you are.

Nobody has any idea what they want to do in life.

Building on #6, everyone seems super together. Everyone seems to have a plan. Everyone seems to know exactly where they’re going.

Sit down with that person for a one on one dinner, and they’ll probably reveal to you their long list of fears and anxieties.

Don’t worry. It’s a 20-something thing.

Hangovers aren’t acceptable excuses anymore.

It actually makes you look like a child. Get your shit together.

Texting “u” instead of “you”.

…Or using the wrong your/you’re.

You sound like a 13 year old on AIM for the first time. Stop.

The day starts after your 9–5.

If you leave your cubicle and go home and do nothing but watch Netflix, and you’re still in your 20s, imagine what your life is going to be like in your 50s.

Really boring. Get a hobby.

Vulnerability is sexy.

I know in middle school and high school and even college vulnerability was like, totally not cool bro, but it’s actually the secret to life.

Be vulnerable. Express who you are.

It’s the fastest way to attract the people you truly want to be around (and weed out the ones you don’t).

Most promises don’t pan out.

Anytime someone promises you anything, just chalk it up to extra credit if it happens.

Don’t count on it.

Learn to stand on your own two feet and make moves on your own.

Nothing happens unless you make it happen.

There is no, “Hey, one day, I’m going to catch my break. Something is just going to happen.”

Nah. Doesn’t work that way.

You either wake up every day banging down that door until it opens, or it stays shut forever. Up to you.

Reputation is everything.

Play the long game.

A lot of things seem like good ideas in the moment. If you get the sense it’s a poor choice in the long run, it probably is.

Pass on it. Not worth it.

Humility > confidence.

Confidence gets you noticed.

Humility brings people back again and again.

Reading is actually really important.

I get it, we all learn in different ways.

But if the last book you read was The Sun Also Rises your senior year of high school, then you need to hit up a bookstore.

You aren’t old. You’re really, really young.

Graduating college doesn’t make you “grown up.” It doesn’t make you “really old.”

You’re still a child. You just got out of the starting zone. Life JUST began for you.

Go do stuff.

Life is a mirror. Smile.

If you wake up every day angry, or depressed, or sad, and keep waiting for life to fix it for you, it’s never going to happen.

You get back what you offer the world.

It’s all about who you know.

It really is. Make the effort to expand your network, meet new people, and most of all, keep your word.

There are no mistakes. Only lessons.

And finally, trust the path. I know life seems harsh. That’s kind of the point.

Thanks for reading! :)

Want to learn how I built my Personal Brand online, attracting over 50 million readers? Follow this free email course step by step, and I’ll teach you exactly how I did it.

Click here to take the free Personal Branding email course!



Nicolas Cole

100M+ Views | 5x Author | Co-founder of Ship 30 for 30 | Want to start writing online? Get the Ultimate Guide: https://startwritingonline.com