Many of our emails tend to come from MBAs and college students so we decided to compile a post of twenty rules that you should abide by in your twenties. Notably, we have each messed up on at least one of these rules in some form or another but if we could go back and become twenty again this is the blueprint. You can make tweaks to this list as you wish. In addition? You will likely make some of these mistakes even though you’ve been warned! That is simply part of life. Don’t beat yourself up too hard and good luck out there!
1) Minimize Debt: This is one of the biggest items on your to do list. Debt is a vice around your wrists that is slowly cutting off your blood circulation, if you don’t release the pressure you’ll be dead before thirty… the Prime of your life. If you are able to spend money on assets that depreciate in value (cars, clothes etc.) you better be debt free and saving large amounts of cash.
2) Change Your Friends: We have given a quick blue print to choosing friends, however the biggest mistake is not upgrading your social circle as you move on. We know, you read the word upgrade and immediately thought the word is heartless. It is not. You need to surround yourself with like minded individuals, even if you have known a childhood friend for 15 years, if they begin using drugs for entertainment purposes and falling off of the grid you have to say goodbye. Your life is too short to spend catching falling knives.
3) Learn to Help Others: This sounds contradictory to point number two, however it is paramount that you learn to help those that wish to improve. The key is their interest in improving, if you attempt to convince a man of self improvement when he does not care, you’ll burn a bridge. Hyper competitive and intelligent young men tend to develop a “put down” mentality where you compete at each others throats 24/7. Not only is this not sustainable, it is not healthy and does not help you in your career. Instead, pass along helpful information and you will find your friend count increasing.
4) College Should Be Tough: Everyone else goes to college to drink and try to sleep with hundreds of women. These guys usually end up unemployed or making $40K a year at a soul crushing job with no skill set to jump into another industry. Their entire life is now 100x more difficult to fix and you’ll be shocked at how difficult it is to come back when you’ve built no foundation. Build a foundation. You can have fun in your spare time.
5) Get Internships: Even if you have a 4.0 GPA from a top university, no one will care if you have zero work experience. In addition to obtaining line items on your resume you will realize that your network expands drastically. You’ll be in contact with people in their 30’s who are well outside of your current social circle of 20 somethings.
*Note internships was intentionally plural.
6) Find Mentors in Their 30’s: By the time you are in your low twenties you should have a handful of men to speak to regarding life decisions. Each man does not need to know every aspect of life, however the more the merrier. You’ll quickly realize that your peer group is older than you as soon as you receive your Diploma (MBA or Bachelors). This is a good thing. Generally speaking, older men make hiring decisions.
7) Your Co-Workers Will Screw You: This is the most common miss. If you are in the same peer group, none of your co-workers are out for your best interests. If you party with your direct co-workers, as soon as layoff rumors begin making the rounds, be certain you’ll be thrown under the bus . See point number one for why they would be more than happy to see you fail.
8) Read Books Daily: If you are not reading books outside of the classroom you are allowing the collegiate system to have more influence on your upbringing than it should. The topic of interest is less important than the act of reading. You can read about health, fashion, coal mining, animals, chemistry, art and the list goes on. Reading is similar to investing as the payoff is far in the future, one day you’ll have a chance to make a connection with a higher up on an obscure topic and ideally you’ll have the ability to add to the conversation. Don’t forget that wealthy men and women are typically eccentric.
9) Learn About Basic Fashion: Before we get comments about books beyond finance, you can simply start with learning about basic fashion. Learn what colors work for your skin tone, eye color and hair color. Once this is mastered find the right brands to accentuate all of your positive features and build a sustainable wardrobe. Better to learn and earn before you have some cash and see it burned.
10) Exercise Five Days a Week: Unless you are forced to burn through 100+ hours a week for several weeks straight, you should find time to lift weights five days a week. No excuses. Your health is the only thing that will outweigh your aspirations for wealth. A man who has a healthy mind and body with a heavy wallet is free. There is nothing more valuable than complete freedom to do as you wish.
11) Procrastination is Valueless: If you find yourself procrastinating on tasks it means that you have nothing to do with your free time. In an ideal situation you are constantly moving and improving your life. You don’t have time to procrastinate because you’re too busy taking action. The day you find yourself sitting and staring at a computer screen for 2-3 hours in a row is the day you either walk outside to exercise or immediately buy a book online. This is the minimum.
12) Ignore the Lazy: You will meet many people who suggest you simply relax and live in the moment. Avoid these men like the plague. You should live in the moment for a calculated risk not to simply feel good for a short period of time at the detriment of your future. Much like investing, 20 years from now they will have a hard time getting by while your life is already on cruise control because you’ve built an unbreakable foundation.
13) Don’t Get Married: No matter what you do, do not tie the knot in your 20’s. The truth is that many women in their twenties are most attracted to men in their low thirties. Run the math. Your future ex-wife is still in high school right now, so don’t fret over anyone within ear shot for a long-term relationship. We recommend not getting married but if you decide to keep one, wait until your 30’s.
14) Go International: By the time you’re in your mid 20’s you should have some international exposure that will wreck a lot of your current beliefs. By experiencing a new culture you’ll quickly see how many of your ideals are based on a US cultural phenomenon. You can do this with a single briefcase and you can do it alone. You’ll force your body into survival mode in an unknown city, your confidence level will grow by leaps and bounds.
15) Face a Major Fear: Heights, snakes, fights, the major fear you have does not matter compared to your ability to tackle it. If you’re afraid of being beaten down in a street fight, you should get into a ring and take a few kicks and punches. You should jump out of a plane if you fear heights and you should even consider purchasing a snake. There is no substitute for repeated exposure to eliminate a major fear in your life.
16) Turn Family Into Friends: For many, your family members are dragging you down and for others they are a positive in your life. The key is to separate your life decisions from their opinions – their opinions should have no weight on your emotions. At this point you should not use your family as a safe haven in life. If you lose your job, if you want to move cities, if you want to take a risk, it is on your shoulders. Remove the safety net.
17) Stop Complaining: Maybe you didn’t land that Bulge Bracket job, maybe you didn’t get ranked number one in your class, maybe you hurt your wrist and can’t lift for a month, no one cares. By the time you’re well into your 20’s your interest in complaining should be zero. Complaining gets you no where. All it does is increase your stress levels. When you are stressed out, no one wants to be your friend. If no one wants to be your friend, your contact list is not improving and if your contact list is not improving…. you’re dead.
18) Wake Up Early: Unless you’ve obtained a job in investment banking where you’ll eat garbage for multiple years straight to earn your stripes, you should wake up early to get ahead of the rest. Read, go to the weight room, build a website, it does not matter. Your brain functions well in the morning, use your most productive time to invest in the most important person in the world. Yourself and your future.
19) Earn a Voice: Many men will destroy their careers in a few short years by never earning a voice. When you are in your twenties there is not a single person who will care about your world view so it is best to remain quiet and diligently improve while waiting for an opportunity. Instead of dishing out advice, take advice and remain quiet. As soon as people begin asking you for your contributions you’re officially of value. You have earned your keep in a specific niche.
20) Fail: The last piece of the puzzle is the most obvious and the most undervalued. Fail as many times as possible in your twenties while you have the time to recover. We do not recommend dropping out of college as a failure or taking up a humanities major as a failure (this is simply financial suicide for most), instead we recommend you fail at trying to create value. Try to create a mobile app. Try to learn how to code. Try to learn a foreign language in a year. Try everything.
Assuming you follow these rules, you’ll look back on your life when you hit thirty and know, not believe, you have done everything to make your life better. If anyone attempts to say you’ve worked too hard, write them off as whiny complainers who have to live with the knowledge that they could have been better. They could have improved, they sold themselves short.