13 People Share What They Learned In Their 20s


Do you need a little guidance? A little bit of direction? These men and women have been through their 20s (something the majority of readers are going through right now). We’re all playing it by ear, feeling our way to something we believe will make us happy, but sometimes, it’s nice to read what other people have learned while they were in our shoes. Check out this Quora thread for more.

1. Arpan Roy

I have been a noticing a lot of these “what has my 20s or 30s taught me articles” around on the interweb recently. Turning 30 this year in September, I have spent most of my time during the last decade getting my ass kicked by the university of life as well as most of my beliefs from my earlier years broken. I will try to summarize below the little things that I wished I knew 10 years ago.

1. Parents are not always correct.

Things may not be as light hearted as the monkey cap issue but one thing my 20s have taught me that my parents are not always correct. Sure they want the best for you all the time (there is no denying that), but their understanding of this world and definition of success is completely different from mine. My parents grew up in an India plagued by unemployment and power cuts and their definition of success was getting an Engineering degree (preferably in Computer Science or Electronics). Growing up with constant financial insecurity, my parents like most parents did cost benefit analysis to determine what is right for me. An engineering degree would probably mean a secure job where I would stay probably for the rest of my life.

However, what if you feel different from them. What if you do not hold the aims and aspirations as them. After all your parents are human and humans are not correct all the time. You should always respect their views because they meant well for you but listening to them blindly may not be the ideal.

2. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents.

So you listened to you parents blindly and things did not turn out as amazing at you thought you would. You are now in a dead end job working odd hours and hardly have anytime to breathe and probably living in an expensive city without any saving.

It is easy to not take the blame on yourself and point finger at others. Yes, your parents told you the path would have taken you to glory and respect and you ended up being a tiny gear in an enormous machine with no importance. However as JK Rowling said ” There is an expiry date on blaming your parents.” As you go from the early twenties to you late twenties, it is very important to take responsibility for all your life’s events including failures upon yourself and this is the only way you can progress. Otherwise you will forever be stuck in a vicious cycle of finger pointing and self pity.

3. Your college romance will probably not last forever.

I never had a girlfriend during my undergrad years due to a extremely bad habit of odd behavior and inappropriate sense of humor but enough about me. However, all my friends did and 90 % of their romances ended soon after they graduated even though they thought it would last forever.

Graduation and employment change people. People gain confidence slowly in their own abilities and perhaps the need for moral support is not that urgent. It also opens the mind through exposure and reorganizes the person’s priorities. Most of the time this change affects friendships and relationships. You lose your college sweetheart along with some friends because they do not seem to be the same person anymore.

4. Get a life partner who will supplement your skills.

We are not perfect human beings and most of us especially me are lacking in a lot of areas. I think the best solution is if your partner can supplement the skills you are lacking and this would make you guys a great team.

For example, among a lot of things, I am terrible with finance and suffer from crippling social awkwardness. Fortunately, my significant other is amazing in both of those and ensures that we will never get bankrupt or socially excommunicated. I would have to go back and think hard if I actually possess some skill she lacks and I supplement.

5. Spend time on self reflection and stop listening to others.

I think 97.7% of all people do not know what they are doing and are just following others. We should really stop listening to people around us because as per the point above, they are probably as clueless as we are.

I found self reflection is the key to really understanding what you really want and this time is hard to get when we are always busy trying to figure out who liked out latest post on Facebook or busy putting unnecessary hashtags on Instagram.

If more time is spent in trying to find what you really want, we would not be doing things out of the need of social acceptance and rather just what makes us really happy.

6. Facebook and Instagram will mostly make you feel bad.

Unless you are an attractive girl whose selfies look amazing and a huge entourage, Facebook and Instagram will make you feel pretty bad about yourself. End of the day, if you have 400 friends (wayyy.. more than I have), what you are seeing on your news feed is the combined best moments of all these people. Yes you are probably having a crummy day with a hint of flu and looking at some guy you know going on a road trip through Tuscany is not going to help the case at all.

7. Keep doing a thing which makes you happy.

You need to be true to yourself and do a thing which makes you really happy. Not happy according to social approval like the ridiculous 100happydays shit which has been going on Instagram where people are pretending to smile on Instagram to convince themselves they are really happy.

Binge watching netflix lying down with crumbs of food makes me happy. I do it so that once I am happy I perform better in other aspects of life. Similarly writing answers and blogs with inappropriate jokes also make me happy. I really do not care about social acceptance.

8. Do not let your body weight pile up and get enough sleep.

My metabolism is no where what it used to be like. If I gain weight it takes forever and all of my will power to lose it. So please do not gain any weight in the 20s because it will be exponentially hard to lose it in the 30s and 40s.

Treasure sleep like anything. I love sleeping and waking up refreshed. It is the only way you can tackle the shit the world will throw at you. Do not spend weekends staying out late doing things you hate in the fear of being boycotted from you group. Go home and get a lot of sleep.

9. People have no room for sentiments, it is all cost benefit.

One thing which shocked me when I moved out of the protection of high school was that people do not really care for you. There are no sentiments, no second chances and it is all cost benefit for everyone. If you are a liability, people will drop you in an instant however hard you plead. Thus while negotiating and getting what you want, do not appeal to the person’s sentiment but show what benefit they can get from you.

2. Rich Binell




The world is full of two kinds of people:

Those like you.

And those unlike you.

And both can teach you a lot.

And a lot about yourself.


It should be required for college graduation.

It would make it a better world if more people actually got out and saw the world from other peoples’ lands and homes and shoes.

3. Holly Jones

  1. Never date the bartender. No matter how handsome they are while they’re slipping you free shots. They are individuals who spend their lives getting drunk, sleeping until dusk, and then repeating that same routine ten-fold. Try dating outside of the bar as often as possible, people exist there, seriously.
  2. Don’t listen to your parents. They’re parents, they worry. They worry a lot and while you’re worried about how they’re worrying, you’ll likely miss out on a ton of travel, odd jobs they wouldn’t approve of, and mistakes they’d like you not to make. It’s all worth it. Love them, but don’t listen to them. Their advice comes from fear and a large urge to have you avoid the pitfalls of youth. Understandable…but undeniable.
  3. Take fine care of yourself. Just because you can eat three calzones in one sitting and wash them down with a plastic boot filled with pilsner doesn’t mean you’re superhuman. It. Will. Catch. Up. To. You. And when it does, you’ll be feverishly trying to fit into your comfy pants while sipping on some green concoction you’ve whipped together in a blender. Everything in moderation, even when you’re young and invincible will save you a lot of hassle as you age. Water, it’s tasteless…but give it a go.
  4. All of the culture in the world doesn’t automatically make you intelligent. You can read, write, listen to the most obscure bands on earth, and dine at local hotspots. This doesn’t make you better than anyone else. You’ll be humbled when you take that knowledge somewhere that doesn’t place value in any of those things. Humbled, real quick.
  5. Friends are not a mandatory accessory and if you’re stuck within a group of folks that you haven’t got a single thing in common with, it is going to suck. Don’t ever regret cutting ties when it’s necessary. Other folks are out there, that will help you to grow rather than keeping you in a state of monotony. Old routines grow tired sometimes, explore and be choosy how and with whom you spend your time.
  6. Alone time is good for the soul. A party might be taking place each night of the week but staying in for a spell is a necessity. Learn to enjoy time in your own company and you’ll be set for life.
  7. Never put all of your faith, hope, or love into one project, human, or diety. Faulty, at best. Instead, weave your mind around numerous options and opt to make plans on a whim instead, if things don’t go as planned…
  8. Everything is going to be alright. You’ll lose loved ones, pets, friends, jobs, your grades will slip, your car will break down. At the end of it all, it all winds up being ok. After the sobbing, the puffy eyes, the snot, the snorting, the wheezing…you’ll look at your swollen face and realize you just got through the hard stuff. And, it’s ok. It was always ok, and will continue to be, O.K.
  9. Keep all of the out of fashion clothes you wore when you were 20. They will be fashionable again in a few years. Plus, what the hell is fashion, anyhow?

4. Joey Denny

What I am currently learning is that there is no time for later.

You hear it when you’re young but the lesson only sinks by living it. Time speeds up with each day. Each year quicker than the last.

If you have any plans, do them in the now, as before you know it, months will have passed. Opportunities turn to regrets.

Thankfully, if you’re in your 20’s, there are very few shackles in your way from doing whatever you want but time is certainly one of them. Don’t let it be.

5. Nagarajan Rajasekaran

  1. There will be absolutely no correlation between your education and the work you will be doing.
  2. You might have to pretend to love doing something in your life which you might hate in private.
  3. Be honest in the interview, if they don’t recruit you it just means that it is not the right job for you.
  4. Fall in love with numbers, it will never let you down.
  5. Accept yourself for what you are than what others think of you.
  6. Don’t try to be a friend to a women, whom you are really interested to ask out later.
  7. Try to have as many crazy friends as possible, they will make your life worth living.
  8. Try to go on punishing treks that makes you love the nature and understand your physical limits.
  9. Don’t judge people’s life by what they post on Facebook and Instagram – it is just highlights of their life.
  10. Don’t start a book series if it has a TV series currently in progress.
  11. You will find friendship and affection from unexpected places.
  12. The definition of “Happily ever after” varies from person to person. And try to create your own definition and try to refine it every two years.

6. Jae Lee

  1. Others are just as insecure about themselves as you are. I was a fat kid, and always had a complex about it. Because I grew up being told that the way I look was the most important, I’ve always had a complex about it and never thought that I was good enough. I put up a front, to make people think that I was extremely confident in myself, but up till my mid 20s, I really struggled with self worth. Almost everyone deals with this, so be freed from it by acknowledging your weaknesses, accepting your strengths, and making improvements on where you feel you need to. Take good advice, but don’t let the majority dictate how you should feel about yourself.
  2. Pseudo-relationships are bad. What is a pseudo-relationship? It’s when you and a person of the opposite sex (maybe same sex if you’re homosexual) hang out all the time, do everything couples do (sometimes including sex), but not being officially in a relationship or any sort of commitment with each other. It feels great because you get your emotional and possibly physical needs met, and when things go wrong, you can always step back and say “Hey, we were just friends!” All relationships need to be clear, and in general pseudo-relationships arise due to insecurity on one or both parties involved about themselves or each other. Many relationships start this way because boys are too scared to really make a move, and it feels so much more convenient to be ambiguous and ease into it. But more likely than not, you will or will be hurt from this exchange and you’ll be left wondering “WTF just happened?”
  3. There are a bunch of things out there you never knew you loved. I grew up in LA, and I hated the beach. I hated being out in the unforgiving sun, I hated the sand always getting up into your croch, and I hated that fishy smell. So I assumed I hated nature. I moved to Seattle for my first job out of college, and discovered mountains and trees! I went for my first hike in Rainier, and the 12 mile round trip hike felt like a breeze because I felt like I was in heaven (I nearly died the next day though).
  4. Travel. Also growing up in LA, I thought I had seen everything, and had everything I needed around me. So I never traveled. I really thought cars and girls were all live had to offer. In 2010, I moved to Germany for my second job, and traveled around Europe for the first time. Since then, I’ve traveled to over 10 different countries, and the experiences have really changed the way I look at things.
  5. Accept and embrace change. In 2011, I loved being single so much that I thought I’d never get married, 2 months later, I met a girl that I knew was meant to be my wife, and we were married 9 months after. But there are A LOT of things I miss about being single: time, flexibility, mobility, freedom, etc. Being married is different, but there are great things about being married, but still, I really have to actively try not to compare and complain (even just in my head) about the difference. I’m happily married, and I just have to accept the changes that have come with that in order to stay happy.
  6. Things are not always so black and white. I think Americans are very polarizing. Things always have to be either or. Some examples that come to mind: science vs religion, Republicans vs Democrats, binge drink or sober, etc. Maybe it’s because we’re told we need to compete from a young age, but we feel like we have to be one or the other. I can be for you and support you, and yet still be against you in certain matters. Drink moderately, and smoke some weed occasionally.
  7. Good friends are ones who can tell you hard things out of love. We’re always scared to hurt people, but if someone truly loves you, they will sometimes say things that hurt for your betterment. This is not to say that they criticize you for everything, and just try to put you down, but the things they do say are well thought out and are a result of caring. Don’t mistake this with someone that cares about everything and has no business to speak about certain matters in your life.
  8. The book is always better than the movie/TV show.
  9. Never stop learning. I’m often tempted to think I know everything better than everyone, and I’m always wrong.
  10. The best is yet to come. At least I feel like my life has gotten better and I’ve been happier every year since I was 24. But I guess I can’t say this for everyone.

7. Stewart Farr

Eventually, at some point in time, you will make a mistake that will make all previous mistakes seem like a walk in the park. Be prepared for this to repeat as the stakes get higher.

8. Huy Dang

  1. Make yourself happy first. Do what you want to do. Don’t do what you don’t want to do.
  2. Try your best and walk away when it doesn’t work out. Sincerely. Respectfully. It could be your job, your new friend, your new relationship. Try your best. Get hurt. Forget. Move On. Repeatedly.
  3. Family matters. Talk to your parents/siblings. They understand you more than you think. At the end, they are always with you regardless of how you become in life.
  4. Meet new people. Just share experiences. Everybody has unique story. Listen to them.
  5. Career. Be ready to switch job or take on new opportunity. Comfort is your enemy. If you love doing something, learn more about it, be better at it. Don’t sit at one place and complain.
  6. Finance. Save as much as you can. Save money from cars, clothes, or anything that you think it makes you look better in others’ eyes. It fades quickly. Save it for 401K, for index fund, and for experiences (travel, hobby, etc).
  7. Be healthy: eat well, sleep well, do at least one sport regularly. Don’t let your health prevent you from enjoy other aspects of life. That’s a lame excuse.
  8. Midlife crisis (I know, first world problem). It happens to me, and surely happens to a lot of others. Everytime it happens, just remember everything is gonna be ok in the long term. For short term, I climb, take pictures, and cook.

9. Katherine Messier

Looking back at my 20s, the most important lesson I learned is:

The foundation you build in your 20s sets the stage for the rest of your life.

Don’t wait on any of your life plans or goals. Save money, learn how to invest, kill it at your job, earn the promotions, start/finish that higher ed degree (if that’s one of your goals), and work hard to maintain only the relationships that deserve it. Learn that not making a choice is a choice. And sometimes “keeping your options open” is actually closing doors for you.

Bottom line: You have to actively build the life that you want. In some ways, this is the most important decade of your life because everything you do now is setting you up for what you will or won’t have later on.

10. Anonymous

You will never have as much energy.

Because you are still fairly young, you still have permission to ask the dumb questions so do so. BTW, no question is dumb and older people like helping those who are starting out.

The most important thing I learned though. Don’t wait for life to happen, or someone else to make it happen. It’s entirely in your hands. If you’re in any kind of rut, it’s up to you to get yourself out of it.

11. Ravi Dama

Work really hard to establish your credentials. The future will depend on how much you do in your 20s. Rarely do you get a second chance in your 30s.

12. Makarand Pandey

Nobody will stay around with you forever, so love yourself and be your best friend.

13. Avatar Su

Do what you love; love what you do.

Get more great advice in our bestselling ebook How to Be a 20-Something.