Man, 18 years old.
What a time to be alive.
I remember feeling so relieved that I had made it through what seemed like the longest 4 years of my life. I could finally move out, get a job, and have the freedom…to pay my own bills.
Why is this so exciting to teenagers? Honestly.
From here on out, you can start looking forward to bad knees and ramen noodle dinners.
Just kidding…sort of. On a serious note, your 20’s are going to be full of ups and downs. You’ll make new friends, shed old ones, and accomplish things you never thought you’d be capable of.
Here’s a little enlightenment to get you through the next decade.
Find a Mentor & Observe Their Mistakes
Yes, it’s true that making mistakes is part of being human and necessary for personal growth. Our blunders are humbling, they teach us to recognize when we’re at fault, and to show compassion towards the transgressions of others. We are a naturally flawed species, not one of us is perfect.
A few years from now though, you’re going to get tired. Extremely tired of cleaning up messes that 18, 20, and 22-year-old-you made. Remember that Spongebob episode where he spends a full day looking for The Maniac, only to find out that it’s him?
That’s pretty much what it feels like when you’re wandering through life making bad decisions back to back.
Now’s the time to find mentors who can help you build positive habits. Read, listen to podcasts, and seek out individuals or groups who share your goals and aspirations. For me, these are people like Sam Ovens, Grant Cardone, and Jordan Makelle. They’ve failed over and over, they’ve jumped through the hurdles, they’ve made the mistakes so people like you and I don’t have to.
The same goes for your parents, they’ve been there and done that. What sounds like incessant harping on your end comes from a place of love and concern on theirs. By the same token, our elders sometimes discourage us from taking actions that, to them, seem risky.
I’m not saying not to listen to your elders here. However, I truly believe that the best advice for any goal comes from those who have succeeded, not necessarily from those who have failed. Take risks, but err on the side of caution.
Start Investing Early
Something that I learned from Grant Cardone is that most of the things we “need” are not investments, they’re liabilities. Homes and vehicles are definitely necessities in life, but they yield no ROI… unless you’re renting out rooms on AirBnB.
Sure, you have a roof over your head and reliable transportation…for now. That full-time, ass-busting grind that pulls in enough money to pay for it all is reliable…for now. We all get old though, and it usually happens sooner than later. Before you blow out a knee, a shoulder, or your back, you need to start putting money towards real investments. Make your money work for you, so that you don’t have to work so hard one day in the near future.
If I could go back in time, I would have done these things before graduating high school:
- Invest in the stock market. Large companies like Coca-Cola and Disney have been around for 100+ years. They pay out quarterly dividends (basically, they pay you to invest in their company), and your shares can be bought or sold at any time.
- Purchase a Certificate of Deposit. CD’s are interest-bearing accounts similar to having savings that you cannot touch for a certain period of time. They’re safer than stocks and are insured by the FDIC. When you’re X amount of years down the road and looking to make a major purchase or reinvest, that money will be there waiting. If you’re in high school, I would highly recommend doing this ASAP!
- Get a secured credit card. Okay, this is more of an “investment” in your future. No one really ever taught me what it meant to have credit, so I just assumed I could go through life not having any if I paid everything in cash. Now I’m almost 29 and trying to make up for lost time so that I can get a home of my own later on. Credit matters, and having no credit looks about the same as having bad credit to most lenders.
While saving and investing aren’t quite the same, just get into the habit of doing it now. Habits are harder to break as we get older, and finances are no exception. I’ve always been a terrible saver, and let me be the first to tell you…money stress can affect your health, your happiness, and your relationships.
If you take nothing else away from this, please. Learn to handle your money or find a mentor who can show you how. It’ll save you a lot of heartache.
Lack of Planning Has Consequences
I get it. You’re young and wild and free. You’ve spent the last 12 years on a schedule and you’re ready to rage. That’s cool, we all were. However, the party always ends eventually…for some. I can’t tell you how many grown folks I’ve met in their late 30’s, 40’s, even 50’s who chose to do the whole “living life day by day” thing and ended up with nothing to show for it.
It doesn’t work guys, it just doesn’t.
You need to have a plan. That plan doesn’t necessarily have to include college, but you definitely should seek some form of higher education. No one sets out to be a dishwasher at age 42, but I’ve seen it happen. Sure, we all fall on hard times, but at some point you’ve got to acknowledge patterns in your own behavior.
I re-evaluate my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals every single day. To stay organized and productive, I spend $20-$40 on a decent planner each year. If that sounds expensive, I’m just curious, how much are you spending on fast food every month?
Setting a goal, even if you miss it, is still better than wandering around aimlessly.
Planning Doesn’t Always Guarantee Success
I know, I know. I just lectured you on the importance of planning, so WTF?
The unfortunate part of life is that you can try your hardest, give it 110%, and still fail. It won’t always be your fault; sometimes popularity, privilege, seniority, and other aspects will win out. You’re going to go through some really difficult months, even years when it seems like there isn’t a damn thing that’s gone the way you’d hoped it would.
Unforeseen circumstances can, and will throw your objectives off course. Sometimes the waters of reality are just a bit too choppy, forcing us to fall back and start over.
When you don’t get into the college you applied for, or rejected from the organization you wanted to join, or told that you’re not qualified enough for a certain job, don’t look at it as the end of the road. Stay positive, even when it’s hard. Even when it feels like there’s not a chance in hell you’ll recover from whatever it is that you’re going through.
I set a goal in 2016 to move out of state. What was supposed to take 12 months took 4 years, but I didn’t give up. This year, it’s finally happening.
You Don’t Need a Pet Right Now
I come from a long lineage of animal lovers. We’re the kind of people who will pluck an innocent soul off the street without a second thought. So, being an introvert who’d just moved from Hawaii back onto the mainland, I definitely felt alone and out of my element.
I did what most people do when they’re lonely…I got a dog. Then, my boyfriend brought home a second dog. Suddenly we were rescuing baby squirrels and sending them off to wildlife rehabilitation centers and volunteering with fostering organizations. Although animals seem to be the one constant in life that gives me a sense of purpose, owning them has made life exponentially harder.
When people come around with the “PeTs ArEn’T LiKe KiDs” mentality, I can’t help but laugh. If you honestly feel this way, you’ve either never had an animal or have never truly been a responsible pet owner. Between waking up at 4AM for “potty breaks” and the thousands you’ll spend on food, toys, vet visits, and replacing everything your four-legged child has destroyed, I’d say that it’s a pretty close comparison.
At least they don’t need diapers or pants.
In addition to the amount of money you will inevitably spend on your pet, they also require lots of time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs so much and there’s not a thing I wouldn’t do to care for and protect them. If I could give my younger self advice though, I would have taken advantage of my freedom and did a lot more travelling.
Puppies, the Worst Gift of All Time
Don't get me wrong, I've brought up two dogs of my own starting from eight weeks of age and it was a wonderful…
It’s a lot easier to get up and go when you don’t have lives depending on you. If you must, get a goldfish or foster periodically.
Kim, People are Dying
Okay, I’m secretly a KUWTK binge-watcher. If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s the scene I’m referring to:
On a serious note, people are dying. Throughout this decade, my grandfather passed, my uncle passed, an acquaintance died in a motorcycle accident, a friend of a friend was hit by a train, and one of my classmates committed suicide.
Death always seems right around the corner, and we don’t always have as much time as we think. So, the next time you find yourself stressing over an argument or crying over your late bills, remember that you’re still alive; that is something to be thankful for.
Speaking of which, tell the people you care about that you love them while they’re here.
One of my biggest regrets is not being there for my grandfather while he was in the hospital. I should’ve taken time off of work, I should’ve been by his side and I wasn’t. Make sure you don’t find yourself saddled with the same regret.
Your Past Can Affect You, But It Doesn’t Have to Define You
During my teen years, I had a few minor run-ins with the law. For a long time, I almost felt like there was no hope for the future. HEB told me I wasn’t even good enough to bag their groceries. My record haunted me for years, every time I applied for an apartment or a job I was nervous.
I’m certainly not the same person I was 10 years ago, and it really sucks to have someone judge you based on the person you were.
But you know what? People are going to judge you no matter what, guys. That’s just life and most of the time opinions don’t matter. However, when it’s the opinion of a creditor, an employer, a landlord, it matters.
Whatever your situation is, just know that you can always turn it around. You might have to work a little harder than the next person to regain credibility, but you can do it.
I’ve reached a place where my present success outweighs the failures of my past, and you’ll get there too.