Photo: Aleshyn_Andrei/Shutterstock

10 Worst Mistakes People Make in Their 20s

United States
by Jacqueline Kehoe Nov 10, 2015

1. Pursuing a paycheck instead of a passion.

In your 20s, you’re likely still finding who you really are. You’re still allowed to be a little selfish and, hopefully, you’ve got dreams. Because of this, no other time in your life will be so perfect to pursue what makes you happy and what truly energizes you over financial success (which is a crapshoot, anyway). Anything creative and risky takes time to become lucrative, and you will never have this much time again in the rest of your life. Later on, you may have a house to pay off and children to take care of. Unless it’s where you see your retirement party taking place, that cubicle can wait.

2. Giving up too easily.

You’ve heard it a million times before: Millennials have been raised in a “gimme, gimme, gimme” world and they expect everything to be available at their fingertips. Instant gratification. Unfortunately, the only thing even nearing this is technology — relationships, jobs, self-made businesses, artwork, it all takes time, it all takes work, and, more often than not, it takes failure. Success comes with time, and giving up is like walking away right before you reach the ticket counter. Facebook may pop up when you tell it to, but love, money, and happiness? Everyone’s still working on that.

3. Comparing yourself to your friends and superiors.

News flash: you’ll be “figuring it out” until the day you die. Everyone you know will be figuring it out until they day they die, too. .1% of your Facebook friends may be millionaires at 24, but that doesn’t mean you’re any farther away from the finish line. We’ve all got our own paths, and you’re on yours. Don’t let the happy pictures and vacation photos give you a negative mindset; that’ll just hold you back from taking the next step. Don’t let those photos and status updates fool you, either — even if you had that million dollars, the grass would always seem greener (and those photos aren’t indicative of reality, anyway).

4. Not travelling enough.

As we get older, we slow down. It’s a fact of life. It may feel like you’re gonna have this boundless energy forever, this ability to pound down a fifth of José without repercussion, but it’s in limited supply. So before you run out, use it. Go backpacking. Become an expat. Squander a couple thousand bucks on the kind of vacation you’re never gonna take again. Before you know it, you’ll have a family to take care of and job obligations that make these experiences harder to come by. They say “there’s no time like the present,” but really, “there’s no time like your 20s.”

5. Neglecting your health and finances.

Okay, sure. Your 20s are about traveling and being creative, but they’re not about being dumb. You can be a freelance writer and take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Peru without buying out the strip club and waking up two days later next to Khloe Kardashian. In fact, if you start putting away as little as $2 a day when you’re 20, you’re on track (a graded track, but still) to having a pretty million dollaz at 65. It’s like going from a venti frappuccino to a grande skinny latte for a million dollars in 40 years. Decent trade, right?

6. Wasting time on relationships that hold you back.

We’ve all been there in one way or another — the boyfriend that doesn’t want you to travel. The girlfriend who demands more of your time away from work. The friend group that is content spending three nights a week at the same bar for years. In your 20s, it’s a good time to analyze the ROI of these relationships (the return on investment): if the relationship is bettering you, great! Stick with it. If it holds you back and keeps you from being your best, there’s no reason to stick around. We might like to think that most friendships can and will be forever, but that’s not the case. You only need the people who make you happy, push you, and are right for the long-haul. Everyone else? Not exactly worth your precious time.

7. Blaming anyone other than yourself for your issues.

Yeah, it’s possible you didn’t have the best education. It’s possible you weren’t born into a wealthy family. It’s possible you have some physical or mental disability that makes it hard to reach society’s perception of success. But whatever your situation, there are a thousand other people in the same spot that are making it work. As much as we like to believe otherwise, we are the only people responsible for our reality. Not that guy who broke your heart and ruined your life, not the boss that hated you, not your mom, dad, or anyone in between. Just you. Your life is what you do with it, not anyone else. Once you take responsibility for it, anything is possible.

8. Wanting to be the smartest/
prettiest/happiest/whatever-est person in the room.

Sizing ourselves up against our friends is natural, and there’s really no way to not do it at least occasionally. But if you size yourself up and you like what you see, you’re not doing it right. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. As you get shaped into the true adult you’re going to become, the people around you shape you just as much as you do yourself. If you’re around people that push you, that challenge you, that expect you to be better, you’ll likely rise to the occasion. These are the people you need to be around — not people that needlessly inflate your ego.

9. Forgetting that what goes around, comes around.

No man makes his own success single-handedly. Everyone who is “someone” has had some chance, some opportunity proffered by another individual. Or several individuals. Or hundreds of people at one point or another that spurred him or her onto success. In other words, you need people. We all need people. And the better you treat those people, the more supportive they will be of you in the future. Gossipping and badmouthing and drunk texting and drama, drama, drama may seem like an innocent Friday night, but when you turn 30 and you need a strong network to get your business up and running, to sell your art, or just want guests at your wedding, those nights won’t seem so innocent after all. The more positivity you can put out into the universe now, the more will come back to you in the future when you really need it.

10. Fearing failure.

So many of us have been indoctrinated with the formula of life: go to school, get a job, get married, pop out a few kids, buy a house, buy a minivan, die. How they managed to sell us on that, no one really knows. As much as this can seem bland or blasé, the consequences are even worse: stepping outside this belief can be scary to the point that it’s paralyzing. So many people don’t create art, don’t move away, don’t get out of that dead-end relationship because they fear failure. No decision should be made out of fear, much less ones as big as these. It takes many years to learn, but failure is just part of the learning process. Once you learn how to fail, you have a much better understanding of how to succeed. So if you fear failure now, fine. But just cut that crap by 30, okay?

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