I am not what people would consider “old.”
But I do have some experience behind me now.
People are amazed at some of the tragedies I’ve lived through, but I’ve got to tell you — what I’ve shared so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
But perhaps as I continue to share, I’ll have the opportunity to air it all. And as Bruce Lee once said:
Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.
I’m appreciating those words more as of late.
So, I’ve established my alibi. I’m not a sage. But today I thought I would attempt to pass on some advice to my 20-year-old self.
Don’t Take Life So Seriously
It’s okay to enjoy yourself.
Yes, you’ve got big goals and big plans. For better or for worse, many of them won’t work out. I can’t tell you why and no one else can either.
It’s okay to spend time on your passions as you’ve chosen to do. You won’t regret it.
And you’ll probably end up spending a lot of time on creative projects without having a clear direction or goal in mind. That’s okay too.
But instead of sitting at home worrying about any of it…
Turn off the TV. Go out. Enjoy yourself. Experiment.
Try new foods. Go to pools and water parks. Hit the lakes. Hike in the mountains. Skate. Play basketball. Fish. Go on road trips. Travel and venture out more, even locally. Go to Japan more. A lot more.
Go to house parties. Meet strangers. Socialize. Make a game out of it. Host more of your own parties.
Call mentors. Have long discussions about life, business, and creativity. Suck them dry.
There will be more opportunities to do this later. But everyone you know will be in a different stage of their life by that time. You’re going to have new friends. You’ll be living in a new city. Everything will be different. Enjoy what you’ve got now.
Make fun of your friends while you still can. Go on late night excursions. Hit up Denny’s or some shabby Chinese place. It doesn’t matter where. Sleep can wait.
Make a Mess
Perfection stops a lot of smart, talented, ambitious people.
Your musical ideas aren’t weird, crazy, or too far out there. Give all of them a go. The fun part is that if you don’t do it first, someone else will.
It doesn’t matter that you don’t have all the gear or expertise. You don’t need fancy equipment or even the best methods for capturing your creative ideas. Don’t wait around for others to help you or join in either.
Just go and do it. Do more of it. Make a huge mess of music. So much that you can’t see up or down.
Release as much as that music as you can. Most people won’t stream it or buy it, even those who said they would support you. So what? At the other end of this, you’ll have leapfrogged as an artist.
Have a ritual for celebrating the completion of projects. Scotch and a cigar are a good way to meditate and wind down.
Learn to Manage Your Money
This is something you’re going to need to do sooner rather than later or you will end up having to learn this lesson the hard way.
It turns out most people don’t know how to manage money properly. Your parents, your teachers, your friends, even your financial advisor doesn’t have a clue.
You’ll need to start looking for new mentors immediately. Start reading more.
Math may not be fun, but you should make friends with money as soon as possible. So long as you’re alive, it will always be a concern.
Live humbly. Be a minimalist. That way, there will always be something left over for the things and experiences you want. And you might even end up saving enough for the car and home you actually want.
Invest in life-cycle funds. Start multiple Infinite Banking Concepts.
Invest more in your growth and experiences than in toys and gear. You’ll come to cherish great memories more than houses, cars, or beautiful handcrafted guitars.
Go to all manner of conferences, events, and seminars. At no point will you regret having invested in yourself. You’ll build a lot of great connections too. But don’t worry about results.
Take Care of Yourself
Most of the information out there regarding nutrition and health is misleading. You know this already. Be proactive and study what’s healthy.
Change your eating habits. Exercise more. Work out. Play basketball. Meditate every day. Sleep.
You’ve only got one body and if you don’t have your health, you’ve got nothing.
Get into a routine. It takes discipline but the results are totally worth it.
Take the “chipping away at a statue” approach rather than the “hustle and grind” approach. A schedule you can sustain long-term (or even the rest of your life) is far better than trying to keep to 10-, 12-, 14-, or even 16-hour workdays. You may need to sacrifice occasionally but make it the exception rather than the rule. Prioritize and triage mercilessly.
Blog every day, even if all you do is post a picture or a doodle. Keywords and search engine optimization don’t matter as much as your creative expression and audience.
Make More Mistakes
You’re learning. You’re growing. You’re figuring yourself out. This is an ongoing process and it will never end.
It’s okay to make mistakes. No one’s perfect. Everyone, in fact, is almost always trying to look good or avoid looking bad. Inside, they’re just as scared as you are. It’s a survival instinct.
Some things will work. Many other things won’t. But on the other side of having tried, at least you can say you tried. And it could make for a good blog post.
The consequences of making mistakes are rarely fatal, especially at this age, unless you choose to do something stupid. Your mistakes shouldn’t reflect badly on your work, your career, your image, or otherwise (again, unless it’s just stupid).
Mistakes can and do hurt. But you’ll become more resilient by doing things the wrong way. You’ll start to shave away at your rough edges, awkwardness, and insecurities.
Maybe doing this will take some of the surprises and joy out of life later, but that’s the only downside I can see.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t change much about my 20s. It was an important period of self-discovery for me, as it is for most.
But if I had it all to do over, and I had someone showing me the way, I would have taken the advice outlined here and applied it.