real life

20 harsh lessons every 20-something needs to learn sooner than later.

The best of times and the worst of times – that pretty much sums up twentysomething life. And if you really pay attention, this decade is also a time to learn some  crucial – and sadly, often rather cruel – life lessons to take into your thirties and beyond. Strap yourselves in – some of this advice might be a little bit hard to swallow.

You have nothing to lose, even though you think you have everything to lose.

Your 20s are experimental years. Building years. Risk years.

Try it all. Fall. And then keep doing the good stuff.

Your time is actually really valuable.

How much do you value one of your hours? If someone offers you work for less than that number, decline. If it will cost you less to hire someone else to do what needs to get done than what it would cost you at your valued rate, hire them.

Value your time.

Nobody cares.

Got sick? Broke a leg? Fell on your face?

Nobody cares – especially when it comes to work and business. Well, that’s not true — if you work with good people, they care. But they also don’t. They expect you will keep to your word and get done what needs to get done, or pass it off to someone else who can finish the job.

You suck at communicating.

Most fights stem from a lack of communication.

Fires, lack of communication. Misunderstandings, lack of communication. If you feel like you are over-communicating, you probably are — and that’s a good thing.

LISTEN: The understated importance of doing things you’re bad at. Post continues below. 

95% of friends are only your friends in certain surroundings.

Your bar friends are your bar friends.

Your workout friends are your workout friends.

Your music friends are your music friends.

If you find someone who you are friends with regardless of what you do together, that’s a real friend. Prioritise them.

Your “successful” peers aren’t that successful.

I know it seems like everyone graduated, got jobs with six figure salaries and bought palatial apartments, but that really isn’t the case.

Their fabulous outfits were probably bought on sale and their parents helped pay for their Fiji holidays. Don’t worry, they’re all just as lost as you are.

Your friends aren't actually that successful. Image via Getty.

Nobody has any idea what they want to do in life.

Building on number six,  everyone seems super together. Everyone seems to have a plan. Everyone seems to know exactly where they’re going.

Sit down with a person for a one on one dinner, and they’ll probably reveal to you their long list of fears and anxieties.

Don’t worry. It’s a twentysomething thing.

Hangovers aren’t acceptable excuses anymore.

Seriously. Get yourself together.

Texting “u” instead of “you”.

Or using the wrong your/you’re.

You sound like a 13-year-old. It's time to stop.

Never text 'u'. Image via Getty.

The day starts after your 9–5.

If you leave work, go home and do nothing but watch Netflix, and you’re still in your twenties, imagine what your life is going to be like in your fifties.

Really boring. Get a hobby.

Vulnerability is sexy.

Being vulnerable is cool. Express who you are.

It’s the fastest way to attract the people you truly want to be around (and weed out the ones you don’t).

Most promises don’t pan out.

Anytime someone promises you anything, just chalk it up to extra credit if it happens.

Don’t count on it.

Learn to stand on your own two feet and make moves on your own.

Nothing happens unless you make it happen.

There is no, “Hey, one day, I’m going to catch my break. Something is just going to happen.”

Nah. Doesn’t work that way.


You either wake up every day banging down that door until it opens, or it stays shut forever. Up to you.

Reputation is everything.

Play the long game.

A lot of things seem like good ideas in the moment. If you get the sense it’s a poor choice in the long run, it probably is.

Pass on it. Not worth it.

Humility > confidence.

Confidence gets you noticed.

Humility brings people back again and again.

LISTEN: Do you have imposter syndrome? Post continues below. 

Reading is actually really important.

I get it, we all learn in different ways.

But if the last book you read was in high school, then you need to hit up a bookstore.

You aren’t old. You’re really, really young.

Graduating doesn’t make you “grown up.” It doesn’t make you “really old.”

You’re still a child. You just got out of the starting zone. Life JUST began for you.

Go do stuff.

Life is a mirror. Smile.

If you wake up every day angry, or depressed, or sad, and keep waiting for life to fix it for you, it’s never going to happen.

You get back what you offer the world.

woman on laptop smiling drinking coffee
Image via Getty.

It’s all about who you know.

It really is. Make the effort to expand your network, meet new people, and most of all, keep your word.

There are no mistakes. Only lessons.

And finally, trust the path. I know life seems harsh. That’s kind of the point.

This story was originally republished on Medium, and was republished here with full permission. 

You can visit Nicolas Cole's website, here

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