A 22nd Birthday Reflection

April 23rd, 2019

I recently turned 22. You could say I had a mini quarter-life crisis. Most people retire at about age 60. That would put me at a third of the way through my career. It's also not news that most people lay the foundations of their career in their 20s and early 30s, leading to an average peak in salary in their 40s.

As Meg Jay, Ph.D., author of the Defining Decade says, "Eighty percent of life's most defining moments take place by age thirty-five. Two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens in the first ten years of a career."

This led me to think about what I am currently doing with my life and what I want to do with my 20s. How do I want to live my 20s? How do I want to live my life to minimize regret? I don't want to be in my 30s and have nothing to show for my 20s. Especially since I only have one life. I should use my time as wisely as I can. As depressing as it sounds, I'm only going to get to live through my 20s once. And I'm already a fifth of my way through them.

What changes can I make to my current way of living to minimize future regret? I came up with the following changes to make the best use of my time on Earth by using the following thought framework.

"If I turned 30 today, what activities would I regret doing the most in my 20s?"

  1. Wasting time on Reddit. As I did with gaming, Snapchat, and Instagram, it's time that I go cold-turkey on Reddit and stop using Reddit once and for all. If there was one thing that I would regret doing in my 20s, it would be wasting my time on Reddit. LeechBlock NG, a Firefox add-on and privacy restrictions on my iPhone will help me get through the first few weeks of not using Reddit.

  2. Like 1., stop wasting time on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the new Facebook for many people including myself. Though I only spend a few minutes on it each day, those minutes add up. I'd much rather be working on something tangible than caring about what other people are up to. No successful person achieves success by updating their LinkedIn profile or scrolling through their news feed. They achieve success by working hard at whatever they are working on.

  3. Take risks. When I'm in my 30s and 40s, I may be married and have kids. I won't have the time to take large career risks such as starting a company or joining an early-stage startup. If I don't try to start my own company in my 20s, I know it will be the biggest regret of my life. I am full of energy, time, and vigor right now. I should take advantage of it. From now on, I will be taking more career risks.

It’s often easier to take risks early in your career; you don’t have much to lose, and you potentially have a lot to gain. Once you’ve gotten yourself to a point where you have your basic obligations covered you should try to make it easy to take risks. Look for small bets you can make where you lose 1x if you’re wrong but make 100x if it works. Then make a bigger bet in that direction. - Sam Altman, chairman of YCombinator and co-chairman of OpenAI

If there is one thing that I gained from reflecting on my current state, it is to live each moment with purpose.