I basically spent my entire life until the age of 25 or so consuming massive amounts of alcohol partying in clubs every single weekend. I barely remember what happened those nights. I'm not necessarily proud of it and it still happens from time to time.
Until the age of 28 I barely ever read any books. I maybe read a total of 10 books up to that point. I didn't read any of the classics. My general knowledge was and still is frighteningly limited. I only know about the things I care about.
I don't know if I missed out on any important things. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't. I don't know. Did it make me smarter or did it help me to land a great job? Not necessarily. Did I enjoy it? You bet! And to me that's what youth is all about. At least in rich countries..
It's about finding yourself. It's about experimenting. About experiencing many different things. It's about traveling. About broadening your horizon. And yes, I am convinced that going out, drinking and living your life without knowing what to do next, sort of broadens your horizon.
Only by doing things and experimenting will you know how important (or as a matter of fact how unimportant) all of these things are.
If you've never done all of these things, you might live a life full of regrets. At one point you'll want to experience all of the things you didn't do during your youth. That's what they call midlife crisis. Or maybe you won't. I don't know you.
Doing stupid things, making mistakes, working a job you don't like, wasting money on alcohol, these are all things that will prepare you for what's to come next. Or they won't. At least you've done all of this and you know for sure where all of this gets you in life.
Most of us only learn through experience. By burning our fingers on the hot plate. And not by reading books. Even though books are a great add on to experience because they help us to see things more clearly. To put the things we experienced into perspective.
And if the only thing doing this stuff teaches us is that your body now takes almost two days to recover after a heavy night of drinking (once you're past the age of 25) that's already quite a valuable lesson. Because you might stop doing it all along. You stop doing the stupid stuff. And you focus on what really matters.
If there's one thing I learned having done all of these things is that I know I won't be missing out on anything. I've done it many times already. And once I get a bit older, I don't have to ask myself the “what if” question over and over again.
I already did it. And that's quite a soothing feeling. Now I can focus on the things that really matter. That are really important in life. Like having an impact, changing the world, inspiring other people to do the same and what not.
The reason why I'm writing all of this is because I see and meet more and more young people that seem to worry about how to live a perfect life. A life that they can read about on every freaking website. A life they see on every freaking TV channel. A super successful life. A motivational life. An inspiring life.
One of the most asked questions on Quora is about how to not waste your life in your twenties. It comes in all shapes and colors. All of these questions circle around the fear of the future and potentially wasting your life. Here are a few of them I read and answered recently. Some of the answers have 100k+ views.
What could a 20-year-old do to potentially improve their quality of life further down the line?
At age 25, would you pursue a good paying corporate job that makes you unhappy or a hobby that makes you happy but has no guarantee to pay the bills?
What are the most difficult and useful things people have to learn in their 20s?
And many more.
Just the other day a 17 year old kid wrote me about mentorship, being different and how to not waste your life. Honestly speaking, I have no clue. When I was 17 years old I didn't even know what a mentor was.
All I did back then was trying to make sure that my haircut looked good and that girls liked me. And that we had enough booze at my friend's place. Maybe I did some more. But that's the only stuff I remember.
Sure, all of this might only apply to developed countries. I have no clue how all of this might look like in developing countries.
I thought about the message that guy sent me for quite a while. And I asked myself why so many kids these days are afraid to waste their lives. Why they think so much about happiness, instead of just living a life and figuring it out by doing all sorts of things.
Why do so many youngsters feel the pressure to live a perfect life?
And I guess it's because you see and hear so many stories about success. About getting rich. About changing the world. About having an impact. And you know what. This is all BS. It leaves out a very important part.
It leaves out the part where they should tell you that all you see, read and hear about is someone else's life. And not yours.
I strongly believe that we all have a story deep down inside of us that's waiting to unfold in front of everybody. In front of the entire world. A story that might change people's lives. But the way to unfold it is not by trying to copy someone else's life. It's by living your own life. By figuring yourself out first.
Some of us will have to go through a period of doing many stupid things, of making many mistakes (like I did) until our story unfolds and we can change people's lives, whereas others might get it right the first time, whatever that might be.
And you know what? That's totally ok.
I feel that all of these stories, blogs, books, videos and all this other BS only confuses us. That it unconsciously manipulates us. That it confuses and manipulates us into living someone else's life. Into changing our story. We see people living the life and all of a sudden it feels like our life sucks.
This freaks us out, makes us feel upset and feel like a failure. Then we fall into a deep hole, do even less and we stop to focus on the things that really matter. Comparing our lives to the lives we see on TV will only make us feel bad.
And you know what I told this 17 year old fella?
I told him that he should read more books. That books are the best mentors.
But you know what? That's all BS for a 17 year old. That' doesn't help a 17 year old kid. It might help someone in their late twenties or thirties or forties or maybe even fifties. But it clearly doesn't help a 17 year old.
I though about it once again and here's the only thing that really helps a 17 year old kid. Here's the one thing I should have told him:
Fuck all of this YouTube and TEDx shit. Get drunk. Pass out. Go crazy. Break people's hearts. Get your heart broken. Make mistakes. Fail. Give up. Get back up. Learn. Improve. Never stop. Live your life to the fullest.
That's the only way to really figure yourself out..