This is a guest post by Mark Braivo of Vigor & Spirit.
By the time you leave high school, or even college, you’ve spent your entire life being told what to do. Everything you’ve done up to that point is to fit in or follow some set of rules that were put in place by your parents, your culture, or your country.
It’s no wonder guys find this side of the internet and start looking for “actionable advice.” They are looking for more rules to follow, for more people to tell them what to do. They struggle to make independent decisions and create their own structure and routine, they want someone else to do it for them.
The single most important thing a man can do in his 20s is to break this cycle of dependence on outside rules and guidance. Most men have been indoctrinated by the time they reach their early 20s and never break free. By their 4oth birthday they are fat, lazy and have given up on life. They simply exist, spending their free time drinking light beer and watching football for 12 hours every Sunday.
Any guy who reaches that point will tell you they wish they could do their 20s over again. Just about every man I’ve ever spoken to wishes he’d done things differently in his 20s.
Well, here’s your chance to break that cycle. I am going to give a few secrets that will transform your 20s into the foundation for an awesome life for decades to come, you only need to listen.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR 20s
#1: STOP READING, START DOING
This may seem counter-intuitive, but stop relying on actionable advice (except for the advice here, of course). This will take time to overcome, so I will outline below the main things to keep in mind as you navigate your 20s, but the underlying goal is to shed this need to be told what to do – to quit being a sheep.
This requires a mindset shift. Mine occurred around 33, and that seems to be a common age for men to really become aware. If you can do it earlier then you are way ahead of the curve.
#2: DON’T GET MARRIED TOO YOUNG
There are plenty of good reasons to get married and have children at a young age. I encourage guys to give it some consideration. That being said, the downside is vast if you make a poor decision.
I don’t see any reason a man should get married before 25, the only exception being those that are marrying within the structure of a rigid religious community with full support form both families. This is not the majority of men’s situations.
More than likely you (and her) are entering the world somewhat listless without strong moral guidance from your upbringing, this is the end result of our secular culture.
No worries, you can create your own base, but this will take time, there is no hurry.
Having a few kids then getting divorced will set you back tremendously in life. It is best to wait for marriage until you have a strong base of confidence and values from which to base your life.
#3: DON’T GET AN STD
This goes without saying, but there are STDs out there that can impact your future wife’s ability to have a healthy child. You don’t want to risk that, or risk losing a good woman because you banged some questionable bar skank. Use your head (the big one) here and stay safe.
#4: STAY OUT OF DEBT
Debt is slavery, period. Many of you reading this probably have student loan debt because you followed the “rules” and got a degree that you are finding to be worthless. Don’t make the problem worse by getting into more debt.
The most reasonable (and yeah, boring) advice is to live within your means. This is a simple virtue that reaps great rewards. Never spend more than you earn and you will have a great burden lifted from your shoulders.
Take it from old guys like me who are chained to a cubicle for a couple of decades paying off debts, this is not the path to follow. Money is freedom, debt is slavery.
#5: DON’T GET FAT
Most guys enter their 20s in great shape from high school sports and youthful testosterone. Most exit their 20s with a beer gut. Don’t be that guy.
You don’t have to be jacked and spend 10 hours a week at the gym (you can if you want, but I can think of better things to do). You do, however, want to stay fit, strong, and healthy. Don’t eat junk, don’t get bogged down in chronic cardio and running marathons (big mistake I made at 20). Lift heavy weights a few times a week and eat a quality diet of whole foods. Don’t overthink it, and don’t get fat.
#6: LAY OFF THE ALCOHOL
A near universal regret among us older (heh, I’m only 36) guys is the time wasted in bars. I spend much of my early twenties spending at least 2-3 nights a week wasting time and money at shady bars. A complete waste. Not to mention the next day was often a waste due to a hangover. More than half of my time was spent either drunk or recovering from drinking.
I can’t imagine where I’d be in my career if I’d spent that time reading and sleeping instead of drinking.
#7: DO EVERYTHING WELL
You may not know what you want to do with the rest of your life, hell I still don’t, but that doesn’t mean you should mail it in. Focus on whatever it is you are doing right now, and do it well.
Quality work pays off, even if you’re flipping burgers. Be the best burger flipper there ever was. Trust me, opportunities come from doing good work, people will notice. I lost at least 5 years of advancement in my career because I spend my early years doing only mediocre work while I daydreamed about getting rich, idiot.
Mastery by Robert Greene is a must-read for any man in his 20s. Focus on quality.
Your life will look dramatically different at 40 than you ever imagined it when you were 20.
I used to think 30 was old, heh. Now I realize that life really doesn’t even get started until 30, just make sure you don’t have to spend your 30s making up for your mistakes from your 20s.
A man’s peak is somewhere in his late 30s and the decline is barely noticeable for years afterward. Set the stage for success in your 30s by maximizing your 20s, you won’t regret it.
Mark blogs at Vigor & Spirit (his recent site redesign done by yours truly!) and you can find him on Twitter @MBraivo.
Interesting take on why we should do less reading and more doing. Spot on, but I’d emphasize the importance of quality reading.
Is the reading going to help you? Will it allow you to think more critically?
Your advice is needed though. I think Quintus Curtius mentioned the importance of boldness and how we need to get out there and just do it. Take the leap.
Regarding age I’m 27 and I already feel old. Got the wife and now a kid on the way so I end up focusing alot more on game in a different way. (You’d be surprised how important marriage game is)
Marriage game is incredibly important. That is a great point. It is what keeps families together and happy. Congrats on the pending arrival!
Quality reading is very important. I definitely think the point Mark was making was to stop reading too much on the internet. Reading books is almost never a losing proposition.
I wasted time a ton of time reading shitty business books in my early 20s. Went off amazon reviews, didn’t know any better. Everything sounded good at that point. I didn’t know how to filter BS information from bad at that point. I think a good rule on book selection when you are young – the older the better. As you get older your BS-detection skills get better to know if an author is full of shit. If I had it to do-over I would have drastically reduced the number of books to the the few classics and read them 2x minimum.
Bravio – excellent article, great job.
Absolutely. Dirty little secret: Amazon sells to the masses. Would you trust the masses to give you life advice? Same applies to book recommendations.