In my early 20s, I believed that my knowledge of current events was an important measure of my intelligence or that it would help lead me to future success. I would ensure I read the morning newspaper, watched the news on TV, and stayed on top of sports scores and league standings. Being in tune with current events helped me hold conversation around the water cooler, but I have decided that most of the time I spent reading and watching the news was a waste of time.
Instead of the news, I much prefer reading a monthly magazine like The Economist and to pursue focused ‘research readings’ and blogs. In other words, if there is a financial, political, or lifestyle topic I believe truly matters to my life or my contribution to society, I will put in the time and effort to understand it well. Fleeting events may be interesting to hear about from time to time, but I no longer proactively search for news and it has freed up a lot of time for other activities.
When I have time to burn on a bus or train, I love reading other people’s blogs as they often have interesting stories, advice, or insights. Most blogs I read are also very upbeat and inspirational and I find that to be a much more positive influence on my life than the doom and gloom which usually gets reported in the news.
The saddest occurrence of my 20s was the introduction and popularity of reality TV and mobile electronics. I will admit that I have been sucked into both from time to time, and although I am pretty good about avoiding both, I want to learn to cut them from my life so I can live in real time.
Why watch a show about car racing when I can go to the track and race cars myself? Why watch a show about mountain survival when I can take a survival course in the mountains in person? Auction Wars? Seriously?
I have also learned to avoid social gatherings with smart phone addicted people. Nothing frustrates me more than planning a social event only to meet up and have everyone spend the evening posting on Facebook or chatting with people about the social experience they are supposedly enjoying.
A game I play to avoid subconscious smartphone use is to force everyone to put their phones on the table and the first person to check their phone picks up the tab. Money is always a good motivator!
Do you ever wish you could have experienced the 60s? I do. I also wish I could have experienced the first big full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan, seen Christchurch before the earthquakes, toured Crimea before it became Russian, and visited a number of other travel destinations before they became tourist destinations.
Unfortunately, it seems like most travel destinations get worse over time rather than better. As destinations become popular there is more development, more tourists, less culture, and higher costs. I have greatly regretted putting off certain travels.
I heard about how beautiful Croatia was for five years before I finally got there and it was very clear it had developed immensely over that period. I greatly regret missing that sweet spot and want to keep traveling as much as I can while I am young to see places before they change for the worse. After all, I can return when I am older but not when I am younger.
When I rented out my house, I made the mistake of renting to people I would have considered friends. They were not close friends, but I certainly considered them to be more than acquaintances.
Because I considered my tenants to be friends, I always gave them the benefit of the doubt and in return I received a broken window, holes in walls, and stolen possessions out of storage. It was a horrible and costly lesson to be learned, but I am happy I learned it in my 20s rather than when I was preparing for retirement.
I am constantly asked if I am interested in investing in a friend’s start-up or company and even if I think it is a great idea or investment opportunity, I simply say no. Business and emotion should not be mixed. Unfortunately, I had to learn that lesson the hard way.
A goal for most people in their 20s is to buy their first place. Besides the problems I had with renting my house, I made a few mistakes in purchasing it. My main mistake was that I based my home purchase decision on financial criteria more than lifestyle considerations. I wanted a fixer-upper (so I could do my own renovations and increase resale value) in an up-and-coming inner-city neighbourhood. I also decided that I preferred a house to a condo apartment because with all of the vertical construction occurring in Calgary at the time, I was fearful condo apartment prices would go down whereas house values were more likely to increase as inner-city lots gained demand.
If I were to purchase a place now, I would choose a neighbourhood based on the commute to work and proximity to friends, rather than for the future land value. I would also consider renting in the neighbourhood for 6-12 months to ensure I liked it before committing to a purchase. Finally, I would choose something smaller and easier to maintain as a bachelor. A single family home proved to be far too time consuming to maintain for a single person and I was too busy getting outside to take advantage of the extra square footage.
In my case, not only did I decide I did not like maintaining a house in my neighbourhood but also that I no longer liked living in my city of Calgary. I would have saved myself a lot of time, hassle, and money had I spent a year or two renting prior to buying. Although my financial predictions of the market were generally correct, my ‘lifestyle return’ would have been much better if I had just rented or bought a smaller condo close to work and where my friends lived.
Life is yours to live. I have described 20 things that I have learned from my 20s, but they may be very different things from what you learn (or learned for my older readers). People have different callings in life and it is up to each individual to fulfill their own dreams and desires. I hope my retrospective will help others learn from my mistakes and make the most of their own lives.