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20 things 30-year-olds should remember

Daryl Paranada Jul 30, 2013

Perhaps you’ve read this Forbes article, “20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get,” which is full of well-intentioned advice from a 34-year-old.  There’s some good stuff in there that 20-somethings, like myself, would be wise to follow. Things like, “Time is not a limitless commodity,” and “Don’t wait to be told what to do.”

Advice, really, that people of all generations could use.

But then there are things I don’t agree with, like “We’re more productive in the morning.”

Yes, for some people mornings are a time of great efficiency. But for myself, late evenings in the workplace spur creativity and innovation.

So, inspired by all the advice, here’s a list, from the perspective of a 20-something-year-old, of 20 things that 30-year-olds (whose memories may be slipping in their old age) should remember.

1. You need to change your concept of “old”
Once upon a time you might have thought 30 was old. It’s not. Neither is 40. Your 30s are not do or die. If you’re not receiving a Social Security check, buck up and celebrate your youth — or however much of it you have left.

2. Don’t settle
People in their 30s face new financial realities and feel the pressure of settling down — marrying Mr. or Mrs. Good Enough, having a child, buying a home. But settling = selling yourself short. When you settle for one thing, that mentality pervades into other aspects of your life.  

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously
Yes, you have responsibilities. You can’t be “entitled and lazy,” to quote Time magazine on the millennial generation. But you don’t have to be at the office at 6 a.m. every day working, working, working. Achieving a good work/life balance is important in your 30s — just as it is in your 20s. And yes, you can and should have fun.

4. Don’t say, “easy for you to say”
Are you thinking that right now? The experiences between 20- and 30-year-olds are inherently different (for instance, many millennials are underemployed and face more severe student debt than previous generations). But don’t generalize and say millennials are all narcissistic and lazy. There are 20-year-olds wise beyond their years with a wide variety of experiences just as there are 20-year-olds who are, indeed, entitled.

5. Be helpful
People in their 20s need guidance — and jobs (youth unemployment is a big problem) — so instead of dismissing them or shaking your head or offering condescending advice, help them. You were 20 once, too.

6. Be open to help
Logically, a 30-year-old should be more experienced and wise about things a 20-year-old isn’t — work-related issues, relationships, etc. Share that knowledge. But also get help where you can, and be mindful of where you need help. There might be a social media or technology expert — who is, gasp!, in their 20s — sitting next to you that can give you advice, too. There’s no shame in that.

7. Be humble
Yes, 20-somethings make a lot of mistakes. So do 30-somethings, 40-somethings, 50-somethings, and so on. Learning is a life-long process. Dishing out advice laced with condescension isn’t all that helpful. Remember, you were 20 once. (Read: Looking to the financial future in your 50s

8. Don’t be afraid of technology
You may be getting older, but you’re not a recluse. Technology can benefit your life if you use it wisely. So keep up-to-date on what’s out there — new social media platforms, new devices, new ways to explore the world. The technical chops you’re told to build in your 20s should continue well into your 30s and beyond. (Read: When will all the really, really cool technology actually get here?)

9. Go try something that scares you a little
Look, no one is saying to travel the world hitchhiking. But people in their 20s are more willing to try new things, go to different places.  So, just keep an open mind. It’s still OK to be experimental.

10. Continue to pursue your passions
At 20 you had time to chase your dreams, write a book, travel the world. You still do at 30. The things that make you happy as a budding 20-something will still bring you joy in your 30s.

11. Remember to get enough sleep
True, you could sleep in more when you were in your 20s. In your 30s you might have a kid, responsibilities to attend to, work-related engagements. But being older — and having more responsibilities — is not an open invitation to get less sleep. (Read: How getting a full night’s sleep is good for business)

12. It’s OK to splurge on yourself
Yes, you have a family, a mortgage, loans to pay off. No one is saying to buy a new car or head off to Tahiti for two months. But a little something for yourself — as long as it isn’t financially reckless — isn’t going to hurt.
13. Spontaneity is a good thing
Having a plan, a budget, and being organized is important at any age. But it’s equally important to not get stuck in a rigid, formulaic schedule that leaves little room for improvisation or spontaneity. Being spontaneous — even once in a while — might surprise you.

14. Don’t be afraid to take risks
Yes, making mistakes was more acceptable when you were younger. But hopefully you’ve learned from those mistakes, have gotten more experience, and are still willing to take risks.

15. Be flexible
It seems like there’s more aversion to change when you become older. But change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Be open to changing roles at work. Don’t rule out new jobs. And remember it’s OK to switch jobs, too.

16. Keep your old friends
Doesn’t it seem like the older you get, the harder it is to keep in touch with your old friends? Don’t lose the people you bond with in you 20s, they’ll keep you grounded. (Read: How your friends affect your job prospects)

17. Make new friends
It seems like when you’re in your 30s you stick to the same social circles. People you know at work, from the past, people at school. There isn’t much of an effort to expand beyond the well-built social circle. It’s important to find ways to meet new people and expand your circle of friends, and in turn your networking capabilities.

18. It’s OK to still feel awkward
Turning 30 doesn’t automatically make you wise or all-knowing. So there’s no need to pretend that you’ve got it all figured out. There are plenty of awkward 30-year-olds out there.

19. Value your experience
In your 20s, you may have come up with a checklist of things you wanted to accomplish by the time you were 30. Reality check: Some or many of those things haven’t been accomplished. But you do have experience to bring to the table — that a 20 year old doesn’t — and you should value that. Many of today’s youth are disconnected —  they’re not in school and they don’t have jobs. So share your valuable experiences.

20. Remember you were 20, too
Just cause it can’t be said enough.

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