It’s finally happened: my twenties are over.
But I don’t buy into the attitude to turning thirty as a gradual descent into boringness and a dad bod. Mostly by accident, my own experience has been the opposite.
I have never been happier, healthier, or more inspired in my entire life, and something tells me we're just getting started. Some people say that the best years of your life are in college or in your twenties, but the way I see it, you didn’t go through another decade of living and learning just to get old. Everyone tells you you should get all this stuff done in your twenties, but guess what? At thirty, you’re still young, but more equipped than ever to move on to bigger and better things —- slower metabolism and reduced ability to party notwithstanding.
Here are a handful of ways I've learned to make 30>20.
1. Take risks. This is non-negotiable. Risk-taking isn’t the secret of success - it’s the price of entry. No risk = no chance to grow. No growth = getting old.
Besides, you're thirty. Puttering about in your twenties was as fun as it was necessary. But now, stop waiting to do the great things your twenty-year-old self promised to do. There's no perfect time or situation; the right time is the moment you muster the courage to do the scary thing you need to do. Is it to travel the world? Get a girlfriend? Put up a business? Eat healthy? Write a book? Start a family? Fix climate change? All of the above?
Then for God's sake, stop focusing on the reasons not to do it, and imagine everything you could gain from it. Come up with the best plan you can and see where it goes. Even if you don't get where you intended, you'll definitely be further along the way than when you started. And remember: failure isn't final, it's feedback.
(An important step in doing this: Stop listening to negative and insecure people, including family members, and don't be one yourself. Instead, spend time with the kinds of people you want to be like: Find your tribe, and let their awesomeness rub off on you.)
2. Keep learning. You may not be smarter than a fifth grader, but I'm willing to bet you're smarter than your twenty-year-old self. Keep building on that: learn a new language, a new sport, a new musical instrument, how to dunk a basketball, coding —- anything. Maybe you were a lanky gamer type who wants to do triathlons, or maybe you were a track star in college but now you want to be a theatre actor --- who cares, just do it, you're thirty! Google it and learn it.
Don’t waste all your free time just sitting in front of your TV or laptop. Be the person who suddenly speaks four languages and learned to dance the salsa while being better at sports than you ever were as a 20-year-old because you DGAF that you're older, you're just committed to awesomeness.
Remember though: no shortcuts. Take things one at a time, committing to it until you get good enough to move on to the next thing.
3. Exercise. I'm sick of hearing this idea that being fit, healthy, and injury-free is just for people under 25. That's the opinion of the unfit, unhealthy, and injury-prone. Develop the habit of, and addiction to, self-improvement. As someone else put it, don't get fixated on simply losing weight: exercise to be more, not to be less. While you're at it, why not try to build an indestructible body?
Besides, for me, movement is one of the greatest joys in life: whether clambering up a rock face, trekking for days in the Andes, sprinting with 20 kilos of luggage to catch the right train in San Francisco, chasing after a ball across a football pitch, backflipping off a cliff into perfect tropical waters, or dashing across cobblestone streets with a beautiful person in the pouring rain, you miss out on some of life's most exhilarating moments if getting off your couch is a physical chore.
And besides: it makes you look good too.
4. Ditch the petty judgment and insecurity of your school days. Let go of your old judgments and let people surprise you. I look at the people I went to college with, from the most dedicated students (guilty) to the most unapologetic slackers, and guess what? Most of us have turned into reasonably happy, productive adults. What's more, it seems to me that the slackers who turn it around and find their true calling and pursue it tend to be the ones who really love their lives.
5. Take control of your life by learning to quiet things down. Develop a meditation habit or some kind of mindfulness practice. It's the secret of some world's top performers. Think of it as cultivating a force field between you and what happens to you, so you can make good decisions instead of just reacting automatically to everything that happens.
6. Find yourself. You waste so much effort trying to be something you’re not, not realizing that when you find your path, the hard work of becoming excellent becomes a rewarding journey in itself. How do you find yourself?
- Travel. Even if you have to do it alone, it'll be the best decision you've ever made.
- Few people know this, but a huge part of processing the self-awareness I gained from travel was from mindful personality work, first with the MBTI (ENFP, ex-INFP), and second, much more deeply, with the Enneagram (Type 4 and loving it). Think of it as deciphering your internal code so you can hack yourself into greater happiness and success.
7. Find a mentor. This isn’t easy, but it is worth it. You could grow exponentially with the wisdom and care of someone further down the path you're already on.
The next best thing? Reading books and listening to podcasts by people you admire. My hands-down favorite is the stellar Tim Ferriss Show.
8. Learn to stop focusing on yourself. Didn't they use to call us the "Me Generation"? We do think too much about ourselves, and it makes us miserable: what you think one person or the world owes you; how people less deserving than you are richer and more successful; how everyone else on the road, the office, and the world is dumber and less useful to society than you. There’s plenty of stuff that’s wrong with the world, but if that’s all you ever see, you might be an asshole. Do something good for others and contribute to society. Whining is a waste of energy.
9. Become unapologetically passionate about what you do. In short, be a lover, not a hater. Don’t let the hipsters make you feel that passion is corny. People like that don't produce anything but snark. I used to worry so much about what haters and snarky people might say that it's kept me from just making stuff and putting it out there and creating meaningful connections with interesting people. If you look at all the best stuff out there now in the world, from Star Wars to Tesla and everything in between, these were made by people who had an unshakeable commitment to and laser focus on making their crazy dreams a reality.
10. Commit. The only true freedom, they say, is in commitment. To what? That’s up to you, but don’t do it because you’re too lazy or scared to explore. Do it because you've found something or someone you can't live without. By all indications, commitment over time --- showing up everyday, no questions asked --- is the way to unlock your Super Saiyan self.
I missed a ton because I wanted to commit to a strict list of ten things! I'm sure you have your own tips about making your thirties better than your twenties. I'd love to hear them in the comments! :)
If I had to add another one, it would be this:
11. Appreciate and understand your parents as people and take better care of them. Maybe you haven't always seen eye to eye, or maybe you've taken for granted how much sacrifice it's actually entailed supporting your dependent butt since you were a baby. Whatever the case, you start to get that they're people with as many vices and virtues as you. Besides, who knows if you still have another thirty years with them? Furthermore, you're at the age now, especially if you're a parent yourself, where you're realizing how right they are about a lot of things.