35 Lessons I Would Teach My 20-Something Self

This week I hit 35. Wow. 35?! 

Full disclosure – it reminds me of a time in my early 20s watching an episode of Sex & the City. Carrie turns 35 and everything she’s missing in her life hits her like a ton of bricks the moment no one shows up for her birthday dinner at Il Cantinori. 

I remember thinking I had SO much time between then and now, and that my life would be so much fuller than this fictional character’s when I was clearing the summit of the mid-30s mountain.

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But I think one of the gifts you gain with age is clarity in hindsight. Sure, I haven’t checked off every milestone I thought I would have by now, but my life also looks pretty damn great on paper. And more importantly, I’ve never been more comfortable as ME than I am today

So much of that comfort has been built on rocky foundations of pain, embarrassment, vulnerability, and heartbreak with the concrete of the surprising moments of growth carefully poured between the cracks and into the holes.

What does 35 look like with the binoculars of maturity hanging around my neck? Let me count the lessons in business and life I would have passed off to my 20-something self with her arms elbow deep in popcorn sitting on an IKEA sofa watching Sex & the City DVDs on a low resolution tube TV.

1.     Nothing will work out the way you plan it. 
I think there is some saying about God laughing about you making plans, but I’m not exactly a religious person. Sure, it’s important to set goals and have dreams, but be open to life’s little surprises, embrace them, and start down a new path when things get off track... because they will. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

2.     You WILL move on from him, and that heart WILL mend and find love again.
I can’t tell you how many relationships ended with me thinking I would never feel whole again. Until one day I realized that pain always feels the same... and never sticks around too long. Your heart will always mend. You will always move on.You will feel that way about someone else again even if you felt that person was "different." So don’t waste too much time trying to fix something that probably broke for a reason.

3.     Fear and uncertainty will keep you (and 99.9% of people) from living the life you really want. 
Now that I feel "enlightened" to this idea of fear (often showing up in the form of inaction or excuses) holds most of us back from those things we really want but that we feel are unattainable. I know that the life I never thought possible actually is… and it’s a lot easier to get than you would expect.

4.     Ugly words can sometimes be last words, so choose them carefully.
This is one of those awful lessons that I don’t want anyone else to learn the hard way. Sometimes you say things to someone you love that you don’t mean because you want to wake them up, hurt them like they hurt you, or even just help them to be better people. Select those words carefully because they could be your last.

5.     People will treat you the way you allow them to.
People most often show you or tell you exactly who they are. Listen. Because when they begin treating you poorly, you aren’t a victim. You are an actively participating party. Ask yourself why you think you deserve to be treated that way, and then kick those people to the curb.

6.     You are never the victim in your life, you are the victor.
If you think life is just happening to you and anything bad that comes along has claimed you as a victim? Well, I hate to break it to you – but your life will always be victimizing you. As soon as you realize you are 100% in control of the outcome of your life (aside from awful things like cancer and tragic death), you’ll start having the experiences you thought were reserved for more deserving people.

7.     What people say about you or to you says more about them than you.
People are more caught up in themselves than you. If someone is saying ugly things to you, they are likely struggling with something themselves that is triggered by something they see in you. Respond sympathetically, not irrationally. (This is a lesson I still work on EVERY. FREAKIN. DAY.)

8.     You’re wasting your life – one Netflix show at a time.
There are so many conversations to be had, museums to be visited and books to be read. If your only source of learning can be controlled with a remote, you will never grow.

9.     You have all the resources you’ll ever need to be anything you want to be.
We live in a time like no other. I've built multiple six-figure businesses with only things I learned on the internet. Think about it, and stop making excuses for why it's so hard.

10.  No one is paying attention to you, so do whatever the hell you want.
This lesson is most evident to me when I’m at the gym. You could fall on your face, knock yourself out with a dumbbell, and toot on the way down and most people would still be flexing their muscles in front of the mirror. So, stop worrying about "what other people will think." NO ONE CARES.

11. Wear sunscreen.
No one really worries about how tan they are when they get skin cancer. Your life is more valuable than how good you look in a white romper. Go get a spray tan, girl. OR... better yet, embrace that beautiful light skin like you're Nicole Kidman.

12.  NOTHING is scary the second time.
When I traveled the world alone, do you think I never had a scary moment? No way! But the first time I nervously learned a city’s subway system – the second time wasn’t scary at all. The first time I dined alone at a restaurant looked a lot different from the 60th time. You get it. If it’s scary, do it. Next time it won’t be. Rinse and repeat for the rest of your life.

13.  You’ll never need Algebra, or your college degree.
‘Nuff said. Skip that class and go to a personal development conference, or take a psychology or philosophy course. While college teaches lots of valuable lessons in relationships, new experiences and sticking to a goal – you won’t really use that piece of paper outside of a job search.

14.  The second you find success, people will wait in line to feed off your energy.
The people that are always looking for short cuts in life can sniff out a little success or hard work in others like a hound dog on hunting day. They'll quickly come out of the woodwork to take something from you - even if it's just your time and energy (which are some of your greatest resources). Learn to recognize these people and protect yourself from them. It's okay to not hang out with certain people. It's okay to say NO to giving free advice or helping people that you know are helpless if that advice will fall on deaf ears.

15.  GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE.
DO NOT. I repeat… DO NOT… stay in the place that is the most comfortable to you. It’s likely the town you grew up in or the country you’ve never left. Comfort is the devil… it prevents growth. Get out. Stay out. Experience other people and new cultures. Eat food that you aren’t used to. You may end up a completely different person than you thought you were given the opportunity to see life differently from the way it has always been presented to you.

16.  You’re a lot more interesting when you don’t do what everyone else does.
Who the hell wants to be like everyone else? It’s boring. 

17.  It’s okay, and often necessary, to "break up" with friends.
Protect your environment from toxic people, people who don’t get you, people who don’t support you, people who live in the past, people who are afraid of new things, and people who keep you at their level when you want to grow and evolve. You get the point. It’s okay to break up with friends that don’t push you to be better. YOU ARE THE PEOPLE YOU SPEND TIME WITH. Look around - do you want your future to look like the future of the people you're surrounded by?

18.  If ANY activity can be simultaneously performed while scrolling on your iPhone, it isn't worth your time.
Television shows (that we often watch with phone-in-hand) are an escape from reality while books create new realities. Slowly spinning the wheels of a stationary bike while watching Instagram stories won't shape your body like a hardcore spinning class or mountain bike session. If you're sitting at a dinner with a group of friends and you're all on your phones, you might as well have stayed home.

19.  Take interest in your loved ones. You have a lot to learn from them, and they won’t be here forever.
When’s the last time you asked your grandparents about the war? Or how they met? Or what success means to them? They likely have more wisdom in their pinky finger than you do in your whole body.


20.  If anyone else has ever done something you want to do, you can do it too.
It’s literally PROOF that your dreams are possible. Stop telling yourself you’re less than, or that they have more opportunity than you. There will always be someone doing something you want to do with way less talent and resources than you.

21.  Be more aggressive when it comes to what you want – and don’t be afraid to get a NO.
The worst that can happen is getting a NO… the best thing that can happen is almost impossible to even predict. It’s endless in its opportunity.

22.  Save money for a rainy day, but if you must spend it – spend it on experiences.
You won’t care about that pair of shoes in a year, maybe even six months. You’ll remember that trip decades from now.

23.  Surround yourself with people who are wildly different from you.
How do you expect to know who you are when you’re surrounded only by people like you? Perhaps you've merely been shaped by the people you spend time with and you don't know yourself at all? Get to know people with different viewpoints and perspectives – it may just introduce you to a part of yourself you didn’t know before.

24.  Don’t eat shit. Don’t lather shit on your body. Question if those pills are full of shit… and if your doctors are full of shit. 
Eat healthy, whole and organic food when you can. Read the labels of anything you’re putting on your skin or in your mouth. (Good rule of thumb - if you can't pronounce it, don't purchase it.) Question if you need those medications, try to heal from within, and get second opinions when a doctor's plan for you feels wrong. So much of what we put in and on our bodies is making us sick. Wake up and educate yourself, because the only one losing in this scenario is you.

25.  Spend more time alone, you do your best thinking then.
If you can embrace being alone instead of being lonely, you’ll be surprised what good company you are and what you learn about yourself. It's a necessary "reset" mechanism that so many of ignore out of fear of loneliness.

26.  It’s okay to act like you’re 25 indefinitely. Maturity doesn’t mean giving up your child-like spirit. 
These are my favorite kind of people. They usually live the hell outta their lives.

27.  Your parents, teachers, doctors, bosses... anyone in a position of authority... doesn't know everything. They sometimes don't know what's best for you. They also make mistakes.
This is a harsh reality we learn as we age. At some point your parents will no longer have the answers. You must rely on finding them yourself or finding other people that have them. 

28.  Most people live like they’ll live forever – live your life as if it’s perpetually your last year on earth. How would you spend it?
We waste our lives preparing for tomorrow. So many days are spent "planning" for what we want to do when we get that raise, finally retire or get that rocking body we aren't sure we'll ever have. Fuck it. Do it now or you may never do it.

29.  The thing stressing you out right this moment probably won’t matter three months or even three days from now. 
Every time you’re stressing about something, ask yourself – "will this matter in a year?" If not, move on quickly.

30.  If someone isn’t prioritizing you, you aren’t a priority to them. Let them go.
People that want you in their lives will keep you in their lives, and take the necessary steps to assure they don't piss you off or lose you. It’s black and white. Stop interpreting texts or making excuses for people that aren’t thinking about you or your feelings. It's all bull shit to protect your ego... and it's a waste of energy that could be spent on making another area of your life better than this crap.

31.  Every day you’ll get hints of what you should be doing with your life – don’t ignore them.
What continually pops into your head when you’re relaxed and happy? What activities do you get lost in that almost make time stop? What’s missing? Answer the call – you know you’ve heard it time and time again. What would you do if you had no fear or you knew you couldn't fail?

32.  No matter their authority, position, rank, class or role in your life – you don’t deserve to be treated like a second-class citizen. Stand up for yourself and assume the consequences… it will serve you better in the long run. 
It’s okay to tell a boss he’s being an ass hole. It’s ABSOLUTELY okay to call out someone’s abuse or bad behavior. You’ll have bigger consequences down the road than a lost job or an angry ex friend or lover if you stop standing up for yourself.

33.  Spending time worrying about things that have happened or will happen is a giant waste of time and energy. Imagine if you took that time and redistributed it to projects that will move your life forward.
STOP REPLAYING THE PAST IN YOUR MIND. (I am OH-SO-GUILTY of this and work at it constantly). Immediately cease coming up with arguments for fights that will never happen. Remind yourself any time you feel anxiety to live for the next 10 minutes only… be present in the moment and you’ll have nothing to be anxious about.

34.  People rarely change – unless THEY really want to.
NEVER NEVER NEVER bank on people in your life changing. They are who they are today. If they decide to change later, that is a decision they will make for themselves and you can reevaluate having them in your life at that point.

35.  You are capable of so much more than you even imagine you can do… and you’re in total control of what happens next.
Incredible things happen when you realize you are in control of your own life, and that it isn’t "happening" to you. You’re just a few steps away from anything you want – you just have to trust your gut and your feet.


Anna Grymes