10 things every 20-something-year old should know how to do

high fiving friends

This list was intended for people in their 20’s of all backgrounds/professions/motivations.

If you have mastered around half of this list, then stop stressing; you’re doing fine and your future looks bright. If you have mastered all of this list already, see #3.

1. Take a compliment.

For many people, accepting positive comments from others can sometimes be an uncomfortable or awkward experience. What should be a happy experience can be surprisingly unnatural. Our minds are speckled with feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness of such praise. Learning to take a compliment is an important step not only for yourself but for those around you. Your discomfort or awkwardness when complimented can flow back to the person giving you props, making them feel uncomfortable as well.

What to stop:

  • Putting yourself down.
  • Making it uncomfortable for the other person by denying their claims.
  • Deflecting the positive attention to others.
  • Assuming the other person doesn’t truly mean it.
  • Attributing it to luck. You probably wouldn’t do this with your failures, why do it with your victories?

What to do:

  • Recognise your accomplishments and contribution.
  • Reciprocate the compliment with a simple thank you. Do not ramble, as it is tantamount to deflecting the compliment.
  • Be appreciative and gracious. It isn’t always easy for someone to give a compliment. So when they do, accept it easily and gracefully. Pay a compliment back, if merited.

2. Make time for reading.

Whether you read fiction or non-fiction, it will enrich you and feed your imagination.

  • Read first thing before bed. Works better than chamomile tea. After you need to re-read the same paragraph >4 times to comprehend the words or when the book falls on your face, it’s time to snooze.
  • Read during your commute on the bus/train/plane. An easy and relaxing way to squeeze 30+ minutes of reading into your day and make public transport more interesting. If you drive or walk to work, consider audiobooks.
  • Save online articles for later. I recommend using Pocket.
  • Set goals. Aim to read a number of books for the month or year.

3. Admit your mistakes.

At least one thing has probably been your fault before — admit it. Admitting our mistakes can be truly difficult, especially when we are trying to show somebody how great we can be. But being strong and letting others know when you are wrong or have messed up will ultimately pay off.

  • Vulnerability strengthens you as a person and even your team (or family/friends/workmates).
  • When we show awareness of our wrongdoings and admit to it, those around us have more respect for us, and they will be more likely to have our back when we need it.
  • They are also less likely to give you a hard time in the future.
  • Being open about mistakes establishes a culture of trust.
  • And I know it’s annoying when everyone says it, but making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn.

4. Be confident in decision making.

  • Don’t let stress get the better of you. No one wants to feel stressed, so some tend to either rush decisions without thinking them through, or they completely avoid making a decision at all. If the decision is not urgent, a sleep on it can sometimes help you wake with a refreshed and clear mind. If it is urgent, make a decision quickly and with confidence — it was urgent, you had to do something.
  • Weigh up the good and the bad. If there are a lot of factors to consider about a situation, consider creating a pros and cons list, including any potential gains and risks.
  • Seek advice from the experienced. If you really are not feeling confident about the situation, consider speaking with experienced people whom you trust about the decision.
  • Narrow down the decision pool to as few choices as possible.Studies show that we are more dissatisfied with the outcome when we are offered a greater number of choices.
  • Build multiple, simultaneous alternatives if possible. If you are having trouble making a decision but are able to chose more than one option, run alternatives simultaneously. This is like conducting a test and allows you do comparative analysis on the results of both decisions. It adds a fallback position and bolsters confidence that you have considered alternatives.

5. Basic accounting

If you are doing business, then you need to know the basic accounting principles. They are the language of business. Every entrepreneur, manager or student needs to at least understand the basics i.e. these things below. If you can, take the time to learn what each of the items (e.g. assets, operating cash flows, etc) include and the relationships between financial statements. Understanding basic accounting and knowing how to analyse financial statements are crucial for those considering investment in a business; there are telltale signs of strong performance or impending doom.

Types of financial statements

Income statements — this document outlines:

  • Income
  • Expense.

Balance sheet — this document outlines:

  • Assets
  • Liabilities

Cash-flow statement — this document explains the change in cash from one period to the next period. It includes:

  • Operating cash flows
  • Investing cash flows
  • Financing cash flows

6. Make at least one awesome meal, and one awesome dessert… and one awesome cocktail. No, not Redbull and vodka.

  • If you aren’t a great cook, it’s ok. Just master at least one meal, dessert and drink. Whip up these three treats when you have to host a dinner or gathering for some important people or your new friends. People get waaaay too impressed by food.
  • It will take the stress out of organising and catering for the gathering and you’ll feel confident in what you present. It’s less worrisome than using a mysterious recipe you found online.

7. Know how the internet works.

We’re always skimming, so focused on doing that we don’t take the time to deeply understand systems we use on a daily basis. In a nutshell, this is how the internet works. For a more in-depth knowledge, I suggest using Google search.

  • The internet connects everyone’s computers (aka servers) together so they can all “talk” to each other. This is called a network.
  • But it’s not enough just to connect the computers together. The people have to agree how they’ll use the connections too, including how a message will be addressed and how it will get passed on. These rules are called protocols.
  • If you want to send data, it needs to be broken up into small pieces first. These are called packets. Each packet includes instructions about how it fits together and details about where it came from and where it is going.
  • Each computer (aka server) on the internet has a unique numeric address called an IP address. These can be looked up automatically using a Domain Name Server, which works like a giant address book.
  • When we have an address, the packets are guided through the internet by routers, which pass them along from server to server. When the delivery arrives, the instructions explain how to put all the packets back together.

8. Keep creating.

Just because you aren’t a kid anymore and you think you can’t draw, don’t give up on being artsy or inventive. Paint a masterpiece or many mini-masterpieces, try all kinds of DIY projects, work on a blog or portfolio website, make instructive YouTube videos, build a smartphone app, put effort into making your bed. Do anything to keep your creative spark because it will bring extra light and purpose to your life.

9. Know how to negotiate.

Negotiating doesn’t make you selfish, rude or pompous. It enables you to improve your buying power and in many cases, fight for what you deserve. Just remember to be polite and dignified. Successful negotiations often reduce conflict and improve relations between parties.

  • Negotiate a job offer. Many employers expect you to come back and negotiate aspects of your contract. Perhaps the pay wasn’t in the range discussed in the interview. If you immediately settle on an amount lower than you anticipated, you are doing yourself a disservice and will have to fight harder in the future for an increase.
  • Negotiate a raise. You’ll earn more in your job and you have nothing to lose.
  • Negotiate bills or purchases at work. Your budget will be able to stretch even more when you are focused on seeking the best value for your dollars. If you manage to shave 5% off a quote for a large job, you will easily have a few extra grand handy for other activities.
  • Negotiate bills or purchases at home. Negotiation skills not just good for work, but for personal use. Utility companies and banks can provide better rates if you know how to negotiate with them. This also extends to retailers. Why pay $900 for a TV when the salesperson can and will sell it to you for $700?

There is a whole science to negotiation. If you don’t have much experience in negotiating or professional selling, I also recommending looking up “popular sales techniques” online. This will give you more confidence for negotiations as you won’t be easily tricked.

10. Know how to back up your data.

  • Use Dropbox, Google Drive or other reputable cloud storage provider to save your documents and photos.
  • If you’re currently studying or plan on going back to study, save all lecture slides, notes, etc. to the cloud so they can be easily accessed for future use.
  • Don’t save old photos on your local drive, and perhaps don’t just save on an external drive that might clonk out after a few years. Save to the cloud so they can be stored and remotely accessed at any time.
  • Backup your websites and blogs. The last thing you want to do is spend another 284 hours rebuilding your entire site. There are many methods available, including a simple plugin if you use a CMS.

Ok cool, good luck. You’re almost thirty.

Categorized as Life