Reflecting the last 10 years, I’ve decided to share 5 important things I’ve learned in my twenties. Hopefully you can pull some inspiration.
1) Find strong mentors in your life
Yeah, yeah, I know everyone says this but it’s true and it’s very important. You need a strong mentor and role model in your life to provide guidance and inspiration. It’s a big world out there. When I first arrived on the footsteps of University of Wisconsin, Madison, I remember feeling lost, confused, excited, scared and anxious. I was a wreck and unable to clearly think half the time. But through classwork, internships and odd jobs here and there, I was lucky enough to meet an incredible set of positive, intelligent and trustworthy individuals. They were peers, professors, coffee shop owners, you name it. I found mentors that were truly there for me, and that would finally help me realize my full potential. I connected with people that would later contribute to my personal growth by giving me an outsider’s perspective on things, all the while respecting my values, beliefs and way of thinking. For that, I’m very grateful. I always look to mentor and give back to those in my community. It’s what makes us all smarter and stronger in life. So go forth, find that mentor and – later – become one.
2) Exploration is the true key to personal growth
The world is your home, your oyster. I grew up mixed race (half Korean, half Norwegian) and was exposed to foreign films, food, music, and culture in general. I always had an interest in exploring different cultures because of this. At age 21, I decided to jump on a plane and move to Seoul, South Korea and explore my mother’s roots. It was a life-changing experience that would later lead me to move onto NYC, London and eventually Berlin. In between classes and work, I would find myself hopping on a plane to explore a new city, backpacking through the forests of Thailand, sipping espresso in a Parisian cafe or getting lost in the beautiful halls of MOMA. There was this burning fire, electricity pumping through my veins to continue to explore and discover the unknown. I learned so much about myself on this global journey. I learned a new language and discovered a new sense of independence. You often have your tight knit network to help you out. When you move to place where you know zero people, it really forces you to be on your own. You also get the opportunity to understand how to effectively communicate with people from different cultures and you learn how to adapt to new situations very quickly.
3) Don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace the important stuff
It’s difficult to believe that I’m already 30 years old. It seems as though just yesterday, I was 18. Playing tennis, shopping for records, studying for my big exams, praying I would get into the university of my choice. Where did all the time go? I have no idea. But I do know that I often stressed myself out over things that were quite trivial. I’d often worried what my teachers and peers thought of me. I would worry about things and so much it would make me sick. I was a “people pleaser”. In many ways I still am, but I’m a bit more selective over who I really want to please and who I really want to work and collaborate with. I’m more self aware and not as bothered about what critics or trolls might say. Actually, I’ve never felt more empowered. What I now focus on and appreciate is my family, friends and having a meaningful impact on the world around me. I continuously work on bettering myself and worry less about what others think. It frees up a space in your mind and allows you to focus on the important stuff.
4) Know your strengths and weaknesses
We’re all good at some things and bad at others. Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes you can’t change the way things are. If you can identify your weaknesses earlier on, you’ll be more englighted and empowered to improve them. You’re more likely to reach out for help when needed and to find people that complement your talents and help you with things you might be struggling with. Whether it’s a school or work project, know what you’re capable of doing will and understand that there is no need in life to be a “jill of all trades, master of none”. However, If you see a weakness, by all means work on improving yourself. Heck, I really don’t like writing and I find it difficult to put my words onto paper, but at least I push myself by guest blogging and writing in my personal journal from time to time.
5) Log off and live in the moment
I must admit I struggle with this every day. Before things like apps and smartphones were ubiquitous, I was living more in the moment. I wasn’t busy tweeting, busy snapping the next instagram pic or checking into foursquare. I was 100% living in the moment and I’d quickly allow the rest of the world fall by the wayside. I was at one with the my experiences, thoughts and emotions. I want to revisit this and take a step back from all the noise. I’m slowly realizing this more and more each day, but I’m still struggling to let go of my solidly formed habits. When you’re always staring down at your phone (which many folks in the tech industry do), you have no idea what you could be missing. Something beautiful could be unraveling in the distance. An interesting person you might have had a chat with could turn away. A beautiful sunset might slip into the abyss. I think it’s time we all embraced the now, and take more time off from everything else.