I watched some of the NFL draft last night and couldn’t help to think about how these players made it. The majority of them must have had fantasies about being a professional football player since childhood and now, some at the ripe age of even 21, their dreams came true. All of their hard work, people telling them they couldn’t do it, tears, and rejections finally paid off. As I watched these athletes achieve their dreams and celebrate their accomplishments, I couldn’t help but think about the process and lessons learned for them in order to be there last night.
I’ve made it exactly halfway through my twenties and I could probably write a novel about everything I have already learned in the real world. It can be rough out there, but we’re not alone. I would like to share six tips and lessons I have learned that will hopefully provide some insight and motivation to those who are experiencing the same challenges that I am.
- Practice patience. I considered myself a fairly patient person until a few years ago. All I could think about was finally working at my dream job, being financially stable, and living stress-free. After so many years in school and college, I deserved it, right? Not exactly. Education is extremely important but that doesn’t necessarily mean life is easy once you are done. It is such a competitive world out there and sometimes you just have to accept that you have to start somewhere–anywhere that will eventually lead you to where you want to be. This isn’t the case for everyone, but sometimes you can’t work in your dream job right away and the little steps you take before arriving there are essential to how well you can perform in that dream job. Patience is still something I have to work on every day and it is probably the hardest challenge for me to overcome.
- Communicate. Practice communication. Practice honesty. Nobody can read your mind or know what you want. If something bothers you, say something. If you feel like there is a conflict at work or at home or with a friend, say something. There isn’t much more to say here other than to just keep the flow of communication open and honest with those around you.
- Surround yourself with good people at work. If this is the place where you are spending the majority of your time, why not create an enjoyable environment? Find people who share similar interests as you or always make you feel welcome. Say “good morning” and ask how people are, ask about how their weekend was, and about their kid’s soccer game. Simply take the time to learn about your coworkers and surround yourself with people who make you happy. People notice when you take the time to care about others.
- Surround yourself with good people at home. Keep your friends close. Keep your family close. If you find yourself continuously saying you’re “too busy” to spend time with these people, take a step back. You could lose your job, lose your house, lose your money–in the end, it’s your loved ones who will remain. Don’t be too busy to check in with them and remind them that they are on your mind. Everybody is busy, but not too busy to keep friends and family close.
- Don’t give up after a rejection. Be true to yourself, work hard, and fight for what you want. Don’t ever let anyone keep you from following your passions by saying that you’re not good enough or you can’t do something. Have confidence in yourself. Don’t let rejection make you lose hope. Fight for your future, fight for your happiness, and fight for success–whatever that looks like for you.
- Save money. Trust me, I understand how hard this is. Many of us now are burdened with debt of all kinds and bills that we are trying to understand. We struggle to find balance between treating ourselves while mindful that rent is due in a few weeks. The most important lessons I have learned when it comes to finances is to regularly check your bank accounts in order to know how much you are spending, and even the smallest amount of money saved every day, week, or month counts. Anything you save will add up, and it’s always good to have an emergency stash in case you find yourself needing money right away. Open a separate bank account to store this saved money so you don’t spend it and you can clearly see what money you have for spending and what is saved.
Hopefully this helps my fellow twenty-somethings out there while we work on making a life for ourselves. It’s not easy but I have faith that we will look back and understand one day why we had to experience our hardships in order to get to where we wanted. Keep learning and be open-minded. What are some lessons you have learned as you emerge into the real world?