20 Lessons I Learned in My 20s

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton
20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton


Over the past few days I have received hoards of birthday wishes from friends and family. My husband put together a book of notes from people who have impacted my life along the way. One consistent theme that I saw in what they wrote was that they saw something intentional in me. Someone who goes for it and really seeks to live on purpose. What's funny is, I don't see this as admirable. It is how I'm hard-wired. I can't imagine phoning in life or not consistently checking in to see if there is a way I could be doing things better. Included in that "I can't not think deeply about my direction in life" thing is that I took a lot of time over the last year to reflect on the decade I was wrapping up.

I spent the last year of my twenties looking back on the decade as a whole and aggregating lessons I learned along the way. I actually journaled and blogged through much of my twenties so I had great reference points for looking back and seeing what was on my mind at any given age. Today I want to share with you 20 of the lessons I learned in my twenties. There's more than just this, of course, but these were the game-changers. My hope is that perhaps one of these lessons gets your wheels turning and is somehow helpful to you.

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

1. Everyone has a story.

2. The things I needed in a partner were chemistry, connection and respect. Determining those three things and using them as a measuring stick was really helpful.

3. Pay attention to the cues you are receiving (people will show you how much they value you.)

4. Say "yes." Try new things. That will help you learn what you really love and you won't have to ask "what if?"

5. You can love and pursue more than one career path. It's harder than choosing just one. But some people are not meant for just one thing and that is OK!

6. Getting a second skill is imperative if there is not a huge need for your desired career path. It will help you not live in anguish stressing out about money and it means you'll enjoy contributing to society between gigs.

7. Tell the world who you are --better yet-- tell the world who you want to be.

8. "Funny" may not be one of the most important requirements in a spouse. (But do find someone who gets your jokes.)

9. People can't put you in a bad mood. You control how you experience the world.

10. Look for opportunities to invest in people. Relationships are the only thing in this world built to last.

11. Respect yourself enough to listen to your gut.

12. Education opens doors.

13. Marrying someone just like you is probably not a good idea. Balance is a great thing.

14. We regularly need to zoom out and examine our lives. We should ask ourselves, "Are we doing things on purpose?" Is this the direction I want my life to go?"

15. Internships are career launching pads. Get one. or two. or three.

16. Social media and the web are tools that can be used for good or for bad. Use them for good!

17. You never know what is right around the corner, so be intentional and optimistic. Sometimes bad things are around the corner, but it's not worth bringing the future bad into the present by being negative. And sometimes there is something great around the corner--quite often actually. Life is cyclical that way.

18. The best stuff money can buy are experiences. I'm so glad that when I was young and poor I figured out ways to travel and have great experiences. Caveat: it's also nice to have a warm home and all the necessities of comfort. At some point air mattresses don't match up to beds. ;-)

19. Show up to do the work even if you don't feel inspired. You've gotta show up.

20. If you don't audition you'll never book the part. If you don't write the book it will never be a best-seller. You have to risk rejection and failure. Be brave!

So that's my list of twenty things I learned in my twenties. The prospect of learning so much more in my thirties sounds pretty thrilling to me. But tell me, did this list spark a reminder in your mind of lessons you've learned in your current or last phase of life? I would LOVE to hear them.