First of all, thanks for writing the Art of Selfhood over these last few years. I’ve been a long time reader, but have never commented as such. I like to keep a low profile online and I’m not sure I have that much to say. However, I’m writing you this email with a question.
I recently turned 21 and I’m all set to graduate college. I’ve been thinking what to do with my life after this, and honestly I don’t really know. You seem like a guy who has had a lot of life experiences, and I was wondering if you could give me some advice?
What would you tell yourself if you could sit down with your younger self and give him some advice? What is your advice for men starting out in life? I think if you can answer that, it should also serve as good advice for me.
I appreciate your time!
Congrats on the impending graduation from college. That’s a big milestone and while you might never use your degree per se, since most people don’t, it’s still a good foundation to build upon and I tip my hat to you for making it all the way through. Well done!
To answer your question, if I was you, I’d take a year or so to travel after college and figure out what you want to do. You didn’t say where you’re from, so I’m assuming it’s the USA. You don’t need a lot of money to travel, but it’s one of the absolute best things you can do to expand your mind and horizons. It could be travel around the USA, or travel anywhere else in the world. Embrace whatever comes, and just spend the next year or two learning about life and who you are.
One thing I will say, though, Greg, and that’s don’t spend too long doing nothing. I probably coasted a little longer than I should have, and I didn’t take care of some of the things I should have when I was younger, and I had to pay the price later. Two things you absolutely must take care of in your twenties are laying a basic financial foundation, and building your strength and body so you are prepared for life. If you take care of these two things alone, and dedicate your life to improving both aspects, a heck of a lot of problems you will face in your thirties and beyond will be a lot easier to handle.
I love the life I have lived in Asia and elsewhere, and I’m very fortunate that things turned out well for me in the end. However, I also know guys who have spent too long on the road, travelling and finding themselves as such, only to find that they’re in their mid-thirties without a penny to their name and no real way to get back into a settled life.
You don’t want to be those guys, Greg. You want to find the balance and enjoy and embrace new experiences, while giving yourself a solid base to build on. You might not think it yet, but some day you’re gonna meet a lady and want to build a family with her, and you’ll need a good financial picture and overall foundation to make things work (Hollywood movies are BS, you need to be on solid ground). You’ll need a house, a nice car, and some of the finer things in life that you can live without when you’re younger. You’ll thank your younger self later if you take care of these things now.
To sum it up – go travel if you can, but don’t spend too long out there drifting. Find your feet after a year or two, even if it’s some place new, and then start building your finances. Maintain physical strength and fitness throughout whatever you do. If you don’t have a gym, use bodyweight exercises. Oh, and read all you can – anything and everything about anything and everything.
If you do take my advice and travel, you might consider starting an online business, too, Greg. Something as simple as a blog about life for a guy in his twenties and what he’s learning, or maybe a website offering professional services of some kind? Even if you don’t make a lot of money, the skills you will learn from running your own business will have you leagues ahead of most guys in their mid-twenties.
Of course, you’re your own man and you will have to decide what you want tot do. Travel isn’t a necessity, it’s just a good option if you can afford the time and have the resources. The other two, however, are not optional, and you will need to focus on finances and fitness all throughout your life.
To answer your final question, if I could sit down with my 21-year-old self and tell him something, it would be this – “Have fun, but take care of business”.
I hope this has been helpful to you, and I wish you the best of luck post college! It’s a big, bad world out there, and it’s yours for the taking.
Desire. Decide. Persist.