20 Things 20 Year Olds Don’t Get


As my long-term readers know, I’m a firm believer in the continual evolution of one’s self. No one is born perfect, and no one is by default perfect: it takes hard work to achieve any level of success, and for the vast majority of players in the field it’s about consistency and persistence, not luck of the draw.

When you are 20 years old, you don’t know shit. You are nothing but raw materials, unrefined but lacking any polish. And unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential; they don’t do anyone any good and until they’ve been refined they are nothing more than empty space.

Everyone who is worth anything in this world, whether it be as a musician, painter, Fortune 500 CEO, Bill Gates, Ian Anderson, Keith Richards, Geoff Colvin and beyond, has spent time honing their skills to reach the point they are at.  In the words of Jason Nazar in this brilliant Forbes piece, even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at his list of 20 things that the youth of today just don’t get…and what are the most important aspects to focus on. 

The Top 20 List of Things Youngsters Don’t Get

Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles may not exist in five years, and you should never place all of your eggs in one basket. Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue.  It’s not an end in itself, and as Jason talks about in his article, it is stupid to pin all of your hopes, dreams and future career on one single defining job.

That’s been the downfall of everyone who has been affected by the so-called “global crisis”. They put all their eggs in one basket, thought the jobs they had would last forever, and when they were caught with their pants down they had no other options to pursue. Remember, social media is only one part of the overall whole. 

Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person. It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  This goes into something I’ve taught here at our brand boot camps and it’s in The Expat Guidebook as well as Beyond Borders – The Social Revolution.

People trust the person behind the brand, not the brand alone, and the only way you can get people to trust you and establish that personal connection is by making it personal through face time. If you don’t have face time, you’ll never build up the same level of trust that you can can by having meetings and actually talking to people and interacting with them. Personal relationships are what make mutually beneficial joint ventures, not simply statistics and Facebook profiles.

Be the First In & Last to Leave ­– Jason gives this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  The basic principle is that you, the fresh-faced newbie, have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  You don’t get to just walk in the place and own it: you have to earn it. You’re wet, you’re green, and you haven’t done anything yet worth recognizing, so the only way you are going to earn your stripes is to work hard, be the first to show up and the last to leave.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You don’t get to have a sense of entitlement without the accompanying sense of responsibility.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.  (Watch: Millennials in the Workplace Training Video)

If you are the type of low-achiever who sits around and waits for someone to ask you to do something, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Only the Sheeple wait to be led around by the noses. The Movers and Shakers of the world are out there kicking ass and taking names…without waiting to be told what to do or when to do it.

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes – You will be and should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career.  But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution.  Stop trying to justify your fuck ups.  You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.

Experience is the only true teacher, and until you’ve gone out there, screwed up a few times and learned the hard way, you’ll never actually learn anything. It’s like a kid who doesn’t know fire is hot until he actually touches the fire and burns his finger. Then it’s shit, that’s hot!, I guess I won’t be touching that again!

More important than merely making the mistakes to learn from them is having the balls to accept responsibility for your mistakes and realize it’s just part of being human. Go back to the first part of the article about no one being born perfect. Grow a pair and man up.

You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked – Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have.  This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career.  Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.

If your boss doesn’t push you to your limits, you won’t learn anything. If you don’t learn anything, you won’t advance as an individual, or in your career. Floating by on the bare minimum isn’t going to get you anywhere.

A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing ­­– As Jason says, one-year stints don’t tell me that you’re so talented that you keep outgrowing your company. Rather, it tells me that you don’t have the discipline to see your own learning curve through to completion.  It takes about 2-3 years to master any new critical skill, so you need give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship.  Otherwise your resume reads as a series of red flags on why not to be hired.

Go back to the first part of this post. No one is born perfect. Every one has to start at the beginning and work their way up. If you are floating from job to job, skipping your way through them like a flat stone tossed across a body of water, you aren’t actually learning anything on your way through. If you want to master the skills necessary to become a successful person on your own, you have to put in the time to earn your marks and learn how to do things the right way, as an expert.

People Matter More Than Perks – There’s no doubt that it’s trendy to pick the company that offers the most flex time, unlimited meals, company massages, game rooms and team outings.  And while all of these things should all matter, they are not nearly as important as the character of your founders and managers. Great leaders will mentor you and will be a loyal source of employment long after you’ve left.  Make a conscious bet on the folks you’re going to work for and your commitment to them will pay off much more than those fluffy perks.

This goes into that whole “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” concept. Surround yourself with intelligent leaders and you yourself will become a leader. Hang out with those whose habits are keeping them as grunts rather than managers…well, you see the picture here.

Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do. Deal with it. Suck it up. Keep your eye on the prize. No one gets to go from point A to point Z without having to cross a few points that they don’t necessarily like. That’s called life. It’s called learning.  Connect what you’re doing today with where you want to be tomorrow.  That should be all the incentive you need.  If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity.

Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of shit talkers who think they can sit behind a social media profile or an XBox Live account and headset and trash talk without any repercussions.  In your workplace this is a cancer.  If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, speak up.  Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards or, worse yet, on social media platforms.  If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny.

On the flip side if you are one of those who is bright enough to publicly post their dislike of how things are done, kiss your career goodbye. Things that go up on the Internet stay on the Internet…forever. There’s no going back from a social fuckup, so don’t let yourself make one of them. If you do, kiss your career goodbye.

You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops – Adding “Proficient in Microsoft Office” at the bottom of your resume under Skills just doesn’t cut it.  Jason says that he immediately gives preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro – regardless of their job position.  If you plan to stay gainfully employed, you better complement that humanities degree with some applicable technical chops.

On a side note here, in order to run Marginal Boundaries I had to become a Jack of All Trades. Anyone who runs their own brand has to. I write, I edit, I take photos, shoot videos, edit, cut, prep in post, I’ve mastered PDFs, Photoshop, Sony Vegas Pro 12, WordPress, HTML, CSS, social media management, public relations, Adword campaigns, Facebook campaigns, A/B testing, the entire Microsoft Office suite and more. I have a Lynda subscription and I’m continually learning new things. You have to if you want to stay relevant in the modern era.

If you are only good at one thing…well, take a look at all the people suffering from the so-called “global crisis”. They’re the ones who relied on one skill and the old-world thinking of “my job will last forever!”, so they never went out and learned anything new. The current world doesn’t work like that. It’s sink or swim, little landlubbers.

Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business.  Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it.  Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible. Jason’s Networking Advice is a good first step, but don’t forget about our own 10 Steps to Brand Domination, especially the part about coworking as opposed to simply networking, along with going global.

You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek.  You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be.  Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive.  Start with “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Mentors”, and then move on to our own Find a Mentor – Old School Entrepreneurship.

I whole-heartedly believe in mentorships. They trump university education every single time. My Find a Mentor article explains it in greater detail, but the bottom line is that if you can find someone who is successful at what they do and study under them, personally, for months to a year, you will take on all of their attributes and go on to the same levels of success simply through association and repetition. You are the average of the five people you hang out with…

Finding mentors who can guide you through their own steps to success is, without a doubt, the best education and learning experience you will ever undertake in your life. This is the most important part of this entire list, in my opinion. One-on-one, hands-on training beats a college education any day of the week, and a good mentorship will give you all the technical skills and other know-how necessary to kick ass and take names in whatever your industry is.

Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does.  Pick the businessperson you most admire, and act “as if.”  If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals?  You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine.

This is the very first section of 10 Steps to Brand Domination when I speak on how you need to read articles and books by your peers and betters, as well as check their video content, to find inspiration for your own work. Always be studying, researching, learning and challenging yourself with material from others. You are not perfect. You are not above learning. No one is. Anyone who thinks they are above learning something new from one of the peers, betters or someone with a different point of view is fooling themselves.

Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters:  all breadth and no depth. You are the ADD, TL:DR generation of instant gratification 99% hipsters whose mothers and fathers have told you your whole lives that you were special and #1 simply because you exist, and you’ve never had to work for anything in your life. Instead, you’ve only ever consumed, consumed and consumed some more, the whole time being held by the hand and told what a talented, bright little boy or girl you are simply because you were born into the world.

Reality check time. Mediocrity isn’t worth celebrating, and until you learn how to achieve with the best of them you haven’t done anything worth celebrating. Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are only freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover and actually use the brain you were blessed with.  All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others.  While Jason only recommends that you read a book a month  (fiction or non-fiction), I personally suggest a minimum of two. Give yourself a week to read, a week to digest, analyze and contemplate, then move on to the next one.

Spend 25% Less Than You Make – When your material needs meet or exceed your income, you’re sabotaging your ability to really make it big.  Don’t shackle yourself with golden handcuffs (a fancy car or an expensive apartment).  Be willing and able to take 20% less in the short term, if it could mean 200% more earning potential.  You’re nothing more than penny wise and pound-foolish if you pass up an amazing new career opportunity to keep an extra little bit of income.  No matter how much money you make, spend 25% less to support your life.  It’s a guaranteed formula to be less stressed and to always have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.

Living abroad as a digital nomad, baby. I cut my costs from 3k a month down to 650-800 a month just by switching from the U.S. to other countries. And yet I have all the same amenities I had back in Colorado. It’s the whole basis of The Expat Guidebook; how to live a debt-free life in developing countries around the world as a permanent location independent traveler. Skip the whole rat race and go straight to living abroad, in my opinion.

Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business.  It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of professional opportunity.  Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure.  It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.

Just because you don’t get along with someone personally doesn’t mean you can’t get along with them professionally. It’s one of the 10 Steps to Brand Domination we talked about earlier; build bridges, don’t burn them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care for the individual, their religion, their cultural views, their political views or the way they treat their significant other or coworkers. You never know if that person might be someone you need to work with later on down the road for a mutually-beneficial partnership.

On top of that, you can never take back drunken pictures of you laying naked on the beach having sex with a donkey. If that shit goes viral, good luck ever finding work ever again. Especially as technology and face recognition software gets better and better, you can get used to having your face forever associated with “donkey lover” no matter which social media platform you try and register with.


Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

Unplug from The System, cure yourself of The Greedy Bastard Syndrome, tap into your universal potential and create your own reality. Build a brand, travel the world and realize your cosmic consciousness.

Beyond Borders - The Social RevolutionGet Your Copy Today!

About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.


  • @ Freya: Face to face is even better!

    Unfortunately, not everyone learns from their mistakes. I know a lot of people who have hit middle age without learning…and that’s one of the key elements of growing to become wise…realizing when we are wrong and having the stones to accept it and learn from it rather than pretend like we didn’t frak it up.

    That’s where these types of tips can come in handy!

    Thanks for dropping by :)

  • Freya says:

    These are all great tips even for somebody who’s not a 20 year old :) I agree with Franca we all learn from our mistakes but it’s always good to have proper advice at hand. I have to admit that I prefer the computer above the phone as well although you are right it’s better to use the phone.

  • LOL @ Franca I wish I knew half of what I knew now at 33; I can look back and totally see what a bugger I was for a lot of years. But as you say, it also contributed to who I am today.

    @ the TL;DR generation: indeed. The whole Twitter/Vine/Instagram/GIMME NOW NOW NOW generation are being weaned on instant-gratification information which is all breadth and no depth…headlines without context….and as a result the vast majority of modern youth are going into the world completely uneducated because they never read anything beyond the headlines because “it’s boring”.

  • Franca says:

    What a great list! Sometimes I wish I wash more wise when I was 20 and I knew more stuff that I know now. On the other hand the things I’ve done, including the mistakes and silly decisions, have contributed my growth and made me what I am today… still it would have been useful knowing a bit more 😉

    I love when you said about reading more books than tweets and texts, I think it’s a though one to follow for the new generations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.