The 21 Most Important Pieces of Advice for 21-Year-Olds
What you need to know if you're 21
Not so long ago, I was reading through Reddit, and I saw a thread asking for advice for 21-year-olds. I’ve seen several threads like that lately and, as someone who has written a whole book on the subject, I always want to weigh in.
Of course, it’s considered gauche to just say, “I wrote 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know. You should go buy it.” I have thought about giving the book away – and sometimes, I have – but, again, that sounds weird on the Internet. “You don’t know me at all but send me your home address and I will send you a package in the mail. Trust me!” So, it occurred to me that what I could do instead was a “best of.” I’d write a piece called, “The 21 Most Important Pieces of Advice for 21-Year-Olds” and mention the book in case people want more information. That would give me something I could post and as an added bonus, it would promote the book and help people. After all, the whole idea of the book was to condense down enough life experience to take people in that 18-30 range and put them twenty years ahead of the other people their age. This helps with that.
So, without further ado, here are the 21 most important pieces of advice for 21-year-olds:
1) Don’t put anything on social media, texts, or email you’d be uncomfortable with the whole world seeing: I have had friends that have had their emails seized under court order (some of which were undoubtedly from me) and we all know or have heard of people that got in trouble after someone saw their texts. People whose lives have been destroyed by putting up things on social media they’d be uncomfortable with? They’re legion. I also can’t help but wonder how many OnlyFans girls in their thirties will end up having really uncomfortable conversations with their fiancées or kids that find out about “the old days.” There’s a simple way around all of this. Don’t put anything in print you wouldn’t want out there. All of us slip up on this front occasionally, but the fewer mistakes you make here, the less likely it is to bite you down the line.
2) Don’t forget you are going to die someday: All good things come to an end. Relationships, friendships, families, opportunities, good times, and even your health. Appreciate what you have while you have it, don’t put off the things that matter, and remember that as far as we know, we only get one bite at the apple. One day, one way or the other, every door closes, so if it’s important, do it now, while you have a chance.
3) The keys to your long-term finances are your house and your car: Once you get past that “young and poor” stage most of us had to go through where you’re barely bringing in enough money to pay your bills, you’ll find two things in particular that can really screw up your finances. Those are too much house and too much car. People spend too much on rent or too much on a house and/or get a car that’s too expensive or trade it in every few years instead of driving it until the wheels fall off. Then, they struggle to pay all the rest of their bills. Don’t let that be you. Keep the cost of your house and car under control and over the long-term, you will do much better than most other Americans.
4) Take care of your body for the first forty years of your life and it will take care of you for the next 40: When you’re young, you have endless energy, a great metabolism, and everything heals fast, it can be easy to get into a lot of bad habits. Things like heart disease, obesity, bad knees, and type-two diabetes often take decades to fully develop, and then, in your forties, fifties, and sixties, when everyone becomes less physically robust, it can hit you like a tank. Keeping yourself healthy early may be the difference between being healthy enough to go on a cruise with your husband at 80 and dying at 70 after a decade of bad health.
5) Avoid writing emails, texts, or having conversations with people if you are extremely upset with them: When people get emotional, they can read a situation wrong, overreact, and say things they really don’t mean. There are an awful lot of relationships that end because of this. That’s why it’s better to take a little time, cool off, and compose yourself before you risk messing up an important relationship by shooting off your mouth when you’re angry.
6) First impressions are critically important: Very few people will admit it, but human beings are almost impossibly shallow. They absolutely do judge a book by its cover and yes, they will make snap judgments about you that will shape how they view you long-term. You can be upset about that or take full advantage of it. I’d recommend the latter. Dress nice. Learn something about body language.
7) If you want something, ask for it: You want a girl? Ask her out. Want a raise? Ask for it. Do you think you deserve a discount at a store after bad treatment? Ask for a manager. Is someone doing something to piss you off? Ask them to stop. Want God to help you out? Ask Him. Don’t just wish. Don’t just hope. Don’t pout because you think it should be given to you without asking. ASK for what you want. That’s how you get things.
8) You beat 50 percent of the people by just showing up, another 40% by working hard and the last 10% is a dogfight: Whether you’re talking about a job, a gym, getting good grades, or anything else, this is how it usually shakes out. Being the best? That can be extremely difficult but performing at a high level in anything other than the most competitive endeavors is usually very doable.
9) Men should embrace their masculinity, and women should embrace their femininity: In a gender-confused world full of people urging men to be more feminine and women to be more masculine, the vast majority of people are going to be happier and more attractive to the opposite sex if they stick to type. Men who choose to be masculine and women who choose to be feminine seldom regret it.
10) Learn the art of ignoring: You don’t have to respond to everything. Not the dumb comment someone on Twitter makes. Not the comment made by your boyfriend that you realize is specifically designed to annoy you. Not the completely lame comment the orbiter hanging around the girl you’re hitting on makes because he’s jealous you’re making headway with her while he couldn’t. You’ll save a lot of time, emotional investment, and arguments by learning this skill.
11) There are some things you shouldn’t do because you will enjoy it too much: Even the Bible admits that sin can be pleasurable “for a season” – and so it is. A lot of times, it doesn’t work out so well long term though. Do you have some weird sexual fetish you want to explore? Does the idea of taking drugs excite you? Would you get a big thrill out of sleeping with someone else’s wife? If so, that’s probably a really good reason NOT to do it. People have weaknesses for all sorts of things and if you go down the wrong rabbit hole, you may not get fully clear of it for years, decades, or maybe even the rest of your life.
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12) Pornography is physiologically bad for you: It does not take a lot of brain power to figure out that training yourself to orgasm after flipping through hundreds of different women, in every type of kinky situation imaginable, via your hand is not preparing you to have a normal, healthy, sex life. We now have people looking at porn daily from the time they’re teenagers on, then they don’t understand why they have trouble performing with a woman or getting aroused at all. You trained yourself that way. That’s why. Quit now, give your brain time to reboot and you can recover.
13) You will become like the people you spend the most time with: Whether you’re talking about stoners, gym bros, video game addicts, professional athletes, up-and-coming millionaires, criminals, devout Christians, or everything in between, the more time you spend around them, the more you will become like them. Make sure they’re people you want to be more like.
14) It’s not what you know, it’s who you know: There’s a lot to be said for talent, hard work, and preparation, but finding a way to meet and befriend people will trump all of those things in an awful lot of situations. So, shake some hands, introduce yourself, meet some people, and invite people you want to know better to lunch and parties. Who you know in life will get you a long way.
15) Fame and money are less important than people: Everyone seems to be chasing fame and money these days, but ultimately it is much less important than people think. What good is money if you have no one to share it with? What good are millions of people who know your name if you don’t care about them? Fame and money are nice, but ultimately, they’re a hill while friends, family, relationships, and children are a mountain.
16) Take care of your physical frame: In a time when the average American spends more than half of every waking day sitting in a chair, this needs special emphasis. Your body is a brilliant machine, and it will find workarounds to terrible movement patterns. However, if you do not work to improve your flexibility, smooth out your fascia, and fix unhealthy movement patterns, you may be destined for knee surgery, hip surgery, and back surgery when you’re older. Go to a chiropractor, do yoga, foam roll out your muscles, stretch daily, get massages, and try to keep your frame young. It will matter a lot when you get older.
17) Build some savings: Believe it or not, one of the most significant moments of my life was when I finally put back my first $2,500. Know why? Because it meant if I had a car repair, lost my job, couldn’t pay my rent that month, or had some other big surprise expense, I was covered. Knowing you have some money in the bank just takes a load off of your shoulders and makes your life less stressful. If it means setting aside money for savings before anything else, do it. Over the long run, it’s worth it.
18) Make your habits and your habits will make you: In a sense, your life is nothing but a collection of habits you have repeated over and over for decades. Do you never miss a run or skip every other day? Eat health food or junk food? Blow your money on big purchases or save? Get by on sleep or sleep 8 hours? Drink and drive? Introduce yourself to anyone you find interesting? Lift weights? Shoplift? Read daily? Good habits today make good lives tomorrow. Bad habits today make bad lives tomorrow.
19) You are not a victim: If you want to change your life for the better, you have to take responsibility for it and decide that if you’re going to make it better, you’re going to have to be the one to do it. If you succeed? You get the credit. If you fail? You take the blame. The moment you conclude that you’re a victim, you give away the power to change your life to people that don’t care about you. No one who tries to tell you that you’re a victim is your friend.
20) Keep balance in these six key areas of your life: health, career, romantic, social, money, and religion: Life is an impossible balancing act that no one ever can get quite right. That being said, if something feels “off” in your life, look at these areas and see where you’re succeeding and where you’re falling down. You’ll NEVER be a 10-out-of-10 in all of them but doing well in a few of them and raising some of the others from say 2 to a 5 may be enough to make a massive difference in the quality of your life.
21) Look for something you love doing so much you’d do it for free and make it into a career: Admittedly, everyone can’t do this, but I did, and it was the best piece of advice I was given in my life. You’re going to spend a 1/3 (or more) of your life working for several decades. Shouldn’t it at least be something you enjoy that helps give your life purpose?
I'm 68 years old, and I can tell you that this is all very good advice. If you are closer to 21, then don't just be a hearer (reader) of these words, but be a DOER! Great advice, great list!
I'm a long way from 21 years old, but I have enough life experience to recognize just how good your list is, and if I had followed it 100% I might be living my best life right now. As it is, I'm only living my better life, ha ha, because I managed to do almost 75% of your list.
Perhaps you've covered this question in previous posts, or in your book, but to whom or what would you credit your wisdom? Not being a suck-up, here. I'm sincere. Since I've been following you, I've read almost nothing of yours that isn't full of common sense, a firm grounding in reality and a lot of wisdom. So, maybe, if you haven't already, you might do a Substack on "Who is John Hawkins"🙂