Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

Now that I’m at the ripe, old age of 32, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the things I learned while experiencing my twenties as a single guy. My list is mainly beneficial if you’re of the male demographic, but I’m sure that it can speak to the ladies too. (Even if it’s a “Yeah, Ryan, preach it, brother!”)

Twenty things I learned in my twenties

Hopefully, one of my life lessons can save you some heartache, point you in a new direction, or just give you something to think about…

1. Only in emergencies should you live with your parents. And if you must, put a time limit on it. Girls see this as a red flag.

2. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Your future family shouldn’t be paying interest on the big screen you bought when you were 21.

3. Girls don’t care what kind of car you drive. They mainly care if you have drive — as in, whether or not you have enough ambition to support a family someday.

4. Working on a career versus working on an Xbox game has a much bigger payoff in the long run, according to Donald Miller. He’s right.

5. Don’t be scared of taking a risk. You don’t have a family, and you have plenty of time to correct things if you guessed wrong.

6. Relationship-hopping, church-hopping, and job-hopping teach you to run from commitment. Pick something to commit to and watch yourself grow.

7. Journal often. Our memories fail us. When you get to your thirties, you probably won’t be able to remember the difference between age 26 and 28. It’s your story – write it down. Your thirtysomething self will appreciate it.

8. Make traveling a priority. Get outside of your cultural bubble. That may mean leaving the country or that may mean leaving your region. Either way, get out there and meet God’s people that didn’t grow up exactly like you.

9. Have people over to your place. Guys can be notorious for having a disgusting man cave that we never let anyone see. How I keep my place is usually a direct reflection of other disciplines in my life. So host a card night. Invite the guys over for the game. Cook for your date (not on the first date though).

10. Have a teachable spirit. This is probably the most important thing on this entire list. The Lord and people can’t work with you if you think you know it all. Always assume you can learn something from every person and situation you come in to.

11. Get older mentors. Find a spiritual mentor who is where you want to be when you are their age. Once they realize that you have a teachable spirit (see #10), they will pour themselves into you. Believe me on this one. Stop and do this now.

12. Don’t have sex until you are married. Sex adds months and years onto relationships that should otherwise end in 6 weeks. I got married last year and take it from me: we’re both glad we waited.

13. Be careful who you take advice from. Many very nice people want you to sign up for their story. The fastest way to frustrate yourself is to seek counsel from humans first and the Holy Spirit second. This order always leads to confusion.

14. I’ve always loved the quote: “In 5 years, you’ll be different by the books you read and the people you meet.” Choose books and people wisely.

15. “Throw your knapsack over the wall.” Commit. Sometimes you just need to commit, even if you don’t know how you’re going to get over the wall.

16. You don’t have to wait until you are free from lust to be used in the Kingdom. God wants to use you where you are today. Period.

17. One definition I’ve heard for “masculinity” is: to initiate. Start practicing initiating things. Ask the girl out and don’t beat around the bush about it. Initiate hang out events for your crew. Ask people to go eat. Find something you are passionate about and take the next step to make it happen.

18. Regarding parents: Move from a child-parent relationship to a friendship if you can. Get to know your parents as adults. Earn their respect as an adult by being responsible.

19. Tithe. No matter what your current pay scale, start tithing. It’s Biblical and, most importantly, sets the foundation for being even more generous down the road.

20. Anything worth doing requires hard work and sacrifice. Education doesn’t just happen. Businesses don’t build themselves. Careers aren’t handed to us. Spiritual growth can’t be downloaded. Ministry can be messy. So when you find some resistance, get excited and start pushing back.

My twenties were about getting to know myself. I challenge you to not let your twenties just happen. Find your identity in Christ, walk in faith, take risks, push yourself, and set out to see what you’re capable of.

For all of you thirtysomethings reading this, feel free to add your own nuggets of wisdom in the comments area below. We all can learn from each other.

*Photo credit: hang_in_there

Ryan has been an entrepreneur since age 9 when he sold custom Christmas cards to practically every family in the church. His childhood dream to own his own business was realized at the age of 22, while he was in graduate school. After 30 years of not drinking any kind of soda, Ryan finally partook of the greatness of the Dublin Dr. Pepper and now considers himself a fan. He always has gum in his pocket and isn't one for conversation until after he's had his morning coffee. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @zerway, but you probably should know that he never really tweets.

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  • Eve

    These are great! I had too many favorites to list!

    In my 20’s, I learned how to fail. I had always done well in school and been a big fish in my small town’s pond, but when I got my first “real” post-college job, I realized that I wasn’t nearly as perfect as I thought I was. There was a huge learning curve with it, and I didn’t always do things right. It was humbling, but I can look back now and see that it was a part of the growth process that the Lord had for me. My 20’s (especially my early ones) were about learning to fail and finding the grace in the failure.

  • Sara Anderson

    The most important lesson I learned in my 20’s? I learned how to love myself.

    I have learned to see myself for who He created me to be and I am so very grateful to Him for all of the tiny details that make up Sara. I have learned what true confidence in the Lord looks like and how freeing that can be. And I have learned how He can take the “less than attractive” areas of my life and make them beautiful.

    “I want to overwhelm my critical inner voices with praises for God for what I can do. I am a miracle, and you are too.”

  • Stacy

    needed to read #13 today! i had sought counsel from the HS first and had a peace and praised Him for the answer. then talked to someone today who had a different answer and i started doubting. i even told this friend i had a peace about my original decision but got off the phone unsettled in my spirit. of course all this happens after a great weekend and sunday morning thanking and praising God for His faithfulness. so thanks for the reminder! for our struggle is not against flesh and blood…

  • Ruth Rutherford

    Ha! Love #9– “Cook for your date… but not on the first date.” (That would be so awkward!

    These are great life lessons for everyone. Thanks.

  • Scout

    As a woman these are many of the same things I have been and am learning in my 20s…especially as I bump into my late 20s.  I love #10.  To be teachable means being humble.  I am constantly having to keep my pride in check.  Thanks for this list.  Time to keep learning and growing!

  • Jess

    I love #13. I find that too often I look to others to guide me to what I should be doing, rather than praying for God to reveal to me what I should be doing. Thanks!

  • Shanna Early

    This is a great list! I think the most important thing I learned in my 20s is that life rarely goes the way you plan it, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for a fulfilling life.