When I turned 29 last month I found myself reflecting on my life. I thought about how far I’ve come, both in my life and in my career. I remember sitting in my seat during high school graduation and looking around at the smiles on my fellow classmates’ faces. I particularly remember the straight-A students. They knew exactly what they were going to do and where they were going to be, the confidence and excitement was oozing out of them.
I started to think about where I would be 5-10 years down the line and the thought made me want to shit in my pants. I knew I wanted to draw, create, design, and keep building websites (RIP GeoCities). It’s been a little over 10 years since I sat on that stage.
Along the way I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons, particularly in my 20’s:
1. Do what you love and do it for yourself.
I knew I wanted to do something in the creative field, so I started at The Art Institute of California-Los Angeles shorty after high school. However, I didn’t start out in the major I really wanted—which was web design—and instead began my journey in Media Arts & Animation. About a year and thousands of drawings into it, I realized I wasn’t doing what I loved. It sucked. I switched my focus on the web and never looked back.
2. You could, and should have done better.
I was an idiot in high school. The work load in college was INSANE, yet somehow I was doing good. Sure, I was doing what I loved so that made it a little easier, but it really opened my eyes to how lazy I was in high school.
We can all do better. A little effort goes a long way.
3. Believe in yourself, you’re better than you think.
I graduated high school even though I was a shitty student. I survived college even though I was pushed to my limits. I landed a job at Huge the day after my graduation, even though I thought I hadn’t learned enough to make it.
Stop doubting yourself. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. A little confidence goes a long way and you’re probably better than you think you are.
4. Hard work pays off.
Damn it feels good to reach your goals. The late nights, the stress, the failures, it’s all worth it in the end.
5. Family/Friends first, career second.
You can always find another job, but you only have one family. Life is too short to live it behind a desk. Make time for your loved ones.
6. Sleep more.
You won’t be young forever and you sure as shit aren’t a robot. Lack of sleep will catch up to you one day and when it does, it’s brutal.
Don’t work too hard. I’ve found that I’m much more productive when I’m energized and alert. Working on something non-stop until 5am feels productive, but at the end of the day, the quality of the work is not your best.
7. Take a vacation. Take many vacations.
Similar to sleep, taking vacation is very important. I didn’t take enough of it and that also hurt me bad. I kept rolling over my vacation days thinking I would take one large break at some point, but I never got around to it.
Don’t wait too long. As soon as the opportunity arises, take a vacation. You’ll come back refreshed, re-energized, and ready to kick ass.
8. Failing isn’t so bad.
You will fail. You will fail over and over again. You’ll bomb in an interview, miss a deadline at work, have trouble learning something, but it’s ok. You’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll do better next time. It’s scary but it’s usually not as bad as it seems.
9. Don’t spend money on shit you don’t need because you won’t have money for the shit you do need.
Seriously, save money.
It’s very easy to save money too. Take your own lunch to work, eat out less, learn to utilize tools like Mint to manage your money and give yourself budgets. Reduce the amount of things you want and stick to the things you need. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, just don’t overdo it. Self-control is key.
10. It’s never too late to change.
It’s really never too late to make a positive change in your life.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
- Maria Robinson