I recently came across the following question on Quora - “What are some of the things you should avoid or try doing in your first 30 years of life?.” Since I’m in my mid-40’s, I thought I’d give this young questioner my two cents on the matter.
As I was formulating my answer, it got me thinking about how important your 20’s are. It’s the time to shape your identity, establish your habits, and determine how you’re going to live your life.
You have time on your side, so you can afford to take some more risks. The hope is that you’ll take the right kinds of risks that will turn into rewards down the road.
I came up with seven things to do by age 30 that will hopefully challenge you and help lay the foundation for a life of health, prosperity, and adventure. And since the question also asked for some things to avoid, I added a couple things thoughts on that as well.
Seven Things to Do by Age 30:
1. Live in a Cosmopolitan City
I highly recommend living in a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population. Pick a city where you can meet people from all over the world with different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
I moved to Manhattan from Columbus, OH when I was 24 and then to San Francisco at 26. They were the two best moves I ever made. No disrespect to Columbus, but I found that I needed to surround myself with people from other cultures, races, religions, and backgrounds to really grow as a person.
When you live in a diverse community, you come to realize that people are just people. There are good and bad in all colors and creeds. You no longer fear people who are different, and in fact you’ll start to embrace and enjoy those differences.
From the cuisine, to the music, to the ways of life, living amongst people who are different will expand your worldview and make you a better person.
Priceonomics recently ranked the largest 45 cities in the U.S. from most to least diverse. Some great cities at the top of the list to explore are Oakland (#1), New York (#3), Chicago (#4), Boston (#7), and San Francisco (#9).
2. Travel as much as possible
For some of the same reasons as #1 above, the more you travel, the more you'll learn about other cultures and other ways of life.
Whenever you get a chance to travel, take it. There are so many amazing things to see in our world: world-famous cities, coastal villages, ancient ruins, Renaissance art, mountains, glaciers, deserts, and so much more.
Many people put off travel when they’re young. They either think they can’t afford it or they want to focus on their careers first.
But with proper planning, your 20’s can be one of the best times to travel and explore the world. Here are a few ways you can add travel into your life in your 20’s:
- Take trips with family or friends
- Look into study abroad programs when you’re in school
- Set aside a few months after college to travel
- Always use your company vacation time to travel
Just like living in a cosmopolitan city, traveling will expose you to other cultures, types of food, belief systems, and ways of life. You'll expand your heart, mind, and soul, build empathy, and reduce irrational fears of people who are different.
3. Challenge yourself physically
Your physical body is an amazing organism. If you take care of it, you’ll feel better, live longer, and move throughout life easier.
Your 20’s are a great time to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Use this time to see what you’re made of, set goals, and push through boundaries.
There are a variety of challenges you can explore: 5K’s, 10K’s, Half and full marathons, triathlons, mud races (like Tough Mudder), bike races, swim races, and hiking / climbing expeditions.
I would also recommend finding one or two exercises that you actually enjoy doing, so you can develop a lifelong habit of physical fitness.
I've tried just about every type of exercise over the past 30 years, until I discovered what works best for me and my body: yoga, swimming, and walking. I do all three just about everyday, because I enjoy them and they make my body feel good.
4. Start a small business
Even if it's just a sole proprietorship e-commerce site or blog, running your own small business will teach you so much more than taking a business class or working for others.
You'll learn about finances, accounting, cash flow, operations, site design, user experience, basic legal concepts, sales, customer relations, and more.
I’ve created four small business over the years and have learned valuable lessons from each one. In fact I wrote a blog post about it on LinkedIn.
When you work for someone else, you’ll never have the same “skin in the game” as you do with your own business. Running your own business forces you to quickly learn, adapt, apply, and change constantly.
Even if running your own business isn’t something you want to do long-term, it’ll give you invaluable experience for getting your dream job.
5. Learn about finances & investing
If you only learn two financial concepts your whole life, make them dollar cost averaging and compound interest. Using these two strategies, especially from a young age, should put you in pretty good financial shape when you’re my age or older.
From Investopia, here’s a definition of Dollar Cost Averaging:
The technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are bought when prices are high.
This video does a great job of explaining it clearly and concisely: Dollar Cost Averaging
And here’s Investopia’s definition of Compound Interest:
Compound interest can be thought of as “interest on interest,” and will make a deposit or loan grow at a faster rate than simple interest, which is interest calculated only on the principal amount.
This video shows how compounding works: Compound Interest
Use dollar cost averaging to buy investments over time. You can start with as little as $100 per month. Retirement accounts are perfect vehicles for this, because they automatically invest your money at the same time each pay period. And if your employee matches, then that’s an even bigger bonus.
Then let compound interest take over and watch your investments steadily grow over time!
6. Learn to meditate / Deal with stress
They say there are only two things in life that are certain - death and taxes. Well, I say there's a third - stress.
No matter how privileged your life might be, you will find yourself under stress. There are too many things outside your control that cause stress -- mean people, bad weather, unreasonable bosses, crazy politicians, terrorism, diseases, you name it.
Suffering from chronic stress will wreak havoc on your body and your life. It leads to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, higher risk of heart attack, infertility, increased risk of diseases and infections, and more.
You're going to experience A LOT of stress over your lifetime, so it's best to learn how to effectively deal with it as soon as possible.
The best way to deal with all this stress is to know how to calm and center your mind, and the best way to do that is with a daily meditation practice.
Take a class, read a book, or do some research on the basics, and make it part of your life. Here’s a great little how-to for beginners: Meditation
7. Develop a love of reading
The typical American reads an average of only 19 minutes per day. Reading offers multiple benefits, including reducing stress, enhancing your memory, and boosting your analytical ability.
Set aside at least 30 minutes every day to read something. I'm not talking about a blog or social media post, but an actual book.
It can be fiction or non-fiction, hard copy or electronic. The more you read, the more you learn, understand other viewpoints, and develop your curiosity and creativity.
Do you remember going to the library when you were a kid? Why not take advantage of all the free books at your local library? Or if you prefer ebooks, Amazon offers a large selection of free ebooks on Kindle.
Check out Goodreads to get book recommendations, see what your friends are reading, and connect with other readers.
A few more things to try:
The above 7 things to do by 30 are really important for establishing a healthy, prosperous, and adventure life.
They cover five areas of life: Social (Living in a diverse city & Traveling), Physical (Challenging yourself physically), Financial (Investing & Starting a small business), Emotional / Spiritual (Meditating), and Mental (Developing a love of reading).
If you have the opportunity, here are a few more things to try by age 30 that will stretch you even further:
Go to a nude beach
While you're young and in good shape, going to some nude beaches will help you overcome body issues and inhibitions.
Work for a startup and a bigger company
If you can, get experience at both a small startup company (15-50 is ideal )and a larger company. You’ll learn a lot at a startup - both what to do and what NOT to do. You'll also get some stock options that might be worth something someday.
On the flipside, working for a bigger company will give you experience on operations, processes, and more mature management styles.
Take some classes that challenge or scare you
Take a class on acting, Improv, singing, public speaking, writing, cooking, music, or something else that scares and excites you. Doing this expands your horizons, helps you overcome fears, and you can apply these skills to other areas of life.
Do a road trip & Explore the U.S.
Drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, explore the Southwest and the Grand Canyon, go down to the Florida Keys, visit the Northeast during Fall foliage, check out New Orlean’s French Quarter, and ski in the Rocky Mountains.
The original Quora question also asked for some things to avoid by age 30. I wanted to focus mainly on the things to try, but here are just a couple things to steer clear of:
1) Staying in a job you hate because of money or prestige. Life's too short to be miserable.
2) Living the life of other people's ideals. Everyone is different, and everyone's ideal life is different.
Some people want to get married and have kids, and some want to focus on career, while others want to travel and explore. Live your own life, follow your own path, and respect other people's right to do their own thing.
Your 20’s can and should be the time of your life. A time to explore the world, to take some (calculated) risks, and test your limits. It's a time to have fun and a time to prepare the rest of your life for happiness and success.
And the great thing is that you can do all of these things after the age of 30 as well. Many of them can be done over the course of years or even a lifetime. It’s never too late to improve, expand, and enrich your life. Life’s meant to be experienced, no matter what your age!