Stop Taking Advice From 20-Year Olds

The internet is inundated with life coaching and advice from young people. This is a situation of the blind leading the blind (I am in my late 30s, by the way, so while I am not yet old and wise, I have some life experience). I love to talk about how to live as well, because I am still figuring it out too, but we need to clear something up: age matters.

Whether someone lived a good life, a rich life, or a bad and difficult life, their experience matters. The story of an old person’s life is already near completion. The regrets of those in hospice is as near as any person can get to getting good life advice. Why? Because that dying person is your future self.

This is partially why I enjoy reading thorough biographies and memoirs. The older the person is, the better. These people have already lived their full life, you have not. A 20-year old has barely lived. Many of them even look like children still. When I remember my 20-year old (and I’m sure some of you reading this are remembering your late-30s self and his/her foolishness) self I can’t take him seriously. He had big ideas and thought he knew about life, but he knew nothing. NOTHING. He couldn’t even imagine what he’d be like at 30. He had no idea he would look exactly the same and be almost exactly the same.

I’ve heard it from the elderly before, that it seems when you have finally figured life out, it ends. When I read about the 9 biggest regrets people have in life, I can’t help but notice how much our own ego prevents us from living so that we won’t have those 9 regrets (more loving; better spouse/child/parent; less time working; more risks; enjoyed life more; lived their dream; taken better care of themselves; done more for others; more meaningful work).

Think about it like this, and let’s go over what I mean for each of the 9 regrets.

  1. More Loving. You aren’t more loving to those around you because you might see it as inappropriate, or being a doormat, or being taken advantage of, or it may steal your time. You may be guarding your energy by not caring for or being more considerate to other people, or understanding of them. This is self-absorbed ego protecting you from “wasting time.”
  2. Better X. You aren’t a better relation to people because, again, you are protecting your ego to some extent. You don’t want to be too vulnerable because you might get hurt or used.
  3. Less time working. Work is necessary, of course, because you need money to survive, but we can easily get carried away depending on our job. Our ego also might be terrified of conflicts that may lead to a loss of a job because you enforce life/work balance boundaries. You may be afraid of your boss, your coworkers, your clients, and willing to work hard and sacrifice your own happiness to please them, because it saves your ego from the pain of standing up for yourself. We despair when we look back and see how much others enslaved us to our jobs.
  4. More risks. Your ego is always trying to do the familiar, easy way of doing life. It’s better to keep your mouth shut then open it and remove all doubt of how stupid you are. It’s better to not ask someone out than ask them and have it be revealed how repulsive you are. We don’t take risks because we are terrified of how inadequate we really are. Those at the end of life realize this was an error, that risks allow growth and breakthroughs, and knowing the truth about yourself (how others see you) is possibly the most important information you can get to use. (Hence the story element of an emperor or some celebrity liking the person who doesn’t suck up to them).
  5. Enjoyed life more. Your ego hates to feel embarrassed or stupid. Or, it loves to worry about things it can’t control. These things all shut you down and deprive you of happiness. We let ourselves step in the way of a good time out of fear something bad could happen.
  6. Lived their dream. It is depressing to me how many souls will waste the entirety of their lives. Sometimes I my eyes tear up when I go around town and observe the quiet desperation of those who are not being good to themselves and suffering the consequences. They are already on their deathbed regretting their life not lived. Our ego is afraid to live its dream, it makes excuses and gets in the way because it is hellbent on being safe and not ever having to face pain and failure.
  7. Taken better care of themselves. We are too reassured we will have self-control later. Remember that regret about not loving others enough or being a better brother/mother/spouse? Yeah, no one else is going to take care of you, so you had better do it yourself. Stop eating poison.
  8. Done more for others. Often we don’t do things for others because we are afraid of implied reciprocation. What I mean is, you don’t want that person to end up asking you for favors again and again. You don’t want to adopt a high-maintenance friend who will use you (and you know they will because you are too afraid of conflict to stop such use). Our ego can deprive us of the pleasure and opening of doors helping others can do for us.
  9. More meaningful work. Since you must work, why are you not doing everything in your power to ensure what you are doing is the best possible use of your talent and abilities and will align with your goals in life? Why? WHY NOT?!

A 20-something-year old cannot tell you how to live. I don’t even want workout advice from them, because it’s far more impressive for an older person to be in shape because of what happens to our joints and connective tissue as we age. Unless time management advice has been working for you for decades and allowed you to live the life you wanted, I don’t want to hear about it. I’m old enough now to know it takes time to see how things affect your life. I am continually amazed at how my perspective changes over the years. I feel as though my 20s self has already died (but I am living with his consequences).

It’s like when you search for advice on how to write a good resume or cover letter for a job you want, except every template and example you find has all of the exact qualities needed for a specific job they are applying for! That doesn’t help! I want to know how someone with no qualifications and experience was able to turn their life around in a new field and how they got past HR! This is how advice from young people is, it only applies when they know the end outcome so everything looks like it matches up. I have a teaching degree but I have sold cars, mortgages, HVAC equipment, and been in customer service and retail. I never had the option to teach, unfortunately, so I have had to figure out how to do other things. I can only really benefit from people who have had a difficult and winding career path, who had to force their way to success. People who have had to figure out who to deal with a potential lifetime of financial difficulty. I want to read more biographies of poor people who lived well. I want to know everything about a nobody who did nothing but was able to do live a fulfilling life in their own eyes. Why? That’s the reality of most people, to stand still, to not achieve and reach the stars. 20-somethings have yet to experience their own failure. I have no time or need to hear from someone who hasn’t failed horribly, who hasn’t had a dark night of the soul.



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Some serious and some satire articles. Only I know the difference.