Opinion: Take Advantage of Your 20s to Get a Step Up on Life

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“Youth is wasted on the young” is a saying used to illuminate how many young people fail to understand how lucky they are to have their whole lives ahead of them.  

MIT News reports that most people’s capability to think swiftly and remember information is the highest at about age 20 and then begins to gradually worsen. At the same time, Tick Pick documents that people party the most during college. Behaviors like drinking alcohol and raving reach their height at ages 21 and 23. Activities like going to concerts and music festivals are most favored at age 23.  

At the age during which most people are at the peak of their brain capacity, many people choose to spend their time “having fun.” They rationalize this by telling themselves that they want to enjoy their life before they get older and are faced with adult responsibilities. This is a destructive mindset that can keep you from achieving success and building something for yourself. The truth is that the time you spent partying and seeking mindless entertainment are hours of your life that you threw away, which you could have used to work while your mind is sharpest and your body is most resilient, so you can be financially set in the future. 

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, became a millionaire at age 22. Evan Spiegel, the co-founder of Snapchat, made millions at age 23. Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, reached millionaire status at age 23. Carlos Slim, the Telecom magnate, was a self-made millionaire by age 25. Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, became a millionaire at age 25. By age 26, Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was making millions. The list of extremely wealthy individuals who built the foundations for their fortune during their youth goes on. That does not mean that every person who hustles during their early 20s will become a self-made millionaire. But, you will have a much higher chance of doing so if you try to achieve your dreams at an earlier age.

It is common for many people in their 20s and even their early 30s to believe they still have a lot of time left to live and accomplish something great. They are not aware that their bodies function according to a biological clock that has developed over years of evolution. According to a new PNAS research study, this set clock goes like this: most people’s brain develops until age 25 and, at age 45, begins to decline, steadily losing the sharpness that it once had. So, the time window to establish a meaningful career or business is not as big as many people believe it to be.  

Many people seek instant gratification and distraction that can make them feel fulfilled and happy for a short time before reality comes crashing down because those things are “fun” and hard work is not. Rather, it is exhausting, grueling and often unrewarding. It requires immense failure, embarrassment and psychological changes to undergo significant personal growth, which many people are simply not willing to go through. So, many people choose to frolic around on vacation, take frequent breaks to “find themselves,” do as little difficult work as possible and focus on entertainment like the latest social media scandal, the new video game everyone is talking about or the viral food item that they just have to try. Why? Because the animalistic part of the human brain, the one that humans had before they evolved to be the smartest mammals on Earth, just wants to eat, sleep and reproduce. To not succumb to your instinctual laziness, you must keep the animal-like part of your brain on a tight leash. Do not become a slave to your desires.    

Humans do not exist so they can have fun. You are here to make the world a better place in any way you can. When you die, nobody will care whether you had fun watching TV, playing video games, eating your favorite foods or following the latest trends. What people will remember is the impact you had on the world and what you did with the time you were given on it. If you did nothing of use, you will have no legacy. 

So, cut out everything that distracts you from your goals, and do not delay implementing your plans. There is no time to waste.