20 Things Every Twentysomething Should Know How to Do

First things first, most twentysomethings are too hard on themselves.

It’s one of the downsides of a youth-obsessed culture. We tend to think if we haven’t published our first book, planted our first church or gotten married by the time we’re 30, then we’re on the fast track for a lonely, penniless death which will be mourned by none. Sure, some people get famous when they turn 25. Some people also swim across the English Channel.

Your twenties are a prime time to explore and grow, without all the baggage that comes with settling down and making your mark. (Jesus Himself was an unknown carpenter in a reviled corner of Israel until He was 30.)

That said, there are a few things every twentysomething should know how to do.

1. Make a Great Breakfast

Ideally, you should be able to craft a great meal for any occasion, but this is the most important meal of the day and so, it’s the one you should have down. Use real butter, large eggs, fresh mushrooms, cheese, whatever, but know the ins and outs and invite a lot of people over to eat it with you regularly.

2. Argue Kindly

An increasingly rare trait, but you’ll be better for it. Learn how to have your own opinions (and make sure they’re actually yours—not just something you “heard somewhere”) and how to put them firmly and politely, in a way that invites spirited conversation. It’s a rare and wonderful thing.

3. Hold a Conversation With Someone of Any Age

Whether the person you’re talking to is eight or 80, you should be able to hold a meaningful, intentional conversation with them. Remember to ask a lot of questions, be more interested in who they are than in who you are, and strive to make their day.

4. Parallel Park

Nothing menial about it, and not nearly as hard as it looks. Practice a little. Become an expert. Dazzle your friends.

5. Defend Your Media Choices

Whether you love Sufjan, SZA or Selena Gomez, you should be able to articulate why. The media we consume affects us, and you should be able to explain to yourself why you’re listening, watching and reading the things that you are.

6. Limit Your Online Life

This cannot be over-emphasized. The inability to manage an online presence has toppled promising careers and made fools out of otherwise competent individuals. You should have a good grip on how often you use social media and what you’re using it for. If you find most of your free time spent on the Internet, it’s time to make some choices. If you’re checking your phone at every awkward pause, delete that Facebook app.

7. Approach a Stranger

Whether it’s for directions, a favor or even just to pass the time on an airplane, knowing how to strike up a conversation out of the blue is a marvelous skill. Ask them questions (don’t lead with information about yourself), be approachable (not aggressive) and look for clues that they’d rather be left alone.

8. Stand Up for Yourself and Others

Whether it’s your boss shooting down an idea before you’ve explained it or a person dismissing the lived experience of someone of a different race or gender, you should know how firmly take a stand for both yourself and the people around you.

9. Say “I Was Wrong”

A relationship squabble. A political tiff. A theological debate. Whatever it is, you should always be looking for where you might have messed up. “I was wrong” is a magical little sentence that diffuses conflict and brings peace to any situation. You should have it at the top of your go-to phrases.

10. See Things From a Different Point of View

By now, it should be obvious to you that life looks very different for people who grew up with a different set of circumstances — be it a different socioeconomic bracket, religion, skin color or even immigration status. These people’s experiences are just as valid as your own and it can’t be overstated just how much richer your life will be if you can learn to see the world through their eyes.

11. Tip Generously

What’s just an extra buck or two to you can completely make your server’s day. Make it a habit to tip generously and, if you’re really feeling daring, write a brief thank-you note on your check.

12. Maintain a Mentor

Your twenties are a great time to invest in a mentor. Find someone you want to be like—be it your pastor, a friend or even a peer—and commit to meeting with them regularly. It takes a little humility and a lot of dedication, but there is no ceiling to the value it will add to your life.

13. Bite Your Tongue

Know how to pick your battles. It’s OK for you to be right without getting everyone to admit you’re right. It’s OK not to have an opinion on something — especially if it’s something you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on. Understand when you should go to bat for what you’re thinking and when you can let it go.

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14. Stay Well Rested

Late nights will come (if you’ve got kids, they’ll come pretty frequently) but our generation has forgotten the value in a good night’s sleep. Push yourself to go to bed earlier. Utilize your downtime wisely. Resting is just as important as being productive. In fact, you’ll be more productive if you are resting well and often.

15. Respond to Criticism

Defending yourself against criticism is easy. Graciously accepting it is harder, but the improvements it can make to your life and work are wild. Remember that criticism usually isn’t meant to be a personal attack and, if you can learn to take it in the spirit it’s offered, people will have fewer things to criticize you about in the future.

16. Write a Cover Letter

Filling out an application is a pretty simple process but, in all likelihood, the job you really want is going to take more than a list of references and previous employers. Cover letters require some effort, but it can be the difference between “don’t call us, we’ll call you” and “when can you start?”

17. Be Alone

The millennial generation prizes community, which is very good, but it tends to come at the cost of fearing loneliness. The truth is, being alone can do you a lot of good. Be able to sit quietly—reading, writing, praying or just listening to the silence—and use that time to truly evaluate how your spirit is. Loneliness is exercise for your heart. Do it regularly.

18. Recommend a Book, Movie or Album

It’s harder than it sounds. It’s easy to sound like a pretentious snob or a gushing fan when you’re telling someone to check out something you love. Be able to explain not only why you love something, but why you think someone else would love it.

19. Prioritize the Important Over the Urgent

There are two types of demands on your life. The first and easiest to focus on are the urgent: paying your rent, getting ahead in work, etc. The second and much harder to tackle are the important: your spiritual life, your relationship with your family and looking after the health of your soul. Know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and know which one matters more.

20. Hold on to a Good Friend

There’s going to be a lot of transition in your twenties as both you and your friends float from job to job and location to location. You’ll have to say a lot of good bye’s in the midst of it all, but you should know when you’ve found the rare friend who you don’t want to lose, and you should be able to prioritize staying in touch with them beyond the occasional text message.

The author thanks Liz Riggs and Jeff Rojas for helping him come up with these ideas—and giving him a few to work on himself.

View Comments (9)
  • 35) Eat pussy like you’re a death row inmate and it’s your last meal.
    36) Suck a dick at least once in your life, nobody has to know.

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  • Hey Cody, you make some really great points. And this obviously isn’t an exhaustive list of things twentysomethings should know. I took a look at your blog and it looks like you have some good ideas about the Church and twentysomethings. If you ever want to pitch any article ideas to relevant you can email me at dargan@relevantmediagroup.com.

  • Maybe this falls under #15 – Respond to Criticism:
    As someone who works with twentysomething students, I occasionally have to ask them to do something or not do something while on the job – sometimes several times. These are things that they are aware of but often neglect or ignore, and I’ll get a look of annoyance in response. In short, show some respect to your bosses and coworkers, and when they tell you to do something, do it without giving attitude back.

  • I would add, that the feeling of not accepting mental illness in a loved one, is also due to the stigma of medications in our society. I would posit that recreational drug use is less stigmatized than long term mental health medications. I also believe the all natural back to basics trend we’re surrounded by as young adults is in direct conflict with medicating mental illness. Realize how the world around you shapes how you interpret all things. Medication for mental issues balances out imbalances. When my mother finally got help for her schizo-affective disorder and started taking medications, there was a small part of me that also thought, well, you’re better, maybe it’s time to stop taking the medication. This is exactly the problem with most mental illness. They feel better, and stop taking anything. It is so so so so important that the “support system” doesn’t fall into the same false beliefs that once the issue is treated it’s gone, or that there must be some other natural/spiritual fix. Maybe there’s just not, And that’s ok.

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