The “20s” are a time of rampant growth and it’s worthwhile to take the time to understand that process.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned to help me grow both personally and professionally (at an extremely rampant pace) throughout my 20s.

1) You Will Never Know Who You’re Going To Be So Stop Trying To Figure It Out

I’m starting with this lesson because, as a 20-something, this is the most important and most difficult one to learn:

You cannot tell the future.

You cannot tell where you’ll be 5 years from now.

You cannot tell where you’ll be a year from now.

You cannot tell where you’ll be a week from now, a day from now, let alone an hour from now.

So stop trying to figure it out.

In your 20s, you’re so wrapped up in trying to figure out who you’re going to be that you constantly live in the future and miss the present moment.

But the irony is that it’s here in the present moment that you ultimately learn what it is you need to learn in order to become whatever it is you’re trying to imagine yourself becoming ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

Dream, visualize, but stop trying to figure it out. The only thing you have to do is whatever you’re doing right now, better than you did it the last time.

2) Place A Value Your Time

My first 6 months out of college, I was telling my boss I had to move apartments.

“I’ll help you — I’ll hire a bunch of movers for you,” he said.

When I asked him why he would spend the money instead of just helping, he said, “Well, let’s see. How long do you think it’ll take us to move all your stuff?”

I said, “A couple hours — maybe 4?”

He said, “Ok. And how much do you think a team of movers will cost?”

I said, “Two hundred, I guess?”

He nodded and said, “Ok. So I value my time at X, which is way more than two hundred dollars, so I’d rather just pay for the movers and then put that time to better use — preferably making more money. That, Cole, is called Opportunity Cost.”

This conversation taught me so, so much — both about how to treat money and how to treat my own time.

He placed a number on his time and if something wasn’t “worth it,” he didn’t allocate his time there.

Since then, I’ve seen just about everything through the lens of Opportunity Cost. If I have to walk 15 extra minutes to a cheaper grocery store just to save $10 off my grocery bill, is it worth it?

Learn the value of Opportunity Cost by placing a numerical value on your Time.

This alone will drastically change the way you approach your life.

3) Be An Entrepreneur

I know the definition of this word has changed a lot so let me explain what I mean:

Try your own ideas outside of your job because THAT’S how you’re going to learn.

Working my first job out of college, at an advertising agency in Chicago, I still spent a considerable amount of time investing in myself and my own skills.

Every time I had to learn something new at work, I tried it on my own outside of the office. When I started managing clients’ social media profiles, I didn’t even have an Instagram account or have any clue how to really USE social media to drive business. So what did I do? I made an Instagram account and turned myself into an Influencer.

Within a few months, I became the in-house expert at the agency.

When I started to learn about content marketing, I created a website for myself and launched my first eBook series—along with a bunch of content pieces to promote that product.

When I started learning about e-mail marketing, I got a Mailchimp account and started running my own e-mail marketing campaigns for my own eBooks.

When I started learning about experiential marketing strategy, I got a photographer and went to one of the busiest intersections of Chicago and filmed my own “stunt” to promote my website.

Until eventually, four years later, I had learned enough to go off on and my own and start my own ghostwriting agency, Digital Press.

When people ask how I learn so fast, it’s not because I’m super smart or I have an outrageous IQ.

It’s because I approach learning by doing things myself.

I’m never regurgitating industry bullshit, or spewing something I’ve read in an article. I’m sharing my own experiences and things I’ve seen work in the trenches.

Try your own ideas outside of the office, and it will make you far more valuable than anyone who thinks their expertise is developed solely between the hours of 9 and 5.

4) Find A Mentor

I mention this in just about every article I write, because I believe it is the single most valuable resource an aspiring 20-something can have access to.

Mentors allow you to see the world through their eyes, and to grow at an extremely fast pace.

A great story I have for this with my most recent (and most influential) mentor—who is constantly surrounded by people who teach him as well, aka “double mentors” for someone like me.

When we used to work together, he would have phone conversations with these other extremely knowledgeable people and record them for future reference, and he’d ask me to listen and transcribe them. On the surface, most people would see this as an extremely tedious and mind-numbing task, but in my eyes it was a holy grail of an opportunity.

I was getting to sit in and listen to unfiltered conversations between some of the industry’s most creative minds.

I promise you, however much you think you learn from a book, or a podcast, or watching a documentary, or even sitting in a classroom with a prolific teacher, you will learn five times that just by sitting in the same room (or listening in on a call) between two masters of their craft.

Find yourself a mentor and don’t expect them to hand-hold you or teach you directly.

Just pay close attention.

5) Spend More Time Investing And Less Time Spending

Your 20s are all about Time. It’s all you have.

How you invest it and where you choose to spend it is extremely important.

But keep in mind, you’re also in a prime time of your life where you are very nimble, you’re healthy, and you’re in a perfect position to LEARN.

The 20-somethings that take their Time and their Money to spend, spend, spend, are the ones that cap out early, settle into their skills, and eventually stop growing all together (sad but true).

They’re the ones that come to a point where they ask the crisis question of “How did I get here and what am I doing with my life?”

Do not underestimate all the tiny choices.

All the times you decide to go to the bar instead of learning something new; watching TV instead of reading; drinking with your friends instead of going to the gym, etc.

Everyone is entitled to live their lives however they want, and none of the above are “wrong” by any means. But the truth is: The people who grow the most, who succeed on their own terms, who ultimately turn their dreams into reality and build a life they are truly proud of are the ones who, in EVERY SINGLE MOMENT, ask themselves if what they are doing is conducive to their personal growth.

6) (Bonus) Remember To Relax

Playing off #5 here, do not forget to relax and have some fun.

This is a constant struggle for me because my idea of “fun” is learning something new or being creative or diving into a new project — but it’s important to chill and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Enjoy the journey.

Your 20s are a pivotal time for growth, but they are also “the fun years.”

You don’t have a family yet, you don’t have that many bills, you don’t have kids or any really serious responsibilities.

Take it one day at a time and remember that you JUST finished school, you JUST entered the real world.

In all honesty, all of us 20-somethings are still kids.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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