post written by: Marc Chernoff

20 Life Lessons I Learned in My 20’s

Life Lessons I learned in My 20's

With an impending 28th birthday on my mind, I spent some quiet time this evening reflecting on my recent past.  And I’ve come to realize that my 20’s taught me a lot about life.  So, I figured I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  1. If you’re smiling right now, you’re doing something right.
  2. It’s not so much what you say that counts, it’ how you make people feel.
  3. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re scared to make a mistake.
  4. No matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be.  Either you succeed or you learn something.  Win-Win.
  5. Freedom is the greatest gift.  Self-sufficiency is the greatest freedom.
  6. If you catch yourself working hard and loving every minute of it, don’t stop.  You’re on to something big.  Because hard work ain’t hard when you concentrate on your passions.
  7. It’s not about getting a chance, it’s about taking a chance.  You’ll rarely be 100% sure it will work.  But you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.  Sometimes you just have to go for it!
  8. Complaining is like slapping yourself for slapping yourself.  It doesn’t solve the problem, it just hurts you more.
  9. The one with nothing to hide is always the one left standing tall.
  10. You can press forward long after you can’t.  It’s just a matter of wanting it bad enough.
  11. There’s a big difference between knowing and doing.  Knowledge is basically useless without action.
  12. In work and business, when they need you more than you need them, you have succeeded.
  13. Everything that happens in life is neither good nor bad.  It just depends on your perspective.
  14. We are all weird.  And life is weird.  And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we call it love.
  15. True friendship and true love do sustain the tests of distance and time.
  16. You can’t change who you are.  You can only change what you know and how you apply this knowledge.
  17. It is okay to be angry.  It is never okay to be cruel.
  18. Even when you feel like you have nothing, someone else likely has far less.  Find them and help them.  You’ll see why.
  19. Having a thousand credentials on the wall will not make you a decent human being.  But genuinely helping one person everyday will.
  20. Remember, change happens for a reason.  Roll with it.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

And I leave you with this question:

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Photo by: Nattu

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  • Yes, I know what it like to approach 28. I did.. a few months back :-)

    Here’s a subset of my lessons learned..
    * Denial is not honesty, no matter how you dress it up.

    * Happiness is a choice and that in every moment in life, no matter what happens to me.

    * Problems do not disappear by themselves (although I would love them too) and that it is best to take care of every problem as soon as it appears!

    * Friends can make a wonderful family..

    Finally to answer your questions,
    How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
    Hm… Probably 10 years younger :-0)

  • I turned 21 yesterday and can relate to a lot of things in this post.

  • Every decade, day, minute, moment, is filled with lessons. Thanks for sharing this great list you accumulated in your twenties. It’s really interesting to review a period of time and seriously look at what one has learned. It would be interesting to take a look at even a day and quantify the lessons. The deep truths can be taken away from any hour.

    Your list is profound, imagine what you will take away from the next decade, how much each of us will grow. Now more than ever, with the spreading and sharing of ideas becoming more rapid and being delivered to an ever widening audience, insightful and illuminating lessons can spur everyones inner growth processes.

  • @Shamelle: Thanks for sharing your own life lessons with us. I love the lesson about friends making wonderful family members. Angel and I certainly consider our best friends to be a part of our family.

    @Abhishek: ;-)

    @Matt: No doubt, life lessons are found even in the smallest moments. Afterall, life is simply the culmination of many small (and magical) moments.

  • oh how i can relate to this post! I can relate to all these things you said :)

    I feel like im getting old too fast though

    But for number 17, I helps to be cruel sometimes. It helps me destress. :D

  • Hey Marc, definitely an ‘interesting’ list, there were a few items there I really didn’t expect.

    28 man, you’re getting old ;)

    Submitted to SU!


  • What a great list. I love it. I love your blog. There are so many posts that I read and just feel better and inspired for having read them. Thank you for that!!

  • I especially like number 4!

    Took me about 10 years more than it took you to learn some of these things, and I don’t think I’m a slow learner. So you must be super fast!

    I wonder what your thirties will bring?

  • Really great post. As I’m still in my twenties, it’s great to hear about the lessons you’ve learned (and hopefully I will learn from them too!). If I didn’t know how old I was right now, I’d be a bit confused because I look young but I’ve been told (and agree) that I have an old soul…

  • item 19. reminds me of a quote from associate professor/poet K. Silem Mohammad: “credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being… but a big ol’ deer head is pretty cool”.

    In either case it is not empty accomplishments that are important, but how you live. After 10 years of university, I have not one of my degrees on the wall, but I think I am a decent human.

  • Very good post! Really inspirational and a lot of good things to keep in mind here.

    If I didn’t know how old I was, I would probably think I was in my 30’s (I’m 24). I’ve always felt a bit older, though fortunately I’ve always felt like a young-feeling older person, so I suppose it all balances out :)

  • I’m 26 and the thing that I’ve learned so far in my 20’s is to not pursue a career because 1) it pays lots of money and 2) it’s “prestigious.”

    Do what you really want to do, not what you think you “should” do. If you want to be a plumber, but everyone in your family is a lawyer, be a plumber.

  • Nice list Marc, you have learned many valuable lessons. Here’s hoping that each decade you experience is equally as fruitful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hey Marc,

    I’m just barely into my thirties, but can say without a doubt that I learned more about “life” during my twenties than I would have ever imagined. It seems to be that time when life smacks you upside the head…which means transformation is to be expected.

    I really like #3. It reminds me of something my grandmother said briefly before she passed away in response to what she we do if she had life to live over…”take more chances”.


  • Hi Marc,
    To your question: how old would I be if I didn’t know how old I was? 10

    Old enough to know better, and young enough to have not been hardened by the world in any way. I hope I’m having moments where I live life with kid-like wonder yet…

    #2 is a key one for me - how we make people feel is so important.

    Awesome list all the way around!

  • @Ceena: In my experience, being cruel never truly helps a person unwind their stress. To the contrary, they usually end up being cruel to someone they truly care about… which is never a good thing.

    @Glen: LOL. I don’t feel old. ;-)

    @Positively Present and Colin: I’ve been told I have a old soul too. Actually, one of my college professors once told me this.

    @Thomas: Thanks for sharing that quote.

    @Lance: The best response yet to my question. ;-) Thanks for sharing your insight with us.

  • Hi Marc: A lot of people simply get older with the passage of time; it’s important to not just get older, but to also get wiser. It looks like you’re on the right track. My favorite was this one: “We are all weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we call it love.”

    Some of lessons I’ve learned are:

    -Write the bad things that happen to you on sand and the good things that happen to you on marble.
    -Don’t take things personally; what others say and do is a projection of their own reality.
    - Celebrate life every day in some way.
    - Create some little bit of beauty every day, even if it’s just arranging some flowers in a jar.
    - Be of service; create value.

  • Another excellent post. This one particularly resonates with me as I too am staring down 28 this summer. My ten-year high school reunion was this past weekend; it is hard to conceive of an entire decade having passed since then!

    No. 5 was my favorite. Our twenties are a time for establishing independence from our childhood caregivers. It is crucial that we cultivate self-reliance instead of substituting another dependency, whether it be a relationship, job, or other external entity. As you said, this freedom from dependency is truly the greatest gift, and I firmly believe that it is essential in reaching our greatest potential.

    (I am speaking of mental and psychological dependencies, by the way. As the caregiver of a disabled adult, I would not want my comments to be construed as offensive or critical towards anyone enduring a physical handicap that requires the assistance of others. You can do anything for another human being except make them happy. That is up to each of us to learn on our own.)

  • […] 20 Life Lessons I Learned in my 20’s – Marc from Marc and Angel Hack Life pauses to reflect as he approaches his 28th birthday. We all benefit from it. […]

  • Awesome post. Although I’m 31, I think you make some great points and have some wise insights for your 20’s.

  • Great list! At 17 I’m glad to have learned many of the lessons you mentioned.

    I think number 15 is the most powerful :)

  • This list is GREAT! Thanks for sharing it. There is more insight in those 20 short bullets than I have ever seen collected in one place. I’m going to use some of them as quotes. Stumbled and reviewed.

  • Dear Marc and Angel,
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now and I can never wait for your latest entry. Somehow you always manage to put the right things down. I don’t follow any blogs except yours because I’m a little annoyed by how everybody nowadays feels the need to tell their thoughts to everybody else out there, but I’m honestly glad, that you do. Your blog is inspiring.
    Thanks a lot!

  • Marc,
    Loved these. I think one can relate to them no matter how old he/she is.

    Specially loved #8. The sooner we realize this, the faster we can move on with our life.

    Thanks for sharing these.

  • Hi Marc,

    I just stumbled upon your blog today. I wish you a happy birthday! As an answer to your posed question, I would want to be exactly the age I am right now. I am comfortable with aging. I don’t wish to be any younger or older.

  • Happy Birthday!
    Thanks for your continued inspiration.

  • Marc what should be the answer for this question??:)

    “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

  • I’ll be turning 28 in a few weeks. Sometimes I feel younger, but far too often I feel like I should be double my actual age. Part of it has to do with my health, but maybe my attitude is a bigger factor. I never really had a rebellious teen phase, or a hard-partying college student phase, and sometimes it feels like I missed out on something.

    Three, four, and seventeen resonate strongly with me, considering my experiences over the last couple years. Fourteen is beautifully stated and gives me a little hope :)

  • What great lessons. My favorite is #14. We are all weird in our own wonderful way. We just need to find other people who appreciate our weirdness.

  • Knowing and doing is huge. I’m surprised how many times I can come up dry when I ask the simple question … did I test that?

  • I just turned 20 and started to see several of these forming into lessons for myself over the past few months. Most of these ideas I’ve come across, just worded differently, but that’s life.

    The lawyers will always need a plumber when the water pipe breaks.

    “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” - Anna Quindlen

  • Good list. Number 8 is my favorite. ;-)

  • Great post and I loved all of the points on the list. Number eight is my favorite. Complaining never does anything and justs hurts you more. You are right, it is like constantly slapping yourself for no reason.

    And as for how old I would be if I did not know how old I was, I would easily say 21. The happier I become, the younger I feel.

    May you have a wonderful birthday!

  • I am turning 24 this year and I know that I have a lot more to learn. A few of these lessons I have already experienced though and I would definitely agree with #’s 2, 3, and 18.

  • I’d definitely be the hottest old lady on the block.

    Tee-hee! ;-)

  • Marc, I love all of your wisdom. Some of them have touched me deeply.
    Thank you for sharing with us. Stumbled.

  • “Freedom is the greatest gift. Self-sufficiency is the greatest freedom.”

    It’s wonderful that you already appreciate this. I was stricken at age 37 with a rare progressive illness, incurable. I’d count my progressive loss of freedom and self sufficiency among my top five losses, probably in the top two or three.

  • @Fuzz:

    There is no right or wrong answer to my question. It’s just supposed to make you think. ;-)

    I know 24 year olds who live like they are 70 and 70 year olds who live like they are 24.

    There’s no right way to live, but sometimes we need a reminder that we are never too old or too young to enjoy our life and seize our dreams.

  • I turned 28 … a long time ago.

    How meaningful it is to reflect at any age. I am constantly in awe of young folks like you who are so aware, so smart, and so willing to put yourselves out there.

    I appreciate your sensitivity. And I wish you a Happy Birthday! Make it a magnificent year.

    Congratulations, also, for making the list of “The Top 10 Personal Development Blogs You Wish You Knew About Earlier.” That’s how I discovered you.

  • Great Post! I really enjoy your site and look forward to referring more readers your way. Thanks for the encouragement.


  • These are great lessons, Marc. I found that the more situations we expose ourselves to, the more we can learn and get out of life. On your question, I feel that I’m like 5 years old if I didn’t know my age. There’s still a huge amount of knowledge and things I need to learn and do, and I’ve barely touched anything on the ice berg. That’s what makes life so exciting :)

  • I especially agree with number 19. I have a number of academic credentials but they only provided me access to certain fields. What I do afterward is what matters.

  • I’m ’smiling’ now as I read your blog. I must be doin’ something right :)

  • Hi Marc & Angel,

    Great insight! I love it! I have to steal # 14. I will give you credit of course, but its such a great way to talk about love.


    p.s. maybe Im not seeing it or it is automatic, but can you make a way to subscribe to comments. thanks!

  • […] the lessons that you learned the first time around and use them to avoid repeating any mistakes you made before.  Mistakes are nothing to be […]

  • One of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:

    Time heals all things. - Though, knowing this does not make the pain easier to cope with in the moment.

  • Hi Mark;
    Just started stumbling again and here I am. Yes many of the lessons I learnt during my twenties - quite a few years back now.
    Another important lesson I learned:
    Fighting is a waste of energy and valuable time. Both people are usually right - it simply depends on the perspective.

  • Great lessons! I’m in 21 now and i can definitely relate to what your saying. Reading books, watching positive videos, or listening to cds changes your perspective on life. It allows you to see life differently. Giving you lesson about life as you conquer your fears and make things happen.

  • […] 20 Life Lessons I Learned In My 20’s from Marc and Angel Hack Life - A list of 20 inspiring reflections on life as shared by someone […]

  • Your blog is very inspirational. :) I love these life lessons you’ve shared with us because they aren’t the cliche ones, but are instead ones you’ve learned from your own experiences. #4 is particularly inspiring to me because it explains why you should do the things you’ve been holding back on since the outcome will always be positive. You should consider creating a poll for your readers. They’re pretty useful and fun for voting!

  • I wish I had learned these lessons in my 20s. It would have made my 30s much easier to bear. But you know what they say, better late than never…

  • Very nice post. I turned 29 in July. I enjoyed reading this and would surely look at other posts. Great job.

  • I noticed a lot of the lessons that you learned have to do with taking risks. I am just beginning my 20s and will take your advice without a doubt. No need to play it safe! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Wonderful!

    Bless you Marc! :-)

  • This wisdom at any age is wonderful. At 28, it’s priceless! Great job, Marc.

  • Marc, this was really a great read. I have just turned 19, and I am honestly really nervous about entering my 20’s! I feel like there is so much pressure on me to succeed and secure my place in the world in the next decade. Your blog helped a little, because I know that I am aware of some of those lessons already. I’m not sure I have experienced them all first-hand yet, but I have definitely heard of them all and cannot wait to learn them through my own eyes!

    I’m also considering doing one of these lists for my Teen years.

    Thanks Marc :)

  • #14 was beautiful- about to read your poem. thank you.

  • no. 5 is best……….

  • Great list, I just saved to my journal! Thanks!

    #6 and #12 are directly related, once you master your niche you feel the value of contribution to your firm. Once you are looked to to guide others, you have surpassed the stage of self progression, and into directing the team into unified positive progression.

  • Loved this! I sent this to my oldest niece, nephew and godson although they’re not in their 20s yet. Good reminder for the rest of us.

  • Gosh, that last question really made me think. I’m only 15, but I always take myself way too seriously. Sometimes I mistake myself for being much, MUCH older :(

    Recently found your blog, btw, and the posts I’ve read so far are very inspirational :)

  • I’m 26 and I live by #3. Never ever be scared to fail. Great post.

  • Well, well, well. . . To me, so far The Best post on MarcandAngel. . . And i feel that every one of 20 steps counts and is some where related to my daily routine life, ambitions and life plans. Great stuff indeed!

  • I’m 29 and this is brilliant!

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