I won’t tell you when, but I’m about to turn 30.
Truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Older readers may scoff at that brief introduction, sensing the worried whippersnapper at work, but right now it feels like a real milestone.
When I spoke to a friend in the US in a few years ago, they told me your 20s are for making mistakes and discovering life. I’ve certainly done some of that. But the below isn’t just about me. It’s also my invitation to you to share some of what you’ve learned as well.
A less obvious thanks goes to Times Radio political correspondent Charlotte Ivers, who recently wrote a brilliant column detailing every bit of wisdom she’d garnered in a decade of being an adult. I liked her succinct style of her, which I have attempted to replicate.
Putting nuggets of wisdom into two sentences or fewer is a great challenge, and an enjoyable exercise that focuses the mind. I would really recommend it! Here goes.
Popular Culture And History
Much of life can be understood through the stories we tell about ourselves. From national identity to casual conversations at the bar, storytelling is central – and potentially dangerous.
It follows that the writing, presentation, and (in the Netflix era) re-telling of the telling of history are more flawed than anyone ever told you when you were actually a history student!
There is no such thing as “apolitical”: everything in this world is political, and attempts to present things are otherwise usually disingenuous.
Not enough is being done to stop men from writing about women.
Money, Work and Business
Put as much as you can afford into your pension (as early as you can).
Simplicity is beautiful. Though business plans shouldn’t be written on the back of fag packets, the best business models certainly can be.
If a business offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Buy leather or plastic watchstraps; the fabric ones get icky.
And speaking of which: it may have cost you £10,000, but that Rolex Submariner still only tells you, er, the time.
When inexperienced folk with a good attitude work with experienced folk with a bad one, chaos tends to dream.
Learning to distinguish between genuine trends and the proverbial flash in the pan will help you spend, save, and invest, much more effectively.
If you’re struggling to make a very difficult decision at work, ask yourself how your actions will look during a public inquiry.
In businesses large and small cash is king.
Don’t spend too much on “luxury” clothing brands. They will make you feel rich but the wealthiest people in the world don’t really wear them.
Nobody carries cash anymore, but as far as people experiencing homelessness are concerned, it is one of the most important and generous things you can do.
Never conflate salary with operational competence.
Never buy a pair of shoes with bad arch support.
Do what physiotherapists tell you. They are underappreciated.
When you fill your glass up with water in the office, drink from it before refilling it again. You’ll be more hydrated and still sit down with a full cup.
There’s nothing like a spell in hospital to show you how quickly things can come to a halt.
We don’t spend enough time teaching people how to learn. If you crack that – and learn to enjoy it – the world will truly be yours.
You don’t have to study hard if it’s not for you, but it’s good to work hard at something by age 17. There’s no shame in ditching whatever that is eventually, but it’s the work that will eventually show you the way.
Never work through the night on an essay. Stop at 11pm and set your alarm for 4am.
Learning a language is one of the best things you will ever do.
To Tell The Kids
If you have the luxury of a relationship with your parents, treasure it.
Car crash or argument, the most injured people are usually the quietest.
Try and do one nice deed a day without telling people. You will do good and stay humble.
The tipping point at which sleep goes from inconvenience to luxury is different for everyone, but it is a life-defining and irreversible moment.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll solve your problems at 1am…
… but you may be able to help someone solve their own. Listen well.
Any Other Businesses
The timing of life’s toughest moments is rarely convenient, but that’s no excuse to avoid them.
If you have to choose between braking, swerving, or speeding up to avoid obstacles, always brake.
The best kitchens are let down by the absence of pint glasses. Accumulate them; you will be more hydrated, and friends and guests will appreciate the generosity of your servings.
Even optimists feel losses more acutely than gains, so if you’re a pessimist be careful about negativity. If you’re an optimist make sure you keep your feet on the ground (I am a pessimist).
The best cooks create delicious food. The most efficient cooks wash up while they’re cooking.
Care for animals. Sometimes the best way to show love to them is to leave them alone.
Life isn’t as set in stone as you think, and there’s a hell of a lot to play for.
Ollie Smith is UK Editor at Morningstar