The Most Powerful Questions That Shaped My 20s (So Far)
You’ll Never Have All The Answers, But Your Questions Can Get Better
It was a random moment. Not one you’d celebrate. Or even notice, for that matter.
I was walking along the sidewalk, like every day. Morning snack from the bakery in hand, headphones in my ear, Kygo playing on repeat.
Suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks.
The insight hit me like a stun grenade. I actually had to step aside, into a little alleyway, so people could pass me by.
“You will never figure out life. There will never be an end to all the questions. You’ll just get better at dealing with them and learn to do it faster.”
On my way to school I’m really in the zone. I know the path by heart, my music gets me into the flow and the amount of sensual stimuli is on a comfortable level.
As John Kounios and Mark Beeman describe it in The Eureka Factor, this is the perfect environment for ideas and thoughts in your subconscious to bubble to the surface.
And bubble they did.
Until that point in my life, I thought this entire game of asking questions upon questions about where I’m going and why I want to go there would end one day.
The way I imagined it, one day, most everything would fall into place and I’d have the trajectory of my life set. Forever.
But that’s not how it works.
Even someone, who’s blessed with a very clear vision for their life from an early age, will never stop hitting inflection points.
If you know you want to be a chef since you’re 8 years old, that still leaves a lot of variables.
- At 18, you might debate whether to go to culinary school or not.
- At 23, you may need to decide between opening a restaurant or staying with your mentor.
- At 35, you potentially need to ask what to do after getting your third Michelin star.
- At 47, you could have to admit that your cooking school for youngsters isn’t working.
You get the idea. There will never be a moment in your life when you go:
“Got it! Those are the last answers. I’m set!”
I have a “reflective cycle” at least twice a year. It’s a period of 1–2 weeks, in which I question almost everything I’m doing. Sometimes I end up pivoting entirely. Sometimes I adjust.
However incremental the change, it always happens. And it was in that moment, that I realized it would always be this way.
The only difference is I get faster over the years. The cycles are less dramatic, they take less time and I slowly start to accept them as part of the equation.
You and I will probably never have all the answers. But that’s no reason our questions can’t get better.
I’m 25 now. Over the last five years, these have helped me a lot:
1. Where do I need to go to find myself?
When you feel “I should go to X country,” really tune in to that feeling. Everyone has a few places they crave to visit and your 20s are the best time to do it, because it’ll help you find yourself.
I went to US, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Korea and Australia in 2012/2013 and studied abroad — now I feel even if I die tomorrow I’ll have seen everything I needed to see.
2. What’s the most impractical career that would make me happy if I went for it?
When traveling we often realize what we really want. I fell in love with books during my semester abroad and started dreaming of becoming a writer.
If there’s any time to go for the most impractical career path you can imagine for a few years, it’s your 20s. You can “grow up” later.
3. Why do I want what I want?
Going for what’s impractical means swimming upstream, and you need balls to do that. Knowing what drives you is the single greatest way to not give a fuck what other people think. Money, prestige, fame, legacy, freedom, no matter what you’re going for, people always tell you you’re wrong anyway.
Mine is legacy. If you read this and actually change your life because of it, I get goosebumps. Impact is my drug. Might as well accept it.
4. What’s the lowest standard of living I’m willing to tolerate right now?
When you’re 50, you can’t eat pizza three times a day. Your body just won’t be cool with it. Right now, you can sleep on the floor, live on $10 a day, wear the same clothes three days in a row and it won’t matter.
The price of being impractical will never be this cheap again.
5. What kind of life do I want to avoid at all costs?
Most of us don’t have a clue what we want when we’re 20, which is why so many people slide into career paths that make them unhappy. Figuring it out is hard (and, as we saw, never really ends), but you can always start with avoiding what you know you don’t want.
I chose a business degree right out of high school, because I thought being a consultant would be cool. Once I saw clearer I realized that that’s one of the last careers I’d want to get into. Knowing one more thing I can avoid makes it easier to navigate.
Again: You don’t need to have all the answers. Just make sure your questions keep getting better.
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This started as an answer on www.quora.com.