22 Things I've Learned in 22 Years

So, today’s my birthday.

I’m now twenty-two… so it’s finally my turn to sing that one Taylor Swift song — that’s what really matters, right? So, I’ve always thought this sort of thing was pretty cheesy… but I’ve also always wanted to do one of my own. So, without further ado, here are twenty-two things that I’ve learned in my twenty-two years of life.

1. Never underestimate novelty. I’m a firm believer that there isn’t a single thing that can’t be made cooler by being glow-in-the-dark — Tell me I’m wrong. There’s just something about clever, innovative things that seem to tickle the whimsy in human beings. So go push a slinky down some stairs. Play tic-tac-toe with your grandma. Eat jelly beans and guess the flavors. Never get too “grown-up” to enjoy the little pleasures in life.

2. Give your 100%. I’ve never met someone who regrets their choice to work out hard. Because it yields results, and you know you gave your best. There’s such reward in being fully present, fully engaged, and fully committed to something. But, only you know what you’re fully capable of — even if your 70% looks good to most people, you’ve still gotta give more. If you don’t, you’re not only holding yourself back, but robbing other people of what could be.

3. Good health is it’s own reward. Never underestimate how much adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise impact you. You’re living in one of the most privileged places in the world, but you still make your health an excuse to not do more with your life. Sleeplessness, a lack of fitness, poor health choices — they cripple you from being at your best! Simple health choices are hard in the moment, but are absolutely worth it over a lifetime of improved health.

4. Execution is everything. Good ideas are easy to come by… it’s making them a reality where most people fail. Whether it’s starting a business, buying a house, getting in shape, or inventing something — make a plan, and stick to it. It’s more than likely that someone has already done what your idea entails… the key is to do it better, faster, and cheaper. As Shia LaBeouf famously said, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams! Just do it!”

5. Friendship is hard. In school, we’re practically given people to be friends with… but once that environment is gone, it’s much more of a choice as to if you want to be friends with someone. It takes mutual, active persistence to build relationship and there’s nothing easy about that. They say that you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with… make sure you’re investing in your friendships wisely. And once you choose, stick it out to the end.

6. Choose to be yourself. If you copy enough things about someone else, you’ll find that you’ve created a version of yourself that isn’t real. Choosing to be who you are is an active decision. Even if it’s frowned upon by culture, current fashion, or even your friends, you must do what you can to preserve that which the Creator deemed to be valuable. Enjoy those weird things about yourself! Your funny chuckle, an obsession with the color teal, watching chick-flicks, eating eggs with ketchup, saying the word ‘dandy’… it’s harder than you think to be okay with exactly who you are.

7. Everything is a tool. From the cologne you wear, to the kind of jeans you like, to the car you drive, to the very food you eat… everything you do is communicating something to someone. And if you’re aware of it, you then have the opportunity to maximize your connection with people via the things you possess. If the goal is to truly love and connect with people, your taste in watches becomes suddenly more useful — rather than a pointless accessory, it becomes a conversation starter. The usefulness of the things you own is up to you.

8. Always do the right thing. I’ve never taken a bullet for someone, but I’ve picked up a piece of trash that someone missed when aiming for the trash bin. It didn’t really matter, but if I didn’t someone else would have had to pick it up, and that’s just uncourteous. Think small. It’s the small actions of many that creates larger change in the world. Even when it seems like something doesn’t matter, let this phrase remind you that always doing the right thing is valuable and matters to somebody.

9. Curiosity is contagious. Have you ever been with a person who somehow finds a way to marvel at every little thing around them? Like, the specific color of a wall or the history of a building or the way that shoelaces are made… and you think they’re kinda crazy, but you for some reason wanna be just like them? It’s cause wonder is deliberate. Take the time to admire the beauty that’s around you, and let it affect you. Let those strange questions and statements float to the surface of your subconscious, and let em loose. You never know what you’ll learn, or who you’ll inspire.

10. Learn to love the process. Routine seems like such a boring thing, but it’s in the appreciation of it that true progress is made. The mundane is only so because we’ve deemed it to be. We’re all forever in this state of in-between, figuring it out, making it happen… we may as well learn something along the way. Slow down, craft your time on this planet well, and watch your slow progress turn in to something grand.

11. Words matter. If you think something positive, say it. Nobody benefits from your nice thought about their haircut, or how generous you think someone is, or how courageous you thought their action was. There’s nothing more powerful than sincere, heartfelt encouragement. And in the same breath, there’s nothing more devastating than disgusting, vile, gross rhetoric. If your words were either purifying or contaminating the air around you, would you be cool with the air that you’re breathing?

12. Balance is everything. Being polarized isn’t as cool as it seems. Being extreme in situations, ideologies, beliefs, and living isn’t where your fullest life is found. Deeply understanding the fullness of something is great, but it’s dedication to the middle ground that makes something truly as it should be.

13. Smiling at strangers is always a good idea. You never know who truly needs it. I mean, I’ve been the recipient of a stranger’s smile on a really lame day, and it honestly turned it right around! Plus, what do you think it says of you if you’re the kind of person who’s kind and courteous to everyone, not just the people you like?

14. Consistency is key. This is true in every walk of life, but particularly in the realms of creating things. When you choose to keep making things, to keep pushing yourself in your craft, even if nobody really cares about it for months or years… it takes grit. But when you finally start to see the first fruits of those countless times of feeling like giving up… it becomes so worth it. In relationships, faith, risk-taking, personality… it’s the things that you keep doing that truly shape you into who you are meant to become.

15. Story is king. People connect with stories more than anything else. When creating something, story must be the first consideration — before the technicalities, before structure, before critiquing, before the actual creation itself. What is it that you desperately need to communicate to the world? What’s the why that has spurned you on to do the thing you’re doing? Make sure to keep story at the forefront of all that you do, cause it matters a whole lot.

16. Prepare for opportunity. I heard this phrase from a meeting that I had with the Creative Director of Publix, and it just stuck with me. It sort of reminds me that life is a lot less passive than we’d like to believe. Our realities often don’t just happen, they’re crafted. And when we take proper ownership of our choices and steward the things we have well, opportunity seems so much less intimidating because we’re expecting it. Don’t just wait for things to happen, seek them out and take every step possible to ensure that you’re ready for just the right moment to invest in when it comes.

17. Never stop learning. “Leaders are readers” is a phrase that I used to shake my head at… but now I see that there’s such truth behind it. If you wanna be sharp, if you wanna be a person who’s cultured and interesting and ready for life, then you need to be reading. Information is so readily available to us in this age, but we don’t exercise our right to it very well… Plus, everyone knows something that you don’t know, so make every effort to find out what that thing is and capitalize on it.

18. Life is precious. It’s unfortunate that it often takes a close brush with death to realize that every breathing moment that we’re alive is such a gift. It’s often only when a person’s on their death bed that they start to truly consider the reality of God or salvation or grace. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As morbid as it may seem, to be aware of death is to truly be aware of life.

19. You’re not alone. We all have this tendency to believe that we’re somehow the only person who struggles or has weakness or feels like a loser. But the reality is that we’re all just as messed up… there’s no hierarchy of sorts — there’s just the righteousness of Jesus, and the absolute sinfulness of man. Separation is a strange thing because it’s often motivated by something irrational or unmerited, which is why we must constantly be reminded that we’re not alone in this world. Our brokenness brings us together, and that’s a beautiful thing.

20. People are worth it. At the core of it all, there’s really just two things that the Bible says we need to do… that’s love God with everything we’ve got, and love people. Culture can often paint this picture in our minds that people are absolutely fickle, that you can’t trust anyone, and that people are just rotten to the core. But the thing is that despite the instances of truth in that, we’re given a choice to look at people differently. Treating people poorly is the easy way out… to see to the core of a person, to see that they’re created outta the same God-stuff that we all are… that’s how our vision is corrected. If the love of people is what cause the Son of God to die on a tree, then I’d better consider that perhaps I ought to fight for that same thing.

21. Failure is inevitable. The trouble with being human is that even on our best days, we still mess up, and often not in small ways. We say just the wrong thing to someone that we love; We let our guard down and do something stupid; We try to do something good, but end up doing something bad. But at the core of failure is always a passionate, thorough effort. The only way that we really, truly grow is to admit that failure is often a present possibility, and trek forward regardlessly, without any hesitation. If we’re gonna fail, failing forward is our best bet.

22. Jesus wins. This one’s last because it’s the most important. All of these other things are nice little mantras to subscribe to, and pleasant notions that tickle our humanity. But there’s nothing like the love of Jesus. Nothing. There’s no amount of reason, no depth of understanding, no logic to comprehend that can truly fathom the love that Christ extends to us on a momentary basis. His grace is infinitely sufficient, His kindness eternally pure, His mercy immeasurably secure. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned to focus on in this life, it’s Jesus. Amidst all of the craziness of this life, I know that I can always look to Jesus to find my rest, my home, and my fullness. If all else faded away, I’d be okay… the love of my Savior is enough for me.

I pray that in this day, you’ll seek to become more like Jesus. There are an infinite amount of traits and characteristics that are perfectly modeled by the King, and some of the things that I seek to practice in this life are but mere reflections of that perfection. I pray that you’ll let Him shape you into who He meant for you to be. We often don’t even know what needs to be made better, let alone how to make it so. I pray that His mercy will be new to you today, and that your life will reflect the truth of His gospel. I hope your day is full of adventure and excitement and whimsy and grace and love… this life is brimming with possibility! Go and seize every good thing that He has for you, and make every effort to keep yourself clad in the Spirit. You’re awesome in so many ways, and I’m glad to know you. I love you, friend, and don’t forget to keep moving forward.