My 20s Are Almost Over — 4 Things I Regretted Not Doing

Materially, even if I end up not achieving much, at least I know that I will have no regrets.

I was twenty-one. I was at that age that I thought I was still darn young and have all the time in the world to postpone plans and stay in my comfort zone day after day…until years flew by and I am now reaching my thirties.

  1. I regret not starting a business as I have always dreamt of

This isn’t to be successful at a young age. This is about learning to take risks when time is still well on your side. This is about having many failures that will help you to carve your path to success in your later years.

I had always toyed with the idea of doing a small business since young. Whether it is designing t-shirt to sell, baking cookies to sell, etc, I have obviously ended up building castles in the air, only to sleep over my ideas.

To me, the idea of starting a business at a young age isn’t to build the next revolutionary, million-dollar venture quickly. It is to push myself to stay away from the comfort zone to take risks and start accumulating valuable lessons at a young age with fewer losses and sacrifices.

That sheer envy when I read about teenagers starting their own businesses from selling slimes, trading limited-edition sneakers to building apps and software for others. What‘s similar between us is that we all have ideas. The difference? They acted on them while I didn’t. I had stayed in my comfort zone.

2. I regret not starting investing even earlier

The greatest asset that any young investor is endowed with, that most experienced investors can only dream of, is time. The earlier you start to invest, the earlier you get to reach your financial goals in life. There are two ways of looking at it:

  • The power of compounding

The earlier you start investing, even if it is with a small sum, the more you get to enjoy the power of compounding many decades later.

  • Having lots of time on your side can buy you many financial lessons at a much lower cost.

Say you are twenty years old or even younger and you have invested a thousand dollars in the stock market before COVID-19 and then only to see your entire amount being wipe-out because of the stock market crash last year.

While this is a thousand-dollar loss but you have just experienced your first crash — something that cannot be bought even if you have read a lot of finance books (you will learn that theory does not equate to practical/real-life experience). It may seem like a painful loss at a glance, but you will thank yourself many years later.

3. I regret minding too much about what people think of me

One of the bad news about life is that whether you are a (self-defined) failure or a successful person like Elon Musk, weak or fit as hell, dumb or smart, gay or straight, religious or non-religious, rich or poor, etc, YOU are bound to get judged by some group of people. Not convinced? Look at the people you deem as successful, have they not receive some form of unconstructive criticism and hate comments?

And the good news about life (that I learned a little late)? It is that it really doesn’t matter. There is no way to make EVERYONE accept you or what you do.

I was scared to try many things (and they are not even out of the world, to begin with). I was scared for this and that because I didn’t want people to judge me. In the end, at the very least, that fear has made me mentally drained over time to focus on things that, instead, benefit my growth and wellbeing.

While it does take considerable and conscientious effort to convince yourself that it really doesn’t matter what people think of you, as you near towards your thirties, you have to tell yourself to overcome the fear as it acts like a silent killer unknowingly affecting various aspects of your life.

4. I regret not taking a gap year

I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship for my studies. However, the scholarship comes with a bond that requires me to work immediately in the related industry after my graduation, and for three consecutive years. That three years ended one and half years ago when I was just over my mid-twenties. During the course of serving my three-year bond, I really wanted to take a gap year right after the bond. This is because while working, as I looked at people around me that have worked many years in this industry, I realized that I cannot picture myself in their role in the future.

I wanted to take a break to travel and explore alternatives. Taking a gap year after the three-year bond is the best time for me because I would have saved up some money to last me for a while. I chickened out and kept postponing that idea until COVID-19 came. With lockdowns everywhere and strict safe-distancing regulations put in place to keep everyone safe, there is only so much one can do offline to stay as a responsible citizen.

You never know what life brings you. Maybe there isn’t COVID-19. Maybe your health started to suffer, maybe you have to suddenly take care of your loved ones. Do not continually postpone your plans unless you have no choice.

5. I regret not working my focus enough

A guy named Robin Sharma once said, “Stop managing your time. Start managing your focus.” I couldn’t agree more with this powerful statement. We often emphasize the importance of managing time well to accomplish more tasks every day. However, few of us talk about the greater importance of managing focus. If you are able to focus better, wouldn’t better time management come more naturally?

I spent most of my twenties getting distracted easily — getting hooked with social media, reading various online (useless) content, and trying things that I already know it is not going to help me in the future. I might be working for long hours but the productivity and efficiency levels are compromised because I couldn’t focus as much. That does not mean that I have achieved nothing so far. It just meant that what I could have accomplished in a few short years, I actually took much longer.

Nowadays, knowing that I have only two years left before I hit thirty, I often look back on my life, and if my life experiences can be plotted into a graph, all I can see is an almost horizontal line. While I am technically still young, considering the average life span of a human, I believe that it is always better to start earlier because you never know what life will bring you later.

Many times I wonder how things would have turned out had I done things differently. While it is meaningless to dwell on what is already over, what I do know now is that even if I had failed miserably in doing what I wanted in my early twenties, I will not regret making those decisions.

Research has already shown that people tend to regret more on things they did not do, than on things they did and failed. It is true for my case. In life, take risks — if you win, you will be happy but if you lose, you will be wiser.

I write mostly on personal growth, mental health and finance/money/economy. jo.young.medium@gmail.com

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