To My 19 Year Old Daughter: Twenty Things I Learned in my Twenties
"You know what that golf shot was..? That was a definiing moment. And, when a definining moment comes along, you either define the moment or the moment defines you." - Roy McAvoy (Tin Cup)
As my oldest child approaches her twentieth lap around the sun, I've been contemplating what "defining moments" she would encounter during her twenties. Although I believe that life lessons are fairly unique for each person, I did think that she may benefit from my own experiences as well. So, I decided to make a list of my own moments of enlightenment that were realized as a twenty-something that may prove to be critical to her development as a young adult.
1. Call your parents. I lost my Dad suddenly in my late twenties. 3 Hrs before he died I had a great conversation with him and told him I loved him before hanging up. I can’t tell you how comforting that call was to my psyche in the months and years that followed.
2. Establish good habits. I wake up early every day, work out every day and spend time with my family every day. In my twenties it was time with my brothers…now, it’s with my wife and daughters.
3. 99% of my bad moods can be resolved with working out, sleeping or eating. To this day, if I’m in a grumpy mood, my girls will come up and ask me if I’ve worked out today.
4. It’s easy to be a follower…but it’s much more difficult and rewarding to be a leader. Stick to your morals and beliefs. You can’t go wrong if you stay true to yourself.
5. Giving in to peer pressure is a definite sign of weakness. You’ll always regret those moments when you went against your better judgement.
“This above all - To thine own self be true.” - Polonius (Hamlet)
6.Don’t be afraid to be alone at certain moments in your life. Some of my favorite memories are from when I was traveling the world on my own and I had only myself to rely on. You never learn more about what you’re made of than when it’s all on you.
7. I don’t always keep a journal, but whenever I was preparing for something “epic” in my life, I tried to memorialize it the best I could. It’s a great way to work through your problems. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
8. Everything happens for a reason. I’m not saying it’s some devine moment or anything, but I do believe that what is supposed to happen will happen. You may not understand why it happened right away, but over time you will understand why things had to go the way they did and that you’re better for it.
9. Don’t be afraid of failure. This is when you learn the most.
“You must act as if it is impossible to fail.” - Ashanti proverb
10. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to opportunity…even if you’re not sure how you’ll do it. I can’t tell you how many amazing opportunities came my way just because I was willing to put myself on the line and said “yes."
11. In my experience, most “kids” don’t know what they want to do with their lives as they exit college…and that’s ok. The truth is we’re all just winging it based on our latest best guess. What I can tell you is that almost every one of my friends is working a different job than they were in their twenties. So, experiment and don’t be afraid to change it up if necessary.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams - live the life you’ve imagined.” - Henry David Thoreau
12. Your integrity is the one thing that will follow you. Protect it, honor it and never, ever give it away.
13. One of my closest friends is 15 years older than me. When we would go for hikes, I was always pushing the pace so I could feel my legs burn, more interested in the workout than anything. My friend would ask for me to slow down and look around. I’d find myself in a mountain meadow with wild flowers and beauty in every direction as far as the eye could see. He taught me to slow down and take my eyes off the road from time to time - you might be missing the best part.
“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
14. Don’t take a single day for granted. I lost my father at a young age and I lost friends during my twenties as well.
“Take nothing for granted. Not one blessed, cool mountain day or one hellish, desert day or one sweaty, stinky, hiking companion. It is all a gift.”- Cindy Ross
15. I’ve been told I emanate confidence…I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’ve always believed in myself. I always had faith that I could accomplish my goal, no matter the obstacle(s). Before you ask... no, I didn’t achieve every goal I ever set..especially during my twenties. And yes, at times I was disappointed in the end result. But, I always went “all in” in an effort to realize the dream.
“To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself.”- unknown
16. Travel is always a worthwhile investment. I’ve learned so much from my travels abroad and never regretted a single trip. I’ve been to over 50 countries and had the opportunity to experience things that most people couldn’t imagine. We only get one life…seek out adventure and embrace it.
“Who is the happier man? He who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”- Hunter S. Thompson
17. I remember crashing with an old Army buddy in my late 20’s and we were catching up on all of our adventures. One thing he said really stood out. I told him that I had a dog - a big, black Newfoundland named Thor. He was truly my best friend at the time. Most all of my friends not only knew Thor, but had taken care of him while I was on the road at one time or another. He was an integral member of the gang. My friend replied that he would never get a dog. He considered dogs a total waste of money with no ROI. I couldn’t disagree more. No creature will ever provide you with more unconditional love and emotional support. Thor shared more love when my Dad passed away than any human could and he was a great judge of character in others. Adopting a dog will be one of the best decisions you could make.
18. Buy quality over quantity. My mom taught me to spend a little more on good stuff that will last years. Cheap stuff is just that…cheap. Along with that, don’t buy trendy stuff - I buy the classic stuff that stands the test of time. Classic is timeless and never goes out of style.
19. Keep learning. Your education doesn’t end with college. I am constantly striving to broaden my mind and expand my skills. Whether it’s learning guitar, backcountry survival or a coaching certification, I am always interested in continuing my life education. No matter what form of higher learning you choose, don’t ever stop learning and growing.
“Seek and ye shall find.”- unknown
Shawn Cowley - December 12 2022
Tony you nailed it here! Wow. I love this list and will share it with my 20 something kids. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your amazing success as a triathlete. It was so much fun to watch you and your brother Tim from afar.
DSBD! F3 91
Erik Schulte - December 12 2022
I love lists of things, and this list definitely resonates. Thanks for sharing🤙
Dan Schorr - December 12 2022
Tony, to say it has been decades seems like an understatement. I am so glad I “paused” and read this. I have a secret for you …Shhhhh… this is great to read in your X’s (I dont want to tell you how old I am , let’s say 2 X 20’s + ++ LOL)
These are wonderful insights for me to pause and think over. I also have a young daughter and I will share with her as well. Although I think I will only get through seven or eight of them before she loses attention!
Happy Thanksgiving and best to your family,