11 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 20

Me, circa 20. That's a monsoon behind me. How appropriate.

In no particular order:

1. All Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True (And Some You’re Not Wild Enough to Guess At Yet)

A lot of what you desire you don’t have to worry so much about. Stuff is either gonna work itself out or you’re gonna figure it out. Either way, don’t be afraid to hope. You’ll be rewarded.

That said, dream bigger, dude. Don’t limit yourself by what you think you can do now. You can do a lot more. You will do a lot more.

2. All of Your Worst Nightmares Will Come True (And Some You’re Too Scared to Even Imagine) 

No, not the one about your parents with baby bodies and football helmets. And not the one about the giant evil face outside your bedroom window that tells you no one loves you.  I’m talking about the tough stuff ahead that will pound away at your faith and confidence and people you love until you beg the cup away from you.

You’re not going to be able to avoid that stuff and, once it gets here, it’s not going to go away. You’re an adult now. Things last.

But you’re going to be okay.

3. You Will Get Married

No, your ability to attract and flirt with a woman will never improve (sorry), but when you find the right one it won’t matter. So stop worrying so much about it. Your insecurity is your least attractive quality.

What’s that? Yeah, she’s pretty. Geez, man, there are other things that are way more important. But yes, she’s gorgeous. Calm down.

The helmet kind of takes away from what I'm trying to achieve here.

4. Don’t Stop Writing in Your Journals

Don’t make the same mistake I did. You write every day in your journal and that’s excellent. Just. Don’t. Stop. Your life will disappear if you don’t make a record. Your memory isn’t as good as you think it is.

5. Learn Now to Slow Down Your Anger

Little girls really freak out when you are quick to anger. You and your wife will raise at least three of them. You’re not going to abuse them or anything, but unless you want to feel like the worst human being ever on a regular basis, learn now how to count to ten.

6. Loosen Up

Your uptight attitude and tendency to look at your watch every few minutes puts people off. Toss the watch, loosen the tie. Yeah, I know you’re a missionary, but even now there are people you’re not reaching because they think you don’t care about them. They think you care about the trains running on time.

Life’s not all about the trains, man.

It's not so much that I was small. That was just a very big dryer.

7. At Some Point After You Hit 30 You Will Begin to Lose Your Hair

Don’t stress. That just makes it worse.

8. You Need a College Degree

Stop fighting this and the next few years will be a lot easier for you. You’re going back to school and that’s final. I promise the degree will come to mean a great deal to you. No, it’s not gonna seem that way for a really, REALLY long time, but if you don’t go you will lose some amazing opportunities–not the least of which is meeting your future wife.

9. Get Some Apple Stock

I don’t care how bad off the company looks at the moment or how you get the money, invest now and as much as possible.

Oh, and never buy first generation.

10. When Something is Happening You Know is Not Right, Speak Up

Some of your biggest regrets will come because you didn’t say something when you should have. I know, hard to imagine a loudmouth like you shutting up about anything, but it will happen. Use good judgment and don’t be a jerk about it, but don’t be so afraid to offend that you hold back when you should be standing up for your friends and what is right.

My 21st Birthday Party. I'm the super cool one in the suspenders.

11. Don’t Read This List

Too late, I know, but I don’t really want you to change anything (mostly). I’m not perfect, but I’m the result of all the good things you will do AND all the mistakes you’re about to make. I don’t want to risk losing anyone or anything.

Also, you’re a world class second guesser. You’re never gonna be able to interpret any of this advice correctly.

What would you say to your 20-year-old self? Would you say anything at all? Are you 20 now? In that case, bask in my wisdom.

(By the way, I completely stole the idea for this post from the great writer and blogger Shelli Johnson. You should go read her version now.)



  1. Hi Brock!

    I wish I knew this stuff, too, when I was 20 but like the last commenter said, I’d have never listened anyway. 🙂

    I love the part about the journals, too, because it’s completely true. I can’t believe how fast the time goes (oh, which just makes me sound OLD) & you’re completely right, my memory isn’t as good as I think it is.

    Thanks for sharing your list.



    1. Thanks again, Shelli. Especially as a memoirist, my journals are invaluable. I think memory is a good editor, but it’s nice to be able to verify details and get some shading only reportage can provide.


  2. Good advice Brock. And unfortunately no, I don’t think I would have listened to my 20 year old self. Reminds me of my post – Don’t Go There!


  3. And no, I am not accusing you of plagiarism. 🙂

    I meant the idea of speaking to my younger self about how to avoid future mistakes.


    1. Tracy, I would NEVER plagiarize. I only steal. (And no, I didn’t think you were accusing me of anything–no worries.)

      It seems to me that we’re all pretty much agreed that our 20-year-old selves were a bunch of arrogant idiots.


  4. Just curious which points of Orson Scott Card’s you disagree with. And the book I mentioned has a great section on art and fiction- you would really like it, I think.

    Cool post, btw, I know my 20 year old self wouldn’t have listened to any advice.


  5. What a great idea– I’m going to have to copy you and Shelli and do one of these posts as well. Your points are good ones– a nice mix of humor and earnest reflection. I love #4 and #6 especially…well, and #9. If only I’d known. 🙂


  6. I’m sure Shelli and I would both love to read that, Sarah.

    As for #9… I think that’s the universal one. If only we’d all listened to Steve Jobs a long time ago.


  7. When I was 20, lo these many millennia ago, I was just about a complete drop case. Now, I’m starting to get it together, but there isn’t much I could say to that person, since he was about as hardheaded and obstinate as the heads on Mount Rushmore, although less handsome.
    What I didn’t know then would fill a book… what that person would listen to from me could be written in a matchbook with a grease pencil, with space left over.


  8. I’m late to the party here, and twenty is so far in the rear view mirror that I can barely recall it (Point #4, I guess), but . . . a very enjoyable post, full of wisdom. I need to check back more often.


    1. Thanks very much, Bruce.

      I’m still trying to learn the lesson of Number 4. I wrote in the journal for the first time in years not too long ago, but I need to get back to it. I find that my books and online interactions suck the life out of actual journal writing, but I still believe it’s important.


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