As a young and highly ambitious teenager, I had envisioned my early 20s to be a golden era. But it just didn’t turn out that way. To be honest with you, that wasn’t such a bad thing. Despite many hardships, I’ve learned so many things that have set the precedent for me to make the remainder of my twenties truly phenomenal.

Although some people are lucky enough to have mentors and role models to lead the way, I and many others haven’t had much to rely on but instinct, intuition and in many cases, learning the hard way.

I really wish I had someone to help me navigate my circumstances, but even if they did, there’s no manual for life and certain wisdom can only come by way of having certain experiences. Also, the issues that we face as black millennials are very unique. And as wise as some of our elders might be, many still won’t be able to fully synthesize and understand our generational dilemmas.

With that being said, I’d like to share with you my top five lessons from my early 20s.

Lesson 1: Focus on living, not having it together

Being young, black and driven can definitely put you at somewhat of a disadvantage in both our society and community. Many of us are burdened with the dilemma of being our family’s first college graduate, business owner, trying to get out of “the hood,” having our own place, car, a good job and many other uphill battles.

I’ve personally been in all of these predicaments, and if I could do it all over, I would have focused much more on living and enjoying life rather than trying to have everything in order.

Crossing the bridge into my mid-20s, I’m finally allowing myself to have fun, wander and explore rather than just focused on my living situation, getting money, earning a degree and trying to have everything together.

One of my favorite pastimes is studying successful people, and I’ve noticed that rarely anyone has pulled their lives together while in their 20s. In most cases, it’s not until their late 30s, 40s, 50s and sometimes even 60s when they had their major breakthroughs.

I say all this this to say, be patient with yourself and focus on living life to the fullest. I’m not saying slack and don’t strive; I’m saying that things take time, and there’s no point of driving yourself insane about something rarely anyone has done.

Lesson 2: Keep journals for reflection purposes

Maintaining a journal has often reminded me that I’m always growing, whether I can see it, feel it or not. A lot of people base their progress on their finances and material acquisitions, but when you think about it, personal growth is much more profound.

If you plan on doing something impactful with your time on Earth, personal development is paramount to both growth and sustainability.

Reading my journals over the years has allowed me to see how far I’ve come. My worst days now are still amazing in comparison to my worst days at 19 or 20.

Journaling has helped me become much more grateful, and more trusting of my growth process and my life’s journey. It has also helped me to better realize that I’ve always been exactly where I needed to be.

Lesson 3: Always think five years ahead

In my teens and early 20s, I’ve made some super dumb mistakes I could have easily avoided had I thought about where I wanted to be five years from then.

I’ve learned over time that our current state of being is the result of the choices we’ve made today, yesterday, last year and sometimes years ago. It’s so important to stay deliberate about the choices you make so that you ensure that you’ll be where you want to be in the long run.

Lesson 4: Build and nurture meaningful relationships

I think this is probably the top advice I’d give to anyone. Building solid relationships is almost as important as breathing. As a matter of fact, the quality of every major area of your life depends on the quality of people you have around you.

Where I’m from initially hindered me with communication and relationships. Through many horrible experiences, I felt that I was better off doing things on my own. Unfortunately, not even my immediate family was reliable or supportive.

As I started expanding at school, with entrepreneurship and on social media, I eventually realized that no matter how talented or gifted I was, cosigns and support from the right people was crucial.

You’ll only get but so far on your own — don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

Lesson 5: Use social media sparingly and wisely

Thanks to social media, this generation is leaving many footprints whether we’ve intended to or not. The mishaps of previous generations weren’t as accessible or consumable.

Social media, although a huge blessing, can be a major curse if not used objectively. I’ve seen the best and worst of social media for myself. I’ve gained a lot as far as opportunity, but I’ve also felt the heat.

The key to social media is connecting with and attracting power players. Popularity means nothing at all if you’re not being supported or propelled in a positive direction.

Also, there are much better things to do than be glued to your phone or computer. You could be writing books, articles, creating and planting seeds for your empowerment.

These tips helped me get through my early 20s, and hopefully they’ll help you too. What advice helped you learn and grow? Let me know in the comments below!

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