5 things you must accomplish before age 25

March 15, 2016

The first 25 years of your life are supposed to be the foundation-building years, where youth grows into adulthood and gains the basic skills and education necessary for your peak career years. As the foundation goes, so goes the building.

Here are five things that, when accomplished by age 25, will serve you well over the next 75 years of your life.

1. Build your professional network

By the time the average person reaches age 25, you have met more than 4,000 people through your childhood, family, schooling, work, the military, the neighborhood, social activities and now social media. As early as preschool when you were learning socialization skills, you were networking with playmates and discovering things you had in common.

By the time you hit your 20th birthday, you turn your focus to building your professional network, comprised of people who are currently (or preparation to be) in the working world. Add just three people per week, and by age 25 you'll have a professional network of nearly 800 people. Great sources to consider:

  • Personal network: This includes family members, people in your community, friends, and others with whom you socialize.
  • Educational network: This includes people with whom you went to school, attended training programs and study groups, and met in e-learning programs.
  • Employment network: This includes people with whom you worked, served as fellow interns and volunteers, and spent summer and part-time jobs working alongside.
  • Social networks: This includes any and all social network connections who are also part of the professional world.

2. Serve for the benefit of others

Have you noticed that over the past 20 or 30 years society has become more and more "me-centric"? We've become masters of the personal pronoun, haven't we? Now, here's the real get-honest question: Does anyone who is me-centric ever truly feel fulfilled?

Fulfillment comes from serving others. There is no denying the sense of purposefulness when you shift the focus of your life from all things self, to investing part of your life serving others. Ask any nurse, firefighter, teacher, janitor, parent or grandparent.

The world out there is full of needs, so you won't lack for opportunity to serve. Pick something you care about and serve with no expectations of anything in return. When you do that, you'll become less selfish, more grateful for what you have, and find the inner peace that comes from making a difference in someone else's life.

3. Aim to be a lifelong learner

My grandfather lived into his nineties, and nothing made his day more than learning something he didn't know. A highly respected business and community leader, he believed every person in the world could teach him something. And they did.

Truth be told, most of us could learn something from everyone we meet. One of my grandfather's favorite sayings: "In life, just like a summer garden, you're either green and growing, or ripe and rotting, and the choice is pretty much yours." Lifelong learning keeps you green and growing.

4. Find out what you're really good at, then do it

By the time you're 25, you've accumulated anywhere between 750 and 1,000 skills, plus a few dozen God-given talents. Your early jobs while in school, and perhaps the one(s) immediately following it, have helped you to identify the ways your skills and talents can be put to work.

You've lived long enough to realize that when you don't like what you do for a living, neither you nor your employer enjoys the results. Life is too short to be miserable.

Conversely, when you love what you do, it really isn't work at all — it's an expression of your passion. It is only then that you're at your most creative, and you never watch the clock.

5. Know and live your unshakable values

We all do (and have done) crazy stuff when we were kids. That is just a part of growing up. As we mature, we begin to recognize the value and wisdom of limits, of respect and reputation, of trust and trustworthiness, and of doing the right thing even when it's hard. We learn that saying it and doing it were two different things.

Rudyard Kipling offers this incredible gem: "Sooner or later each of us will sit down to a banquet of consequences, most of our own making." So by 25, having a well-defined set of unshakable values, and living by them, can and will bring about a more pleasant life banquet.

Just like achieving any of these five foundational milestones, the going won't always be easy. One thing is for certain: Achieving each of these five by the time you reach your 25th birthday will help make you into a better employee, leader, parent, mentor, influencer, friend, sibling and fellow-sojourner along life's highway.

By: Hank Boyer

Chicago City Hall
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