From easiest to hardest.
- You’re a legal adult now. Always be respectful and don’t be stupid, but if you get arrested, refuse to talk until your court-appointed lawyer gets there. Cops are usually OK, but sometimes they fuck people. It’s not worth ruining the rest of your life.
- Don’t drink and drive. Seriously. Just call a fucking cab. Or call a friend or family. Had a friend derail her life for 5 years for a DWI after she drank at a graduation party and drove home.
- Sexuality is a spectrum. Enjoy it. But do so smartly. Always wear a condom. Always be mindful of the other person’s feelings. And if you’re using condoms, remember to only use water-based lube, like KY. Other shit might hurt or deteriorate the integrity of the condom. Oh, and stop getting embarrassed about sex things. No one knows what they’re doing at 18. Explore and make mistakes. Talk about stuff with your partners. As long as you’re respectful, this is what’s important.
- Relationships are fucking tough. Be open about everything once you’re with a partner in a serious relationship. Talk about what you don’t like, about what your fears are, about what you need from a relationship. Never be afraid to leave a bad situation, or one that’s not fulfilling. Or if you just want sex, say that. You’re an adult. Talk openly with trusted people.
- There is no perfect mate. I’m a married man, been with my lady for a decade. But there are many great women I could have ended up with, and she could’ve ended up with some great men. You need to look for a partner you can respect, one who will help you become a better person (in health, love, life, education, finances, etc.). Red flags are: insecurities that stifle communication; financial problems from drugs, gambling, shopping, etc.; abusive attitude that makes you feel like shit (or where you make them feel like shit); serious cultural differences (we’re talking, s/he wants you to convert but you don’t want to); or serious differences in goals (not/wanting children; not/wanting to stay in the same city; things that seem nonnegotiable). Even if you’re with someone really fantastic, if you think it’s not going to work out for a good reason, don’t be afraid to leave. The world is full of beautiful people. You will find one eventually. But it’s misery to be with the wrong person for you.
- When breaking up, don’t shit all over the other person. Keep things amicable. If it’s a serious relationship, chances are that other person had good qualities. You may want their help later. Hell, you may end up with them later.
- You need friends. Get to know people better than yourself–morally, financially, professionally, whatever. You hang with deadbeats, you’ll become a deadbeat. You hang with successful people, you’ll pick up their tips, tricks, and mindset.
- Read more. Read things that challenge you. But in all things, just get a voracious appetite for learning about what interests you. For most of us, that’s not literature. But it could be history, economics, psychology, DIY projects, programming, or carpentry or whatever else. I have yet to find something that cannot be improved with a bit of reading. And library cards are free! Actually, public libraries are pretty fucking awesome, especially in cities, as they usually organize free events, games, parties, and lectures. Universities do the same. Check that out too.
- If possible, start putting back 10% of your income. (A) Save enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses (for when shit inevitably goes down). (B) Once you’ve saved your emergency fund, start to put your money into stocks or mutual funds. 10% isn’t much in your day-to-day life, but if you can start early, that money will work for you later.
- Sustained effort and tenacity are key to success. In anything from sports to business to art, you are going to suck at the beginning and make tons of mistakes. So you just stay humble, keep learning, keep doing the right things (perfect practice makes perfect). Then, when you get better and start to excel relative to your peers, you’re inevitably going to fuck up, get hurt, slip into depression, whatever. Get back out there. Sure, cry if you need to, take stock of your losses. But then dust yourself off and get back up. You are so much more powerful the longer you’ve been doing something, especially when training the right way. Athletically, a person who’s consistently trained for years with good nutrition will be able to go pro or train others well. Intellectually, a person who’s learned lots in a field and written on it becomes an expert. Financially, a person who’s learned a niche or a market soon knows which businesses to pass on and which investments to make. But none of this happens without momentum. None of this happens without lots of mistakes.
- Avoid pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing companies. The economy is choppy, and you’ll likely be applying for jobs in a rough spot some day. If the company requires you to pay lots of up-front fees and demands that you recruit others (especially without giving them a quality product), just pass. After I had advanced degrees, I had to wait tables. Sometimes you gotta pay your dues. But it’s so much better than being taken advantage of.
- Develop good habits in nutrition and health. This is probably my greatest regret. I was a great high school athlete but let myself go to shit in college. What I needed to realize is that I didn’t need to work out 6 days a week. I just needed to work out 3 days a week, really. What I needed to realize is that every meal didn’t need to be clean. But if I could eat a nutritious breakfast and a light dinner, it didn’t matter what lunch was most times.
- Everything comes with a cost. Have one or two things you’re passionate about. But also realize what that does to the rest of your life. Let’s say you’re passionate about video games and you want to go pro. Then fucking breathe that shit. Get better. Join a league. Read constantly. Invest in good gear. Start YouTubing. But also realize that you need to balance essential stuff in your life–long-term savings, friends and loved ones, health, etc. Realize that certain things that were once important to you–partying with friends, joining that soccer league, saving the extra 5% of your money–are going to be harder the more your major passion falls out of alignment with it. This doesn’t mean you should neglect essential stuff from above. It does mean that you should be honest to how a sincere and long-term interest will change the trajectory of your life. That’s okay.
- Meaning in life is what you make it. Explore ideas. Attend many different churches; read some good philosophy or great works in literature. If you find something that helps you to keep everything in perspective and that gives you a reply to nagging questions, go with it. But if shit seems absolutely certain, and if someone starts demanding lots of you in a gruff way, leave. You’re probably in a cult, or some dogmatic, shit religion.
You’ll find that life is ambiguous, perplexing, full of struggle, entangled. But you’ll also find things that make you unequivocally and uniquely happy. You’ll find answers to questions that, sure, might not have everything, but they have just enough for you to ask new and better questions. You’ll find goals (family, love, charity, etc.) that will help you make it through the hard times.