10 Powerful Realizations of my 20s

1. So many life-altering sacrifices have been made just for my sake.

I am frequently humbled by the memories of my early childhood and the hours upon hours spent in post-surgery recovery rooms as a child in need of corrective surgeries. Looking back on those years and all the subsequent follow-up visits my family attended to, I’m nearly moved to tears at the thought of just how many sacrifices were made to ensure that I received the best care for the sake of my future development and success. For years those closest to me dedicated so much of themselves to make certain that I had everything I needed to feel like a normal kid who was lucky enough to wear a cool cast around my leg. It wasn’t until my preteen years that I began to deal with my “disability” independently.

Beyond those early sacrifices, the new perspective lent to me in my early 20s has helped me to recall countless other circumstances in which my closest friends and loved ones gave so much of themselves so that my current situation might be enhanced, even if only just briefly. In many instances, these sacrifices were merely overlooked because I so easily took them for granted. In retrospect, I never could have appreciated those frequent sacrifices as much then as I do now.

In so many situations my reputation has been unknowingly (and perhaps undeservedly) defended, protected, and all together shielded by those who have always seen and projected to others the best in me (particularly my brothers). I have been guarded against hardship by those who would rather bare those burdens today in the hopes that I will be better equipped to face the same hardship in the future.

I am forever grateful for every ounce of sacrifice made to put me in a position to continue growing. And though I may never be able to repay all that have made such sacrifices for my sake, I carry on with the hope that my daily life will continue to act as an indication that I am indeed grateful beyond words for every sacrifice made.

2. The single most important decision I face every single day is whether I live in a friendly or hostile universe.

This was as realization that came to my by way of the great Dr. Wayne Dyer, and though I heard it for the first time long ago, this remains one of the most profound pieces of advice I have ever heard.

It’s incredible when you stop to think about how much inner-mind monologue is going on inside your own head with every passing moment. It’s safe to say most of us spend more time talking in our own minds  than with others. This is a life-altering realization when you take it upon yourself to fine-tune you inner dialogue to align with either of the following: “I live in a hostile universe that works against me,” OR “I live in a friendly universe that works with and for me.”

Every day I work to clean up my own mind chatter to align with the latter statement. I work with the belief that all things in the universe work in harmony to bring about great things. With this belief, appreciation for all things comes far more naturally, and even those things that initially feel unwanted take on a whole new light when seen as something placed before me simply to make me a better person.

I really do find merit in the idea that “you are what you think.” The universe cannot show you that which you are unwilling to see. Rather, it responds to what you offer as your prominent point of attraction. There are people who have created entire identities for themselves based off of the realities that they continue to bring about through their thoughts. Those whose main identity is one of struggle, hardship, lack, and frustration always seem to find an endless supply of evidence that supports those thoughts and feelings. Likewise, those who regularly seek good-feeling thoughts and expectations, while showing genuine gratitude for their surroundings and circumstances, will frequently put themselves into a position in which the universe continues to provide evidence of all things good.

3. Chances are rarely given to those who do not take them.

The idea of “entitlement” has become somewhat of a taboo topic in our society as the one word that past generations have used as the catch-all phrase to define my generation…followed closely by the all too familiar, “apathetic.” I will admit that I have defaulted to feelings of entitlement every now and again. At times I rely too heavily on my college education to bring about success as if that is a handout delivered directly to my door upon validation of my degree.

However, I am well aware that this is indeed a distorted idea of what it takes to achieve success. Degrees, certifications and awards do not automatically generate opportunities. Rather, it is what you do with this accreditation and previous experience that creates real momentum. I must be willing to forge on down paths of uncertainty and chance to see what kinds of potential lie just beyond the unknown.

Leaps of faith do not always result in soft landings, but they almost always help to create a broader consciousness that effortlessly knocks down previously perceived barriers and broadens horizons.

4. I built my own walls, I can bring them down.

My personal realm of possibility has borders, but only because I created them. I laid every mental brick that eventually became a whole wall of doubt; a seemingly unsurpassable obstacle. But much like the pseudo backdrops of movie sets and stage plays, the barriers that lie ahead are simply an illusion used to keep my ambitions at bay, and my moves timid. Now more than ever, I have to look beyond the facade of limited possibilities and be courageous enough to experience those things beyond my comfort zone. Only then can I truly begin to discover who I can be and all that I am made of.

5. Average is easy, phenomenal takes legitimate sacrifice.

So many days of my life have been spent with an average mindset and a general unwillingness to go beyond what it took just to get by. To my credit, I have – at times – worked to be good, and in some cases, even great. However, the moments in which I have proven to be truly phenomenal are rare indeed.

I attribute this mainly to the fact that, to this point, I have failed to make the kinds of sacrifices required to turn my good days into phenomenal ones. And while I have rarely ever settled for average, my decision to coast along somewhere in-between good and great through many of my years has proven as equally limiting as settling for average. It wasn’t until my 20s that I realized how crucial it is that I work to shift my status quo from living a life of “good enough” to always striving to be phenomenal. A phenomenal mindset is one that always goes the extra mile and finishes strong, seeks for the opportunity to be helpful in all situations, and is dedicated to being phenomenal in any and all circumstances on a daily basis.

Being phenomenal makes no room for excuses. It will require me to give everything I have, even when giving less than everything would be considered more than enough. I will have to let go of things that have held me to that average/good standard and replace them with the kinds of tools that promote a phenomenal state of mind.

6. It’s bigger than this.

In the quiet, isolated moments of my day, I can easily get caught up in egocentric thoughts that are purely based off the circles I find myself in. Put more simply, I sometimes get overly eager to prove myself and my worth to those people in my immediate circle of influence.

And while I suppose these are rather natural feelings that most people go through, it wasn’t until recently that I became aware of just how narrow-minded that kind of thinking can be. Of course, I want to be a positive influence on those in my immediate circle, but I can ill afford to live my life attempting to constantly prove myself to those surrounding me at any given stage in my life. I must think beyond my own immediate surroundings, appreciating those around me while also remaining aware of the shifts that are occurring beyond my own small piece of the world.

If I can learn to dedicate half as much energy and focus on the issues facing the world at large as I do living up to the expectations of those outside my own front door, then I can really begin to make some kind of difference. The world will always be so much more than my own two eyes could ever comprehend. As such, I must be willing to branch out , strengthening my local relationships while always searching for new friendships that will help me to expand upon my own fairly limited perceptions of the world and all the people I share it with.

7. Some folks will never jive with who I am.

I’ve always been a people-pleaser at heart. So much so that, on several occasions, I have altered a great deal about myself as to become someone who is altogether unrecognizable to my typical self. When I think back on  these instances, I am certainly not proud of them. Nevertheless, I have worked hard in my 20s to develop myself into a person that I am most comfortable with; a man with solid values that are no longer so easily shifted by the need to gain everyone’s approval.

I am not perfect, nor do I ever strive to be. And as I continue to shape myself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, I do so with the understanding that I will never be all things to all people. Luckily, it will never be my responsibility to ensure that every person I come across will jive with me. Moreover, there are about 7 billion others making their way out there in the world, so chances are, those who aren’t feeling me will jive much better with at least one of them. I promise I won’t be losing  any sleep over it.

8.   Networking takes work.

I never used to fully grasp the “working” part of networking. In all honesty, I took the concept for granted for most of my academic career. In my mind, networking was this natural, free-flowing process that happened every time you became a part of something bigger than yourself.

And while that is true to some extent, the actual networking doesn’t occur just because you place yourself in a space where networking generally occurs. For instance, in all of the choirs I have been a part of over the last several years, I hardly ever networked with those beyond my immediate circle of friends. All those brilliant minds and fresh perspectives in one room with a common passion for music, and I rarely tapped into the potential networking opportunities because I never actively sought them out. 

Every once in a while, you might get lucky and have someone who comes up to you unannounced to actively network. But more often than not, the initial connections are up to you. Just like the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” You can lead a man to an all-day convention of like-minded professionals, but you can make him network.

So often I have been in the perfect networking environment. Yet, in my own mixed up priorities and stressing about always being in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, I totally failed to actually cultivate relationships with those around me. Now that I am in my 20s and trying to find my way in a struggling job market, all those missed networking opportunities are really starting to add up. Luckily, these kinds of opportunities are abound, and no matter what your age or current life situation, networking is a process that never truly ends.

9. You can’t ever say it enough.

Thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, I am grateful for you, I respect you – these are all sayings that deserve to be expressed as often as they are thought. With every year that passes, you gain a deeper realization of just how fast time really does go by and how important it is to cherish the people you share that time with.

As someone who has always been the expressive type, I used to keep these thoughts of appreciation for the people in my life stored away in my own mind. And while these thoughts were a comfort to me, the idea of keeping them mostly to myself is something that I have worked to change in my day-to-day life. That appreciation, love and respect deserves to be shared with those who helped to create such feelings in the first place. Not to mention, it is far more rewarding to share these feelings than it is to keep them to yourself.

I have come to realize just how important it is to physically express those feelings that the heart is so often begging you to express. A gentle and uplifting thought about someone who helped to make you who you are is the one thought that – when expressed with sincerity – can move mountains.

So often those uplifting thoughts you have about others arrive to you at just the right moment when they, too, had been holding positive thoughts in their own minds about you. It is your expression of those feelings that subconsciously allows others to feel comfortable doing the same. The result is a kind of harmony that restores a genuine faith in humanity, and has the potential to last a lifetime.

10. Yes, I can.

Too often have I seen a nobody become a somebody who changes lives daily. Too often have I read the stories of those who have everything, but began with absolutely nothing. Too often have I watched others throw out the limited expectations of their past to create an incredibly unbound future full of potential and success. If they can all do it, so can I. It’s people like you, the reader, who help me to believe that I can indeed achieve most anything. You are my why, the reason all these realizations have come my way, and the reason I work every single day to be the best person I can be. Thanks to you, and the all-important perspective offered by time, I am a stronger believer in my own journey and where it will take me.

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