A Request (and Giveaway!) for My Twenty-Sixth Birthday

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People fall into two camps about birthdays – either a socially-acceptable time to feel entitled to special things because you were born a certain number of earth rotations ago, or it’s just another arbitrary day and nothing to get worked up about.

I generally side more with the latter – but this year I’m giving my birthday a little more ballyhoo. I think its a good time to reflect on things because¬†similar to New Years, our birthdays remind us that death is coming)

My birthday wish comes in the form of a question:

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were 26?

(or, if you are not yet 26, what’s the one thing you hope to know, be or do by the time you turn 26?)

Leave your thought in the comments below.

The sweet, sweet prize

I’ll be selecting one lucky winner to get a free Impossible T-shirt from Joel Ruyon’s Blog of Impossible Things – you can see me¬†rocking one out here.

So wish me a happy birthday by sharing your wisdom (or aspirations) with me. Thanks!

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  1. That you don’t have as much time as you think. Do all the things you want to in life as soon as you can. Before you know it you can feel like you lost years of your life with nothing to show for it.

    • ¬†@mmstonei¬†Thanks! As I get older, I am always thinking about whether this is how I want to be spending my life. It can be hard to balance this with investing for the future, but nonetheless, super important to remember

  2. That you don’t have as much time as you think. Do all the things you want to in life as soon as you can. Before you know it you can feel like you lost years of your life with nothing to show for it.

  3. The only truly limiting factor is time. Capital, people, ideas, resources – you can acquire more of those. But time? That’s the only constant factor.¬†

    • ¬†@kaisdavis¬†Yes, very much so. Hard to remember that when my bank account balance lack many digits =)

  4. Failure can be just as great as success if you walk away having learned something. 
    Similarly, the next time you question whether you should or should not do something, consider the simple question: “What’s the worst that could happen?” Outside of life and limb, you’ll see your world of possibility open up as you take the risks that cripple others with indecision or inactivity. -> something you’re no stranger to with rejection therapy…

    • ¬†@christopherwake¬†The painful part is actually learning from that failure. Too often I just want to walk away and not think about it anymore. Totally agree with the “what’s the worst that could happen” question.

  5. There are things more important in life than fear. Learning to accept uncertainty and failure and overcoming self consciousness are the keys to going at life with full force. That realization was important to me in college in helping me transition from an introverted wisher and hoper to an extroverted do-er. 

    • ¬†@StefanieShih¬†Yes, uncertainty is ever present! Gotta go out and do it anyway. Thanks Stef

  6. Congrats!
    I got really lucky with 26 Рthings worked out exactly how I needed them too, and I was able to take some really important steps. 
    But if I could have learned more about managing money before I was 25, it would have helped me avoid a couple of rough years. No regrets though. I don’t think it’s really possible to internalize life’s lessons until we’re truly ready for them.

  7. I was forced to learn this before 26, but it’s the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned about life so I’ll share it here anyway.
    Stuff doesn’t make us happy. Experiences do.¬†
    Given $5k and a choice between a new computer/motorcycle/furniture, or a trip to a distant corner of the world/trip to visit family and friends, I will always now pick the latter.
    You might argue that the stuff would last a lot longer than a set of experiences, and physically it is true. But the happiness you get from stuff fades fast, and then you just take it for granted. The happiness you get from experience never fades.

    • ¬†@GilHildebrand¬†Travel is so great. Also documenting the trip really helps you remember it better IMO. That’s why I always make videos of my trips.

      • ¬†@GilHildebrand¬†Gil – congrats, you are officially the winner of my giveaway! Can you email me your address and what size shirt you wear? (please say medium…) jasonyshen@gmail.com

  8. Ah, that it’s okay to follow your dream. I’m 31 and just a few months ago chucked my steady corporate job to go freelance. Best decision ever. :P
    Happy birthday! :)

    • ¬†@leahgonz¬†Thanks! Way to go with the freelance gig – what kind of work? Writing? Photography? Something else?

      • ¬†@jasonshen¬†Writing! I also work for Novel Publicity, an author PR firm. I help with marketing stuff. :) I was in human resources consulting for 8 years and now I’m doing something completely different. Hah! :P¬†

  9. That I didn’t have keep anyone in my life who wasn’t good for me, even if they were FAMILY. That I had a right to happiness and peace. They didn’t have a right to me.
    Wishing you lots of joy and peace and of course, ass-kicking this year.

    • ¬†@OtotheBeirne¬†Oof, that’s a tough one, but very important lesson indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  10. That you must make time and effort for the people you love. It’s so easy to slip into being a workaholic and take those you are close to for granted. Don’t do it!

    • ¬†@Scott_Allison¬†But work provides such¬†instantaneous¬†results and feedback! =) But yes, it’s unfortunately too easy to forget your family and close friends. Thanks Scott.

  11. Let’s go back further. I wish I’d taken the interests I had at 10 years old more seriously!¬†
    If an older, wiser(?) me could have told myself then that the skills I’d most seek to nurture once in the working world were art and creativity, and that I should look to those activities that truly gave me joy in order to thrive, I could have reframed my whole view of what I thought “success” was. Looking ahead, I hope I have the openmindedness and courage to go back and relearn.
    Creativity, inspiration, and passion are too often neglected as we grow older – they become rare qualities to find in adults, but they are what spur the dedication and ambition to do great things. Listen to your inner voice and pursue passion, seek and nurture it in others, witness the joy and delight it can bring, and the exceptional things that it can create!

    • ¬†@wendi¬†It can be hard to nurture creativity in a business setting, especially when its so much easier to go the “safe” or “proven” route. Creativity takes risks and risks take courage and courage is often lacking in our world!

  12. I am 28 now, and in the short ¬†time since I was 26, I have learned loads of¬†lessons — many of them lessons other people never get the¬†opportunity¬†to learn. So let’s get to it then…
    The one¬†thing¬†I wish¬†I knew when I was 26 is that it is impossible¬†to¬†embarrass¬†myself. Once I learned that, it was like having an¬†invincibility¬†cloak…. and that has changed my life.¬†
    You see, I was born a boy. There is nothing wrong with being a boy, but it just wasn’t for me. After years and years¬†living¬†in fear of dealing with my issues, I started taking baby steps in the right direction when I was 26, made the final decision when I was 27 to go for it and I cannot believe how far I have come In one short year. I have friends who don’t know I was born a boy, and I was recruited, interviewed, and hired without anyone knowing. ¬†
    It took a bit of work to get to where I am now, and in the process I learned tons of life¬†lessons… That it is impossible to¬†embarrass¬†yourself is possibly the most rewarding.¬†A girl cannot control if she is born a boy, but she can control her attitude. which actually, if I can post a second thing I wish I knew at 26 it is this: “There are lots of things you cannot control, but you can always control your attitude.”¬†

    • ¬†@jm949¬†Thank you for sharing such a personal story here. Too often we forget that what other people think really shouldn’t matter much at all.

  13. That it’s okay to change your mind…even if it means years of grad school and tons of money down the drain. By 2L, I’ve lost my passion for law and knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Yet I thought I had to at least finish school and open my own law practice to *prove* that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. A VERY expensive lesson. If only I had the courage to pivot my life back then. Happy B-Day, Jason!

    • ¬†@staysmall¬†Thanks much for the link! It starts off negative and ends quite heart warming. Impressive for an economic professor!

  14. If you’re not rich or broke by the time you’re 30 you’re not trying hard enough.

    • ¬†@heymikee
      ¬†Haha – that’ one is aggressive. I like it. How has that worked out for you?

      • ¬†@jasonshen
        I‚Äôm 28 so I‚Äôll let you know in 2 years. I quit a 6 figure software development job in finance to co-found and bootstrap a startup. Even making close to 200k a year from 25 I realized I was destined to work a mostly unfulfilling job trapped in a grey cubicle for the rest of my life. While I now live like a broke college kid I can at least work from anywhere I want and even go outside¬†to eat¬†lunch some days, heh.¬†We have about a year runway still; that‚Äôs when everyone either says ‚ÄúI told you so‚ÄĚ and berates me more¬†or sits silent in awe. Either way I‚Äôll have no regrets about my decision.

    • ¬†@BenNesvig¬†I love Siver’s essay because too often people resign themselves to the baseline standard. When in fact, by being unreasonably hard working and a little clever, you can see massively greater gains.

  15. I’ll be turning 26 within the next earth rotation. Personally, my one, major aspiration is to build a web app and ship it, before then. I know it will probably be a terribly hacky, kinda-shitty, prototype-level web app, but I figure it’s better to get it out there and actually do something than sit around thinking about all I would love to do.

    • ¬†@ShepBook¬†Ha! I’m 49 and before I turn 50 I want to build a web app and ship it. Same goal, different ages :-)

  16. How irreplaceable today is.
    I wish I had stopped playing with HyperCard on my new Mac Classic personal computer and had gone into the kitchen where my dad was half yelling, half talking to me about his thoughts on life. I wish I would have stopped what I was doing  and listened to him. I wish I knew then that there would be endless one word software applications with capital letters randomly placed within their names to toy with for years (decades)  to come, but that I would never see my dad again. I wish I would have looked up and looked him in the eye and told him I loved him. He was hit by a car and killed three days later.

    • ¬†@Worrywart¬†I’m sorry to hear about your father. We never know when we will lose our loved ones, so let’s always try to be kind and loving when we have a chance.

  17. I’d say I’d love to have a job that inspires and fulfills by the time I’m 26. I’ve read so many stories about people landing jobs that just end up being something they don’t love or appreciate, and I don’t want to get stuck in that rut. More and more, I’m starting to realize that my own happiness and peace dictates nearly everything else in my life. If I’m not happy, the rest of my life will suffer for it. Happy birthday, Jason!¬†

    • ¬†@annedreshfield¬†I too hope you find a fulfilling career when you turn 26. Your comment reminds me of a great quote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

  18. Don’t listen to people who say “no”. The valuable experience of failing far outweighs the failure you’ll become by having people tell you what’s good and bad for you.

  19. There are a hundred things I’d tell my 26-year-old self (I’m 42 now). I guess the one thing that really sticks out as most important would be that I wish I knew that 26 is not old, but young, and that it’s OK to quit something that isn’t working out, and try something completely different, rather than look at other 26-year-olds and where they are and feel old and behind and therefore committed to “settling” as though you missed your one chance at life.

    • ¬†@franklinchen¬†Great advice Franklin. Thanks for reminding us not to get caught in the rat race.

  20. I wish I would have known that, in the crazy arena of organizational politics, just because they remove a “title” away from you, it is not necessarily a bad reflection on you. More often than not, it is shifting directions of the political winds that prompt such changes. Learn not to take these changes personally, patiently ride the waves of change, and know it will come full circle in the right time.

    • ¬†@MichaelSheaver¬†Sounds like some sage advice from a veteran of the corporate world. Thanks for sharing!

  21. I wish I knew a lot of the things you already do. There were actually plenty of things I knew then as well, the issue was putting it to use.
    I wish that I spent more time going out of my comfort zone and acted as if it was better to try and fail than play it safe. I wish I knew that people who cared about me would be okay with me pursuing creative and new things even though they have always acted as if I would be making a huge mistake if I did.

    • ¬†@Brandon Christian¬†Yes! Get outside your comfort zone. I still try to remind myself about that when I get apprehensive about a new experience.

  22. My 26th birthday is a year and a few months away. By then I hope to have a better handle on this work-life balance thing. At this point I’m young enough and don’t have too many obligations I can put in 150%. But eventually I know I’ll have to learn how to say “no” and take care of myself. Hopefully I can do this before I get to 26, but I know many people have to work on this their entire life.
    As a 26 year old, any advice you have to use that are coming up on that year?

  23. I’m 27 turning 28 this year, but one thing I learned is that sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and ask for help…or find another way to do things. I thought I was meant to go down one path in life, and I wasn’t. Hopefully this time I know better.¬†

    • ¬†@JTDabbagian¬†Help is so hard to ask for! Great advice, definitely an area I can grow in.

  24. Hi Jason and Happy Birthday from another Livefyre blogger! If I could go back in time and give advice to my 26 year old self, I’d say, “Lori, your life is a story and you are its author. How do you want it to go?:”
    I hope you are writing a good story for yourself Jason!

    • ¬†@Lori¬†Thanks Lori. I think a lot about my story (as a blogger, it sort of comes with the job) and my decisions are often guided by how I see the story playing out in my life’s narrative. So yes, Lori, I’m definitely trying to write the best story possible!

  25. Thanks so much for all these comments! I’ll give it till the end of tonight and award a winner!

  26. By the time I’m 26 (a few more years to go) I want to have a new skill that I don’t have now – haven’t completely decided, but I’d like to learn spanish, photography, and piano. You can fit that all into a few years, right?

  27. Thanks so much for all these comments! wish I knew that people who cared about me would be okay with me pursuing creative and new things even though they have always acted as if I would be making a huge mistake if I did

  28. It’s awesome blog and great image..Well I don’t have think about my 26th birthday but after reading this article. I had a wish to go to the most beautiful, natural, peaceful place and to have lots of awesome images.

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