Some time early last month, the pastor at my local church, PCEA Ruai Central Parish, Rev Sarah Muriithi, invited me to speak to youth. The fragility of youth was not lost on me as I interacted with them. It struck me how youth, like a tenuous cloud, is illusive and short-lived. So, I thought it would be nice to offer twenty-something-year-old Kenyans a column on some of the life lessons I have learnt along the way.
1. You don’t have time
One of the biggest lies young people tell themselves is that “there’s still time”. Well, let me shock you. You do not have as much time as you might think, so, do the most important things now, when you are young and energetic.
As a twenty-something-year-old, your brain is at its peak, your veins are flowing with divine energy and your responsibilities are close to nil. So, go to school, don’t wait to pursue that advanced degree at an advanced age because an MBA will not help you in your sunset years. Your 20s are not the time to be a couch potato, watching TV series from dusk to dawn. Get off the couch, get busy, because the time is now.
A 2002 study conducted by Dr Sing Lin dubbed “Optimum Strategies for Creativity and Longevity” found that the youth years are the most creative in life. The study shows that great discoveries that have been made by Nobel laureates were made at the average age of 32. You don’t make a big discovery in your early 30s if you spent your 20s on Facebook or playing video games. Start now.
Take it from a person who has worked since she was 19; it pays off when you get to your late 20s. You have more experience, not just at your job but in handling your money.
You learn to be responsible at an early age and, most importantly, you respect money because you have worked hard for it. Don’t wait until you have graduated to get an internship. Get your internship during your second or third year. Impress them and by the time you are done with college, you will have some years of experience in your bag. The same study by Dr Lin proposes an interesting strategy for young people. The 10 years preceding the age of 32 are very crucial.
“Plan your career path to use this precious 10-year period wisely and effectively to produce your greatest achievements in your life,” the study advises.
3. Read, be an expert
Wake up early and read a book about your industry. Go back to school. Educate yourself on something that interests you so that by the time you are in your 30s, you are an expert at something. Live in the library if you have to. Take advantage of those crucial after-dark hours, if you are a night owl and read some more about the latest trends in your industry. This way, you have something smart to talk about should you bump into the CEO in the lift.
Successful people such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and Oprah Winfrey have one thing in common. They read voraciously. However, be careful about what you are reading. Read only what matters most to you. Read about your interests, different cultures, history and the like. People say you are what you eat, others will say “you are what you read”.
4. Take good care of yourself
I am an advocate of clean living. No alcohol. No smoking. Limited junk food. Lots of exercise. Too much alcohol, smoking, junk food and no exercise means that you will spend your pension on hospital bills. Therefore, start clean living today, eat right (little meat, more vegetables) and for your heart’s sake, exercise. You don’t have to join an expensive gym to exercise. Walk more and run even more. Your body will thank you. You have only one body, so take good care of it.
5. Never forget God
Above all, it is important to work on your spirituality. Get right with God. Never be ashamed of your spirituality, even when it is not fashionable among your peers to be “spiritual”. Lastly, read religious texts. They will anchor you on solid ground and give meaning to your life.