"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou

4 Things Every 21-Year-Old Should Do

4 Things Every 21-Year-Old Should Do

I turned 22 today.

Holy shit.

That’s the first time I said that out loud (I talk when I write).

Looking back on the past year, I’ve come a long way:

My stomach problems are (finally) gone. I got to vote for the first time. I traveled to Cancún, Lisbon, Rome, Amsterdam, and Dublin. I was part of a collegiate conference championship-winning football team and got to play a game with my team in Barcelona. My girlfriend visited the United States for the first time and met my family. I feel like I’ve found my passion in writing.

I know — that’s a lot.

It may seem like I have my life together, but trust me, I’m far from it. I’m completely disorganized and extremely indecisive. Plus, I overthink a lot.

BUT, I did come to realize four very important things during my brisk year of being 21.

Every 21-year-old needs to…

1. Embrace experience.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” — Albert Einstein

Fact: every moment of your life is an experience.

It’s up to you how you embrace that experience.

Think about your morning routine. What’s the first thing you do after you open your eyes? Take a step outside? Make a coffee? Whatever your routine may be, it was constructed and continues to be built by experience.

I’m definitely a morning guy. I like my coffee black and I like it early — before 7 o’clock for sure. I step on the back porch — mug in-hand — take a deep breath of fresh air and begin to mentally review my schedule for the day.

That is my morning routine and it was shaped entirely off past experience.

But why is this important? Why does ‘being present’ in day-to-day experience matter?

Being “in the moment” allows for a level of self-observation unattainable to those constantly over-worried about the future. At this level you are able to separate habits that positively contribute to daily productivity from habits that hinder goal-achievement.

I like to drink a cup of black coffee before 7 A.M. every morning because it contributes to my overall productivity. I’ve learned from experience that this routine is what makes for a positive day. And for me — and most people — a positive day is a productive day.

Paying attention to the little nuances that influence your daily goal-achievement is what experience is all about.

Opportunities come from experience.

Being in the moment means keeping your eyes peeled for opportunities.

Itwas my first day on the job as an intern for NBC Universal at the 2016 Republican National Convention. There were about 9 interns working the same shift as me: 6 A.M. My job was simple — do whatever the producers ask me to do.

We were on set of the Today show when my supervisor turned to the group of us interns:

“Can one of you guys meet me here at 5:30 tomorrow morning? I’m gonna need some help on something” asked one of the head producers.

Without hesitation, I jumped on it.

“I can do it, no problem.” I quickly replied. The other interns were glued to their phones.

“Great, see you then Jack.”

When I arrived at 5:15 the next morning, there was a very professional looking woman standing with the producer.

“Jack meet Elena. She’s the head of talent at NBC. I want you to take her on a tour of the Convention center and all of the NBC sets before it gets too hectic today.”

By being in the moment and keeping my eyes open for opportunities, formed a great relationship with the head of talent. I actually became her personal assistant for the week.

Through Elena, I was able to meet the following people:

  • Lester Holt (NBC Nightly News)
  • Tamron Hall (NBC’s Today)
  • Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Willie Geist (Morning Joe)
  • Stephen Colbert (The Late Show)
  • Colin Jost and Michael Che (SNL)
  • Jacob Soboroff (MSNBC correspondent)

Treat every moment as an experience; learn what makes you tick.

2. Be Curious.

As humans, we constantly look to improve our quality of life. We focus all of our time and energy toward what we perceive as important at that point in time. As kids, all we wanted to do was learn. Why? Well, because we didn’t know much. Every day was a new adventure — a day to learn something new. Learning was important to us. We were curious by nature; and we still are. So, what changed?

Simple: We grew up. We started considering other aspects (social life, popularity, trendiness) more important than learning. Instead of seeking information to enhance our knowledge, we started looking for information on how to make friends, impress the other kids at school, be cool, etc. because, at that time, that’s what mattered.

As kids, we didn’t want to know how something worked; we had to know. Why?

Because we saw our curiosity as important to us.

Our curiosity opened the door to different experiences which lead to more questions, more information, and ultimately more knowledge. We prioritized gaining new information over being socially accepted. That, is why we wanted to know so much as kids.

And the greatest source of information?

Your environment.

3. Hang out with likeminded people.

If you read that and thought, “Good thing I already do this,” I’m going to challenge you to dig deep and really question who you surround yourself with. Likeminded people are not just people you have a lot in common with. Those might be your friends, family, coworkers, teammates, but they may not be the people that will get you to where you want to go.

You are a direct reflection of your environment.

Hanging out with likeminded people will inherently change your environment. Think about who you hang out with now. Ask yourself:

Are they a good influence on your life? Are they people you can learn from? Do they have the same drive as you? What are their motives? Do they mirror you own?

Hanging out with likeminded people is directly correlated with self-discipline and consistency.

Can you be self-discipline enough avoid distraction? If your consistent in other parts of your life, can you be consistent with the people you surround yourself with too?

Likeminded people help you get to where you want to go.

Not only that, likeminded people teach you along the way

These are the people you’re going to learnt he most from. They are the ones that are going to help you make connections, learn and develop new skills, push you to your full potential. A likeminded environment will inherently improve your life for the better.

Tip*: If you’re curious and able to embrace experience, hanging out with likeminded people won’t be a problem.*

4. Do what’s best for you.

At the end of the day, the most important person to keep happy is you.Everyone around you is going to have an opinion about what you should/shouldn’t be doing.

It was Christmas time of my senior year of high school. I had officially made my decision: I was going to continue playing football in college. For those of you that don’t know me, I don’t exactly boast college-athlete stature — I’m “too small.”

When I made the decision, I got the same thing from everybody:

“Are you sure you want to play college football?”

“Wouldn’t it be better if you hung up the cleats, Jack?”

“I don’t think you should play. You could go to a great school and join a fraternity — you’ll have brothers for life!”

I didn’t listen to one of them. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Football was extremely important to me in high school. It taught me discipline, mental toughness, humility, and the power of team work, to name a few. I had an an intense respect for the game, as I do now, and knew wholeheartedly I wanted to play in college.

As a senior football player at John Carroll University, I can proudly say my last four years being a part of this team has brought me some of the happiest memories I will never forget.

21 flies by way, way too fast…

Please just remember to embrace experience. Please be curious. Surround yourself with likeminded people. And, most importantly, always, always do what’s best for you.

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