My Advice to 22 Year-Olds

As I write this, I’m just past the big 6O. Here’s some advice based on thirty-eight more years of living than you have. I don’t expect you to believe everything I say–when I was twenty-two I wouldn’t listen to someone this old, but maybe some of this will resonate with you:

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown. Accepting the known and resisting the unknown is a mistake. You should do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown. Now is the time to take this kind of risk because you have less to lose and everything to gain. Great things happen to people who question the status quo.

Be brief. Contrary to school, in the work place there are few minimums. In my entire career, I can count on one hand the instances when an email, presentation, or report was too short. The perfect length for everything is when it is “complete”—more is less, and “shock and awe” doesn’t work in business or war. Here are guidelines: email—five sentences; presentations—tens slides and twenty minutes; report—one page.

Tell stories, do demos, and use pictures. The most enchanting people tell stories, do demos, and use pictures to influence and persuade others. They do not belittle or berate. They paint a picture in people’s minds whether the medium is social media, email, in-person presentations, phone calls, or video conferences. There is only one Steve Jobs, but if you want a shot at being the next Steve Jobs, learn to communicate using stories, demos, and pictures.

Don’t sweat your first job. Over your lifetime, you’ll probably have five to ten jobs in two to three industries. Your first job is not going to be your last. It’d be great if your first job was to be the fifth employee of the next Google, but the odds of this are small. The only mistake you could make is taking a first job where you couldn’t learn anything, and if you can’t learn anything, it’s probably your fault. Just get in and work hard and stop thinking about finding the perfect first job.

Live in the present, work for the future. The day after you start work, no one is going to care what school you went to, what your grade point average was, if you were captain of the football, robotics, or debate team, or who your parents are. All that matters is whether you deliver results or you don’t, so work hard to make your boss look good (see next).

Make your boss look good. Your job is to make your boss look good. The theory that you should make your boss look bad so that you can advance above him or her is flawed. Trying to do so will probably make you look disloyal to your boss and stupid to the rest of the organization. You want your boss to succeed so that you can draft behind him or her.

Continue to learn. Learning is a process not an event, so you should never stop learning. Indeed, it gets easier to learn once you’re out of school because the relevance of what you need to learn becomes more obvious. Indeed, the day you graduate is when the real learning begins.

Don’t get married too soon. I got married when I was thirty-two. That’s about the right age. Until you’re about that age, you may not know who you are. You also may not know who you’re marrying. I don’t know anyone who got married too late. I know many people who got married too young.

Obey the absolutes. When you were young, it was absolutely wrong to lie, cheat, or steal. When you enter the workforce, you will be tempted to think in relative terms. As you grow older, you will see that right and wrong seems to change from absolute to relative. This is wrong: right is right and wrong is wrong forever.

Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone. Nothing–not money, power, or fame–can replace your family and friends or bring them back once they are gone. You probably have delusions of immortality right now—that’s natural. At least consider that while you may be immortal, those around you are not.

One more thing. When you were a child, you thought your parents were always right. Through high school and college, you thought your parents were always wrong. After college, you’ll realize that your parents were often right. And then, believe it or not, you’ll eventually become your parents. Wrap your young mind around that….

By | 2016-10-24T14:09:22+00:00 February 22nd, 2015|Categories: Events, Life|Tags: |52 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

52 Comments

  1. David February 22, 2015 at 8:33 am - Reply

    The fastest way to be promoted at work I learned early. “Get your boss promoted.” Either he’ll take you with him or you’ll take his place.

  2. Kathy Christie February 22, 2015 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Ah, so much easier for a man to say to wait until 32 to get married! A woman’s fertility is already starting to wane by then. I tell my college grad kids that if they’re absolutely sure they’ve met the right person to marry, then they should consider doing so. The key is being absolutely sure…

    • Grip Shifter February 23, 2015 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Bad advice. You do not know who you are at 22, and both you and your partner will change significantly by the time you are 32. By 42, you may not even recognize your 22 year old self. So you can be as sure as can be at 22 but your 42 year old self will have a very different perspective. This is partially why 50% of marriages end in divorce.

    • Kuljeet February 23, 2015 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      Well, absolutely sure! You never will be. You can never find the right match because apples can’t be oranges. The more you know of yourself the better you are to understand the other person. So the catch is know thyself.

    • Von Tchekovski II March 10, 2015 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Well, he is probably giving advice to men. So can’t you be a 32-year-old man marrying a 17-year-old girl? He is right at least on this. Marrying/having kids before you’re a fully mature man is a mistake, for obvious reasons. And note that the only reason to marry is to have children.

  3. jahnibee February 23, 2015 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Cool…eyes wide shut.

  4. Benny February 23, 2015 at 9:06 am - Reply

    could I repost this on nextshark.com? We’re a popular site on business and success for millennials.

    • Guy Kawasaki February 23, 2015 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Go for it

  5. terry February 23, 2015 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Marry young..thats half of life right there. A good women can mean all the difference during your ups and downs while u climb to the top.

  6. Prateek Panda February 23, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

    This is so true and at the same time very difficult to do. I have been a believer of a few things you’ve mentioned here which led to two startups that I run today – http://appknox.com in mobile security, and http://thetechpanda.com in digital media. I must say I’ve learnt a lot and I am learning something each day.

  7. Michael Liu February 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you Mr Kawasaki for your wise words! To succeed yourself is one thing, to want to help others in their journey is another. This is true success and also the one I want to have. Wish you best of luck in your future endeavours!

  8. Sarah Roocroft February 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    This is beautiful. Enjoyed reading this (relevant to 32 year olds too) 🙂

    • Vicki February 25, 2015 at 3:58 am - Reply

      Glad I married before 32 though. The world would have missed out on you!! xxxx

    • Matthew Coco March 12, 2015 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Ha was thinking the same Sarah! They tell me 32 is still young, so I’ll take it.

    • Simon Charwey March 20, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply

      It all make sense when you’ve already missed on those 22 years; and you’re 32 years or more now. Guy thank you for sharing.

  9. Bill Lang February 23, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Guy – Once again thanks for this list, I will have our students “under 23” check it out ..not to mention I will remind myself that its never too late!

  10. Keith Dickens February 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Don’t get married. Get happy. Maybe that means you get married. Maybe not. Just know what makes you happy and get a lot of it. It just so happens you often don’t know what really makes you happy in the long run until you’re in your 30s.

    • Von Tchekovski II March 10, 2015 at 4:21 am - Reply

      “Getting happy” is not a goal. Or, rather, it is a sick, degenerate and decadent goal. For “happiness” is just a bunch of chemicals in your brain. You might as well just stick a needle into your arms and die of happiness for all I care, then, while everyone around you will be feeling extreme amounts of pain, sadness and suffering but ending up, in the long run, actually accomplishing something in the real world.

  11. Charley February 23, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    While much of what he says is true, the marriage advice is so off base. At 32 women’s fertility is waxing. Pregnancy much more difficult. So the 32 yo male should start looking at a 24 yo wife. Otherwise, children may be hard to come by. Genetic anomalies also rise with age. Marry when you’re sure. I was 24, my wife was 21. Our family was complete by age 32 and my wife and I have been able to enjoy life, travel and leisure as our three children completed college while we were young and physically active. 42 years later it was not a mistake.

    • Richard February 23, 2015 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      In a rapid overpopulation of the earth, I don’t think waiting til 32 is a bad idea.

      • Richard February 23, 2015 at 5:27 pm - Reply

        …that should be “with the rapid overpopulation”

    • Mike March 3, 2015 at 7:59 am - Reply

      Or you can wait until you’re ready – whether that be 20 or 40 – and not have kids! That way you don’t have to worry about waiting until your kids are in college to enjoy life!

  12. Mary Beth Ricks February 23, 2015 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Great list and all so true!

  13. Bryan February 23, 2015 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful sharing!

  14. Laurent February 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Some of these advices seem to be relevant for everyone.
    My favorite is the first one: ‘Challenge the known and embrace the unknown’.
    Maybe one is missing: travel ans stay at least a little bit outside your country. It’s good to understand what does it mean to be a foreigner.

  15. Gaurang Agrawal February 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    This is an incredible post. I will start practicing *make your boss look good more passionately.
    I have started a startup into Skill Development domain http://BeingSkilled.com and we are making people around the globe skilled.

    Thanks !!

  16. Rich February 23, 2015 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Guy, when you talk from the heart, you impact many. Great advice.

  17. Elaine Fogel February 23, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Love it, Guy. One more thing I’d add. The world does not revolve around you. Take the time to think how your words and actions affect others – in your personal lives and during your career.

  18. Georgina Harris February 24, 2015 at 7:16 am - Reply

    I am a Mexican Marketer, 22 years old, I love what you write and I think that’s completely true. I will share with all my partners.

  19. Hardeep Singh February 24, 2015 at 7:23 am - Reply

    This Article is so relevant to my Present. I could instantly connect myself with it. And I am taking some life changing decisions based on- “Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.”
    Because some risks are just worth taking as this is the right time to do.

  20. Mitch Ditkoff February 24, 2015 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Rock on, Guy! Love where you’re coming from. Just sent this to my two kids. Thanks!

  21. Kate February 24, 2015 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Women must mind the biological clock, however they should also try to be mindful of what may likely make them happy. My advice (as a woman, but I think applies equally to men) would be: obviously don’t rule out marriage before 32 (per this article), but don’t be fixated on it or expect it either; if you do get married, make sure you either actually want to be with the person (child or not), or if you are getting married just to “settle”, be married and be “on schedule” to have a child or get on with your life, that’s fine but be honest with yourself that that’s the reason, and don’t expect to be happy (at least with your marriage) in the long run; you don’t need to be married to have a child (though that is a difficult, personal choice not to be made lightly); not everyone needs a child to be happy (again, a personal choice not to be made lightly); most importantly, regardless of what you choose take the time to develop yourself as an independent person, with your own interests, friends, and ability to earn your own living. Being able to take care of yourself will serve you (and your children/family) in the long haul. Plus whatever you think of Sandberg’s “Lean In”, I do agree with her advice that there is no point in taking yourself out of the game hoping for some eventual possibility of marriage/family before it’s *actually* time to do so!

    Make the most of your time while you have it and get to know yourself and what makes you happy – but don’t ignore that decades slip away sooner than you think, and faster as you get older, and don’t string your partner along or make them feel guilty for wanting to settle down before you feel “ready”, particularly if your partner is a woman – fertility is a finite time period and every year you keep someone waiting is huge deal (so if you are not ready, be honest about it so they can move on).

    Hard to say if you can be “absolutely” sure that you’re marrying the “right” person, but be honest about whether you genuinely love being, laughing and living with THAT PERSON, or if you are focused in the idea of being married and/or having your wedding (two very different things, though not mutually exclusive).

    No one has a crystal ball, and the choices are very personal. But whatever decision you make, make sure YOU know why you’re making it and that it’s a conscious decision, and be honest with yourself and your partner about it.

  22. Phil Sohn February 24, 2015 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Keeping it short is such an art. Often get tripped up by my own words and tangents when creating and delivering presentations. Crafting and honing the message and knowing the right techniques to have it resonate with your audience is a challenge every single time. Always inspiring to see pros do it seemingly so effortlessly, but have undoubtedly put in a lifetime’s worth of practice and effort. It is a journey and process no doubt!

  23. jpinsider (@JapanInsider) February 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the interesting article. Some points are good to keep in mind 🙂

  24. Rick Lipman February 24, 2015 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    i am sharing your advice with my son who is 21 years old, lived in SF for 6 months to understand the tech landscape, came back to Cincinnati to finish his education at Xavier University Business, disappointed in the “startup” world here in Cincinnati and now is applying for opps in SF. Hopefully he will heed your advice because I am not “relevant” anymore.

  25. Michael jamal February 24, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Hello Guy,
    …. I remember meeting You back in the early eighties while I employed at Slavicks jewlers. You were the marketing Rep. For Nova styling . …thank you for the lnteresting article. I will share it with my 21year old son

    • Guy Kawasaki February 24, 2015 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Those were the days. Were you in an LA store?

      • M.jamal February 25, 2015 at 5:33 pm - Reply

        Yes. Northridge .

  26. Micheline Timbrell February 24, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    As usual Guy Kawasaki, great communicator! I enjoyed the article and your last book. Yes…this is how to be ready for the challenges in life and in the corporate business world today… My son is 7, till than God help!

  27. Sreeni Narayanan February 24, 2015 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Great insights and right on the mark, as always!
    Couple of additions could be:
    a) be ready to embrace and celebrate failiures, as they teach a lot and
    b) to grow keep pushing oneselt into Zone of Discomfort – as this tests, trains and toughens you…
    Go make your mark!

  28. Mamadou ba February 25, 2015 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Excellent. Applied correctly, the advice helps to avoid many common mistakes in the life journey. Thank you.

  29. Blake Johnson (@bljohnson25) February 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Guy,

    As I write this comment, I’m 22 going on 23 and about to graduate college. While I’m not dreading life after college, I am fearful of not having the “perfect job” right out of college. Your point, “Don’t sweat your 1st job” really hit me. Instead of stressing out about what role I’ll have or how many ping-pong tables the office has, I should be focusing on how I will be able to develop and learn. Thank you for your much needed advice.

  30. Jeff March 1, 2015 at 8:03 am - Reply

    Great content. The concept of being brief and of not sweating your job is huge.

  31. Mary Ellen Cota (@mecota99) March 5, 2015 at 7:05 am - Reply

    I can offer this: I am 64! I got married at 20. We had 2 sons by the time I was 24. When they were in their teens, we were in our mid thirties, young, energetic, and had a blast raising them. We went on trips together, and made it through great times and bad. We didn’t always agree, and we dealt with all of the challenges by communicating everything. One big cause of marriages gone wrong is when you turn your attention to yourself and what makes you happy, instead of to making them happy. It will come back to you magnified. Know what they love. And NEVER make cheating a remote possibility. Know everything you can about someone you want to marry. What are their dreams? How were they brought up, what were their parents like? Was their Dad an abuser? Does their family love and respect each other, because all of that is engrained. Date for at least a year. Today it’s about self, self, self, to heck with the spouse, the kids. It’s hurting America. I say be mature and work it out. You’ll be glad in the end. We even split up for a year, and smartened up and got it back together and worked at it.

  32. Von Tchekovski II March 10, 2015 at 4:42 am - Reply

    As for nothing ever replacing our friends and family: this is wrong. You can replace your shitty friends with other friends, and you can even build your own family (see marriage) to replace your shitty one. And it’s not like we even have a choice, but what would this “sage” know of this? He is too busy scribbling down his own shallow thoughts to have any real time to think about any of these issues, let alone time to see what the our greatest geniuses have said about these things and go study philosophy, which is were all these problems begin — and end.

    Seriously. I’m sorry, but I cannot see how this article is worth reading at all. Just banal truisms being thrown around as if they were some kind of deep wisdom. So either the author is a very shallow 60-year-old man, or he’s just feeding the crowd what the crowd wants to hear in order to get a few more clicks in his website and thus generate a few more bucks in his bank account. Ask yourself this question: are we still going to be reading this article 50 years from now? This is how you know if what you’re reading has any value whatsoever!

    So here’s MY advice to all the 22-year-olds: stop reading shitty blogs, step out of your room and go LIVE life. Chase after your dreams, suffer like hell, and go and actually accomplish something. And THEN when you get to your 60’s check this article one more time and have a good laugh at it.

  33. Von Tchekovski II March 10, 2015 at 4:59 am - Reply

    My last word on this is: he forgot that we are all different, and that universally applied advice is not good. What may make me stronger and healthier, might make you weaker and sicker.

    In other words: “Evil.— Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms; whether misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the FAVORABLE conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible. The poison of which weaker natures perish strengthens the strong — nor do they call it poison.”

    So pay attention to the advice you choose to follow! 🙂

    • ratih April 1, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      yeah i’m 22 years old last this February.. this kind of unbelievable and unexpected moment that i have to step. I really curious what happen next in my life as you said GET OUT and LIVE LIFE.. really have to catch my dream and be healthy always. for anyone who is the same age with me definitely had the same feeling kinda lonely, stress out and fear but no matter what I have to face it and be strong. anyway thanks for your advice guy!!

  34. Vanessa March 15, 2015 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    This got me at Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone. I’m turning 22 this year and that means 8 short years before 30.

  35. JohanPersyn March 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Great list Guy ! I’ll tell my son (almost 20 y) Thank you Love and Blessings !

  36. Andy May 23, 2015 at 9:26 am - Reply

    marry a 22 year old at 32 …

  37. Manikandan.SP July 5, 2015 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    sweating the first job is the most common mistake. WIsh i could read this before

  38. Verena April 25, 2016 at 2:25 am - Reply

    They said: This is interesting.
    I say: I’ll share with every 20-year-old I meet.
    Guy, just tweeted this one.

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