21 Lessons turning 21

I turned 21 years this may, and I thought about celebrating that by writing this post as a good ol self-reminder. This post isn’t self-help content or life advice hinted at anyone or anything, it’s a list, I’d either look back on & be grateful for or the one that makes you cringe for the rest of your birthdays

You know, what I mean, my late teens were a series of epiphanies and realizations about myself.

Oh hell yeah *inserts Steve Harvey’s voice*

Either way, better done than not, here is an evolving list of 21 lessons, I believe have shaped my thoughts and actions & how you can use them to save some time & energy (why not)

Here we go

1. Never depend on universities to teach you everything there is about your course major: 

Look, this had to be the first one on the list.

I feel what has helped me is reading more broadly about subjects you’re interested in or industries you want to work in, people have diverse interests.

If you could only borrow people instead of books, and listen to their stories you may be learning faster than others. Many have more niche knowledge based on their interests & experience. Moreover, university courses remain unaltered for a long period, but students come & go, in that sense, you’re really paying tuition for the network & people you study with more than the contents of what you study.

It’s an elite membership.

2. When you need someone to talk to, journal

For much of my childhood, I felt like I couldn’t fit in, I started journaling when I was 12 as a coping mechanism to be able to talk to someone who would listen without judgment. Most mental health advice you hear today also revolves around journaling, which is therapeutic and also helps people become more self-aware, surfacing subconscious thought patterns & beliefs affecting behavior. 

The Cliche is true.
I assume that most young adults today, feel vulnerable or judged talking about their experiences. Journaling is a good place to start, a great one actually. 

3. People can never disappoint you: the milk carton rule: 

This one trick is to save you from small frustrations. It’s about how you can alter your expectations based on others’ actions more than your own expectations of their actions. Think about your sister named Akshatha for a minute, she never puts your phone back on charge after she borrows your charger for an hour before her gym class. She’s only reminded to charge your phone every time after you’ve tried to remind her the billionth time holding on to your last nerve.

What do you do about this?

Well, you could continue to get frustrated or you could set a reminder for yourself to charge your phone before Akhatha leaves for her gym class.

What just happened?

Image by  Andreas Haslinge: Unsplash

You saved yourself from some energy and emotional damage by basing your expectations of someone on their current set of actions more than what you expect them to do (because you think that’s how it should be). You alter your expectations based on someone else’s actions.

This rule is only true for avoiding small everyday frustrations, but it works. Read more about that here

4. Ask dumb questions

 I don’t have a problem with sounding smart, I think it’s great, but not when it stands in your way from asking about things you don’t know. It can be intimidating to ask questions, you feel everyone knows the answers to, (or what if they think it’s obvious) but here’s a secret, you never know 🤷‍♀️ 

you don’t know what most people in the room know or don’t and chances are they probably don’t know either, but they’re too afraid to ask :p

5. If you got money: find a mentor 

Getting good feedback you can take action on is difficult. Feedback can be disguised into opinions and feelings without much articulation on what actions are necessary to make things better. I think a mentor can have the most impact on your life and career depending on what mentor you’re seeking out.

I’m looking for one on ADP list and I think most of them are amazing 

6. Choose curiosity over judgment

Easier said than done, judgment can stem from a binary worldview where things are either right or wrong, there are no grey areas. We tend to shut ourselves from the people we judge instead of getting to know their stories, thoughts, actions & motivations. Judgment halts our thinking, curiosity expands it.

7. Bodies are meant to move: 

Jonathan Borba: Unsplash

As cliche, as it sounds, too long without exercising, can make anyone miserable. Human physiology hasn’t changed at the same pace as much as our work environments & lifestyle patterns, since the last stone age. Our bodies hardly get any movement as much as they deserve. And we should be taking care of them.

8. Nothing is Orignal

My outlook on what can be called ‘original’ completely shifted after reading Austin Kleon’s, “Steal like an artist”. He talks about how what we produce is the remix of the sum of influences affecting us within our attention or below the surface in our subconscious.

My favorite quote from Carl Sagen reads, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”, it says that everything comes from something, something cannot come from nothing. we’re all a set of unique mix and matches, everyone and everything, ideas people or literature is a unique combination of infinite unknown influences.

9. You are not meant to be ‘productive’ all the time: 

I love being productive & getting to do more with my time feels like you’re winning with your time game. But hopping from one project to another really takes a toll on my attention and energy. You can’t be focusing on too many things at the same time, well that isn’t ‘focuse’ anyway.

I think we live in a hustle culture that just pushes this narrative of “superhuman efficiency” like everyone can pull off an 80-hour workweek and feel guilty about not doing enough, squeezing every little minute of your day to work towards your goal can be more of burnout in disguise than a reward for the future.

10. You will outgrow old friends, lose some and make new ones but that’s okay

Robin Dunbar, a renowned evolutionary psychologist studied friendships & close relationships all his life. The Dunbar’s number says that humans can only meaningfully maintain about 150 stable relationships at any given point or 5 really close friends in the intimate circle. His study involves how long someone takes from going from an acquaintance to really close friend. 

As much as you love connecting with people, you can’t be friends with everyone, so don’t guilt yourself into thinking you’re not a good enough friend. 

source: modelthinkers.com

11. To be successful be a person of value: 

Einstein said it, but it’s worth being repeated. This is what my marketing mentor, Deepak Kanakaraju sir told us all the time. He has led us to believe that we’re only as good as the people we serve. We live in a world full of people, the value you add can be measured by the lives, businesses, or organizations you affect.

13. The last of human independence is choice: 

heavily inspired by the book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, this book serves as a constant reminder that everything can be taken away from a man but choice. As much as we are influenced by the external world, we can consciously choose, bringing the smallest decisions to the center of our attention, we have the power to change existing patterns of behavior and shape mindset by actively looking at the choices we make. 

14. The greatest independence comes from choosing the way you spend your time: 

period. This one is my favorite. You can’t get any happier than, choosing the way you want to spend your time & who you want to spend it with.  

15. Find a healthy coping mechanism for your anxiety: 

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives, Be it persistent everyday anxiety or the way your chest feels before an interview. Everyone experiences a certain level of anxiety, but it’s important to find a healthy coping mechanism. Figuring out what you can do better.

16. Saying yes is saying no 

This one is less obvious than the others. You can’t say yes to everything, as much as your last nerve cell devours to suck the last opportunity out of everything, once you commit to something, it’s harder to change course or say yes to other things you also find delightful to do.

Unfortunately, not all of us have the independence to choose our time when we are obliged to do something we never asked for. Take unnecessary college credits for example. But for the rest do your research & choose your time wisely.

Chris Ainsworth on Unsplash

17. Make people feel heard 

Heck yes! Who wouldn’t love being asked thoughtful questions about them or their work? It shows that you care & are curious to know more. People have so much to say, so many stories to tell, it’s one of the best ways to make a close connection.

If you wanna be friends with someone just ask them about what they’re up to & listen carefully. Ask them about their goals & motivations, what they want to do for the future or what drives them the most. They will probably remember you.

18. You don’t know what you don’t know about 

The creative industry can be so diverse & we usually work with a multitude of projects at the same time. It was harder for me to decide where I wanted to work for my internship due to the sheer number of options. You cannot have the foresight of something being the perfect fit for you unless you either try it out or ask for second-hand advice from your seniors.

There are often so many unknowns you don’t know about, when choosing a path, it’s impossible to have the foresight for everything you’re doing right now and the consequences they hold. These are the blind spots you cannot predict because you don’t know of their existence. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.

19. Talk to people who are unlike you 

People from all walks, everywhere have different stories to tell. Listening makes you understand a story from a different perspective. Surprisingly it has also helped me make better decisions as this gives you an unbiased view of a situation. This helps me understand some of their core motivations.

When speaking of user experience design for example it’s helpful to talk to users from different backgrounds & demographic to build better products.

Image: Linkedin

20. Find like-minded people with similar interests

This is ironic because it’s the exact opposite of the last point, but while listening to different people can help you get a better 360 of a situation, hanging out with like-minded people with similar wavelengths, goals & motivations as you can have an exponential impact on your happiness growth & productivity.

Humans need a sense of belonging. It’s at the bottom four of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but I believe if you find this group of people, you’ll be more motivated to work than ever.

21 . Work hard but love yourself first 

Juan Manuel Aguilar on Unsplash

This is probably the last good ol reminder. This is something I’m still learning to do. It’s true, work never ends, especially if you’re a design student or any college major for that matter. but it’s important to set boundaries and take time off for yourself to relax. Really relax 🙂 After all, taking a nap, watching the clouds, going for a walk, or staring at the pigeons from time to time isn’t that bad.

If you resonate with any of these lessons, leave a comment below. Or what were some of the most important lessons in your teens and 20s? Do you ever find that your lessons could be conflicting? let me know down below.

For feedback write me at vaishnavi.vidwans@gmail.com

26 thoughts on “21 Lessons turning 21”

  1. Chandana Abhay Virkar

    Well written… या वयात तुझे इतके प्रगल्भ विचार वाचून छान वाटले…keep on writing…Best wishes…

    1. Jayashri brahme

      Keep it up तुझ्या पुढील वाटचालीसाठी मनापासून शुभेच्छा

  2. Ajay Deshpande

    Hi Vaishnavi,
    This is a very well thought and an apt write-up. Depicts the depth of your thought process. Most of these points hold valid for all of us and can be imbibed.
    Keep writing and my best wishes to you👍.

        1. Very well articulated Vaishnavi !!
          I could resonate with many of the lessons you mentioned here. Definitely many of us would have.
          What all matters is, to keep learning and exploring new things in our life, and enjoy the work you do.
          Keep it up and keep writing. Stay blessed !!

  3. Arathi Purohit

    Dear Vaishnavi,

    The writeup is simply amazing…..bulls eye…..yes it is not an advice…but valid pointers collected together which can be an eye opener for all age groups….

    Nicely articulated…..keep writing and give us the opportunity to read your wonderful writings …..keep it up

    Best wishes,
    Stay Blessed
    Prof. Arathi Purohit

  4. Superb Vaishnavi…!! Very well written and indeed a thought provoking read. I am sure many of us can resonate with it, but what makes it very special is that you have realised it at 21!!
    Keep up the good work. All the best.

  5. वैष्णवी…
    खूप छान विचार मांडले आहेस.
    मला स्वतःला कळायला दोन तीनदा वाचायला लागले.

    धन्यवाद !!

  6. Nicely written Vaishnavi , you have got a great ability to think, express and present ! Please nurture it further 👍👍

  7. अपूर्वा रत्नपारखी

    वैष्णवी खुप विचार केला आहेस , तुझे खुप कौतुक वाटले, चांगला माणूस होण्याच्या दृष्ट्रीने खूप पुढचे पाऊल👍👍👌👌

  8. Manisha Pillai

    Vaishnavi, Very nice understanding of life at this age. Looks like you read lot many books… keep it up and stay blessed.

  9. Very well written article Vai 👍🏻
    Keep it up.. Looking forward for more articles from you🙂🙂

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