Why You Need To Screw Up Royally In Your 20s

February 15, 2016

Whoever said hindsight’s 20-20 was 100 per cent on the money.

When we’re in the giddy throes of our twenties, we’re on a reckless, emotional rollercoaster. In the adrenaline-fuelled highs we feel as though we’re unstoppable, then our stomach lurks as we’re flung to the complete extreme. We soar the sky and then swiftly sink into nauseous despair, wondering how we could have been so foolish. In our twenties, after a huge high, we often sink to dwell, stew and fret about how our error of judgement could have cost us everything. It can feel like we’ve ruined our lives forever.

In my twenties, I made the ultimate mistake. Or, at least, it felt that way at the time. I got married, it was a disaster and meant I was saddled with a divorce before I hit 30. Funnily enough, when I stood at the easel and crafted a vision of what my life would look like, a big, black D staring at me from the page was not what I drew. Cue tears and regret, followed by more tears. It was a hideous challenge to wrap my head around.

But you know what? Time ticked on. I looked again at the page on the easel where the big D had once stared back at me and I saw that it had morphed into a tree and actually sprouted some exciting shoots. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Having overcome a huge hurdle, I felt a newfound confidence in myself that has stayed with me ever since. I had proven to myself that even when my rollercoaster ride took a lunge and came off its tracks, I didn’t injure myself forever. I didn’t stay down forever.

Much as it’s a cliché, it’s true that you have to fall down to know that no matter how tough things get, you’ll pick yourself up. As the saying goes, ‘Sometimes you fall down because there’s something down there you’re supposed to find’. In other words, you have to fail to succeed, and it’s only when you look back that you can see the whole picture.


In your twenties you should try as much as you can (that is legal). Try it, tick it off your to-do list and file what you enjoyed into a pile marked ‘will do again’. You can throw the rest in the trash. It’s the decade to work out who you are, what you like, what makes you tick and what ticks you off. You can afford to make mistakes because you’re young enough to get away with it – try using that excuse further down the track and you’ll be met with raised eyebrows that scream ‘you’re too old for that’.

Rather than zooming through the to-do list of life’s crucial choices that seriously impact your future – like your career, marriage and babies – slow down. Take tiny twenties steps, take risks and throw yourself into a decade that’s all about you. Everything else can wait!

Your twenties is a time to walk around in a T-shirt plastered with the words of Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

And on your coffee table you may want to leave a copy of Financial Times columnist Tim Harford’s book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure. Find a Post-it note and mark the page on which he writes “Few of our failures are fatal” because, on reflection when years have ticked by, you’ll see that slipping up in your twenties isn’t the end of the world.

Images via tumblr.com. 

Comment: What do you regret not doing in your twenties?


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