Why Your 20s Are Too Early to Double Down on a Career

Author: Eyal Danon



A strange feeling came over me as I stood at my mother’s doorstep. I was there to say goodbye before embarking on a backpacking trip around the world, and all of a sudden I felt the full weight of my decision. I was 30 years old.


“So, you know, this is it,” I said.


She nodded. “You still have time to change your mind.” She urged me to think about it. I was putting my career on hold at a time when most of my friends were blazing forward, making names for themselves. “You’re throwing it all away,” she said. “You’re making a serious mistake.”


Was I making a mistake? At the time I didn’t have good answers to her valid concerns. After all, I had just gotten engaged and I was starting to flourish in my job as a hospitality management lecturer at Reichman University in Tel Aviv. But, my heart was pulling me down a different path. I craved adventure. I longed to explore distant lands –– to find out about myself. I knew I had a window of opportunity to live out my dream. A few hours later, I was on a plane to Kathmandu.


Years have passed from this incredible journey. I have since started my own global consulting company, working with Fortune 500 firms such as Amazon, HP and Bank of New York on their customer advisory boards. I also spend time as a life coach with clients, and many of them are in their 20s. You know something? Few of them have a solid plan to guide them from 18 to 36.

What if conventional wisdom about career building is wrong? What if your twenties are not the right time to start, and the typical trajectory of forty years is far too long? And what if, instead of blindly following this traditional path, you structured your planning around life’s natural cycles and were able to experience much greater joy, excitement and purpose?


Before the age of 36, I had no money, no savings, no retirement plan, and quite honestly, no worries. The year I turned 36, I became vice president of marketing for a publicly traded technology company. My salary hit six figures for the first time and continued to rise year after year. It all happened at the right time.


I know that this mindset runs counter to what you’ve always heard—that you must start saving from the age of four and focus on making money as soon as you’re on your own. Sure, if you can start saving money at an early age, go ahead and do it. The financial logic is sound. But focusing on money at the expense of pursuing your dreams will have a more negative impact on your life than your savings rate.

But I see a much different way forward. That is, structuring our career and life’s journey around five consecutive 18-year phases. The first one, from ages 0 to 18, is what I call the Dreamer phase. This is when we identify our dreams and flesh them out. Then, from 18 to 36, comes the Explorer phase, where we commit to a quest for the one area we are most passionate about. Isn’t it far more natural to spend time searching for that one area than to dive into an area in our early 20s only to discover much later that it wasn’t the best fit?

My advice to all, mapped out in my new book The Principle of 18, is that we step out of autopilot mode and approach our life and career from the perspective of these five consecutive 18-year phases:


The Dreamer, when you identify our dreams and flesh them out.

The Explorer, when you commit a quest for the one area you are most passionate about.

The Builder, when you focus intently on that chosen area.

The Mentor, when you guide younger generations.

The Giver, when you dedicate yourself to a cause.

The Explorer stage, from 18 to 36, is about discovering the one area where you can excel. In the span of eighteen years, you have enough time to fully explore 3 different dreams, allowing yourself to immerse in whatever it takes to realize if this is the professional path you want to take when you turn 36 years old.


Following this approach will enable you to:


Exhaust each dream before you move on to the next.

You have enough time to try out in full three empowering dreams. Five years is a good stretch of time per dream.


Allow yourself enough time to become a “serious explorer,” committing fully to whatever you are trying to achieve, without considering any other alternatives while you are at it. It’s not enough to give a halfhearted effort and then decide to try something else. Fully exhaust the potential of each one of your dreams, even if it takes several years.


Take more risks.

This is the best time to take major risks. A risk-taking attitude will serve you well in the Builder phase, too, but the stakes will be higher then. As an Explorer, you don’t have a lot to lose. Start taking more risks so you learn how to push beyond your comfort zone.


Minimize your regrets.

By fully exploring your dreams for 18 years, you are drastically reducing your future regrets. Give each dream your utmost consideration, effort, and energy, using all the resources you have. If you still come up short, you’ll know you gave it your all and you’ll have no regrets about it.


Stop obsessing over money.

It’s more important to find your passion, hone your skills and plan for your Builder years, from 36 to 54. That’s when you should double down on the one area that you can excel at.

There is a time and place for everything that we need to achieve in life. The trick is to find the sweet spot between your talents, passion and what the market needs.


Article courtesy of our content partner site Grit Daily


About the Author


Eyal Danon is a contributor to Grit Daily News, a Columbia University–trained life coach and the founder of the Ignite Advisory Group, a global leader in managing expert communities for Fortune 500 firms. He is the author of The Principle of 18, the memoir Before the Kids and Mortgage, and the novel The Golden Key of Gangotri. Connect with Eyal at www.eyaldanon.com.