20 Lessons I Learned in My 20’s: Philosophy & Mindset [Part 2/5]

This is the second part of a series on the 20 things I learned in my twenties. If you haven’t already I highly recommend reading the introduction to the series.

I’m thrilled that you are taking the time to read these lessons. The last decade has been an incredible period of time.

In my opinion, if you take advantage and execute the groundwork in your twenties – you will build a foundation where you succeed for the rest of your life. It is the developmental sweet spot for a life well lived.

As described in the introduction article, I’ve broke these principles into 4 categories that I believe to broadly represent one’s life.

It starts right here, in Part 1.

We must begin first by creating a clear, well-defined Philosophy.

This is not a short term assignment. This will be a life long task.

However, this is similar to investing. The earlier you start, the earlier you will be able to enjoy the dividends.

Here’s a fact: You need a developed philosophy if you want to take control of your life.

You see, life is a complicated mix of many different dynamics and responsibilities that are all woven together.

I like to think of our personal Philosophy as our internal operating system (IOS).

Think of the operating system on your smart phone. These IOS’s continue to upgrade right? So your phone runs smoother, has more features, and is ultimately acts as a better tool. You wouldn’t want to use a phone with a outdated operating system.

Your phone’s operating system tells the phone how to act when you request it to do certain things.

That’s what a personal philosophy does. Your philosophy (frame work) tells you how to act and behave when external things out of your control show up in your life.

Philosophy is defined as the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.

Your philosophy is used to make every decision, take every action, and comes into play in every interaction. It never leaves you. This is why it is so important to cultivate and maintain so you can continue to get the results you want in life.

I understand this isn’t sexy or any get rich quick. I’m sorry but I’ve found things worthwhile usually aren’t sexy or cute. Their complex and challenging. This is why most people avoid the truth and become delusional.

Philosophy is everything to do with your mind and the filter you see life through. These are your character traits, your perceptions, your values, emotions, and thoughts. But it’s damn important if you want any shot at inner peace and fulfillment.

Here are the (5) things I learned in the philosophy category during my twenties that helped me keep moving forward.

If one of these strikes a chord with you, then this will be a success.

1) Follow Your True North

Step one to living with intention and not settling is what I call define your “North Star.”

This is really where any conversation or thought should begin.

This really means answer the question “Where are YOU going?” & “What do I want?”

These questions are the first thing I respond with whenever anyone asks me for advice: “Well, What is it that your after in a perfect world?

Your definition of your “North Star” or your honest answer to “Where are you going / What do you Want?” is going to guide 90% of the decisions you will make and how you prioritize your entire life. It’s important!

This is huge for young adults and is one of the most common things I see consistent with those that are unhappy with their current situation.

They have no idea who they are, where they are currently going, and where they would like to go in their life, career, family, you name it.

They lack clarity.

They’re simply, drifting.

Clarity is one of the (4) common traits shared amongst the world’s highest performers.

Leaders and High Performers know: 1) who they are 2) what they want and 3) where they are going.

Right now, it’s safe to say the majority of young adults are living with a staggering amount of uncertainty. Many have no idea what they will be doing, where they will be living, or who they will be with in two or even ten years.

Focusing on finding out what you want and where you want to go will immediately identify the path you need to be on.

You don’t have to want the same things I do. The choice is yours. But you have to choose.

And if you don’t want to settle, you have to choose independently of society’s influence on your own mistaken perceptions of what is possible.

In order for you to apply or relate to any of the following lessons learned you really have to take into consideration your targets. You need a direction.

It doesn’t need to be a final direction, your direction can change. But you do need to start by picking a direction and start taking steps toward it.

Start with answering this very difficult question – “IF anything were possible, what would you want?” Get real here.

In a perfect world, what would your life look like? What would your mornings/afternoons/nights look like? What would your finances look like? What would your lifestyle look like? What would your health look like? What about your relationships? How do you spend your time? What are you working on? What do you really want? Not what society wants for you, what your parents want, what do YOU want?

Write it down. It’s important. You need to be clear on this.

Seriously, I’ll wait.

Writing out the things you want and what you’re going to do to achieve your targets is extremely important to your success. 

This isn’t something you will do just once. This is something you should do multiple times per year, or as often as it takes, for the rest of your life.

There is heaps of science and studies that support the importance of writing out your past, present, and future.

There will be times in your future where things will get fuzzy and unclear. That’s your queue to return to this exercise and re-establish who you are and where you are going.

Over the last decade, I have likely written out want I want, what I’ve done, and who I am close to 500 times. I can’t encourage this enough.

People who spend time writing carefully about themselves become happier, less anxious and depressed and physically healthier. They become more productive, persistent and engaged in life.

This is because thinking about where you came from, who you are and where you are going helps you chart a simpler and more rewarding path through life.

Put your past to rest. Understand and improve your present personality. Design the future you want to live.

Follow your True North!

Your True North is a critical component of your Philosophy.

2) The Four Agreements

In case you forgot and need a reminder, being a human is complicated.

The Four Agreements is actually a world-class selling book written by Don Miguel Ruiz. This would be first book I would ever recommend anyone that seeks the path to personal freedom, inner peace, and enlightenment.

Pick up your copy of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The book has been a valuable guide for me in my twenties.

Ruiz proposes four new agreements to make with yourself today.

Being aware and understanding these (4) statements can make a world difference in the way you move and navigate through life, career, relationships, and every decision you make.

Agreement #1 – Be impeccable with your word.

Your words are much more powerful than you realize. Be aware of what you are saying to others and what you are saying to yourself.

Always be sure that your words are congruent with you actions and behaviors. Understand when you are non impeccable with your word, this will only lead to internal and external conflict.

Speak with integrity.

Be precise with your speech.

Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Get in the habit of saying only what you mean and meaning only what you say. When in doubt, say nothing at all.

When you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you make a mistake, own it. Do not talk behind someones back or work angles around people. Do not take advantage of people or try and get away with things.

I quickly learned throughout the last decade that there are many situations that arise in life where things go sideways.

Someone misunderstood someone, someone said something they didn’t mean, someone made a mistake, someone let their emotions get involved, and now there is a problem.

I’ve found that the easiest way to stay clean when things get messy is by maintaining your integrity and alignment with your word. If you consistently be impeccable with your communications; you will find yourself able to get out of most all situations with no guilt, pressure, and a peaceful conscious.

Leaders tell the truth.

Agreement #2 – Don’t take anything personally.

This may seem obvious, but I see all the time where people take things personally.

Don’t take anything personally. It is hard to do this. You have to fight your ego to avoid taking things personally.

Nothing others do is because of you.

What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.

When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Even when people ask for critique points, they often get mad when they actually hear them. Don’t allow yourself to do that. Don’t take criticism personally.

Not about the plan you came with up with.

Not about the idea you had.

Not about the presentation you gave.

Not about the decision you made.

Even when your biggest rival, the last person you want to hear from, has something to say, listen.

Agreement #3 – Don’t make assumptions.

Never assume something. Always look for the facts. Don’t let your mind wander off.

As soon as it does, grab it and bring it back to the hear and the now.

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.

Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.

With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Agreement #4 – Always do your best.

Hard work is no secret to success.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Work hard. As a leader, you should be working harder than anyone else. No job is beneath you.

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.

Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

In summary, win the war over the beliefs in your mind by incorporating these agreements into your personal philosophy.

Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.

3) E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

“What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Ryan Holiday

What is the reality in which you operate?

What is the framework for how you live and make decisions?

One of the biggest lessons for how I operate came when I learned about the “R” factor. Check this out:

E + R = O

The Event + Your Response = The Outcome

This is a system that applies to anything you do. It follows the physics of life.

Every single day we experience a flow of events. We respond to those events and we experience an outcome.

Focus on the things you can control, let go of everything else and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, and tougher.

As Ryan Holiday says in his bestselling book “The Obstacle Is The Way,”

“We’re dissatisfied with our jobs, our relationships, our place in the world. We’re trying to get somewhere, but something stands in the way. So we do nothing. We blame our bosses, the economy, our politicians, other people, or we write ourselves off as failures or our goals as impossible. When really only one thing is at fault: our attitude and approach.

Holiday, Ryan. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The twenties is the time to start developing a method and framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us.

This is a non-negotiable life skill that must be developed for long term success. I wish this was taught in school but it’s not.

This is called Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Where one person sees a crisis, another can see an opportunity.

I’ve used this framework time and time again in my career and it has been paid dividends.

You will come across obstacles in life—fair and unfair. And you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we (R)espond, and if we keep our composure.

We always have control over our “R’s” (Responses) to events. Therefore, we always have control over our “O’s” (Outcomes).

These are your twenties, the best time to put in the work, harden up, and build a foundation for long term success.

We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it.

This framework will come in use time and time again as you move through your life’s plan.

4) Everything You Want In Life Is UpHill

Here are a couple harsh truths that I’ve learned to be factual in my twenties:

1) Life isn’t fair.

2) The world does not owe you anything.

No matter what life throws your way, no matter how unfair it may seem, refuse to play the victim. Refuse to be ruled by fear, pessimism, and negativity. Refuse to quit.

Be a warrior and work through whatever life throws your way with courage, love, and positivity. Continually push forward.

Because you are a survivor of the unfairness of life. You are stronger than you think. And you are capable of achieving far more than you believe.

Anything worth while does not come free of cost.

Everything good takes effort.

Everything good takes time.

Everything good requires struggle.


This brilliant concept is from the legend John Maxwell.

I continually remind myself of this because it is absolute fact.

Almost everything that has value, almost everything that has purpose, requires work on our part to attain it. We have to put in the effort to get what to where we want to go.

Think about it – you want a good relationship? You have to work at it. You want a good career? You have to work at it. You want to change your life, achieve a goal, do something you’ve never done before? You have to work at it.

The twenties are the very best time to get very familiar with hard work.

Hard work should be no stranger to you in your twenties. Commit to the #UpHillLifestyle

Start to use discomfort, struggle, and effort as queues to know that you are on the right path.

Hard work is not something you talk about. Most of the hard work necessary for a life well lived is done in solitude. Do not be shocked when you realize this is something the majority of people avoid.

Nothing that is good in life comes easy. And very little that comes easy is good.

The view from the top of hill is much better than the view from the bottom.

Picture taken from a road trip along the Eastern Australian Coastline.
January 2018

5) Discipline Equals Freedom

“It is about treating people the way you would want to be treated. It is about doing the tasks that you don’t want to do, but you know will help you. Discipline is about taking the hard road – the uphill road. ” – Jocko Willink

When it comes to Discipline & Leadership, there is no better resource then Jocko Willink’s books and podcast.

His content has guided me and helped me so much more than these words can explain. He is a prime example of a true warrior. He is truly one of a kind and someone I have utmost respect for.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found more and more interest in the dichotomies of life.

I’ve learned that the highest value skills and lessons are in the dichotomies. The more complicated subjects with nuances and multiple layers.

One of them that I believe to be most pressing is Discipline.

People often (especially young up and coming developing adults) have this picture in their mind where a good life looks like a life with no responsibility and nothing but vacations and free time.

This couldn’t be any further of the truth. The level of thinking is extremely dangerous.

The truth is if you want more free time and more enjoyable life, you need more discipline. Without discipline, there is no freedom.

Don’t take the easy path. The easy path leads to misery. The path of discipline leads to freedom.

Without discipline, you will lose yourself in this modern world. You will not be able to navigate yourself to a better place.

Keep this mind as you set up and navigate your twenties. Everything you pursue must be pursued in a discipline manner.

You need to keep the chaos of life in order if you want to build something meaningful and move forward.

Wake up early and start working on the highest priority task.

Be the first person to show up to work and the last person to leave.

Drink water, hit your workouts, and get some decent nutrition so you have energy, stay healthy, and stay relevant.

Be disciplined with your money so you can create options in your future. Do not spend more than you make.

Show up day after day after day ready to go.

Discipline isn’t rocket science. It’s just doing what needs to be done regardless of how you feel or what’s going on in the world around you.

Discipline is simple but HARD. It is the glue that holds everything together and creates opportunity in your business and life.

If you hone in your discipline in your twenties, I believe you will be set up with a life full of options, opportunity, and freedom.


In summary, part of the ground work or foundation work that needs to be done in your twenties is fine tuning your philosophy.

It is the framework that intertwines with everything else.

A crafted philosophy helps identify who you are and what you care about. Those two things are critical to understand for maximum success.

When you know what you care about then you become loyal and steady in pursuing your highest potential.

Always remember, if it’s not clear who you are, what you care about, or what your “purpose” is, that’s absolutely okay. All that means is that your current “purpose” or mission is to figure that out. That is a meaningful mission in itself.

A clear, well-defined philosophy gives you the guidelines and boundaries that keep you on track.

Following Your True North, The Four Agreements, E+R=O, Everything You Want in Life Is Up Hill, & Discipline Equals Freedom.

These are concepts and the frameworks that I can say really helped me keep moving forward in my 20’s.

Whenever I worked on these, I increased my chances of success. I’m not quoting a scientific study. This is just my experience.

You’re welcome to email me questions or raise issues for discussion. Better yet, if you know a good book on a related topic, please pass it along. And as always, if one of these articles mean something to you, recommend it to someone else.

Enjoy, treat your education like the job that it is, and let me know if you ever need anything.

Talk to you in Part 3.

Kyle Nitchen

Ok, that’s all for now. Come say Hi on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to my e-mail list for more excellent content.