21 things I’ve learned in 21 years

Turning 21 has been bittersweet for me — I’m excited for what the year has to bring, but wary of being a year older.

As I sit in my college dorm room at the beginning of my senior year, I’ve realized that there are some really key things I’ve learned over the course of my life that I’d like to share with you. Thanks for reading the random musings from my brain:

  1. A small smile can go a long way: I’m a firm believer that the smallest action can create big impact in ways you don’t expect.
  2. A GPA or standardized test score doesn’t define intelligence: I was that kid who scored below 50% on many standardized tests in elementary school and struggled to get a decent SAT score. But I’d like to think that I still turned out fine.
  3. Let toxic people go: This was a particularly hard one for me because it’s oftentimes with people you’ve known for a while and worked hard to cultivate a strong relationship with. When I had just started Womentum, one of my best friends at the time told me that everyone thought I was doing this to boost my resume. Having that sort of negativity about something that you are so passionate about is extremely draining. So if you have friends like this, it’s time to let them go.
  4. Failure is never permanent: It was an hour before an event that I was supposed to speak at and I had just lost a pitch competition, receiving some very negative feedback about Womentum. I was crying in my room questioning whether what I was doing was right, but with the help of some close friends, I wiped my tears and went to go speak at that event because failure is never permanent.
  5. Give as much as you can without losing yourself: Be as nice, supportive, empowering, and inspirational as you can be. But we all know if you give too much, eventually you’ll be drowning in trying to support others, so make sure you are in a strong place before picking up others.
  6. Chasing perfection is tiresome and unfulfilling: there is no perfect school, perfect job, perfect life. Everything is going to have pros and cons, the question is what can you live with?
  7. “Grit” is more valuable than anything: Growing up, I always knew that I wasn’t the smartest. But I learned quickly what you knew was never enough. You had to have the perseverance to keep going when it got tough.
  8. Moving across the country to a city where you know no one is scary, but worthwhile: Deciding to go to college 3,000 miles from where I grew up was the best decision of my life. Once you’ve learned how to move in and out of your college dorm by yourself, you can make it through anything.
  9. Take a stab at your dreams while you’re young: Even through all the tough times, I’ve never once regretted starting a nonprofit at age 19. Because even if it doesn’t work out you have 70 years to figure it out again.
  10. Find your tribe and never let them go: I’ve felt so fortunate to find a strong friend group in college. It’s so rare to find actually amazing friends so when you find it, don’t let it go.
  11. Build small traditions into your everyday life: Whether it’s weekly dinners with a group of friends you love, or visiting friends in another city. Find those traditions that you can build into your life to keep things interesting.
  12. #NSNTF — Never Say No To Fun: A popular phrase of Derek Tu and I. As we started our junior year, we were leading school clubs, running a nonprofit, and had part time jobs. Encouraging ourselves to go out on the weekends when we might be drowning in work was the best motto we had.
  13. Never let your haters see you break: Over the past year, the number of times that I’ve been torn apart during a pitch or an event is more times than I can count. But being able to look someone in the eye and not break when they are tearing your idea apart is the strongest lesson I’ve learned.
  14. Find the things you appreciate the most and never forget: I’m a cheeseball as many of my friends know. I write all the things I appreciate the most on a wall that I hang in my dorm room. It’s easy to lose sight of how fortunate we are to be where we are today so try to find ways to never forget.
  15. Indulge yourself: For me it’s reality TV shows like Big Brother or the Bachelor. My guilty pleasures keep me going when life get’s rough.
  16. Filter the feedback you receive: This is especially for people running businesses. When you get out there and start sharing your ideas, there are just going to be people who get it and those who don’t. Being able to filter the feedback and not take it personally is going to be vital for any early-stage founder.
  17. Not everyone grows at the same rate: Even though not everyone grows at the same rate, being there for someone through their highs and lows is critical. You can play a strong role in helping them get to where they want to be.
  18. Perspective is everything: I received some of the best advice as I finished my summer internship at Microsoft from a current GM. He mentioned how there were positives and negatives to every job, the key part is what you choose to focus on.
  19. Pushing yourself to be uncomfortable is always worth it: Whether it was flying across the country to go to college, deciding to go back to the place you grew up to intern, or starting a nonprofit. All my risky life decisions have always paid off in ways I never expected.
  20. Always celebrate your birthday to the fullest: A recently new life lesson but one that I’ll always follow. Turn your birthday into a lifestyle :)
  21. Love is the most precious thing in the world: Derek Tu thanks for being my best friend for almost three years.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has been part of my life over these 21 years. These lessons come from many of the incredible people who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the years. So cheers to you and the new year!

Product Marketing @ Facebook, all views are my own!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store