Your 20s not going as planned?
Perfect. You’re in great company.
No, failing in your twenties is a historical rite of a passage. Like being sent out into the wilderness to kill a lion — naked, blindfolded, and wielding a dull stick.
But is experiencing a quarter-life crisis such a terrible thing? Here’s why our 20s detour into the wilderness puts us in the best company imaginable.
The Fabulous and Famous who Failed Their Twenties
Abraham Lincoln – 16th President
If you made it through 5th grade, you’ve heard of this guy. But if you would’ve known Honest Abe when he was thirty years old, you would’ve only known him as a lovable, gangly, unfortunate loser.
23 years old — Abe runs for the Illinois General Assembly. He’s defeated. By a country mile.
24 — He opens a village store. Same year the store goes belly-up.
25 — He falls in love with Anne Rutledge. At 26, Anne dies.
27 years old — Begins serious pursuit of Mary Owens.
28 years old — Asks Mary Owens to be Mrs. Lincoln. She declines.
Abe enters his 30s struggling with depression along with relationship and political defeats.
Abraham Lincoln tragically exits this world too early in his 50s as the savior of the United States.
Morgan Freeman – Actor Extraordinaire
“Jobs were hard to come by and he continually went hungry, often starving for days before he’d ask his friends for help.” – Morgan Freeman Bio
At 22 years old, Freeman moved to LA to become an actor and landed an amazing role — transcript clerk at LA city college.
I went to Hollywood straight away. I got a good running start but the wall was brick.” – Biography Channel, Morgan Freeman
Freeman moved back to New York, taking any role he could. The first time he received a leading role — the play closed in four nights.
Freeman entered his 30s playing bit parts on the Electric Company — a Sesame Street-esque TV show, with his marriage about to end in divorce.
Today he is one of the highest grossing actors around.
Parker Palmer – Best-selling author, activist, teacher
“As the darkness began to descend on me in my early twenties, I thought I had developed a unique and terminal case of failure. I did not realize that I had merely embarked on a journey toward joining the human race.” Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Parker Palmer left college assured he was to do God’s work, so he enrolled in a theological seminary. And after a year bathing in Bible, bad grades and a bruised ego, he left.
Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands.” Parker Palmer
After struggling through his 20s filled with ought’s, should’s — searching for status and praise, Palmer found himself entering his 30s and a small Quaker community. A place that promised a personal reset.
“I was in my early thirties when I began, literally, to wake up to questions of about my vocation.” Parker Palmer
You are Right Where you Need to Be
Our 20s aren’t about sheer success. Our 20s about perseverance and preparation.
As I wrote in my book 101 Secrets For Your Twenties,
Failing means you’re simply finding a more profound way to be successful, if you’re willing to learn from it, and then have the courage to possibly fail again. And possibly more profoundly than before.
We can’t let failure be our death sentence instead of just one more sentence on the page before we turn it to the next. If we go for it, we will fail. We have to. That’s part of lifting a weight heavier than you. You tear your muscles so that they can become stronger.
The only real failure of our 20s would be if we never had any.”
Sure there will be the Mark Zuckerburg’s of the world who wipe their rear-ends with billion dollar bills.
But the heroes in the history books who kicked status quo in the ass, often failed the biggest in their 20s.
Failure can be the best clarifier in life.
Failure doesn’t ruin your story. Failure helps you write it. (click to tweet that)
Feel like you’re failing your 20s? You’re in famous company.
Do you feel like you’re failing more than you’re succeeding in your 20s? You’re not alone. Join the conversation and tell us your story within the comments on this article.
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey – Creative Commons