I Wish I Knew This One Thing in my 20s

One Thing I Wish I Knew in my 20s

In the movie “The Words” starring Bradley Cooper, he’s in his twenties and his dream is to become an author. So he works long, painful hours late at night on his passion project, a book.

After years of writing and working, he submits the manuscript to agents and the rejection letters begin to trickle in. Some agents read it and think it’s well done, but he still can’t get anyone to take a chance on him (to say I could relate to this movie would be an understatement).One Thing I Wish I Knew in my 20s

So one day, he ends up stumbling across a manuscript someone else wrote stuffed in an old briefcase. He then plays it off as his own writing and gets the book published, which becomes an international best-seller.

For the rest of the movie he’s then plagued with anxiety and an overwhelming ache because people praise him for words that were never his.

He took the shortcut, and it nearly kills him and all his relationships because of it.

If Only I Knew Now… 

How many times in my twenties did I pray for that shortcut to magically appear. Not an unethical one, but just a clearer, quicker path to reach my dreams.

I mean, no one yearns for life to be incredibly hard. No one cries out to God “to be blessed” with incredibly difficult trials that will stretch and pull you until you feel like breaking.

No, for most my twenties I was crying out to God, “Can you throw me a freakin’ bone here!”

But as I look back on my twenties, and especially the ten years it took me to see my new book come to life, I wish I could’ve realized this one thing:

The worst thing that could’ve happened to me in my twenties would’ve been if the road to get here was easier.

My skill set would be so anemic if my dreams would’ve worked out as seamlessly as I hoped.

Instead I was forced to work harder. To study longer. To strategize, hustle, struggle, and grow.

I wanted to write a book and have it become an instant hit. Instead, I had to write around 2,000 pages to find the real story I needed to tell within 200 pages.

I was forced to learn skills like blogging, social media, web programming, web design, networking, etc. If things would’ve worked out like I planned, then I wouldn’t possess ninety percent of the skills I now use every day.

If you have to hike the long road up the mountain over and over again, your legs are going to be much stronger than if you took a helicopter to get to the top. And then what amazing intricacies and views would we have missed if we never had to struggle up the trail.

One-hit wonders only have one hit because they are smacked in the face by success, and have never built the strength it took to sustain it.

Praise God our twenties are hard. It’s because of the struggle, not in spite of it, that we will find real success.

That sentence might sound crazy, but I promise it’s the truth.

When the way you thought you should go is blocked, you have to learn to try new ways you didn’t know existed.

Like Bradley Cooper’s character in “The Words,” the shortcut might end up being the longest, most painful path you could ever take.

I’d love to hear from you within the comments on this article: 

What’s something you wish you knew earlier in your twenties? 


  1. Sharon C.

    I appreciate this article. I know this stuff and I am in my twenties, but to see the thoughts articulated like they are here, especially following the sentiment, “I wish..” moves me to take it seriously now, while I still can.

  2. Karl London

    Paul, this is a beautiful, wonderful message and I sincerely thank you for writing it. In my mid- twenties, my life turned into a nightmare: my mother fell very sick and I had to help care for her. I went from a $40,000 job to barely making enough to feed myself. Some of my siblings refused to help my mom or me & left me high & dry. I developed a very painful skin condition and I lost a lot of my friends since I had known from childhood. I was lost & angry at the world, fate and I found myself asking GOD ‘why would you let all these things happen to me?’ Everything that I put my faith in seemed to evaporate & I lost all hope for my future. There were times where I was so numb to life that I would drink myself into a stupor wishing for the pain to end.

    Things are much better now: after caring for my mom, slowly, very painfully and surely GOD started to left me out of that mess. I married the most wonderful woman in the world and physically & mentally I’m better. Now as I just turned 30, I’m starting to realise that although those days were the worst of my life, GOD didn’t forget me & He was using those trials to make me stronger, more resilient, focused on him and removing all the chaff from my life & people that were holding me down. I know that there is more to come & I feel like the suffering helped me to be the best man I can be & help others who are suffering. Today, I was wrestling with these very thoughts and I felt a little down but your words reminded me that ‘All things work together’ – nothing that we have been through is wasted and with GOD and a laugh in our heart, we can get through our pain, stronger, wiser, better and in fact our pain can set us up for dreams!

    Sorry for the long message but your words touched my heart & I needed to write to you!

    Thank you for the inspiration!


    • Paul Angone - All Groan Up

      Karl, that is such a powerful story of how real the pain can be, but how much God is equally, if not more, faithful and present than we can possibly imagine. As I read your story, I cannot help but feel the mountain you have climbed and the dry valleys you have walked through are but a glimpse of the greatness of His calling upon your life. As you said, the suffering we go through is NEVER wasted, and is in direct correlation to the purpose and plans God has for us. He Refreshes us so that we can Refresh others. The deeper the hole that was created in your heart, the deeper from which others will be able to draw encouragement and inspiration from. I was encouraged and inspired just reading your story! Thank you for being so real and honest.

  3. Desiree M. Mondesir

    Paul, as my friends and I say, “You was in the ‘Spurit’ when you wrote this!” lol But seriously, this is kind of how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m in the last year of my 20s and extremely frustrated with many things. But I also see that, like you, had things not gone the hard way, I never would have gained much of the skill set I have today. I’d never know a lot of what I know today and that, among other things, will be content for future bestselling books. I don’t know when that will be. Hopefully, sooner rather than later. But I just wanted to let you know how encouraging this post was to me! 🙂

  4. Nisha Varghese

    Great post Paul. The challenges we face now make us better for the future.

  5. Bola Hanson

    You are so right about not taking the shortcut. I’m someone who knows that deep within my soul that going through the process is better than the shortcuts. I am in my twenties still and I wish I had learned much earlier the value of mastering something. So many times in my life and because of circumstances I have started things and not finished. I didn’t dig as deep as I should have with that drive that produces champions forged from practice, grit as you say, and determination. Even more so now I value expertise and skill and I know now the importance of finishing what you start.


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