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30 Tips For My 20-Year-Old Self

By Nick Brzozowski

I turn 30 this week, so it's given me a chance to look back. Here are some of the things I might say if I could go back 10 years and talk to my younger self.

Tip 1: Try to buy a house.

When I was 20, I assumed buying a house was impossible without looking into it. Thinking back, we probably could have afforded a 3% downpayment and would have had several years accruing equity in the home. Maybe we weren’t making enough to be approved for a loan, but I wish we would have given it a try.

Tip 2: Get a dishwasher.

I don’t care how you do it. Just do it.

Tip 3: You aren’t sinning just because you are angry.

I was constantly frustrated - mostly at myself. I couldn’t keep up with all my obligations. I couldn’t keep the weight off. I couldn’t manage to get up at 5:00am like I promised myself. But, I was also frustrated with ministry - why aren’t we more effective? I would get frustrated with Hannah, wondering why she doesn’t understand the pressures I feel. The problem was I never went very deep with my feelings. I would confess to God - “Lord, I’m sorry for getting mad and having a fight with Hannah.” But, that is as far as it went. By equating my anger to sin, I didn’t reflect enough on the deeper reasons I was so frustrated. Only later, I came to realize just how unrealistic my expectations where — especially, the expectations I put on Hannah.

Tip 4: Stand up for yourself.

Growing up without a dad, I have been intimidated by older men and authority figures. I needed to know that it is ok to disappoint them every once in a while. And it is ok to say “no,” to set limits, to assert myself, or to negotiate, even with bosses.

Tip 5: Start running.

You’ll actually be good at it. It will boost your confidence when you can go further and further.

Tip 6: Don’t use tape when painting edges.

Trust me. Learn to free hand it.

Tip 7: Celebrate wins.

Gratitude is a spiritual discipline. It’s vital for your soul and your brain. God is doing good things around you all the time. Be grateful and recognize them.

Tip 8: Learn to love failure.

I would have really liked to get a head start on this one. We aren’t growing without failure. But, man, I took failure so hard. Slowly, I am improving. Like losing in a video game, failure is helping me want to get better next time.

Tip 9: Ask Hannah what’s bothering her, but don’t fix it.

Anyone who has been married for some time learns this mystery. Sometimes people just need to talk through their problems, without resolving them. Hannah is smart and capable to solve her problems. Seriously, she doesn't need me saving her! But, asking how she is and what is bothering her has been a huge way to serve her.

Tip 10: Learn to think in funnels.

When we started out with Anchor Church, one of the first things I did was ask salespeople and business people questions. And every single one of them not only knew about funnels, but that was the way they understood their work. They all constantly had an idea (if not, a data base) of who they were reaching out to and at what level their potential clients were at. Leveraging funnels-thinking has been indispensable for Anchor and could have helped me in youth ministry as well. But, not only in business or ministry, but in any relationship. Thinking in funnels means that it is a win to spend time with a non-Christian, not just to convert them.

Tip 11: Map out friendships.

Growing up in a drug-abuse home, relationships did not naturally to me. I knew they mattered, but I was just too goal-oriented. So, it would have helped to map out my friendships. Who are the friends that I trust the most and most want to emulate? Am I spending the most time with them?

Tip 12: Family is forever.

Friendships will come and go, but your family doesn’t go anywhere. Invest in your relationships with your family as much as possible.

Tip 13: Pick up a Marvel comic book.

Marvel is going to take up much of your life. It is going to get big! So, get a comic book and you’ll make the movies even more fun.

Tip 14: Create regular to-don’t lists.

I got this one from Craig Groeschel. We can never reach our full potential if we keep adding on one commitment after another. If I could go back, I would force myself to say “no” to so many things, even just for the practice. Do you really need to lead two small groups in your house? Do you really need to read every page from that book? Do you have to go on every retreat or missions trip? Do you have to buy every book on the syllabus? Saying “no” will take a level of skill, so learn negotiation skills.

Tip 15: Be more curious and less judgmental.

I always tended to get along with anyone. But, looking back, I was a bit judgmental. I wish I knew how much I could learn from anyone, especially people who thought differently than me.

Tip 16: Focus 98% on input goals.

Don’t worry about attendance. Focus on growth builders. Don’t worry about your weight. Focus on being calorie deficient. Don’t worry about how well you preached one time. Focus on what you are doing to improve your preaching ten years from now. Don’t worry so much about your grade. Focus on learning and growing. Don’t worry about saving people. Focus on serving people.

Tip 17: You don’t need people to think that you are perfect.

One reason why I have a hard time recovering from negative news and disappointment is because I worry too much about what others think of me. This line, I repeat to myself every single day to rewire my brain.

Tip 18: Rest is like deodorant - you can’t live without it.

So much of my early twenties, I was drained, burnt out, and not feeling it. I was in full time ministry and full time school, and I felt it. I pushed myself to my limits constantly. It actually took me years after graduating TEDS to finally begin to feel rested and calm and at peace, without having to always be producing something. I would tell my 20 year old self to get your full 8 hours of sleep, take a full day off, and take more breaks.

Tip 19: Enjoy God’s presence.

So much of my relationship with God was what I did for him. So, with my Bible reading and prayer, it was still checking off a list. I probably would have been better spending five minutes a day quietly meditating on his love and maybe one verse than spending an hour a day reading and praying with all intensity. My relationship with God isn't supposed to be a to do list - it's a relationship.