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What was I thinking?

A lot of us “wake up” (I say with my fingers making quotation marks) when we’re somewhere between 25 and 30. We look at our lives and ask ourselves, “what was I thinking? I don’t want this?  Now what do I do?”

Well, if that’s you, there’s hope, so stay tuned to this Transformers post!

I was doing some research on the millennial generation and someone mentioned all the change that we go through when we are between 25-30. I have to confess, I hadn’t really thought about it.  

Why 25 to 30? What’s so unique about that age group?

An interesting fact is that most people’s brains are not completely developed until they are 25. (I think it was a little later for me) The significance of that fact is that most of our “thinking” before 25 was heavily influenced by emotion.  So, now you have a valid excuse for all the dumb things you did as a teenager and when you were in your early 20’s.

Only after 25 are we able to effectively reason through problems without being mostly influenced by how we feel emotionally. It is a significant time of physiological change for all of us, and it seems that this change coincides with a period in our lives where we have to make a ton of big decisions.

All those decisions you made before 25 – like if, and where you went to college,

the major you chose, where you lived, who you dated or maybe even married—

all of those choices were either heavily influenced by your emotions, or made for you by people you thought you could trust.

But then it seems like a lot of us “wake up” somewhere between 25 and 30.

The life we’re living is not like what we expected. And we ask ourselves, “what was I thinking? I don’t want this? Now what?” “Do I continue doing what I don’t really want because it’s the easy path, or do I decide to make a change?”

So, I went back in time, way back to when I was 25, and took a look at all the big decisions I had to make. Holy cow! How did I do that?

Here’s just a sample of what I went through. OK, so when I was 25, I was a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  If you can’t relate to the military, that’s fine, just substitute whatever company you’re working at, and ask yourself how much of this you can you relate to?

By the time I was 25, I had already changed college majors from Biology to Environmental Science, and from a Navy to a Marine Corps scholarship. I also changed from wanting to be an Oceanographer to wanting to be a pilot. And to prove just how mature my thinking was, you want to know why I wanted to be a pilot? Because I thought it was cool and because I wanted one of those awesome leather flight jackets. I still have it by the way.

In my twenties I moved to FL to flight school, then CA for my first duty station, then Okinawa, then back to CA, then to VA, then I got married and moved to CA, then on a ship for six months, then back to CA again, then Okinawa, and back to CA. There were a lot of decisions involved with each of those moves.

In flight school I had to choose between a career flying jets or helicopters, which duty station I wanted, and which aircraft I wanted to fly.

Even though my specialty was flying, between 25 and 30, I had 13 different additional jobs for which I was evaluated.

I had to decide where to live, whether to buy a house or rent, which car to buy.

Then there was dating, the decision to get engaged, and then married. After Mary and I were engaged I had to choose my next duty station so we could work near each other. I had to decide where we were getting married, and then I made all the wedding arrangements because Mary was overseas in Korea. I had to find and buy us a new house in CA, and make arrangements for our honeymoon in Switzerland.

Ten months later I was unexpectedly deployed to the Persian Gulf with only 3 days’ notice. I had to decide if I would accept a promotion, and then deployed again.

Then I decided to resign my commission, and had to find my first non-military job. That meant interviewing for a job, something I had never done before.

In all those decisions I never once thought to consult anyone. I didn’t have a mentor, I had no purpose, and really had no idea of who I was.

I didn’t know I had a GIFT, so I obviously didn’t know what my GIFT was, and I had no idea what I really wanted (besides Mary).

And making a difference…what was that? I thought that’s why I joined the Marines. How was I supposed to make a difference now?

I didn’t really think things through, I just made choices as things came up. I think that’s called drifting.

So, what about you?

You may have to deal with a lot of issues when you are 25, like:

  • Are you getting overwhelmed at work and you don’t even like your job?
  • Are you doing something that is professional enough or cool enough?
  • Are you stuck in the rat race?
  • What happened to your social life?
  • Are you drifting apart from your friends just because of the differences in your incomes? And is it becoming unbearable to hang out with peers who earn a lot more than you do?
  • Are some of your “exes” now married and may even have children? Does that bother you?
  • Did you just realize that “paying taxes” is something that eats into your lifestyle, and that paying taxes is only going to get progressively worse for the rest of your life?
  • Did you figure out you should be a help, not a burden to your parents? That some financial responsibilities are now on your shoulders?
  • Do you feel desperate to retain a sense of spontaneity and adventure, but it is becoming more and more difficult with a career and goals?
  • Does it almost feel like you are mourning over a version of yourself that is disappearing?

I can relate. All those feelings and thoughts hit me like a ton of bricks.

To reassure myself, I can remember driving up the California coast from San Diego to Oceanside in my very cool, Nissan Z car. I did it with the T top off and wearing my flight jacket in an attempt to hang on to my younger self. And if that didn’t do it for me, I would do something even cooler, like wear my flight helmet while I was driving. Yeah, I was cool alright!

That’s when I realized something had to change.

You may have heard of Charlie Tremendous Jones’ famous quote:  

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

That was a problem because I didn’t read any books and I only met other Marines.

You need a catalyst

If you think something has to change, but you’re afraid to break out, or break away, then you need what I call a catalyst. Something that moves you from fear or inertia into game-changing action.

I had a few life changing moments that could be considered catalysts.

  1. Like a night on a ship in the Persian Gulf when God surprisingly answered a prayer and told me to move on with His purpose for me.
  2. And when that catalyst was reconfirmed when I procrastinated, and two years later was given orders to relocate to Long Beach…by myself.
  3. And like when I finally realized that what I was doing for a career didn’t really matter

All of those catalysts culminated in me getting out of the Marines. Again, I made that decision without consulting anyone, only to realize that the “real” world was no better. No decision I made was going to make any difference until I figured out this purpose thing.

It began to sink in that I would have to carve my own path. Talk about SCARY!

But what did I want?

What was my purpose?

I could either choose to make a big change or continue to drift. I can tell you that when I decided to resign from the Marines, my friends, and my superiors in the Marines, and my parents all thought I was nuts. To them I was giving up a secure career and a secure retirement. But I wanted more.

25 year-olds today, Millennials

I think most of my generation gets frustrated with millennials. They’ll say things like “Just pull up your big girl pants”, or “man up”, and “get on with it.” “Quit being such a snowflake.” I have to confess having those thoughts too, until I took a look at what’s different about being a 25 to 30-year-old today.

There is so much information and so many choices today that decision making is much more difficult than when I was 25.  

And for some reason millennials have this idea that they have to get it right the first time, like making a mistake is unforgivable.

That wasn’t the case when I was 25.

In addition, I also had help, even though I didn’t realize it. Here’s what I had to help me with my decisions.

  1. A dad who was there for me, and loved me even when I screwed up
  2. A Faith I believed in
  3. Leaders to watch, and examples to follow

Most of you between 25 and 30 now

  1. Don’t have a dad you can trust
  2. You don’t have a church,
  3. And there is no leadership in your lives to help.

My generation doesn’t relate to that.

This might help

Here a few things I would have done differently, things that could help you now–

  1. I would have started looking for my purpose sooner
  2. I would have relied on the Holy Spirit for counsel, but to be honest, I didn’t even know who the Holy Spirit was when I was 25.
  3. I would have looked for my GIFT
  4. I would have looked for a Mentor
  5. I would have read – not just anything, but what Holy Spirit and a mentor directed. Unfocused reading can get you even more confused.

Most people won’t make a change until something moves them, or they discover they have another choice. Instead, they wallow in confusion. All the information and choices that are available today only serve to increase that confusion. I mean, how can you tell which information or advice is good and which is just BS?

As you are going to hear me say a lot,

Confusion is the enemy, but clarity is what makes a difference.

That is why I started the Transformers podcast. To help people like you discover you have another choice.

Clarity starts with realizing you have a Special GIFT, a single talent that you can develop to greatness. It has to do with the completely unique way that you think.

And because your brain isn’t fully developed until you are 25, that is why this is aimed at you more mature thinkers.

Employing your GIFT is your purpose, and once you have a purpose, your choices become easier and more focused.

It all starts with realizing you have a GIFT. You can either choose to use your GIFT or you can choose to continue to drift in confusion.

Another way to put it is, you can either choose to Transform your life to be all you were created to be, or you can choose to conform to the world. That’s probably the biggest decision you’ll have to make between 25 and 30.