The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Life
“All I know is that I don’t know nothing.” — Green Day
In 2015, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was interviewed in front of DePauw University students as part of a course on personal development they were taking. Inevitably, one student asked the Pro-Bowl QB and multi-millionaire for his advice.
Much to the chagrin of the brave, yet sophomoric student who asked the cliché question, Luck gave a rather shocking answer:
“As far as advice? I’m only 25. I don’t have any advice.”
Next month, I turn 25, which means I’ve spent a quarter century on this planet. I’ve had some pretty cool experiences in those 25 years and, for that, I’m very grateful.
But as I reflect and try to really grasp what the hell happened over the last 25 years, I can’t help but think about how little I know. Granted, I’ve learned A LOT in comparison to what I knew even five years ago, but I still know jack.
As I look for a core theme of my first 25 years of life, the only “lesson” I can really feel confident I learned is:
I know nothing. I will never really know anything, either. Everything I think is certain will change (perhaps subtly, perhaps radically) over time. I need to be open-minded; a student until the day I die.
It cracks me up when I see my contemporaries crafting X things I learned by doing Y (hence the tongue-in-cheek title of this post). Us millennials think we have this thing on lock. We think we know exactly how to live life and save the world and be cool and save the world again and all that jazz.
But, we really don’t. We just trick ourselves into thinking we’re the shit because 100+ people liked our calculated Instagram post. Just because we have an audience, we think we have to perform. And because we’re performing, we play a character.
Perhaps the most disheartening part of social media is it’s permanence. If we take a stance on one issue, it is cast out into the internet for the world to see and is set in stone for eternity. Sure we can delete the stupid tweet, but people saw it. Someone probably has a screen shot.
So everything lacks authenticity. We make sure that all we say and do is well manicured and aligns with our “character”, not our true selves. Thus, we become close-minded. We can’t change the way we view things because that’s not what will gain our facade the most popularity.
“The strongest need in the human personality is the need to remain consistent with how we define ourselves.” — Tony Robbins
And so we learn nothing. Therefore, we know nothing.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think I’m special. I’m not different. I fall victim to this just as much as anyone. I’m still guilty of jumping on the social media bandwagon and making hokey, self-help garbage, listicle posts.
But, I recognize it and am trying to get better. Each year. Each month. Each Day. Even if it’s just a minuscule improvement or the all-too-often step backwards from over-indulging my ego.
Regardless, I understand that I’ve got a long way to go. It’s funny because I’ll never really “arrive” either. Because I’ll never know everything. If I’m lucky, I might learn something though. And that’s all I can really hope for.
So when people ask me for advice, from here on out, I’m pulling an Andrew Luck. I’ve got nothing.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
D.J. Podgorny is a minimalist, recovering world traveler, and former van dweller living and working in Brussels, Belgium. He loves music, sports, Mexican food, and uncertainty. He once gave a mediocre TEDx talk about how he lived in a van in the eBay parking lot for a year. He’s a work in progress and feels like writing this in third person is super narcissistic.