8 things I have found out by the time I turn 23

Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday. As I reflect on 23 years of life, I have realized a few things. Like how to iron a shirt, pay bills, and graduate from college. But those aren’t the most important things that I have learned in my life. As I hit the iconic birthday, I know what you are thinking “23 iconic?” But for me 23 is a huge birthday because it is a number that has been worn by two of my sports heroes and are retired in the beloved city of Chicago. Those two heroes, Michael Jordan and Ryne Sandberg wore 23. So these are a list of the things that I have learned in my 23 years of life.


Love people. Yes that sounds hard. But it really is not that tough. We as people, in a world that is full of hurt and pain, have to be people that love big. We have to love people in the most ways possible. You may be asking Thad what does that look like? I will tell you. That means be kind. Give people compliments often. Don’t hold back on giving people compliments. Its not like there is a winner or loser for compliments. People win when you give them compliments. Give people more hugs. Let people know how much you value them. Give them a gift. Write them a letter. Make them feel appreciated and like they are worth an infinite amount of money. Show them they mean something to you by showing up to their events and being present *I’ll hit on this later. There are whole books on this. Bob Goff has a great on called Love Does. (Best book I have ever read). But in all seriousness love people and don’t just do it half way. Love people with everything that you have.

2. Be Intentional

In a world that is so full of being connected via social media and with your phone. We have lost the ability to be able to connect to people face to face. Going along with loving people, you cannot love people if you do not connect with the people that are in front of your face. It is hard to love people from afar and not be involved in their life. So let’s hang up the phone/put it away when you are with people. and HANG OUT with the people that are with you. Ask the tough questions that will strengthen your relationship with that person. If you ask shallow questions you will have a shallow relationship. So be intentional with your friends. Go to things that they are in. I.E. shows, sporting events, concerts, and anything else that you can show up to without looking strange. When you are with them, be with them. The people on the phone/social media can wait. There are real life people in front of you so be intentional and use your time to love them well.

3. Be Passionate

I think this is one of the most important thing you can be. If you are not passionate about what you are doing then why are you doing it? Do things that you wake up in the morning and want to do. If you have passion for what you are doing then you will most likely do it better. But be careful when you have passion that you are sensitive to other people. They are not all as passionate as you are about whatever it is that you are passionate about. That is okay they are allowed to think differently than you because they are a different human being than you. But be passionate about things. Don’t just go through life living without any fire for what you are doing.

4. Live in Community

Have some friends! Seriously do not be a hermit. You cannot live and be a lone wolf, lone ranger, or anything else that you could imagine being the lone one of. I tried to do it and was extremely unsuccessful. For 5 months in Memphis I really did not have too many friends and my morale suffered. But in the past month I have found friends and it has been the most rewarding thing. But have friends. Invite them over to hang out. Go to dinner. Do life with other people. If it worked in the Bible than it can work today. Reminder, you are not a lone wolf. You are a person that needs people in your life to encourage, challenge, love, and laugh with you.

5. Travel

This is one that you all that know me would go “Why isn’t this one higher up on the list?” Yes I travel a lot. But go see your friends where they live. You usually will have a free place to stay if you stay with a friend. But go and see things before you settle down. Go places. See things that you have never seen. Road trip with friends. Sleep on a couch. Travelling for a weekend is so fun. So while you have the time and resources, travel! It will be worth it. You can see wonderful things if you drive. My rule is if it is in 10 hours I can drive there. So set an hour limit for driving and go! You can experience some wonderful things. I promise.

6. Stay grounded

Don’t get too high on yourself. No one likes a person who has their nose too high in the air. People don’t always want to talk about you and what you are doing. Stay rooted and don’t let yourself get filled with pride when you accomplish something. Be proud of yourself but don’t be conceited in thinking that because you accomplished something that you are too good for anyone. Stay humble. People are attracted to people who accomplish great things but are also humble enough to be viewed as a normal human being. Garth Brooks is a great example of this. Now if you do not know, I grew up with Garth’s daughters. Garth was a normal guy and you would have never known that he had sold out arenas all over the world by how he acted. He was so humble in his actions and I am grateful that he did not portray himself as better than anyone around him.

7. Most Things are not Eternal

You might be at this point of the post going Thad has said nothing spiritual at all. Well here we go. I was told my freshman year of college that grades, when my grades were not doing too hot, were not eternal. That has had a profound effect on me. While in Colossians 3:17 it says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” So I am not saying that you should not work hard at school because while you are in school that is one way to glorify God. But grades and most things on this earth are not eternal. They are going to pass away. Jobs, clothes, cars, houses, and any other material thing will fade away. Let’s not stress about things of this world that will not matter at the end of your life. So let’s build people up and encourage them. People are not eternal either but they are what is going to there at the end of your life rather than all of your stuff. How you are with people will determine how your legacy is left. So invest in things that are eternal. Like leading others to Christ, loving people well, and serving the world with all that you have.


This is something that I want to stress more than anything. Be who you are. Be the person that you were made to be. Yes, that means have your own style. Yes, that means listen to whatever music you want. Be you. I say that because there are too many people trying to be someone who they aren’t. So I ask you, why are you trying to be someone who you are not? Love yourself. Love who you were made to be. From loving yourself there comes a confidence that cannot be shaken. I challenge you to be yourself. Sure people will talk and try to discourage you from being you. But don’t let that talk deter you from being the person who you are.

Thad Ernst