Deepak Shukla is an (early) thirty-something currently making waves in London digital marketing scene. However, for a still young guy, he seems to have crammed an awful lot of living into a relatively short space of time.
In addition to heading up the boutique SEO firm Purr Traffic, he is an ultramarathon runner, Muay Thai fighter, TedX Speaker and, LinkedIn Influencer. He's traveled all over the world and yet remains very down to Earth and far from sober unless the occasion really calls for it.
So, what advice would Shukla have for those just entering their third decade of life? How would he suggest they make the most of their twenties, and what has he learned now that he has left them behind? Recently I met with him to find out.
Living To The Fullest
Deepak didn't get to achieve all that he has by sitting behind a desk at a large accounting firm at Deloitte (his original career plan) and dreaming of a more exciting and fulfilling life. And while he openly admits that it was not always easy, and not even always fun, he still firmly believes that if you are really 'going to go for it,' your twenties are the right time.
‘As you get older responsibilities will only mount. So whatever flights of fancy that you have. Act upon them. It is much much harder at 31 than it is like 21. In my case, it’s been marathon running, Ironman, ultramarathon running, muay thai fighting and more. Whatever YOUR case it. Go out and do it. Age is on your side. If it’s hard, you will recover. It’s just not the same at 31. Find your limits’
All very nice you might say if you have the time and the money. But what about those who have jobs that simply won't allow them to go wandering off whenever they feel like it? Shukla has an answer for that too.
‘People all the time tell me ‘well you had it all figured out with work - so that’s easy for you to say.’ Well - that’s simply a lie. I’ve also had to borrow money from my parents, cut trips short when I ran out of cash. But the emphasis was ALWAYS on - how can I make more money than I spend. So do what you must. Teach English, get a bar job in Cancun, volunteer in Malawi. There is ALWAYS a way.’
And don’t think ‘there’s any time either.’ Life is long, and there is time to achieve ALL of the things you want to do. So do the things you dream of instead of living vicariously through others.
Statistics suggest some people currently in their twenties are open to these ideas. A 2015 AFP synthesis said that for Gen Z, those born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, the oldest of whom are entering their twenties now - “The idea of ‘business’ brings up negative responses: 'complicated, brutal, a jungle."
Millennials, the generation Shukla demographically belongs to, are getting older, and so it is the oldest of the new guard, Gen Z, those born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, are entering their twenties now - and they do seem, in many ways to have healthier attitudes about relationships.
I bring this up because Shukla has incisive and insightful ideas about relationships as well.
Gen Z - overwhelmingly, according to various research studies, support same-sex marriage and yet at the same time are less likely to feel that early marriage, or marriage at all, is a must-have goal.
They are not innocent. Sexually, Gen Z has seen and, in many cases, have already almost done it all. They flock to different social media sites like Whisper, Secret, and Snapchat, where you can interact, post images, send messages and then delete them at will. And apps like Tinder make casual hookups both easier and perhaps even more acceptable. Yet all the same insecurities - and some new ones social media has seemingly created - still plague Gen Z.
Education, Shukla says, should be a key part of the earliest relationship attempts of those in their twenties.
You should absolutely learn about love. Take some time and read up on relationships, romance, and love. It’s crazy - I wish I did this at 20. There is no one who talks about or teaches you this. You just learn from mistakes and destroy much of what you attempt as a course of learning. But why do that? Start with some books instead and get comfortable with asking questions. No one knows all the answers, and those that say they do are lying to you. Overcome your pride and ask 'stupid' question away
He also advocates for a similar 'go for it' attitude in the romantic world as he does in the career field. "Don't spend time thinking about 'what if,' or 'I wish.' You never know if that man/woman could be the one you marry. Believe it or not but relationships really can be as random as that."
We all love quotes (thanks to Internet even for those that are wildly inaccurate.) This is especially true for Gen Z. Look at their social media profiles, t-shirts, even their walls. Filled with them, and from many different sources.
So, for a piece designed to discuss and offer advice to those very people, what if Deepak could offer up some advisory 'quotable quotes' from someone who's already been there for those navigating their twenties that do just that? Well, I asked, and he obliged. So, here are some that might work as a charm for you.
- A successful relationship takes as much work as building a successful company.
- At 30 you’ll discover annoyingly that apparently your mum was right after all.
- Savour those late night pizzas - your body at 30 can’t recover from the carb load the same way it did at 20.
- Don’t worry - the world is not out to get you.
- In the end, no one cares - we’re all too busy thinking about ourselves - so take risk.
- Most people lie, embellish, tell half-truths, misrepresent.
- You will most probably fail, but that’s ok.
- Your parents are also people. Your girlfriend is also a woman. Your teacher also has their own identity outside of education - and they're all trying to find their own way as well!
- Faith isn't a strategy. Neither is hope, luck or words. All you can count upon is action.
- We all want the world. We all pretty much end up with an acorn field. Learn to love the acorn field. It is of your own making.
Hopefully, you’ll find these thoughts from Shukla as a useful reference point for navigating through your 20s.