The Connecting Life’s Stages Series – Stage 2: The Young Pioneer Stage (Age 22 – 32)

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 22a
March 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


Boy and a girl

Imagine traveling westward in a covered wagon in the United States in the 1840s and 1850s. You were moving into territories that were unknown to you, a completely new way of life.

Imagine being on the Apollo 11 spaceship in July 1969 and landing on the moon. You were doing something that you had never done before.

You were a pioneer.

A similar experience happens to all of us. Our formal school days come to an end and we step out into territories that are unknown to us for the next decade. For some people it happens between the ages of 22 – 32, and for others it might be 18 – 28, 25 – 35, or 30 – 40. I’m calling this The Young Pioneer Stage of life. And, oh my gosh, it is filled with valuable moments and lessons and insights for all of us if only we will take the time to extract the gold.

This decade is not about winning or losing, unless you’re a professional football or basketball player whose whole career often starts and ends within that decade. This decade is about doing things you’ve never done before and learning from them. That’s the key point: really diving into each moment and learning from it.

Some people step into a new job and stay with that organization for the whole decade.

Other people work at 4 – 6 different organizations in that decade.

Some people get married, buy a house, have children, and stay in that house.

Some people get married, get divorced, and get remarried.

Some people stay single throughout the whole decade and move from apartment to apartment to a condo and maybe to a house.

Every person’s journey is different, and every person’s journey is important. What we have in common is that we step into something that is unknown to us. And by doing that we experience one of the most important decades in our lives. Here are some questions to consider whether you are a Young Pioneer right now or you are looking back on this stage in your life.

For Current Young Pioneers

This stage can be both very exciting and very challenging. Everything is new, everything is unknown, and The Young Pioneers might be grasping to understand what they want to do, why they want to do it, what they really enjoy doing, what they feel they are really good at doing, what kind of people they want to be around, and on and on.

I suggest a good starting point is to go back in your mind to your Explorer Stage from age 6 – 22, and ask yourself these two questions:

Age 6 – 11

What did you enjoy doing the most or what were you most passionate about, and why did you feel that way?

What did you dream of becoming or doing, and why did you want that?

Age 12 – 17

What did you enjoy doing the most or what were you most passionate about, and why did you feel that way?

What did you dream of becoming or doing, and why did you want that?

Age 18 – 22

What did you enjoy doing the most or what were you most passionate about, and why did you feel that way?

What did you dream of becoming or doing, and why did you want that?

When you are in The Young Pioneer Stage, you were not dropped on Planet Earth from some distant galaxy. You moved into this stage from your earlier stage. I encourage you to look back to where you came from to see if the passions and dreams you had at an earlier stage in your life can reveal answers that you are searching for in The Young Pioneer Stage.

For People Who are Looking Back at their Young Pioneer Stage

If you are past The Young Pioneer Stage now regardless of your actual current age, I encourage you to look back and mine out valuable insights for your current stage of life.

Close your eyes. Relax your mind and body. Mentally go back and relive the first decade of your life after your full-time school days came to an end. Visualize your first apartment, your first full-time job, the people you dated or married, the friendships you had, the work you did, the hobbies you had, and so on. Let that decade soak into your mind. And then write down your answers to these questions:

When I was a Young Pioneer, what were:

  • The three most important things in my life?
  • My values, the beliefs that drove my behaviors on a consistent basis?
  • My morals, the beliefs I had about what was the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do?
  • My passions, the things that energized and fueled me?
  • The types of work that gave me the most fulfillment?
  • The types of friendships I valued the most?
  • The types of mentors who helped me the most?
  • The hobbies/interests/activities that reenergized me?

Really let that decade come back into your mind and your emotions. See what treasures are lying on the ocean floor of your Young Pioneer stage that you can bring back to the surface of your life right now. Think about how you can replay the best hits of that stage in your life into your current life.

Too often, I think, we just keep moving ahead without taking the time to look back. One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “The path to the future is lit by the knowledge of the past.”

The Young Pioneer Stage is filled with value. You were stepping into the unknown over and over again. It was like walking around in a dark room and not knowing where the light switches were at or where the doors were located. And yet little by little each step brought more discoveries about yourself. Those discoveries are incredibly valuable for you no matter how old you are today.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

Back to Newsletter Page