We've been taught from a young age that we need to start making serious money in our 20s and early 30s so we don't fall behind on the foundations of financial security, like retirement savings and a down payment for a home.
As a result, so many of us try to pursue a steady career path as soon as possible — only to discover too late in life that our professional path might not have been the right fit.
That's why, as a CEO and life coach of 25 years, I encourage people between the ages of 18 and 36 to spend their time exploring their passions and working interesting jobs — even if they barely cover the bills.
I call this stage of life the "Explorer Phase," and knowing how to spend it wisely can boost your future happiness and earning potential.
It's impossible to live a life with zero regrets, but testing out as many different fields as possible when you're young can help minimize disappointments and frustrations. That's worth more than money can buy.
Many professionals stop and start new careers over the course of their entire lifetime. And each time they do, they have to start over — potentially at a lower or entry-level salary.
But people who explore rigorously and wait until age 36 to decide what they want to do will have decades ahead of them to build career momentum. This allows them to advance to the highest level — and income — in their dream field.
Of course, you still need to support yourself financially while testing out different interests. But the reality is that you don't need to have $1 million saved before you're 30. The idea is to take major risks at a young age, because that's generally when you have less to lose. As we grow older, however, our responsibilities increase and the stakes become higher.
Here's how to take advantage of the Explorer Phase:
1. Explore at least three career fields.
For example, if one of your dreams is to become a musician, go through the process of producing your songs, marketing them and immersing yourself in the field.
If it doesn't feel like the right fit, immediately move on to your next dream career scenario.
In addition to discovering which path is best for you, you'll learn valuable lessons about what it takes to make your career dreams come true — and whether you really want to put effort into making it happen.
2. Don't worry about what other people think.
Sometimes pursuing your dreams requires you to trust yourself and forget about what other people think about your journey.
Remember, just because you're taking an unconventional path doesn't mean you're making the wrong decision or not working hard. You are allowed to get off the beaten path. The most successful people take risks — and the sooner they do it, the sooner they'll achieve their goals.
3. Find a mentor.
Mentors not only provide the advice and connections you need to land and explore opportunities, they can also provide insight into what the later stages of a potential career path might look like.
Don't get caught up in finding a high-profile mentor. The best mentors take an active part in your journey by offering encouragement and recommending great resources that inspire and inform you.
Eyal N. Danon is a life coach, founder and CEO of the Ignite Advisory Group, and author of "The Principle of 18: Getting the Most Out of Every Stage in Your Life." Eyal holds an MBA from Boston University, and is a graduate of Columbia University's Business School Executive Leadership.