What should I master before age 25 that will give me the best head start in any career? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Peter Nguyen, private personal stylist for successful entrepreneurs, on Quora:

Here are 8 things that accelerated my career recently (in my 30s) that I wish I'd learned in my 20s:

1. If it can be improved, improve it. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, studied and wrote about the concept of growth vs fixed mindsets.

Someone with a fixed mindset believes that all of our talents and abilities are something we're pre-programmed, or born, with. In other words, it is the belief that certain people are just "lucky" when it comes to their skills and abilities. They avoid anything that could help them get better because "it won't matter."

On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset believes that most things are malleable, and that almost anything can be improved through learning and work. Your physical appearance, your social skills, the quality of your work: these can all be improved in the eyes of someone with a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the key to improving all areas of your life.

What you can do next: watch Carol Dweck's TED talk: The Power of Believing You Can Improve.

2. Be the solution. Imagine walking into a huge grocery store for the first time, looking for bread. You ask an employee in the fruit section for help, and he replies, "That's not my section," and then ignores you. You walk a few steps to the meat section and ask an employee behind the counter the same thing. This time, she replies, "That's not my section, but let me find out for you." Next time you're at the grocery store, who will you ask for help if you need it? Who's more useful to you?

Now imagine you're the person behind the meat counter, and the lost person is your boss, a customer, or a VIP. Schools (at least in America) train us only to solve problems we're given. When we're thrown problems that weren't meant for us, our default mindset is "It wasn't assigned to me, so I don't have to do it."

Be the solution. Train your mind to default to searching for solutions and to take action on anything you can. Business is a team effort. Even if you're a "solopreneur," the rest of your team are your customers. If you aren't willing to constantly solve problems for them and go above and beyond, you don't have a business.

What you can do next: start small. When you see a piece of trash on the ground that people are walking past, pick it up and throw it away. Overhear someone lost and asking for directions and you know the way? Jump in and help them. Don't know, but have your phone on you? Offer to look it up.

3. Practice giving 10x more than you ask for. There's a great video by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk where he gets brutally honest with a guy he just met who asked Gary to give a shout-out for his company.

Everything in life comes down to the quality of the relationship: your family, friends, romantic interests, and yes, your business network.

The man in the video is a perfect example of how to approach relationships the wrong way. He asked for something before he developed a valuable relationship. To develop a relationship you have to give. And give a lot.

Picture meeting someone on the first day of college. You get friendly, talk about your majors, and swap numbers to set up study times. The next day, he's texting you, asking if he can borrow $100. Would you give it to him? Probably not. But if your best friend of 5 years (who's saved your butt a handful of times) hits you up, you'll be sending him money before he could start telling you why he needs it.

Gary calls this jab, jab, jab, right hooking. Psychologists call it the Law of Reciprocity. When someone does something nice for you, you have a deep, psychological urge to return the favor. Studies have shown that the return favor often far exceeds the value of the original kind gesture. To put it another way: when you do nice things for people, they'll repay you with interest.

Career-wise, this is where people get it wrong. They think they deserve a raise for just showing up. When building a network, they ask for something too soon after connecting with a VIP, before ever giving. It's not about you (at least, not yet). Solve other people's problems. Give away your good ideas. Connect high level people with one another.

Become known as the person who solves problems, helps peoples, and makes them look good. Who doesn't want to work with someone like that?

What you can do next: read these books and posts on the topic:

4. Create systems for tasks you repeat often. I love life hacks, but if you truly want to skyrocket your career and life, you need to develop systems for anything you repeat often.

This includes emails, your work process, your fitness routine, how you reach out to people - everything you do more than once a week. This isn't just about saving time, but mental energy.

Compare a professional chef with a new cook. A new cook is frantic and stressed, digging in the drawer for the measuring spoons. She's burning food because she's taking too long to cut the carrots. He's sweating. He looks lost.

A professional cook, on the other hand, breezes through these tasks because she has a system. It's called "mise en place" (everything in its place). He takes out all the tools he's going to need. She precuts, pre-measures all of the ingredients before ever turning on the stove. All that's left to do now is cook.

A life hack is learning how to cut onions without crying. A system is mise en place.

I have a system to process emails. I precook 3 days of meals at a time so I can hit my nutritional goals and not worry about what I'm going to eat. I have a system to write 30k+ words a week for my job.

Yes, it's saved me time here and there, but what's most important is that is has reduced my stress levels (raising the quality of the work and my life) and has made me extremely efficient.

How you can start to practice this: I recommend a great site with a genius name: Asian Efficiency.

5. Study copywriting to skyrocket your text communication skills. Text communication is by far the dominant way to communicate today. Especially with the adoption of software like Slack.

The best way I've found to improve my writing skills is studying copywriting. That is, writing meant to persuade or move someone to take action. While this is definitely a useful skill to have when it comes to sales, what it really teaches you is empathy.

Great copy speaks to the reader. Great copy connects people. Great copy feels like the writer is reading your mind.

In order to do any of that, you have to develop an ability to see the world from the reader's perspective. To understand what it's like not to know something, in order to teach them. This is extremely useful when it comes to communicating on projects, giving advice, or offering feedback.

What you can do next: while there are tons of great materials out there to learn copywriting, my personal favorite is Ramit Sethi's Call to Action course.

6. Improve your social skills. Although we're texting more these days, it isn't an excuse to avoid working on your social skills.

Social skills are often the last thing people consider when it comes to their careers. You'll find as you move up the ladder and meet successful VIPs, their social skills are miles ahead of everyone else's.

Think about it. The more you move up the chain, the less it's about doing actual "technical" work like you did when you were in an entry-level position. Your job becomes more about managing people. Meeting people. This is especially important if you're an entrepreneur or business owner looking to build your network or get press. (Bonus, you'll get much better at dating too.)

Learn social cues. Learn how to start conversations. Learn how to keep a conversation going. Learn how to gracefully leave a conversation. Learn how to give feedback. Learn how to ask questions.

Most technical skills are easy to improve because it doesn't require human interaction. If I wanted to improve my video editing skills, I just have to sit in my apartment, open up a course and Final Cut and do some lessons.

Improving your social skills requires you to go out and talk to people, and that's scary. Because it's scary, a lot of people don't do it. That's why if you apply your growth mindset and take-action mindset, you'll get an advantage.

What You Can Do Next: two great resources are Ramit Sethi's Ultimate Guide to Social Skills and Felicia Spahr's excellent website Instantly Irresistible.

7. Improve your style and appearance. Having worked firsthand with entrepreneurs to help them improve their style, I've seen how much this can be a gamechanger. Take a look at entrepreneur Neil Patel's fascinating article How Spending $162,301.42 on Clothes Made Me $692,500.

When you first meet someone, the majority of what they think about you comes from your appearance. It's called thin slicing - making snap judgments about a person based on all the information that have at hand. If someone's never spoken to you before, the only thing that person can judge you on is how you look. This isn't necessarily bad; it's evolutionary survival. It's the caveman way of trying to figure out if the person approaching you is friend or foe. It's reality.

How you look can say a lot about you. It's a safe bet that people who are well kept take care of themselves and have their lives in order. It's also a safe bet to assume someone in nice clothes is successful, and might be worth a conversation or two.

By contrast, someone that looks like a mess most likely has a messy, out of control life. It's best to stay far away.

The great thing is that we can control the conversation. It can be a very powerful tool. Take a look at this study, which shows that patients were more likely to trust a doctor who is wearing a white lab coat. Whether you're trying to tell a first date you're someone worth seeing more often, or to tell potential clients you're successful and want to make them successful too, dressing well is a powerful weapon that will give you an edge in life.

What you can do next: I wrote a free, 14-page guide called 7 Common Style Mistakes Men Make (and How to Fix them) that I send to all my new readers and clients. Two other great resources to check out: Effortless Gent and Articles of Style.



8. Create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. A big way to improve your appearance? Adopt a healthy diet and exercise routine.

There's a reason why a lot of successful entrepreneurs adopt a workout routine. (This is the #1 thing I wish I had started sooner.)

Here are the obvious reasons:

  • You'll have more energy to work harder.
  • You'll live longer.
  • You'll be less likely to get diseases.
  • You'll be less prone to injury.
  • You'll be happier.

Here are the less obvious (and slightly un-PC) reasons:

  • You'll be more attractive, which has been shown to make people more willing to work with you.
  • You'll have more confidence, combined with your great social skills, you'll be unstoppable.
  • You'll get better sleep, which will improve your ability to think and make decisions.

What you can do next: There are a lot of great resources out there, but I love Mike Vicanti's On the Regimen website (he actually got Gary Vaynerchuk into shape).

In summary, be a good person. Take a look at this thread on Reddit where someone asks, "If you had to make $5m dollars in the next 10 years, how would you do it?"

What do you notice about the most common answers?

There's an assumption that in order to be successful, one must be ruthless and/or do things that are unethical and illegal.

I've been fortunate to work with some very successful people (the very best run $100m+ companies). While I've met a few assholes thanks to sheer numbers and probability, the vast majority (95%) are good people who do good work.

If you're a terrible person who is scammy and uses people, you won't have a great or very long career. Especially in this day and age of the Internet, it will eventually catch up with you.

If you truly follow the principles of these 8 points - constantly learning, being the solution, being empathetic, learning social skills - it's almost impossible to be a bad person unless you're doing it on purpose.

So be good.

Because being a good person is good business.

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