7 Things You Need to Do to Be a Functional Adult

UPDATED: May 27, 2024
PUBLISHED: August 25, 2017

“It is these small discoveries and decisions that, in the end, allow you to behave like an adult. It’s developing those good habits; it’s having toast with peanut butter instead of cigarettes for breakfast. It’s not always, or even usually, fun,” Kelly Williams Brown writes in Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. “But it has perks—personal pride, financial security, and the feeling of accomplishment and control that comes when you just swap in a new toilet paper roll rather than resorting to fast-food napkins.”

Step 10: Be OK with being alone.

You will be with yourself for the rest of your life, so you’d best learn to enjoy your own company.

Step 33: Make your bed, every morning.

It’s worth it, because then no matter what, there is a small, tiny space in the world that you know is orderly… a small testament to control over your universe.

Step 97: Act like you’ve been there before.

Whatever the event or situation, act as though you’ve been there before, not like a small and excitable country mouse. If you act like you belong, people will think you most certainly do.

Step 117: Imagine rude people as jellyfish.

Jellyfish do not respond to reason, they usually don’t respond to kindness, and they will always show up to ruin a fun party if possible. Therefore, your strategy is threefold: Avoid, neutralize, and, in rare circumstances, poke with a stick.

Step 166: Develop a good meeting face.

Meeting face is a curious, interested, yet neutral expression.

Step 195: Ignoring money issues won’t make them go away.

In fact, the opposite will happen.

Step 238: Do not skip oil changes.

This is the very best thing you can do to ensure your car has a long, happy car life…. This counts as something that is worth spending money on.

Related: Why Is Adulting So Hard? 


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Kelly Williams Brown

Kelly Williams Brown is the New York Times best-selling author of Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, which addresses everything from finding a non-awful apartment to negotiating for a raise at work. Her second book, Gracious: A Practical Primer on the Subtle Art of Charm, Tact & Unsinkable Strength, came out on April 4. Spoiler alert: Manners are not dead, and we can and should have them. 

Her work has appeared on or in The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Esquire, The Boston Globe, Fast Company and many more, and has been translated into nine languages. The Washington Post called her “a Millennial advice-guru,” and her TEDx Talk, “I'm a Millennial, and I am a Monster” was a TED.comeditor’s pick of the week. She’s also spoken at NASA, universities across the country and was invited to the White House to facilitate a conversation about student loans with President Obama in partnership with Tumblr.

She has also worked as a long-form features writer, a humor columnist for The Daily Beast, a cocktail waitress on Bourbon Street, and for several years covered rural Mississippi for a daily newspaper, which has left her with a lifetime supply of ridiculous anecdotes to tell at cocktail parties.