Advice for a Young Adult – Part 1


The idea of this thread is to encourage people who are over 21 to share their best ideas to people around the age of 21 who are on the cusp of a part of their lives which will have large elements of unpredictability.

When I was 21, the world of work was a far more stable place than it it is today. My parents’ generation would typically enter a company that would see them through to retirement. Those days are long gone. Not only are companies more volatile, so are whole sectors. Whatever happened to all those satellite dish fitters?

In the past there also was an assumption that education would prepare the young adult for independent life. Is that still the case in a rapidly changing world? Is there a danger that education is, metaphorically, turning out people with skills equivalent to those of a satellite dish installer?

Some things remain constant. People who work hard, listen well and have good ethics will tend to thrive more than those who do not.

Have you got some thoughts to contribute? Mitch’s has the first kick at the ball.

Mitch writes:

Don’t Take Life Too Seriously Just Yet, But Don’t Set Yourself Up To Fail, Either

I was asked an interesting question the other day (by the editor, but why split hairs?). He said: “What advice would you give your daughter as she turns 21 and is about to move far away?”

The headline gives it away, I suppose, but let me elaborate. The world is full of people telling you to take life seriously. “This is important” they say. “Life is a gift. Don’t squander it!” Now, that sounds good, on the face of it. But let’s look deeper.

99% of the time, that is followed by “What you should be doing is devoting your time, effort, thought and passion into my project.” They want you to be serious, and consider your duty (to God, to your country, to humanity or some other ideal) because serious, dutiful people are easier to lead, and followers can make the leader’s goals and passions and projects become real.

The core of my message is that you don’t ‘owe’ anybody anything, and you have no ‘duty’ to devote your life to any particular thing, no matter how noble, glorious, or overladen with unverifiable promises of treasure in heaven.

Your life is a gift, and only you own it. Do precisely as you please.

Now, that being said, I don’t mean that I’d like to see you spend the rest of your youth holed up in a grubby shack smoking pot and posting to Facebook. I’d like to see you find something you’re passionate about, and build the kind of life for yourself that you’ll enjoy in the long term. But what I’d like doesn’t matter anymore. I know, in reality, you’ll spend at least half of the next ten years dating a disreputable guitarist, or exploring a sudden passion for body modification and trans-human politics, or something else my old-man mind can’t really fathom the purpose of.

The point is, that’s OK. Just don’t let anyone tell you that you owe anyone your passion or your labor. You alone own that, spend it how you want.

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