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How to not waste your youth while you are young

Youth is wasted on the young.

I first heard this quote from Adam Levin’s song Lost Stars.

Ever since, I’ve been mindful not to waste my youth while I am young.

Here are some directives I have for myself:

  • Build good habits.
  • Learn. Don’t act like an expert.
  • Do things. Even if you don’t have experience and fear looking stupid.
  • Take risks.

Build good habits.

I got really fat when I was 20 years old. I often say this is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Why? I got fat while I was young enough, when I could (relatively) easily build good habits.

The younger you are, the more time and energy you have to build habits. You also have less bad habits to unlearn.

Learn. Don’t act like an expert.

At work, I feel bad when I don’t know how to do something. This is irrational. By definition, this is what it means to be young. One has existed for only a short time and has therefore not yet had time to know or do much.

Nobody, except me and and perhaps other young people like me, expects me to know much. What a privilege! I take advantage of it, profess my ignorance, and learn as much as I can, while I can.

Do things. Even if you don’t have experience and fear looking stupid.

Very few people read my blog. I am grateful for this. This means I have time to write bad stuff and get better at the craft without consequence.

This is not true for someone whose business, for example, relies on regularly producing good stuff.

Take risks.

Yesterday, I was talking to a coaching client about how I’ve navigated career transitions. How did I assess my risks?

We talked about humans only getting more risk-averse as we grow older. It makes sense to act more carefully when we we become responsible for more people. It’s not just ourselves we need to think and take care of.

So tasks risks while you’re young and have no real responsibilities.

Felix Dennis, multi-millionaire entrepreneur turned poet, and author of the book, “How to Get Rich” said it well,

Perhaps most importantly of all, as a young and penniless and inexperienced person, you are not an ‘expert’. Thus you are more willing to learn than those in their thirties, forties or fifties. You are not afraid of making mistakes, admitting them when you do and getting right back on track. (Speaking of tracks, you have no track record to defend, either.)

Of course, one can do all this regardless of age. They’re just easier to do the younger one is.