Every human being can be modelled. Just like play dough. The exterior pressures lead to transformations. But they have to be given the “green light” on behalf of the interior. This doesn’t always happen consciously, but it would be better this way. That’s when you take over the reins.
Every age is important in its way, but adolescence is essential for designing your future. Life has taught me that you should write down your ideas when they come to you, before the fly away. So, I’m writing them now – particularly that you might find them of good use.
If you are now living your magical years of adolescence, I am aware that you don’t like “to be told” what to do. (Who does?!) But I would be glad if you thought about what I have to say, to filter my ideas through your reasoning. You can say that I’m right, or you can say that I’m wrong. (Yes, you can!)
If you left adolescence behind… Did you really?! Adolescence is somehow forever present throughout our life, be it only in a small proportion. But it’s enough to enliven the adolescent within you. Or maybe you have adolescents around you…
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Now it's the time to lay the base for your future
During adolescence, you have a great advantage: you don’t have to worry about tomorrow. Your parents take care of that.
You don’t have children; you don’t have employees. If you try to make something and you fail, there are no other people to depend on you. This kind of freedom is awesome!
You have a few years during which you can test the ground for the life you are going to have. You can try out a hobby, a profession, a business – even if it’s more like child’s play. If you discover that something does not suit you, no problem, you can easily change the direction.
I know, it’s that time when school keeps you busy pretty much all the time. And in your spare time, you want to do something fun – the moment will come when you have to have a job, and you are afraid that there will be no more fun.
Yes, have fun while you can! But don’t make a purpose out of it, because you will end up wasting your time. If you draw the line at the end of a day, you might discover that you had some moments when you were having fun, but that doesn’t mean anything at all.
The trick is to find out how can you have fun while doing things that make you grow from within. Even when you do your homework!
The first step is falling in love. And I don’t mean falling in love with you-know-who, but with what you like most to do.
Then, make something creative out of it, something from a video blog to toys of innovative materials, from poetry to fashion accessories, from graphics to robotics. The possibilities are endless. To create something with your mind and hands is better than any chatter in front of your house. But if you worry that this will leave you with less time to spend with your friends, you can bring them into it as well. You may even make new friends along the way, some that will share your passion.
I first laid hands on a computer when I was 16. It was a rarity back then. Of course, I played a lot, but I became more and more attracted to programming. To write down a series of commands and the computer to do as it was told – this was and is the most wonderful feeling for me! I started spending hours on end reading programming books. And that meant fewer hours spent on the sidewalk in front of my house or hanging out.
After a while, some friends became interested in what I was doing. And then I met other geeks like me. I’m still friends with some of them.
That’s how I started my first business – before finishing high school. I didn’t make a lot of money, but the great achievement was the feeling of doing something by my own means. And this is the path I’ve been following all my life.
There is nothing wrong with failure
Every one of us wants to be successful in whatever one does. Otherwise, one would not have attempted to do it in the first place.
But you don’t always succeed. It’s more likely to have a failure rather than a success. That’s how life is.
But failure becomes a problem only when you cling to it. That’s when it turns into a real failure.
When you were just a baby, and you were trying to walk, you kept on falling. But you didn’t make a big deal out of it. You fell, so what? You stood up all over again until you succeeded in standing on your own two feet. The countless falls were history.
We, programmers (like myself), have an ironic saying: “There is no program that works on the first attempt”. Every program was developed after a long series of failed attempts. Nonetheless, the programmers, as well as the program itself, can turn out to be very successful.
Failures are one’s best teacher. If you keep repeating them, it means that you haven’t yet learned your lesson.
You’ll tell me that, sometimes, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t make it. This teacher is kind of sneaky. The lesson is not always what it seems. Maybe it tells you that this is not the right path for you to follow.
When you fall, laugh at your failed attempts! Enjoy it even! Sure, it hurts sometimes. But the pain goes by fast enough if you don’t insist on feeling sorry for yourself. And then, if you did learn something from your failure, you have just made a step forward. Towards your success.
This is a magical question.
You can ask yourself “Why?” every time you want something. Anything – from the most common thing to somebody’s friendship.
You can ask yourself “Why?” every time you have a dilemma. Why should I go for this? Why should I go for that?
You can ask yourself “Why?” every time you want to understand how things go.
Listen carefully to what your answer is and see if it leads you to another “Why?” The further you go, the better you will understand what this is all about. And if you come to a question whose answer you don’t know, you have a new mission: to find it out.
The answers to your “Why?” questions reveal intentions. And intentions are the roots of every action. If you come to an intention which is not a reason for being proud of yourself, then the whole structure that led to it is rotten. But if you come to an intention that fills you with energy, it means you are on the right path.
“Why?” is the most important question of all. When you know for sure why you do whatever you do and you make a purpose out of it, you become a force 1)”How great leaders inspire action” by Simon Sinek, lecture at TEDxPuget in September 2009.
You only learn by yourself
Almost everybody believes that you have to go to school in order for teachers to teach you something. This is a big mistake. The result: most of the students forget all they learned after a short while.
The problem is that nobody can teach you anything if you don’t want it with all your heart. To reach this state of “hunger”, you must figure out why it is important for you to learn something and to try to learn that something by your own. Yes, to read the lesson from your schoolbook before having it presented by the teacher. To look on the internet for pictures and videos about what you read. To see what Wikipedia has to say about it, or to ferret around in the library. To be one step ahead on the path of your next adventure.
You will tell me: Well, if I do all this, what’s left for the teacher?
A very important thing: to clarify whatever you didn’t understand. And to fuel your desire for wanting to find out more.
When you learn by your own, it’s not important to understand it all. Most likely you won’t (at least, not on the first attempt). What’s important is to discover the joy of “Let’s see what’s next!” To see what your questions are and to seek an answer (if you can already ask questions, that’s a very good sign), to find out if the respective subject brings you enthusiasm.
When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I was playing the Soccer Lottery. It was not like the Lotto, where it is a 100% luck. In Soccer Lottery you can do some calculations beforehand. I remember that my mathematics book had a supplement about statistics and the theory of probabilities – which was exactly what I needed to develop a formula in order to play Soccer Lottery “smart”. I could hardly wait to be taught from that booklet, but the time was passing and… nothing happened. Being impatient, I asked the teacher when we would have that course. He said to me that we were skipping it, because it was not among exam requirements and that we were focusing only on what was “needed”.
Outraged, I grabbed that damn booklet, and I said to myself: How difficult could it be?! I read it from cover to cover several times. I knew why I was doing it! I didn’t understand all that was said there, but it was enough so that I could manage to develop a program which followed the statistical evolution of all soccer teams.
The result is that after so many years I know more about probabilities than the entire math that I did in high school and in college. I made a profession out of programming even before I entered college. And I won the Soccer Lottery! It wasn’t the grand prize, but still, it was an awesome feeling!
Be a character
Every person is unique. Literally speaking.
But usually, it’s not that obvious. When you are a teen, you are into trends. You want to dress yourself “in fashion”, to listen to the music that is “in fashion”, to do the things that are “in fashion”.
Until a certain point, that’s clear. Only that, by doing what “everybody else” does, you’ll end up being like “everybody else”. If that’s what you want, it’s all right. Although I bet that your heart’s desires are a lot bigger than that.
The important thing is to find out what you really want to be, not what everybody else wants you to be. To state your uniqueness is a wonderful thing!
Your only competitor is yourself
I wonder if it’s better to be the best among the weakest ones or the weakest among the best ones?
In the first case, you run the risk of becoming a lazy person. If you already are the best, why bother anymore?
In the second case, even if you know that you can do more than the others, it could be discouraging.
It’s like a video game. If it’s too easy for you, you get bored. If it’s too difficult, you get stuck. For this reason, video games have levels of difficulty. You play and play again, and then you look back and realize that what seemed hard at the beginning is actually easy.
When it comes to abilities, “hard” and “easy” are relative to what you know now. There’s no relevance if it’s “harder” or “easier” for others. The only thing that matters is to want to get to the next level.
But if you see someone you know has a bigger or better score, you’ll do whatever it takes to beat him. You know he’s not different than you, so why can’t you do it?!
The same happens at school or in any other activity. The ideal thing is to be part of a group in which you have chances to rank among the first positions, but without any certainty of it happening.
In fact, if you are competing against colleagues that are close to your value, you are competing against yourself. You see in them a reflection of yourself, of that person you know you can become.
After you understand this, you won’t need to beat someone else ever again. Maybe just for fun.
The important thing is to beat the person you were a day before. Throughout your entire life.
Team up with those better than you
It’s a wonderful thing to do something without somebody else’s help. But this is not always possible. And, even if it is, it’s now always the best way to do it.
In life, we team up with others more often than we realize, from a simple game to an important matter.
But you can’t always choose who you can team up with. Still, there are some other situations in which your words do matter. And that is when it’s best for you to know what you’re doing.
It may be tempting to wish for a team in which you are the “boss”. In which, you tower above the others through different abilities that you might actually possess. They will do whatever you tell them to do, so everything should go smoothly. Unless things don’t work like this.
Especially during adolescence or young age, your purpose should be crystal clear to you: to evolve as quickly as possible. Which means you must develop those abilities that will lead you wherever you want to get. You can learn something from every person you meet, unless, in order to make some bigger steps, you have to be around those who already know more than you do.
You can team up with:
- classmates who have higher grades in subjects you are most interested in; you can work together at doing homework, or in other projects, which don’t have necessarily anything to do with school
- activity partners for all kinds of artistic workshops, sports clubs, voluntary works, etc.; in such places, you are sure to find wonderful people, with whom to spend time in both an enjoying way and a useful one.
- professors which you are fond of; despite appearances, they are humans too – they are not indifferent to a student who takes an interest in their subjects, especially if it’s a genuine interest.
- mentors whom you will never meet, but with whom you become acquainted through books, audio/video materials, etc; if you see these extraordinary people not as some intangible authorities, but as some more experienced teammates, the results will come out much easier.
Such people not only have better skills than yours, but they also have habits, hobbies, and beautiful dreams. Maybe not all of them are suited for you, but this you’ll have to see for yourself. Some of them can inspire you, though. In that harmonious way, you want them to.
The paradox is that if at first, you try yourself in “the shadow” of those better than you, at some time you’ll naturally wake yourself up “enlightened”. Because you have ascended so high.
I would like for a time-machine to really exist. It would allow me to go back to my teen years, to read this article and to understand it.
But, as I couldn’t find such a machine, there is only a solution left for me: to become again an adolescent right away. This is precisely what I did. All I have to do now is to follow my own advice!
Transcription of the memorable speech from Steve Jobs, illustrated with rare pictures and annotated with other spectacular information
A long list of inspiration made from children for you - with lots of adorable pictures
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