hen you're young, you don't know what you're good at or what different kinds of work are like. Some kinds of work you end up doing may not even exist yet. So while some people know what they want to do at 14, most have to figure it out.

Use the advantages of youth when you have them and the advantages of age once you have those. 

The advantages of youth are energy, time, optimism, and freedom. The advantages of age are knowledge, efficiency, money, and power. With effort, you can acquire some of the latter when you are young and keep some of the former when you are old.

The old also have the advantage of knowing which advantages they have. The young often have them without realizing it. 

The biggest is probably time. 

The young have no idea how rich they are in time. 

The best way to turn this time to advantage is to use it in slightly frivolous ways: to learn about something you don't need to know about, just out of curiosity, or to try building something just because it would be cool, or to become freakishly good at something.

That "slightly" is an important qualification. Spend time lavishly when you're young, but don't simply waste it. There's a big difference between doing something you worry might be a waste of time and doing something you know for sure will be. The former is at least a bet, and possibly a better one than you think. [23]

The most subtle advantage of youth, or more precisely of inexperience, is that you're seeing everything with fresh eyes. 

When your brain embraces an idea for the first time, sometimes the two don't fit together perfectly. Usually the problem is with your brain, but occasionally it's with the idea. 

A piece of it sticks out awkwardly and jabs you when you think about it. 

People who are used to the idea have learned to ignore it, but you have the opportunity not to. 

So when you're learning about something for the first time, pay attention to things that seem wrong or missing. 

You'll be tempted to ignore them, since there's a 99% chance the problem is with you. 

And you may have to set aside your misgivings temporarily to keep progressing. But don't forget about them. 

When you've gotten further into the subject, come back and check if they're still there. 

If they're still viable in the light of your present knowledge, they probably represent an undiscovered idea.

One of the most valuable kinds of knowledge you get from experience is to know what you don't have to worry about. 

The young know all the things that could matter, but not their relative importance. 

So they worry equally about everything, when they should worry much more about a few things and hardly at all about the rest.

But what you don't know is only half the problem with inexperience. The other half is what you do know that ain't so. 

You arrive at adulthood with your head full of nonsense — bad habits you've acquired and false things you've been taught — and you won't be able to do great work till you clear away at least the nonsense in the way of whatever type of work you want to do.

The above passage is from Paul Graham's Essay, 'How to do Great Work'. He shares a strong message with young people. I want to share this with my son, and If you resonate with this, do share it with young people you know will benefit from it. 

Feb 10, 2024
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