What I wished I learned in school pt 3: What to do

I wrote an article about giving my high school self advice a year ago and it’s time to reflect on if I would do anything different. Here’s part 2.

It is realistic to predict that my high school self (HSS) would listen to what my future self (FS) has to say. There’s a fundamental change in how I approach problems, opportunities, relationships, and overall mindset nowadays. My HSS was simply not ready for anything advanced but one thing was true — I had no lack of purpose or direction.

I was simply biding my time and living out the joys of high school until I couldn’t anymore. In Paul Graham’s essay, he mentioned treating school like a “day job”, and when you were done with school, it was time to work on the things you want to do. I’ve never thought of “game-fying” school like so and I would’ve tried my best to beat the “system”. I wasn’t a go-getter, but I was also curious about how to maximize an opportunity. Back in 9th grade, I was on the brink of an A in math class and with two weeks left of school, many kids accepted their fate aka their grades, but I asked my teacher if I could do various tasks for points. He gave me a laundry list of things, and I negotiated the fastest route by bundling a few tasks and putting a time limit on it in order to increase the number of points I could get. I did just enough for an A.

What should you do?

As far as what to do after the day job, my advice would be to do as many things as possible for a time period and then pick a few that is fun and makes you excited to go. I typically feel the general advice to try everything isn’t a good one unless you put a time period on it or if you like it or not. My HSS would just drop it if you didn’t give him a duration and in the beginning, these new hobbies aren’t fun because you’re not good at them. But once you have some understanding and proficiency, and if you’re interested in them, it makes it easy to keep going consistently.

What I’m trying to build is just skills and confidence — some things that will undoubtedly help my adult life. I believe high school is a time where failing and experimenting should be encouraged. It’s also a time when you don’t lose much, if anything, from failing and a time when students should do lots of things to find out what they’re interested in. I was foolish to just stick to what I was “good” at and never dared to venture outside to the unknown. I believed joining theater or a debate team would’ve done wonders for my public speaking skills and creativity.

Anything that grabs your attention is a sign to continue on the path and see where it takes you. I didn’t believe in the age-old advice of listening to the signs when it speaks to you, but as an adult, I’m naturally drawn to certain things — writing and reading. It’s best to not fight the urges and to let yourself be immersed in those areas. It won’t feel like work at all.

It took me a long time to see the benefits and significance of reading — I saw it as an unnecessary thing that nerds do in their free time and I didn’t want to be associated with that. I was basically robbing myself of knowledge and wisdom. That becomes the overall theme of any advice to my past self article, which is how much time we wasted.

I seem to have a different answer to this question each year and I’ll be adding to this topic. An idea I’ve been thinking about is that our current self seems to feel like our “prime” self. It’s hard to fathom the growth and evolution of our future self, yet when we reflect, speaking for myself, I always shake my head at how stupid, immature, and ungracious I was. This seems to be the cycle I get stuck in, but it’s an indicator that I’ve changed for the better.

At least that’s my viewpoint for now until future me will shake his head and tell me how much time I wasted. Nothing wrong with that, I look forward to the criticism.

Until next week,

Scott

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