Not gravity. Not friction. Not anything else. Albert Einstein famously called “the power of compound interest” the most powerful force in the universe. The necessary ingredient of this compounding is time. Time’s abundance appears to be youth.
But, who defines young? Our culture come up with several phrases, many of them quite good:
- You’re only as old as you feel.
- 50 is the new 40 (or, insert other values)
- Age is only a number.
At any age, it’s relative to your own lifetime and to other people. To the old, you may be young. To the young, old. What matters is the age you reach self-awareness in your life. Some find this much sooner than others. They are then better equipped to tackle life’s challenges.
- The need to just get started versus our natural default of hesitation and procrastination.
- The necessity for patience and persistence versus the carrot of fast results.
- The desire for flexibility of options versus the quest to make plans that have all the answers.
The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, said that if he could have any superpower it would be the ability to read books faster. Knowledge is power. Based on current data, if you have a daily habit of reading books, you are in a small minority. That is a group to seek membership. Youth presents the opportunity:
- To learn…..from those willing to share.
- To listen…..to those with the wisdom.
- To gain knowledge…..from those with more experience.
Gaining wisdom is tough work. It’s a tough process. It involves resisting the temptation to believe you already know everything. It’s said that we all talk too much and listen too little. Is it a coincidence that we have two ears (to listen) and only one mouth (to talk)? Relationship expert Dale Carnegie often said, “There’s so much that you can learn if you just listen.”
Wisdom involves patience in the longer process. However, we must make sound decisions and protect ourselves in the shorter term. Youth can trick us. Time appears unlimited. Procrastination is easy. If you cornered someone and asked if they should have an estate plan in place, you’d get a near 100% yes response. Yet, it’s estimated that 64% of people don’t even have a basic will in place, much less an estate plan. There are countless examples. People often don’t have estate plans or financial plans in place. They can be under-insured and overtaxed when they “wing it.” But, they’ll get to it later!
HURRY UP AND WAIT
Early on , time seems infinite. A blank canvas stretches out before us. Options feel unlimited. We don’t want to let time get away due to inaction, but we don’t want to rush either. Gary Vaynerchuck has a great saying of “micro fast, macro slow.” This means play the long game with results, but be quick with taking action in the short term.
The easier default is impatience and seeking results too quickly. Visualize a snowball built on top of and pushed down a mountain. Towards the bottom of the hill, it’s large, moving at a high rate of speed, and with little resistance. To be “built” at the mountaintop, the snowball requires a lot of very hard work with minimal initial results. But, you have to get started. This analogy rings true in many important areas of life.
How about this for an idea? It’s far fetched, so imagination is needed. Society pairs each youth with two older individuals. One of these people who largely lives with regrets of their past. The other person lived life on their terms and “gave it a go.” Would this program stem the tidal wave of regret? Could we realize our biggest fears are largely overblown? Would we better plan out and work towards our dreams? Perhaps a real-life example of someone who used time well may help.
PLAN YOUR FUTURE
Within reason, any goal can be accomplished with a plan, laser-like focus, and consistent action over time. Now if you’re 5’2” tall, slow, and can’t jump, being in the NBA is not a reasonable goal. Most goals are within reach. Pablo Picasso had over 50,000 creative works in his lifetime. Was he born painting masterpieces? Was he talented or hard-working? Or, both? If he can do that with his life, what can you do with yours?
What will your thing be? What will be your long term vision? How will that determine your daily activities and actions? Warren Buffet does investments. Muhammad Ali was a boxer. Steve Jobs made innovative electronic devices. What do you do? Who do you want to be? Maintain focus. Don’t try to do it all.
In this struggle to grow, to become, to pursue, to change, and to give, we can start young. Start at this point. Fear of something can cause us to never pick, to never pursue our personal greatness. Maybe worse, lack of focus can spread us too thin. Our contribution to humanity is lessened either way. Take advantage of today.
Older people reminisce on memories and how things used to be. The young ponder limitless potential. Eleanor Roosevelt once stated the obvious that “today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.” Age is just a number. But, it does have impacts on many important areas of our lives. In our finances, we have the ability to start early, make plans, and achieve our goals. Building a few consistent early principles into our life can create a powerful force for future results. There are many possible speed bumps, but a fulfilling process is there for those willing to engage.
- Youth presents a great opportunity to listen, learn, and gain knowledge.
- A “blank canvas” with unlimited options lies ahead. Time seems infinite.
- Challenging goals can be accomplished with consistent small actions taken over time.
- Gaining wisdom is tough. Resist the temptation to believe you already know everything.
- The desire for immediate results can lead to impatience.
- Maintain focus to be great at your thing. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
- We procrastinate important things for some magical future “better” time.
- Regret can find us later as time passes quickly.
- Fear of something can cause us to never pursue our gift for the world.