You have an unparalleled opportunity right now as a young person. Few obligations, little baggage, and the freedom to learn, explore, and try. You have the drive, optimism, and passion to accomplish whatever you set your mind to.
Figuring out what you want to do with your life takes a ton of time, and it will likely change and evolve. This is why the right attitude and focus on your goals will pay unparalleled dividends in the long run. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It may seem like you have forever to do this, but you don’t.
It’s not about living a long life as much as it is living a meaningful life. Building your purpose will give you tremendous direction in everything you do. It’s not enough to be hard working and gifted. You must have a vision and goal to strive towards, otherwise you’re a ship without a captain. You have to work hard to accomplish great stuff and set yourself up properly for success. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Maybe you’re a group of semi-literate kids in rural India teaching yourself the computer, or a single mom dreaming of law school, or a teen skier who left a sandwich at the North Pole for her misogynistic trolls. Every day humans are redefining what is possible, and young people are leading that charge.
“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops” — Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist.
With technology, more and more is possible. The internet is a great equalizer — you can find support, build businesses, and most importantly, learn almost anything.
Now is the time to do things that scare you, get comfortable being uncomfortable, and entertain outside perspectives. You can’t grow without being challenged, and understand that things take time.
Now is the time to explore. Whether it’s traveling, meeting new people, or experiencing new things. Try stuff out.
And now is the time to think exponentially, and not linearly. You have unbelievable potential!
My name is Manu and I direct a top startup accelerator for a university system as part of a statewide economic development initiative. Prior to this role I founded several tech startups and competed as a bodybuilder. In my role, I coach ambitious young people from all different backgrounds on career — especially entrepreneurial paths. A significant portion of my time is spent thinking through career, vision, impact, and life goals, often in very uncertain and risky situations.
My students have built full-time companies across the globe, received prestigious recognition such as the Thiel Fellowship, been selected into Y-Combinator, raised millions of dollars for their work, and have even introduced the former President of the United States. A lot of the thoughts in this manuscript derive from things they’ve taught me.
However, there are several biases in here: I work in technology and entrepreneurship. I’m a male. I’m an American. I have my own unique career ambitions — the list goes on. Take from this what you want, and nothing you don’t. This isn’t meant to be all encompassing, but rather a first draft at the most common questions that I get from the young people I work with. The areas we’ve focused on are holistic health, career and life planning, and preparing for the unknown future. This is simply what worked for myself and my circle, and should only be looked at as the first step to creating your own guide!
If you’re just going to read this from beginning to end, you might as well trash this. Don’t be passive. Nothing matters until you actually take purposeful action. Take your time, explore the links, and most importantly, do your own thinking. This isn’t a book and shouldn’t be read like one. Browse, digest, try, come back.
- Being afraid to stand up for your values and beliefs.
- Busyness. Do not confuse being busy as being productive. Too many people say that they don’t have time to exercise, meditate, or think about goals. Please.
- Checking your phone 24/7.
- A constant stream of notifications has disrupted our generation’s ability to think. We are dopamine addicts, completely reactive to notifications and disconnected to the real world. How can you actually think with this constant distraction? With more technology automation, the remaining jobs of the future will require real human skills more and more. How can we compete if we build relationships solely through Tinder, communicate with family solely through Instagram, and can’t keep off our phones while we’re at brunch with our friends?
- Can you survive a day without your phone? Can you survive for a few hours of uninterrupted focused work without being distracted by your phone? Turn it on airplane mode and check it hours later to see if any notification needed an immediate response. Probably not. Ditch your mobile on the weekends and try being screen free one day a week. Do not be scared of silence and being “alone”. Disconnect and let yourself actually think for yourself without being bombarded by stimulation.
- Comparing yourself to others and not competing against yourself.
- Doing things to “fit in”. Be yourself, unapologetically.
- Relationships in early life. You don’t even know what you want in life right now, let alone a partner. The most important relationship in life is with yourself. Everything else is a plus, but not a must. Once you figure yourself out, you’ll be primed to find someone on your wavelength.
- Not being selfish enough. If you’re young, you’ll never be this worry-free ever again. When you grow older you will get obligations (car, house, spouse, kids) which will never allow you to focus your brain on the amazing dreams it has. Take advantage of this freedom!
- Not treating every day like it’s your last. Are you squeezing the most out of life everyday? Think big.
- Smoking cigarettes & tobacco products.
- Unmotivated friends who don’t push you or are jealous about your success. You’re the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. Surround yourself with people who bring you up, and learn how to navigate through different levels of communication. It’s one of the best ways to better yourself and learn. Don’t be afraid to have people around you that challenge and criticize you and don’t be afraid to not hang out with people who aren’t aligned with you. Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams make you abandon yours.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” — Warren Buffet.
Onto our first pillar, health.
I found the miracle pill for you that lowers your risk for chronic disease, makes you better at sex, and improves brain health and memory.
It’s called eating well and exercising. The leading causes of death are actually all preventable — but most people ignore the basics.
Why is health first? Take care of yourself, before you tackle anything else.
Set up an exercise regimen and diet like the quality of life depends on it, well, because it does. I can’t tell you how many people I knew in college who binge drank alcohol and ate trash like it didn’t matter, and a few years into their career post-graduation, they had aged tremendously. You’re too young to not be healthy.
Start off by meditating. Your mind is your strongest tool. Strong mind in a strong body.
Even five minutes a day of clearing your mind and breathing deeply, will greatly enhance your day.
It’s a great thing to add in your morning routine — a routine that supercharges and prepares you to attack the day. I like chugging 2 glasses of water after waking, followed by a meditating on my goals, reading, exercising, and a cold shower. Checking email first thing in the morning is reactive — own your day from the very beginning. Create something that works for you.
Apps to check out:
For too many, the default is no movement. Humans are designed to move — when we don’t, we encounter problems. Take up a dance class, do yoga online, rock climb, join a martial art — find something you enjoy and get moving.
If you don’t want to join a sport, the best bang for your buck is lifting heavy weights. It will do the most to change your body composition. Men and women should both hit the weights. If you’re too skinny, too heavy, or happy, weight lifting is your best tool.
- The simplest and most effective beginner routine. Strong Lifts 5×5.
- When you’re more advanced, Layne Norton has great stuff.
- Keep it stupid simple. Pick a program and follow it. Check out Jeff Nippard, Stephanie Buttermore, and Greg Nuckols for science-backed recommendations on exercise.
- Get a gym membership AND GO (most people don’t use their membership), find a workout partner, and track progress on Google Sheets. Make sure the gym is close to you, so you have no excuse. Have an accountability partner that you can’t ditch.
- Habit formation > motivation. Discipline and consistency creates results. Inspiration will wane and fade. Little changes, day by day will add up.
- If you’re nervous, go in the morning when it’s empty, try some exercises, and build your confidence. Remember, stress is not inherently bad. Too much is bad, but you need a decent amount of it to grow.
- Posture matters. We sit all day looking at screens — this is not natural.
All that hard work moving means nothing if you fuel your body with junk. Eating out wastes money. Fast food kills your health. Diets like Paleo or Mediterranean, can be great. But the best diet is what sticks for you — what you can consistently follow.
- IIFYM. The simplest way to change your body composition. Put simply, there are three main components to food: protein, carbs, and fats. Manipulating them in specific ratios will help you burn fat and build muscle rapidly.
- Use MyFitnessPal to track and scan your food. I guarantee you if you stick to the above recommendations and track your food intake, you will change your body composition. This is the most flexible and convenient way to diet.
- Intermittent fasting. We’re all busy, and don’t have time to cook. Breakfast is overrated. Skip it, get on with your day and burn fat, and eat later. You’ll notice lethargy when you adopt this method immediately, but over time your body gets used to it (think about it, you’re technically fasting while sleeping), and you’ll have clear mental focus on an empty stomach.
- Meal prep. Learn how to cook healthy from FitMenCook. Saves time + money.
- Include no cook options such as Greek yogurt, energy bars, and bananas, which can be transported easily.
- Find meal ideas on eatthismuch.com, swole.me and supercook.com.
- Supplements are overrated. Before you buy anything, check the ingredients on examine.com to see if they’re actually worth it.
- Smoothies. Buy a blender. Whether you want to lose weight or gain weight, this is the easiest cooking hack for a busy professional. Got five minutes to reach the bus? Takes 2 minutes to use a Bullet to whip up an awesome concoction filled with protein, antioxidants, and veggies.
- Find a barber and get a good haircut.
- Floss. Picks are easy and and transportable.
- Use sunscreen. Skin cancer is real.
- Shower with good soap and use good deodorant.
Sleep is the most underrated tool for recovery and enhancing quality of life.
- Try a sleep app like SleepyTime to suggest best times to sleep and wake up most refreshed. Aim for quality REM sleep, not necessarily quantity.
- Use flux on your laptop. Screens disturb our sleep cycle tremendously.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Remove electronics from the bed. The bedroom is for sleeping!
- Enjoy the journey and recharge. Take breaks. You need to rejuvenate and function optimally. Athletes don’t train balls to the walls all year long — it’s about working hard when it counts most.
- Find your therapy, whether it be massage, vacation, relaxing with friends. Anchor yourself with something that is yours and that you can always turn to in times of stress.
Being in control of your health permeates into all other aspects of life. It teaches you how to be comfortable under pressure, set goals, and most importantly, doing the work. Discipline. Some say that every rep counts, I personally like the adage every quality rep counts.
You’re going to spend your best years working. Think about how you want to map out your career and life. Most people end up in dead end jobs hating every minute of it. Is that how you want to end up?
Think about the next decade. There’s a good chance that a lot of you actually don’t need to go into an office for some of your work. The evolution of work means that you need to think divergently and strategically.
Focus on building skills that will make you invaluable. The number one skill? Adaptability to learning. You will always need to learn and adapt as the nature of our work changes.
- Public speaking.
- To be a good speaker, learn to listen. Never a bad idea to keep your mouth closed and hear what people have to say. Take the same principles into communication (such as in emails).
- Networking. Your network is your net worth. You should never be the smartest person in the room.
- Learn how to write.
Actually looking for jobs:
- Be conscious of your image in a professional setting. Are you easy to approach? Constantly gossiping? Getting work done on time and taking on more? Your managers and colleagues will take notice. Especially if you’re new, you have a lot to learn, but can set a standard with professionalism, punctuality, and politeness.
- Dress. Fit matters, not price tag. No one cares about your fancy suit if it looks baggy. Tailor your clothes. I get my suits from Asos. Look up smart casual for a look that works in most situations.
- Your shoes matter. So does your handshake.
Set up your workflow:
- Have a dedicated workspace with an ergonomic chair. Maintain an empty desk without clutter. Have places for activities: gym for working out, library for studying, etc. Train your brain to associate places with different behaviors.
- Flow. Figure out your optimal workflow. Humans cannot multitask. Do one thing at a time. Utilize Pomodoro. Timebox your work. Set hard deadlines and force yourself to work on the bare essentials.
- Batch tasks that are similar together.
- Ruthless prioritization. Most stuff doesn’t matter. Avoid calls and meetings in the morning, and instead set your priorities for what you need to get done to call the week a success. 4 D’s: delete, delegate, defer, decide. Decision fatigue is real, so save your energy for the big choices. Focus on bottlenecks. A few things matter, greatly.
- People can wait, focus on yourself first.
- Outsource what you can’t get to. Someone else can do your groceries, laundry, and transportation nowadays.
- Use do not disturb mode. Don’t have an unhealthy lunch break. Minimize any and all distractions.
- Listen to music on repeat.
- Know how to Google things.
- Minimum Viable Product. Perfection is unattainable. Get something out as fast and as lean as possible, get feedback, and reiterate.
- Budget. Track where your money goes and save. Download Mint.
- Build wealth.
- Debt is a tool which you can use to build good credit. Use CreditKarma.
- Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE)
- After reading how young people retire early, check out this calculator to figure out your timeline.
- Increase your income. Don’t be afraid to ask to be paid what you’re worth. Figure out what you’re good at, specialize in that, and charge higher rates.
- Invest. Start saving right now — invest and hold. This gives you a huge advantage over starting later in life and you’ll be able to see how the market works long-term. You’ll lose money some years, but as long as you can stomach it, you will be fine in the long-run. Betterment and Wealthfront are a great start.
- Diversify your investments and have multiple streams of income. You don’t need to be a full-time entrepreneur, but always have options as to where your money comes from.
- Stocks. A great way to get started is with Robinhood.
- Minimalism. ZenHabits has a challenge to reduce your possessions to 100 items. Most purchases won’t really matter. Figure out what you actually need and don’t be frivolous with your spending. My focus on life experiences rather than material goods has been the single biggest contributor to my financial stability and happiness. It’s been driven by the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule.
- When I was struggling to get by during my first company and after I had become financially secure, I did not fall prey to lifestyle creep. I still like the same things I’ve always liked: books, exercise, and people. Simple life, happy life.
Think out of the box on the end goal. For example, most people who want to end up being CEOs mindlessly pursue MBAs without any thought. What they should focus on instead.
The future is exciting, incredibly disruptive, and probably more change than we can imagine. Just look back at the last five years. Some of the things we use daily didn’t even exist. Everything is changing at lightning speed.
The rise of autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence will mean that thousands of jobs will disappear, our society will rapidly change, and humanity will never be the same again. Most jobs of the future haven’t even been created yet. Technology is advancing exponentially at a rate that is unimaginable. How do you prepare for that future?
- You prepare by having some idea of where you want to be. But first, breathe. Give this a shot. Accept that life is short, and if you focus you can do some really neat stuff.
- Road map your life. Don’t steer a ship without a captain. Write down your goals. What does 1 year out look like for you? How about 5 years? What kind of life are you living? Once you look at how you want to be living in the future, you can work backwards to figure out what you need to do. Having a timeline and something to work towards gives you more purpose and direction everyday. And it doesn’t need to be all neatly laid out — even a general idea of where you want to end up, what you’re doing, and whom you’re doing it with, could provide much needed guidance.
- Write your eulogy. Nothing is a better motivator than knowing you can die any day.
- Once you’ve written down your goals, come up with a timeframe to achieve them. Done? Good. Now cut down that timeframe in half and see which goals you can focus on in that shorter timeframe. Parkinson’s law: work expands to fill the time allotted to it.
- Now that you have a timeframe, bust out Google Calendar. Schedule everything, from your workouts to grocery shopping. Quickly you’ll realize how much time you actually have and the fact that not everything can be done. Prioritize your tasks, automate what you can do & outsource work you can’t do to someone else. Your time is your most valuable resource. Once you spend it, you’ll never get it back.
- Take this one step further and organize everything on your Google Drive. I have lists to manage contacts, books I want to read, and even my preferred grocery list. Nothing is left to memory and I just go there when I have a question about what to do next.
- Now it’s time to do stuff. Have a personal task manager like Todoist. Focus on having a success list, not a to do list. Organize tasks into projects, such as “shopping”, “finance”, “school”. Most tasks are easy — if it takes two minutes, just do it.
Filter the noise to focus on your own goals. There’s tons of pressure from society to live up to other people’s expectations, do what is “normal”, and be “successful”. Define success for yourself. If you do what everyone else does, you can expect to end up with what everyone else has. Be honest with yourself — what does your perfect day look like?
Keep this in mind: as youngsters, if we had audacious dreams such as being an astronaut, we were encouraged to pursue them. But as soon as we reach high school, we’re told to have “realistic” dreams: Get good grades, take out loans, get into a good college, get a decent paying job, get a spouse, get a house…etc.
Avoid the groupthink!
This might work for most people — but what if you want to build a business? Or take mini-retirements in your 30s instead of your 60s? Or experience a gap year where you volunteer internationally? You only get one life. Make it worth living, because the worst thing is to live a life of “oh wells” rather than “what ifs”.
Be continuously learning. What do you want to learn? The most important skill you can have is to be insatiably curious and learn continuously. It’s important to find resources that best complement your learning style and not grow attached to a platform or method because it “used to work” or worked for others. Learning doesn’t start or end with school.
- Spend money on learning. Can’t tell you how much money some people spend at a single night out at the bars and complain about buying a $10 business book. Evaluate the opportunity cost here.
- Get a library membership and check out books. Take notes.
- Find mentors. Could be your peers. One of the best ways to learn is to find an expert and talk to them. Want to get in shape? Ask a personal trainer. Want to build a business? Ask an entrepreneur. Always ask questions. Never stop being a student. You can learn something from everyone.
Websites to learn from:
Think about apps you want to download. Some of my favorites:
Any books you want to read? Some of my favorites:
Any newsletters or blogs you want to follow? Some of my favorites:
Any websites you want to bookmark? Some of mine:
Remember, the harder you work, the luckier you get. There is no shortcut. You have the information of the world at your fingertips. It’s easy to be overwhelmed …so just start with one step a day. Don’t do these things as part of some checklist — do whatever helps you reach your end goal.
Framing your life and choosing your career are luxury privileges that most people will never get to experience.
Giving back and helping others less fortunate than you is the best thing you can do with your time. We talked about the importance of writing. Get a journal and use it to reflect on the week and express gratitude on what went well.
Reading this means nothing, until you apply it. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything. Things will go wrong — you just have to keep pushing forward.
Some people might tell you that this is a lot of effort to change things and you could die tomorrow. They’re right — we’re here only for a short period of time. Humans haven’t been in existence for less than a second of history.
Make it count. Do something today!
“Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds” — Napoleon Hill, American author.
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