A very smart woman brought this to my attention. I think everyone should read it.


To teens in the first decade of the 21st century:


March 9, 2008

You are at a major crossroads. You are not yet vested in the adult world. As such, you are in a better position to make objective choices than many adults.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

”--Upton Sinclair

That's the problem with too many adults (even well-meaning and otherwise intelligent ones). Their perspectives are clouded by self-interest and ego.

As a teen, on the other hand, your perspective is relatively uncluttered, enabling you to make positive choices that will have long term implications.

Do you dream of a big home in the suburbs with a weed-free lawn, three-car garage, a bonus room, and lots of stuff?

If so, shame on you.

Yes, that may have been your parents' dream, but that's because your parents were conditioned to want that, and, to a large extent, they didn't know any better.

This suburban American Dream was solidified in the 1950s and 60s when the USA was a leading oil producing nation. The suburbs were built under the assumption that cheap energy (oil, gas, and electricity) were our birthright.

Taint so anymore.

These days, most of our oil comes from foreign sources, and our military invasions are primarily about securing advantageous access to foreign oil fields. The "terrorism thing" is a smoke screen. Once enough Americans figure that out, our President will have to come up with another smoke screen, or perhaps summon the courage to actually tell the truth about our military activity.

By the way, securing oil fields has always been a primary reason for war, and not just for the Americans.

Back to the suburban American McDream, and your conditioned yearning for your own McMansion:

If you've been following current events, you know better than to go after that stuff. You know that lifestyle is destroying the planet. Not only that, the McMansion your parents have a mortgage on today is probably going to be in a slum within a decade or two. It will not hold its value.

Sorry, but that's a nationwide trend.

With regards to home ownership, why grovel in such clichéd goals? Why not set your sights on something more meaningful? Beyond shelter, running water, heat, and electricity, what more do you really need? Instead of a dream home, choose a dream life.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude”--Ralph Waldo Emerson

For many people, it's easier to play the image game on the road to mainstream "success"; i.e. putting form over substance, name dropping, having flawless bridge work (a sensational smile), starching your white shirts, fanatically using shoe trees, knowing a few intellectual quotes to sound smart at parties, etc.

Don't play the image game.

Better to live simply, and avoid attachment to material things and the illusion of power so as to preserve your ability to stay rational and clear-thinking.

Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Rather than chasing after stuff, why not dedicate your life to connecting with many people? Instead of dreaming and scheming for a McMansion someday, why not dream and scheme for ways to live your life as to leave the smallest footprint you can?

Instead of accumulating a lot of things, why not skip the "accumulation phase" of life? Are you making a "decorator look" in your home? Why not make a decorator look in your brain?

Learn to live on a low budget.

I hate our people who find it harder to tolerate a gown awry than a soul awry, and judge a man by his bow, his bearing, and his boots.

--Michel de Montaigne
Do you really need a drivers license and car the instant you turn 16? Do you really ever need a car at all? Did you know there are some super cool alternatives to cars? Does your city need yet another car on its already over-congested roads and bridges? Could your transportation needs be met with a bicycle or a pair of shoes? Could you rethink your life and priorities to make that happen? Did you realize there is no such thing as a "green automobile" and that if you truly want to be eco-friendly, not owning a car at all is the best option?

Don't be fooled into thinking self confidence comes from spending thousands of dollars getting a "mouth rehabilitation" from a neuromuscular and cosmetic dentist. You want self confidence? Try a worldview rehabilitation instead.

Attending college should not be a foregone conclusion. College is a major industry, and students are its customers.

And, to make matters worse, it's far more expensive (even after being adjusted for inflation) than it was for any previous generation. College is not the best choice for a significant number of young people who attend. They and society at large would be better served in other pursuits.

Do yourself a favor by considering other options like trade school, community colleges, apprenticing, or starting your own business. Colleges don't own the patent on knowledge. Never forget you can actually learn things without paying hefty tuition bills, and never underestimate the potential of self-education.

If you do attend college, choose actual education over career training. In other words, proper one-word majors like biology, chemistry, English, mathematics, and history are usually better choices than two-word majors like fashion merchandising.

Look folks, you're probably going to switch careers many times during your working life. Better to prepare and develop your mind for that than to focus primarily on instantly landing a "respectable" cubicle job out of college.

In choosing a career, don't go after prestige. That's a cynical, and unimaginative path.

Choose instead a line of work that will bring you a living wage, one that is environmentally sustainable, one that contributes something valuable to society.

Great career choices that contribute something meaningful to society include: school teacher, plumber, carpenter, small business owner in retail (local grocer), or performing manual labor (carpet cleaning, janitorial, garbage collector, gardening, installing furnaces, cooking, etc.), policeman, forester, and fireman.

The most important point about careers is not which one you choose, but rather how much love, you put into your work. Even the lowest status career is a beautiful pursuit when a person puts love into it.

Love--yes, that's what it's all about.

And remember, even the most glamorous career will eventually be boring if you don't learn to put love into your work; to work for something greater than money. This is a key lesson in life. The sooner you learn it, the happier you will be.

Be ready to dig deep into your soul to learn this lesson. Be prepared to have lots of patience. Many people travel a long road before they understand this.

Picture yourself in a walkable neighborhood where carfree living is a viable and realistic option. Consider housing in a location that enables you to get around on foot, bike, scooter, or public transportation.

Also, rather than sinking your money into an oversized drywall box home in the suburbs (Gregory Johnson likens such homes to puffer fish), sink your money and time into your local community, into experiences.

If you have more than enough money, but not enough time, cut back working for money, and increase your leisure time pursuits.

It really is that simple.

Be physically active as long as you live. Organized sports have their place, but in far too many cases, they've become insanely focused on winning, and they claim far too much time from teens. Have the courage to participate in sports in the way they were originally conceived: for recreation, friendship, and fun--like the English do.

Avoid adult encumbrances that may reduce your freedom of thought, and leisure time. For instance, don't be overly eager to become a homeowner right away. Rent for a decade or two while you establish your adult identity, and explore, and experience the world.

Try the philosophy of ultralight backpacking as a general philosophy of life. Travel light through life so you can enjoy more.

Be a staunch supporter of your local community. Buy locally grown, chemical-free produce. Avoid soda pop. Patronize locally owned businesses to the greatest extent possible.

Turn your back on the likes of Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonalds, Wendys, Dairy Queen, Arbys, Subway, Quiznos, Sonic, etc. Spend your dollars at small, local, family-owned ethnic restaurants. Stay away from the slick, corporate places. Give your money to the quirky places, and places with owners who conduct business with class and put the emphasis on food rather than image.

Reject the giant retail chains. Intentionally boycott them. Buy from the locally owned and operated stores, you know, the corner grocer. Avoid strip malls. Shop downtown.

Reject conventional vacations in favor of green and ultimately more satisfying ones. Vomit all over the idea of going to places like Di$ney World, or Cabo $an Lucas. The main reason such places are so popular is because it's easier to be a conformist than to think for oneself.

Snow skiing and water skiing have a terrible effect on the environment.

Reject those in favor of more sensible activities like hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Take an extended cycling journey.

Take the train.

Camp in local state parks. Ride the Greyhound bus somewhere. Avoid airline travel to the greatest extent possible.

Travel by foot, bicycle, bus, or train.

Keep yourself informed. Read a quality newspaper daily for the rest of your life. Talk, and listen. Be curious and open-minded. Cancel the cable TV subscription, and instead spend your money on cultural events outside the home: art, theater, museums, lectures, fairs, concerts, etc. Learn to see yourself through other's eyes.

And always, always, always vote!

Everyone has the opportunity to become great in lasting ways. This is achieved by living with integrity, courage, and wisdom. You can't PR your way to greatness. Courage to stand up to faulty popular opinion is your salvation, not a day planner. You can't live selfishly, and simply slap a label on your life that you're great. People won't buy it. That may work in the corporate world long enough to get you promoted. In the long run, it doesn't work in life.

While hard work and discipline are essential to the successful life, true success is not in an award, or bank account balance. It's in the number of real friends you have, and intangibles such as your ability to enjoy life in deep and profound ways, and to have stood for something far greater than your own comfort, convenience, and bank account. Too many adults get so wrapped up in the mundane world and the chase after illusory success that they lose the ability to do these things.

Never allow that to happen to you.

Wise choices will not only transform your own life, but also make the world a better place. I wish you well on your life's journey.

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