Short post, but it’s important.
The best thing you can do for yourself as a 16-year-old is the same “best thing” you could do for yourself as a 21-year-old, or a 41-year-old, or an 81-year-old:
Follow your own curiosity.
I’m watching one of my younger brothers go through this right now.
He’s about to graduate from college, and as a senior about to head into the “real world,” he’s worried about all the “what if” scenarios that await him on the other side.
“What if I don’t get a job?”
“What if I can’t make enough money to pay rent?”
“What if I don’t like where I’m working?”
“What if… what if… what if…?”
I told him not to worry. All you have to do is follow your curiosity — which for him is his newfound love for software and web development.
Meanwhile, his roommate is avoiding the “real life” issue altogether.
Instead of worrying, or thinking about all the “what if” scenarios, he’s just pretending they don’t exist. He’s telling himself he’s not worried about it. He’s saying “it’s no big deal.” And he’s pressuring my younger brother to “not care about it either.”
In short: he’s choosing to cope with the fear of the unknown and spend his time enjoying his last semester of college. He’s choosing not to follow his curiosity — but instead to run away from it.
Unfortunately, this dynamic is what separates most people in life: the does with the didn’ts, the dreamers from the sleepers, the people who go on to do terrific things from the ones who stay in the same town for 40 years.
Some people lean into their curiosity.
Others, fearful of what might happen, shy away from it.
Which is why, the single best thing you could possibly do for yourself as a 16-year-old is to TRUST your curiosity.
You may think you’re wasting your time mastering the yo yo. People might call you dumb for being fascinated by photography instead of caring about science. Your parents might worry you constantly (with their own worries) about your future, and where it’s all going to lead.
The truth is, you don’t have to know any of these things.
You don’t have to know how the story ends in order to start writing the first chapter.
All you have to do is take whatever it is that’s grabbing your attention RIGHT NOW, and lean into it. Explore it. Play with it. Obsess over it. Master it. Share it. Try to teach it. Nothing in life is a waste of time, as long as you pour your heart and soul into learning about it and enjoying the process.
People who trust their own curiosity early on in life, go on to do it forever.
And it serves them.
And those who start to shy away from their own curiosity, go on to do that forever.
And it leaves them unhappy, unfulfilled, and a grumpy, serious adult.
Don’t be grumpy.