I’ll start with two passages from Chapter 24 of the book of Proverbs:
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house.
You’ve just graduated from High School and you’re thinking about your future. That’s a good thing. Ironically you’re at an age when no reasonable person would expect you to be able to make critical decisions about your future, yet you will be making many such critical decisions. The two passages above are time tested pearls of wisdom you should pay attention to.
The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. That may sound preachy, but in reality we’re talking about morality. Wisdom and understanding are what will build and establish your house. In this case we are not talking about your home, but rather your family and legacy. As you leave your parents home and go out on your own, you will have innumerable opportunities to commit outrageous acts of foolishness and stupidity. Your ability to avoid doing so (or not) will demonstrate to the world whether you are wise or a fool.
You are about to enter your third decade of life and it is the most critical decade of your life. What you do and the decisions you make while in your twenties will have a tremendous impact on the rest of your life. The decisions you make right now will set you on a course that will gradually be more and more difficult to deviate from, so let’s look at a few of these areas.
Education. The old rules said that if you made good grades, got a degree and kept your nose clean you’d get a decent job and be a success. It may have worked for your grandfather’s generation and did work for your great-grandfather’s generation but that attitude is now a prescription for economic suicide. You must consider the basics: No matter what you do in life you must either produce a product or provide a service that the public is willing to pay for. If you can figure that out it’s called a business. If you can’t then you’ll need to work for somebody else who did figure out how to do it. That’s called a job.
There are problems with earning a living and among the worst of these problems is credentialism. Think of the building trades, such as carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical work, HVAC and general contracting. Two generations ago it was possible to hang out your shingle in most places and obtain work in one of these trades without getting a license. There were unions that had apprenticeship programs but there were also informal apprenticeship programs called “jobs” in which experienced tradesmen hired young men and paid them for their labor as they taught them the trade. Today, you cannot legally do such work in the vast majority of places without a license.
If you wanted to be a barber you’d discover that you are required to go to barber college and obtain a license in order to cut somebody’s hair. But what if you’re personable and have some sales ability? You can sell used cars but if you really want commissions then real estate is what you should be selling. That’s where you discover you’ll have to go to several years of college to get credentialed and then take a board exam in order to legally be able to connect a willing buyer and seller of real estate.
The point is that it’s difficult to rapidly move from one area to another in today’s economy unless you have some background training and credentials first, which brings us back to education and the subject of college. By all means, get a college degree, but unless you’re getting a degree in STEM, do it online.
Understand the dirty little secrets about college: Colleges do not sell education, they sell degree programs and they do not care about your success or whether you choose widely. They want your money. Unless you go to an Ivy League school nobody cares where you went to college. Unless you’re applying for grad school or applying for work in a STEM environment, nobody cares what your GPA was or even what your major was. A large number of jobs require a bachelors degree, but all they want to see is evidence that you finished your degree. Therefore, as a general credential, the goal should be to get the degree with a minimum expenditure of both money and time while maximizing your other opportunities.
It is possible to get a bachelors degree online from an accredited college for less than $10,000 while living at home and holding down a part-time job. Your part-time job should focus on sales for several reasons, not least of which is that if you can develop the skills of a good salesman you’ll almost always be able to find work. However, don’t think of it as a job, but rather an extension of your education in which you’re being paid to go to school. You are beginning the process of being an adult man and you must be mission oriented. Your primary mission is to be successful.
Keep in mind that you are your primary product and whether you have a business of your own (which should really be your goal) or work for someone else, you will be selling yourself for the rest of your life. You should have discovered by now that being attractive is an advantage. Studies show that on average people who have a pleasing appearance get paid more than people who don’t. In other words, how you look and how you dress is an important factor in your ability to succeed.
First, you need the bedrock ability to defend yourself. You should not be starting fights, but if somebody starts a fight with you you’d better be able to end it. If you are well-trained and know that you can handle yourself in a physical altercation, not only will your confidence be sky-high but you’ll also be able to walk away with dignity where someone with less confidence would get into a stupid fight. Trust me- most fights are stupid. But as you train, you’ll find that your strength is critical. The stronger you are the harder you can punch and kick and the more damage you can take before you fold up. The solution is strength training, which not only effects how well you can fight but also has a major impact on how you look.
When you can walk into a social gathering or a business meeting and look around the room and realize you can take any man there… your self-confidence will be sky-high. You won’t be able to conceal it. However, if you act in a humble and respectful manner you will win the admiration of many of those there. And some of them will hate you, but training isn’t enough. You need to look good too.
Lift weights and develop a strong, masculine physique. You can’t do anything about your height, but you can develop broad shoulders, muscular arms and chest and keep your bodyfat at a low enough level that your abs are visible. This is more important than you might think. If you develop the habit of hitting the gym on a regular basis and work hard to sculpt your body, it will take you about three to four years to pack on 30 to 50 pounds of muscle. Once you get the bulk, everything else is maintenance and fine-tuning, but you will have accomplished several things:
First, you’ll have developed the habit of regular heavy physical exercise. That habit, once developed, will be much easier to continue than begin at some point years down the road. Second, you’ll have made major changes to your body in many ways. Your testosterone level is currently at its peak and your ability to build muscle mass is likewise at its peak. The result of putting on that muscle will keep your testosterone level higher than it would normally be for decades to come. And that’s a good thing. You’ll also be going through a period of several years in which your body is growing and your wardrobe won’t fit for very long. Better to do this young while you can mostly just wear casual clothes.
Speaking of clothes, you must learn to dress well and develop a personal style that complements your body and features. Purchase quality clothes and have them tailored to your physique. This is important because if you can recognize quality clothing (the cut, cloth and construction) you can obtain a quality wardrobe from Goodwill at a very low cost even after having it tailored to you. If you’re in good shape you’ll discover that you can’t purchase a suit off the rack and have it look good because the standard drop on a suit is six inches and the so-called ‘athletic cut’ is an eight inch drop. The drop is the difference between the chest size and the waist size. I have a 44 inch chest and a 30 inch waist, which means even with an athletic cut suit I have to have the pants taken in six inches. That usually means the pants have to be re-cut, which is expensive. The alternative is to order the suit to your specific sizes and have minor alterations made to fit it to you.
That’s the price of looking good, but think about it. You’ll spend a lot of time, sweat and energy making your body look good and it will behoove you to have your clothes tailored to your body to look as good as you can.
If you spend the next seven years of your life focused on developing yourself in education, marketable skills (not the same thing), personal appearance and personality you’ll be in a good position to start working your fields and making the other preparations necessary to start building your house. In the next post I’ll be covering how to avoid some serious pitfalls that you’ll encounter along the way to success.
Read these two posts: