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This post distills the advice I offer my younger mentees. If you’re a teenager or in your early twenties, here’s how you can set yourself up for success.
Your unbeatable advantage as a teenager
The term ‘time billionaire’ was first coined by Nilanjana Roy in a Financial Times article she wrote about people who treat time as a resource as critical as money. A time billionaire is someone who measures their wealth according to the control they have over their time. Consequently, if you’re time-rich, you have more free time to follow your dreams, invest in personal development, and pursue more paths that open up for you.
If you’re a teenager, you are a time billionaire.
In a 2019 episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, investor Graham Duncan reiterated the concept of being a time billionaire, this time illustrating it with hard numbers. A million seconds is eleven days, and a billion seconds is around 32 years. A trillion seconds exceeds the entire human civilization. So our time on this earth is terrifyingly short.
If you have thirty years left in your life, you are a time billionaire.
While money billionaires have the advantage of money and financial capital, you have the advantage of time.
And in the same way as you would invest every spare penny for future financial yields, you should invest every spare minute you have today for future yields of free time.
I see more and more teenagers embrace Twitter and Youtube to find opportunities to upskill themselves and build a stream of passive income and I couldn’t be more delighted to welcome them all. I was a student entrepreneur myself when I was in college, and I also did a bunch of other things for income, skills, and experience.
If you’re a teenager (or in your early twenties), you should create a portfolio of hours that yield future dividends in the form of free time, new paths, and engineered serendipity. While the dots might not make sense to you right now, they will all connect when you look back.
Right now, project a single-minded focus on two investments.
Your teenage and college years are the best time to master your fields of interest. As a young person, you have fewer distractions when you are not constantly worried about paying the bills or caring for any dependents. This is the ideal environment for learning, and with the correct planning, you can master several skills simultaneously.
With new tech coming up every week and standards of employability changing every year, investing your time in learning (and building a habit of continuous learning) can be the single biggest ROI for your future.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of online learning, and not going to college is increasingly becoming mainstream. Whether you go to college or not, though, don’t rely on structured curricula to learn the skills of the future. Learn to self-study, and use online (and free) resources on Youtube, Twitter, forums, newsletters, etc to keep updated with the latest trends, expose yourself to the tools and build on them, and learn the best practices in the industry.
- Maximize learning: Don’t stick to one subject; diversify your knowledge and interest areas. The dots will connect in the long term when you look back at what helped you reach there.
- Don’t stop at college: Whatever you learn in college is NOT enough. So make sure you spend time outside your courses learning new-age skills.
- Don’t wait for courses: While college is not enough, you shouldn’t rely on online courses either. Few courses are good, fewer teachers are effective, and you should focus on teaching yourself from free sources that are ubiquitous today.
- Continuous learning: Build a habit of learning every day. This will prove to be an important skill later.
- Learning quickly: teach yourself to identify key concepts, disregard noise, and recognize signal in any new area you come across.
- Deliberate learning: Set aside large chunks of your time to explore new subjects and areas each week and force yourself to learn it quickly.
I’ve covered six learning skills you should master in a previous post, where I’ve also identified learning to be the most important skill of this generation.
Countless books and leaders have underlined the importance of the compound effect in our lives. And its one foundational principle is to start early.
If you’re a teenager, I urge you to start earning money. Forget the traditional path of studying in school and earning money when you get a job. This path does not allow you to maximize your potential.
Begin making money as soon as you can, learn the principles of personal finance management, and invest regularly and consistently.
- Earning your first $100: Learn what it takes to earn your first $100 dollars. You develop respect for money, and learn to value your time better.
- Invest early: Begin investing a part of your income quickly to benefit from the effects of long-term compounding
- Taste financial independence: Know what it is like to be financially independent and free to make your own decisions.
- Don’t wait for permission: When you control your money, you control your decisions. No more asking your parents or waiting for their permission before you make a purchase or sign up for a new experience. Financial freedom guarantees true independence.
- Finance your dreams: Have your eye on a new course or product to invest in for your growth? Make purchases and invest in yourself without waiting for anyone’s support or permission. These decisions will gradually cascade to multiply the results of your hard work.
- Become better at planning your life: When you earn your own money, you learn to take charge of your life and plan your future better. You don’t have to rely on someone’s advice or second-hand experience. Learning this early and making mistakes early will set you up for success far ahead of your peers.
- Making money is a skill: Like any skill, making money is a skill that can be learned and mastered. So learn it early so you can master it when you’re still young.
- Taste new experiences: Making money while you’re still very young exposes you to new experiences that are not available to your peers. Maybe it is access to valuable networks, being taken more seriously during life-changing opportunities, just building successful connections who inspire you to be better, or a number of other experiences that continue to steer your life on the path of success.
So if you’re a teenager or a college student, focus on learning and earning. Next steps:
- Get on Twitter if you aren’t already, and get active. I have a free Twitter Growth guide here that you can download.
- Build in public: I have a video here to get started, and a post here to learn more.
- Find a community: identify 2-3 areas of your interest and learn them, while being part of a community on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.
- Find a side hustle: find out how you can monetize your skills. For instance, if you love using Notion, here are 12 ways you can monetize your skills.