So I guess for the past decade I’ve been old enough to give advice, and hang out with kids and teens and it somehow be counted as meaningful. How I’m qualified for that, I doubt, but by the will of some pagan gods it’s happening. And impossibly so, I’ve amassed a small congress of youth who hold me to this standard. [What could I do to break this trust and free myself? Hmm.] Nevertheless, I have a short list of advice that I’ll scrawl down, much in the way of the “Advice for My Unborn Son/Daughter,” things.
- Join and stay in the Boy/Girl Scouts. Be a youth 2.0, as they will make you. You want to learn how to appreciate your environment, your community, and your resourcefulness? Be a friggin’ Scout! I know less about the Girl Scouts, but if it’s anything like the Boy Scouts of America, then you will basically be the smartest kid on your block. You will be like an Army Ranger junior, knowing how to lash a rope with some timber and fashion a fort, be accurate with a rifle and a shotgun, as well as be a governor’s task force in a state of emergency. And on top of those, you’ll know how to assemble a team of volunteers for a neighborhood project. As a Scout, I learned about government, environmental science, archery, economics, whittling, cinematography, swimming, first aide, wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, and even healthy family life. It’s like college for kids. Be a Scout!
- Study world religions. You can’t know a thing without studying its counterpart. Many other faiths have beautiful principles to take away, like Buddhism’s non-attachment. Expand your world-view. Appreciate diversity.
- Savings! My pops taught me to take ten percent of my pay and give it to charity, and then save ten percent for my future. Good advice I never took. —Well, the second part anyway. I had a college class that taught if a twenty-year old put away one hundred dollars a month, they would have a million dollars by the time they retire (the math could be a little inaccurate, but it’s close). Do that for yourself! It’s easier than it sounds.
- Do big things, and don’t let your perceived inadequacy or complacency stop you. I am effectively Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, because I can’t stop regretting when I changed my mind to play football my senior year of high school. I saw what football did to mature my friends and build their confidence. I wanted that, and told a few of them I was going to join. Gradually I started to realize how much time it would demand, and gradually more guys—not even friends—on the team heard the rumor and gave me props to tell me how excited they were. The commitment grew, and I got cold feet. I changed my mind because it was going to be my last summer vacation ever. So, my junior year ended, and I anticipated big adventure to fill those three months. And it turned out to be the most lame summer vacation ever. My friends were working, or dating, or playing football. Don’t chicken out on anything. As of right now, I’m terrified of going to Airborne school to become a paratrooper, but I want to say I did it, and want that badge of bad-a**ery on my chest. Hold me to it, Interwebs! Do big things!
- Always do the right thing. When all else is lost, and all your friends turn on you, and you are backed into a corner, all you will have left is your integrity record. People may say you’re the dumbest person they’ve ever met, but, boy, could you be counted on. You’ve got nothing if you don’t have integrity.
- Have the bravery to live a life true to yourself, not one others expect of you. Some things have to be done just for yourself, despite anyone else. Since I was a teen, I thought it would be noble to be a soldier. More than once I asked my Air Force-captain-retired dad what he would do if I joined the Army, and each time he said, “Break your legs to stop your from enlisting.” Coming from my scrawny and non-violent pops, this was actually scary! But I had a church mission and college, so I didn’t have time to join (despite a tempting war conveniently waged at my legal independence’s onset). So, I went on my mission, and started school. Within two years, I had a gut feeling to do ROTC. It was strong, like few things I’ve felt before. I called my dad to ask his thoughts, and he threatened to stop paying for my housing. That killed it. I couldn’t finish school without his help. I was devastated. It wasn’t until seven years later that a drill sergeant pointed out that Army would have paid my school housing! Sometimes you have to do things for yourself.
- Fight. Do it while you’re young and the consequences are light. Yes, school suspension sucks, but it’s better than getting fired from your job or pressed with charges as an adult on top of losing your first brawl. Lots of people say that violence isn’t the answer, but time and time again I’ve seen that some people don’t give you respect until they see you’ve got teeth. Sucker-punch that prick who picks on you for your hand-me-downs. Learn how to scrap when you’re a kid so you can be confident that you can as an adult. I have an orange belt in karate (novice, but far along enough to say I’m not a quitter [my sensei got transferred]), but even though I know I can handle myself, that first real fight makes me shake when I think it’s about to happen. Don’t let that be you. Earn confidence via experience.
- Get higher education. Do it through three routes. The first is the easiest to explain: when you go to a four year university, get your associate’s degree in case you can’t finish! Wisdom, muhafugga. Ask someone who couldn’t finish school but was one semester away. They’ll wish they had something to show for their debt, and an associate’s would be. The second choice is to go to a small community college before a university. You’ll get an associate’s, like the first route, but you’ll have an easier time getting accepted into the university you want when they see you’re willing to put in the work for just that. Student retention all the way through graduation isn’t as high as you’d think it would be, so acceptance boards value those that can commit. Third choice: learn a trade before getting a bachelor’s. Either through vocational training or apprenticeship, you need something to fall back on if your degree isn’t wanted by the economy. Diversify your portfolio.
- Have guts. In my life, I’ve been taught the lesson that tomorrow doesn’t wait for anyone. Go big, or go home. The world may be inherited by the meek, but not the pushovers. Have goals, write them, and do them. This blog is a goal of mine. Many people can tell you that I am a voracious goal-setter. I thrive on self-improvement and stretching my limits. Do the same for yourself. Also, be that guy, that girl, who said what everybody else was thinking (but have tact and timing). Stand up for what’s right. Have guts.
- Learn persuasion. I love the principle of motivating people. I suck at it, but I chase it. If you can move people to a cause, you have the world at your fingertips.
- Don’t get caught up in what MTV News and the White House tell you. Regardless of what faction is in power or who owns the network, investigate the counterpoint. Research totalitarian governments like Pol Pot’s and Stalin’s, and you will begin to appreciate a small government that leaves the people to their own devices unless it involves the protection of life, liberty, property, or the pursuit of happiness. And above all with politics, you can’t force people to be good. That was the Devil’s plan before the War in Heaven. And like Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” If people want something bad enough, they will bend space and time to get it. Necessity is the mother of invention.
- Go to Church, and keep your covenants. Despite my current misgivings about its governance, I don’t think a person can be harmed by being a faithful Latter-day Saint. The product of the LDS factory is magnificent. We have a culture of excellence, to reach beyond mediocrity; we encourage higher education, self-reliance, familial responsibility, self-sacrifice and duty, scholasticism, philanthropy, teamwork, preparedness, self-control, ingenuity, independence, and perfecting one’s character. If religion weren’t a main factor in this, it would be the world’s greatest fraternity/sorority! But because religion is a part of it, I would argue that it is one of the world’s greatest religions, despite its hurdles. Nothing will make you a more well-rounded adult and even teen than the Mormon church. Shoot, it’s common knowledge that the FBI and CIA recruit at Brigham Young University. That says enough for me. Further advice on religion:
- Read the entire Book of Mormon. Don’t ride on your parent’s testimony. Your salvation is your responsibility, and you don’t know jack about our faith if you don’t read its cornerstone.
- Read the New Testament. You don’t understand Christianity until you do. Jesus is referenced somewhat every three point five verses in the BoM, but he only makes a personal appearance for like five chapters. Read about his life in the Holy Land, and read what Paul said about him. Because of Paul’s letters, I gained a testimony of an enduring apostasy, and that the Gospel needed to be restored.
- Read Jesus The Christ, by Talmage. That’s it. Good luck. Get a dictionary.
- Memorize the Scripture Masteries. Whether you become a full-time missionary or not, there is nothing like having solid doctrinal concepts verbatim at the call of your memory.
That’s all I’ve got right now. You’ll see more added as time passes. But I don’t want this to be a tome, if it were printed. Brevity is actionability.