5 Pieces of Advice Every Adult Wishes They Got As A Teenager
As an adult looking back on your teenage years, it's hard not to cringe. Not just because you (OK, I) looked like a roadie for a Poison cover band, but also because that's the time in your life when every adult you speak to hands out some sort of generic life advice, and you don't realize until years later that half of everything you heard was total bullshit. It's easy to be fooled at that age, because you've been taught to give weight to what adults tell you. You know, because they have more experience in life than you do. Unfortunately, since very few of the people you meet will be geniuses -- or even wise, for that matter -- that means you'll be accidentally trusting the words of some complete fucking idiots.
Looking back on my own teenage years, there are a few basic things I wish I had known right out of the gate.
Realistically, no, you can't do "anything" you set your mind to. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a shot or 20.
One of the most annoying bullshit messages you'll ever hear in life is "You can do anything you put your mind to!" It's in every Christmas special, family sitcom, motivational speech, sermon, inspirational song, feel-good movie of the summer .... We are so saturated with that lesson that if you squeeze our stomachs, rainbows will shoot out of our assholes. It is probably the single most popular half-truth in existence. I call it a half-truth because on a certain level, it is absolute gospel (and at the very least, common sense). If you work your ass off, master your craft, talk to the right people, and be as persistent as a hemorrhoid throb, you'll make it happen.
But do me a favor and sit through this for as long as you can. It's cool, I'll wait.
Those are some American Idol rejects, and as of the writing of this sentence, this one compilation video has about 12.1 million views. Now, if the internet were the only place you could find compilations like this, that would be one thing, but the show itself runs about seven audition shows at the beginning of each season, typically focusing on the worst of the worst, coupled with the judges' reactions. In other words, we're watching peoples' lifelong dreams get crushed for entertainment.
That's incredibly important, because while we're laughing our third nipple off at how extremely bad these pieces of shit suck at singing, we don't for one second imagine ourselves in that same situation. We know our limitations. We know when to pull back. These people are just crazy and deluded, right? Not entirely. There's every chance that they simply never had anyone tell them how they measure up to industry standards -- or even singing-alone-in-the-shower standards. Many of those people have been inadvertently tricked into thinking that success is about perseverance and determination because nobody ever stressed to them that they have to actually have some sort of talent to begin with.
I'm not suggesting that you give up your dreams. Hell, I'm not suggesting that even if you suck on the level of the musical E. coli in that video. If you have a dream, you need to make a sincere attempt to achieve it. What I'm saying is, if it turns out that you don't have what it takes, you need to be realistic about the possible outcomes. What do you want to be known for? Ed Wood is an incredibly famous filmmaker -- not because he was awesome, but because he's considered to be the worst director to ever live. All he cared about was making movies that people would love, and in the end, he's known for his catastrophic level of suck.
Now watch this American Idol video:
That's a man named William Hung, who, after that ear fuck of a performance, got a record deal and ended up selling 200,000 copies. He hit No. 1 on the indie charts and No. 34 on the overall U.S. charts. He wanted to get into the music industry, and by god, he did. But I sincerely doubt he ever imagined it would be because he sang like the waning throes of a car-tagged deer. Who the fuck has a dream that starts out with "I'm going to suck worse than anyone who has ever lived"?
9.4 million views.
You're not dumb -- you're learning. The same as every other human on this goddamn planet. Know that, and you'll be fine.
I'm as guilty as every other adult of calling teenagers dumb. Mostly I do it because I just love giving people shit for no reason, but other times I look at them and genuinely think "How could you possibly not understand a concept this fucking simple? I can't believe you dumbasses are going to be running this count- holy Jesus crotch, I just became own grandfather." But if I were to pull my head out of my ass for ten seconds and sincerely try to remember what it was like when I was a kid, I'd realize that the reason many teens don't understand a concept that seems like second nature to adults is because they haven't fucking learned it yet, you ignorant twat.
We fall into this trap all the time when we look at other peoples' success and then wonder what we're doing wrong ourselves. That's one of the driving forces in keeping us active and pushing for a better life, but in comparing ourselves to others in that manner, it's extremely easy to think of ourselves as stupid or inadequate. Trust me, you're not. Well, most of you aren't. Some of you are genuinely dumb, in pretty much the same percentage as found in adult social circles. If you're one of those people, feel free to skip this point and move on to the next one.
No, the reason you aren't where that other person is in life isn't that you're dumb. It's that you haven't had access to the same lessons that got them where they are. Or maybe you did have access, but for whatever reason, the lesson just didn't sink in. Or you didn't realize there was even a lesson in progress (they can be pretty sneaky). Or you didn't understand what it was teaching. Regardless, none of these circumstances mean that you're dumb.
The people who are sincerely too dumb to progress in life couldn't have made it this far into a text article in the first place, let alone have the self-awareness to give a crap about their own level of intelligence. Yes, it's frustrating when you feel yourself busting your ass with little to no forward progression, but believe me, the fact that you're trying to understand why is a good sign that you're on the right track.
Don't trust anyone who tells you that a certain time period is the best years of your life. It means they aren't doing it right.
In another article, I told you that high school is not the best years of your life. I brought it up because even though adults have the best of intentions when they spew this bullshit, they're putting out not only a false message, but a harmful one to boot. There's nothing like talking to a person who's prone to depression, in the throes of rebellion, addled by hormones, and under more stress than they'd ever experienced before, and telling them that this is the best life will ever be. Good job, adults.
But it goes further than that. If someone boils your life down to a specific time frame in which you can expect the most enjoyable, rewarding things to happen, that person has no goddamn idea what they're talking about. If you're reading this article at age 15 in a First-World country, your life expectancy is right around 80 years. That means you have about 80 percent of your life left to live. Think about that. Do you honestly believe that the very best things you'll ever experience in life are taking place before you're even allowed to drive your own car? Before you have your own job and your own a house with your own rules? Does that make sense?
Of course not. If the person telling you this horseshit is 40 years old, even they have about 50 percent of their own life to experience. How can they possibly advise you on what the best age is, when they still have yet to experience half of their own lifetime? Mathematically, the best times of your life haven't happened yet, and probably won't for many, many years. For all you know, the last four seconds of your life could end up feeling like a spiritual orgasm. Maybe you die having sex with a ghost or something.
But even if you set simple math aside, you have to keep in mind that the people handing out this sort of generic advice aren't taking into account that their experiences at that age are most likely going to be drastically different from yours. Not just because of a change in generations, but also because we're all individuals with different factors governing our lives. Put those same people in a room with their old high school classmates, ask them all what the best time in their lives have been, and you'll get different answers across the board.
Your goal is to make right now the best time in your life, regardless of what happened yesterday. I'm telling you as straight up as I can that if you're in that frame of mind when you're 30, you will give your kids' generation a whole lot more to look forward to. And you're going to be a whole lot less miserable when you're not looking back and thinking, "Wait, that was it? Why the fuck am I even still trying?" Nope. You have a loooooong way to go, chief. Life is pretty goddamn awesome, and I assure you that the best of it sure as fuck isn't crammed into a four-year period that throws brackets around the most awkward and chaotic you'll ever be.
Advice tends to be something you don't truly appreciate until you wish you had taken it. It's not just you; we all do it.
In yet another article, I talked about bad sources of advice, and the overall message there could be boiled down to a single Tweet from comedian Kyle Cease: "Only take advice from people who are where you want to be. Because most people are dangerously stupid."
We aren't just talking about people who are where you want to be in terms of a career, but in any facet of life -- emotional, spiritual, financial, mental, social, criminal. If I ever become homeless and nobody will help me out, I'm taking advice on how to keep warm from another homeless guy who survived last night's snowstorm. But I'm probably not trusting his financial opinions or warnings about the eminent invasion of the Eel Summoner.
It's important to know that, because you're going to get advice from everyone, and all the goddamn time. It's good to know how to rank and prioritize that information. But regardless of where we get it, there's every chance in the world that you're going to blow it off because you have this all under control. It's human nature. "My life isn't a catastrophe, so I must be doing something right. Right? Guys?"
It's only later when the doctor is showing you an x-ray of a spot on your lung that you give the ball-crushing attention to his warnings that you are going to fucking die if you don't fucking quit fucking smoking, fucko.
We all do it. People will do it to you when you get to a position in life where your advice isn't laughable pig farts and actually starts carrying some weight. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know. Probably a little of both, I guess, depending on the situation. But the point isn't so much about being right or wrong as it is the overall lesson of "Be aware. This stuff happens, so take notice."
Self-control is the hardest skill you'll ever have to master.
From birth until the day you move out on your own, pretty much every facet of your life is controlled by someone else. Parents, teachers, babysitters, the secretive nameless guardian who taught you to kill from the quiet embrace of the shadows. There's always someone looking over your shoulder to prevent you from fucking up. "Don't run in the house, you'll get hurt." "Don't stab that guy, you'll go to jail again."
So from the time we're old enough to rationalize, we're trained that nothing is truly under our own control, and if we do happen to fuck up, the most we have to fear is getting grounded, spanked, or yelled at. When you enter adulthood, that all changes literally overnight. Except for the spanking thing.
For the first time, you'll be put into situations in which the only person you have to answer to is yourself. How will you react? Take away the teacher, and do you start slacking off? Take away mom and dad's rules on junk food, and do you start eating at McDonald's every day? Take away the police patrols, and do you strip naked and set houses on fire, cackling like a crazed hyena?
This is what we're dealing with when we talk about things like addiction, teen pregnancy, and obesity (the type that's not tied to a physical cause, of course). It's an area in which the only person who is going to give you hell is your future self. Are you prepared for that? I wasn't. Hell, I'm not sure I know anyone who was. Because keeping yourself in check when the temptation is there to just take the easy way out is excruciating. "Man, I don't feel like cooking tonight. Maybe I'll just order a pizza again." Yes, others may voice their concerns about your choices ("Dude, you're pushing 300 pounds, and you've eaten pizza every day for two months"), but nobody is going to step in and force you to get your shit under control, unless it's flat-out breaking the law. That's your thing now, and failing to master that self-control could fuck your life right on up.
It's probably best to just accept this one right now. I didn't until I was in my mid-30s, and it damn near killed me. You're better than that. But if all else fails, at least remember this article in 15 years. I'll either be one of those guys I mentioned earlier who's completely full of shit, or it'll feel strangely prophetic.
John has a Twitter, where he regularly gets mistaken for John Cleese.
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