Advice for a 23-Year-Old

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Q: Should I be worried about $16 trillion as a 23 y.o.? Will it ever be paid back?

Answer: My poor baby. You are 23 years old and yet you are carrying a 16 trillion dollar weight on your shoulders. How come? Who has scared you? What are you afraid will happen?

The world has existed for 3 billion years. Debt has never destroyed the world. People came out of the caves. They made tools. Civilizations fell and started and fell and started. In the 1930s we had the dustbowl of the midwest, 22% unemployment, no jobs for anyone, and the rise of the most terrible tyrants in history in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union (and many would also say the US). And we survived and flourished. The 1950s and 1960s (and the 1980s and 1990s and even the 00s) became the periods of greatest innovation, creativity, and success in every way. Everyone has a TV, the price per unit of light in your house is 1/1000 what it used to be, everyone in the US knows how to read, and almost every family has a car in their driveway. What a miracle. There were 10,000 nuclear warheads aimed at your house for most of your life growing up. Did any of them hit?

So why are you worried about 16 trillion in debt? Two or three things can happen:

A) The country continues to grow and innovate like it always does and that creates more income and wealth for people and eventually we pay down that debt or do what we have ALWAYS done, which is to rollover the debt.

B) The country suffers through inflation (as it has since 1913 when a dollar then is worth 3 cents today) and since all of our debt is denominated in dollars we use those inflated dollars to pay down the debt. I’m not saying that is good or bad. But that’s how we’ve always paid our debts in the past and I don’t see what is different now.

Worry how you can be in the “1%”. Not the one percent in wealth. But the one percent in health.

  • Physically, if you simply don’t drink, eat well, sleep well, and do minimal exercise, you will be a 1%-er
  • Emotionally, if you simply stop engaging as much with the people who bring you down and spend more time seeking out and spending time with the people who inspire you and bring you up, you will be 1%-er
  • Mentally, if you read every day and come up with ideas every day so eventually your brain is a living idea machine (give it six months only) , then you will be a 1%ER
  • Spiritually, if you spend time each day counting out loud the things you are grateful for. If you acknowledge that many things are out of your control. If you say, “there’s someone out there who is worried about that 16 trillion so I’m going to worry about my insides”, then you will be a 1%ER

When you are a 1%ER the problems of the world fade away as dots or pixes in a vast landscape of art and creativity. You get to now paint on this great landscape and not be overwhelemed by it. You are 23 and have 80 years in front of you. The weight of the world will shift off your shoulders and gradually you will be light and free and ready to explore.

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