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Some thoughts I've been having on the eve of my quarter-century mark.

Jack Raines
March 31, 2022

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I turn 25 tomorrow, which is pretty weird to think about.

According to the National Library of Medicine, that means my frontal lobe will be fully developed. I'm not really sure what a frontal lobe is, but I guess that means I'll be "mature".

We'll see.

When I was 20, 25 seemed old as hell. The midpoint between 20 and 30. Halfway to 50. I imagined that I would probably be married, or close to it. After all, my dad married my mom when he was 25. 

I *highly* doubt I'll be married in the next year. I do, however, have a blog, which I think is pretty cool.

Instead of writing about money or finances or crypto or stocks or some weird career hack, I'm going to spend the eve of my 25th birthday sharing five things that I've been thinking about.

What's Going on?

Benjamin Franklin (the inspiration behind the Young Money logo) is credited with the quote, "Many people die at 25, but aren't buried until 75."

I don't know if Franklin actually said that quote. Actually, I'm pretty sure that he never said that. Someone probably just made it up 100 years ago, and we have just assumed it to be true ever since. The source doesn't even matter. There is a lot of truth in that quote.

People often get so caught up in the monotonous routine of life, that they sleep walk through adulthood. Life's luster begins to dull, and we lose our sense wonder and curiosity about the world around us.

For 99.99% of human history, we were just fighting to survive every day. Hunters and gatherers had to scavenge for food to survive. Empires sought to pillage and destroy each other in pursuit of power. Even in early industrialized societies, the world was an inherently dangerous place, and WWII, an event that occurred just 80 years ago, killed an estimated 85M people.

But now? Now we can work from our computers, watch TikToks all day, and still make a living wage. For the first time in human history, we can live an entire lifespan without doing much of anything. Survival, in the western world at least, is the norm, not the goal.

Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution turned us into creatures built to survive. Evolution can't keep up with the light-speed developments in our living conditions over the last 200 years: we are now born into our ancestors' end-goal, with survival being our base existence.

This is a blessing and a curse. What are you going to do with your time now that your basic needs are no longer a concern?

Money Is Leverage

Money isn't evil, and money isn't good. Money is leverage. It amplifies our preexisting traits, and it makes us more of what we already were. Money turns the quiet narcissist into an outspoken egomaniac, and money allows the philanthropist to change the world.

Those discontent when they have little will only grow increasingly frustrated as more money doesn't magically resolve their issues. Meanwhile those with a healthy appreciation for life will find that their situation improves as more money creates more opportunities and freedom.

Money is a tool, not a goal. Proceed accordingly.

"Best Years of Your Life"

"Enjoy college, it's the best years of your life."

Every college kid has heard that at some point or another. My roommate, Chase, and I were talking about this very thing last week. We recalled the incessant bombardment of "Woe is me," and "To be in college again," that we used to hear from older folks.

Well I'm out of college now, and I couldn't disagree with that "advice" more.

Don't get me wrong, college is phenomenal. Four (or five, or six) years of reckless fun with your friends, cleverly disguised as higher education.

The reason why college is often considered "the best years of your life" is because it is a rare period of time where you have maximum freedom with minimal responsibilities.

Until you graduate from high school, your life is largely controlled by your parents. You are living under their roof, and you have to constantly ask their permission for all sorts of things. However, while your freedom is restricted, you don't really have any major responsibilities as a kid. Maybe you have baseball practice, chores around the house, or a part-time summer job, but for the most part life is chill.

Everything changes when you hit college. You are granted this new-found freedom without taking on significant responsibilities. In college, you could literally sleep/party/hang out/game/whatever through an entire day, or even week, and nothing would happen. Show up to your finals, pass the class, and keep going. 

Maximum freedom, minimal responsibilities.

Fast forward to post-college adulthood. You (hopefully) don't have to live with your parents, and you are earning money. Now self-sufficient, this additional money brings additional freedom. But this post-college freedom comes with a cost: responsibilities.

Try skipping your job for a week because you want to "chill". Probably won't go over too well. While you can technically do whatever you want, many people suddenly find themselves handcuffed by their job. The source of their freedom, income, has now become the inhibitor of their freedom. This phenomenon is quite common, feeding the idea that college is "the best years of your life". It's all downhill from there, I suppose.

TIME FOR A NARRATIVE VIOLATION:

If crushing Natty Lights at your local watering hole when you were 20 years old was the "best years of your life", you fucked up somewhere. It says less about how "great" your college experience was, and more about your inability to take control of your life now.

We live in an era where people can live anywhere, and do anything. Once you walk across that stage and accept your diploma, the world is open and full of possibilities. However, this breadth of opportunity comes with a catch:

It's up to you to take advantage.

Life isn't easy. Quite the contrary, it's difficult and unpredictable. Building the career and life that you want is an active challenge, and it doesn't happen overnight. This challenge is amplified by our generation's appetite for instant gratification. It takes time and effort to mold the life that you desire. Our collective impatience pushes us to the career path of least resistance. It might not be fulfilling or exciting, but at least it's achievable.

The avoidance of resistance and conflict has led to our prevalent human condition of the 21st century: bemoaning one's current situation, feeling nostalgic about one's past, and dismissing others' successes as byproducts of luck or good fortune.

What gets missed is that "luck" and "good fortune" are likely the results of countless unseen reps, unnoticed effort, and unmentioned failures. Over time, these reps, efforts, and failures compound into something special that we call "success".

It's easier to reside in a bitter state of nostalgia, and to dismiss others' successes as luck, than it is to take ownership of your life and make some changes. We humans do love excuses for our own shortcomings. Anything to avoid responsibility for our own misfortunes.

Ironically, the key to "success" is leaning into challenges, not avoiding them. The stoic author Ryan Holiday often says, "The obstacle is the way." This runs counter-culture to the status quo today: avoid conflict and pursue the path of least resistance. But Holiday is right, nothing great ever came from a comfort zone.

A big part of the problem is the widespread idea that we're special.

Tim Urban has a great piece on why Generation Y is so unhappy, and it largely stems from the disconnect between expectations (WE ARE ALL SPECIAL AND IF WE JUST GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE AND GET A JOB AND DO WHAT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO DO WE'LL FIND OUR PASSION AND MAKE A LOT OF MONEY AND BE SUPER HAPPY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES) and reality (life is actually really hard, we aren't that special, and stuff doesn't just work itself out because it's supposed to).

"Follow your passion" only became a popular catchphrase in the last 20 years, and it has been a disservice to countless young folks entering the real world. The truth is, none of us are special. Not you, not me, not anyone reading this. We quite literally can't all be special.

By definition, special means: better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

So when you think you're special, even though you aren't special, it can lead to one hell of a disconnect between your expectations and your reality.

No one owes you anything. Not the universe, God, corporate America, higher education, or anyone else. There isn't some pre-ordained path to success that will materialize before you.

The universe certainly isn't going to conspire to give you some fulfilling, satisfying life just because you think it should. No one's going to save you, and no one cares about your self-pity. If you go through life expecting it to magically work out in your favor... well, I have a bridge to sell you.

The universe does, however, have a tendency to help those who help themselves.

The ones who are actually "special"? They earned it. There's a 1:1 correlation between those who succeed and those who put in the time and effort.

Maybe the repetitions and extra effort make them better over time. Maybe they accumulate more opportunities for success, and one finally hits. Maybe success is simply a function of inertia: it takes a while to get the ball rolling, but after a certain point, success becomes all but inevitable.

Sure, busting your ass doesn't guarantee success. But expecting the world to just bend over backwards for you does guarantee a lack of success.

Blaming your misfortunes on your life circumstances gives you a convenient scapegoat. But no one is going to give a shit, and it certainly won't improve your current situation. If your life isn't where you want it to be, do something about it.

Or, you know, keep reliving the best years of your life. That's sick too.

We're All Just Fighting Entropy

A few months ago, author Morgan Housel asked, "What's the most powerful and consistent law in life?" Both Patrick O'Shaughnessy and I had the same response: Entropy.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the level of disorder in the universe is steadily increasing, and systems tend to move from ordered behavior to more random behavior.

This shift from order to chaos is known as “entropy”.

In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking said, “The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”

Entropy is observable in the breaking down of everything over time. Or perhaps more accurately, entropy is time.

Living organisms are structured, organized networks of cells. Entropy favors disorder over order; it seeks to break down these structured, organized networks of cells. Simply put, entropy is the driving force behind aging and death. But entropy applies to so much more than just the steady decomposition of our telomeres.

  • If you don't work out, your body degrades
  • If you don't nurture your relationships and friendships, they languish
  • If you don't actively train your mind, it becomes dull
  • If you don't inject novelty into your life, it becomes a monotonous cycle
  • If you don't continually challenge yourself, you stagnate

The real tragedy isn't that entropy kills you physically. That's just the cost of admission to this ride we call "life". The real tragedy is that entropy will break you down piece by piece, killing you one hundred times before you take your last breath.

If entropy is the most powerful and consistent law in life, fighting entropy is the most powerful decision that we can make each day.

  • Exercising is fighting entropy
  • Showing your friends and family that you love them is fighting entropy
  • Learning a foreign language, reading a new book, or writing is fighting entropy
  • Doing something spontaneous is fighting entropy
  • Solving problems, leveling up your career, and pushing your body to the limit are all fighting entropy

For the last seven months, one reminder has popped up on my phone at 7:00 AM each morning: Fight Entropy.

You can't beat entropy. No one ever has, no one ever will.

But you can fight it. When you wake up each morning, the most important decision you can make is to look entropy in the eye and saying, "Not today."

Life Is Good

Mid-20s are an interesting time, because everyone is doing something different. You could be married, in a significant relationship, or single. Maybe you have a child on the way. Maybe you're going out 4x a week. Maybe you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe you are just scraping by.

Our mid-20s are an inflection point that sets the trajectory for the rest of our lives. I'm living through my own inflection point in real time.

I have been fortunate to live within 15 minutes of my closest friends for the last 6.5 years, but the winds of change are starting to blow. Some friends are getting married, and others are moving to different cities. I myself will be moving several states away soon, and these next few months are the last time that I'll live in such a close proximity to so many people that I care about.

You always know these changes are coming, but it's still bittersweet when they finally hit. 

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said, "change is the only constant in life."

Ain't that the truth? Two years ago, my life plan was to cruise through work for a few years, get my MBA from Columbia, and assume life's greatest calling of becoming a management consultant.

Then change happened.

The last year of my life has been the most challenging, interesting, and fun year of my life. I lost $150k in a day. I quit my job on a whim and backpacked through 24 countries in six months. I published more than 125 articles online, and I had a lot of reckless, stupid fun with my friends.

To quote Andy Bernard from The Office, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them."

I guess there's no way to really know when you're in the good old days, but It sure feels like I'm there right now.

Over the last year, I've made several new friends, and I've pissed off a few people along the way. But that's part of the fun. People get so caught up in their own little worlds that they take life a bit too seriously. Zoom out and live a little.

Or maybe these are just my naive, almost 25-year-old thoughts.

Some of my writings, including the majority of this post, have a somber undertone, but that couldn't be further from the truth of my day-to-day life. I'm having a blast, and I intend to keep the good times rolling.

Maybe when I wake up tomorrow and my frontal lobe is fully-formed, I will have my life figured out. But probably not.

I'll probably wake up with the same undeveloped frontal lobe, refresh Twitter 1234523 times, eat a nice dinner, and go to a way-too-loud dive bar where I can answer the ever-present "WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING" question with "I WRITE A BLOG".

I don't know what the next year will consist of, but I can assure you of one thing:

it won't be boring.

Anything but boring. 

- Jack

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