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What You'll Wish You'd Known 798

Posted by michael
from the to-boldly-go dept.
sheck writes "Eminent computer scientist, author, painter, and dot-com millionaire, Paul Graham has written down the things he wishes somebody had told him when he was in high school in What You'll Wish You'd Known, suggesting, among other things, that students treat school like a day job, working on interesting projects to avoid what he has found to be the most common regret among adults of their high school days: wasting time."
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What You'll Wish You'd Known

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  • by garcia (6573) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:51AM (#11432283) Homepage
    What I wished I had known:

    People

    Most of the people you graduate with, no matter how popular/smart/wonderful they were in high-school will probably be completely worthless in college. Some will likely come home to be with their group of friends from high-school again and may not even finish college. They will be happy in their small group of friends forever, which is fine, but certainly don't believe that you need to limit yourself to that.

    Class

    That the reason I did reasonably well in high-school with very little outside work was because I went to class. Even if I slept through some of it I was taking it all in. You cannot succeed unless you attend class. Don't think that when you get to college or the real world you can succeed by not showing up just because you don't have to. It doesn't work like that.

    College

    Going to a four-year college and getting a degree really isn't all that important anymore. Yeah, you get a job, yeah you get money, and yeah you have fun but honestly the pay off in the end really isn't all that worth it.

    I have seen plenty of people with high-school diplomas or two year degrees from a community college/tech school do just as well (if not better) than me and my more expensive four-year degree.

    Don't give in to the pressures put on you by your social group, family, and school when there are plenty of opportunities out there for those of you that aren't interested in jumping straight into four-year degrees.

    LPNs, construction, HVAC, general laborers under Union guidance all make great money and may even make twice as much as a four-year graduate starting... If you aren't interested in school for the next four or five years explore some other options. They are open and ready to make you into something that you may not have had the chance to know about.

    Wasting time

    Honestly, you aren't going to have much of a chance to "waste time" once you are done with school. People graduate and either jump right into working or go to college. After these small steps they start families and their chance to "waste time" is over for the next 25 years.

    I hear all the time that "thirty is the new twenty". Take advantage of your age, your freedoms, and your time. Use it however you want. Right now I'm more interested in doing things that I know I won't be able to do 10 years from now. Responsibility sucks use your time however you see fit.

    What I learned was that I needed to decide for myself what I wanted. Anyone who might read his article (or mine) might want to as well.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:03PM (#11432402)
      By the time you are old enough to want to make a list of things to tell young people they need to do to be happy, you are too old to relate to any young person in a meaningful or influential way. But inevitably, generation after generation, the old people are compelled to spew advice which the young will absorb, but ignore, until they themselves are old and ready to acknowledge its correctness (and then to futilely victimize that generation with advice).

      I think the biggest cause of regret in young people is mixed messages being sent from all directions from know-it-all nannys who all regret their own youth and so want to live vicariously through others still in possession of it. Laissez faire.
      • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:10PM (#11432487) Homepage Journal
        To some extent, I'd agree...

        I'm still young, just fresh out of college. While my high school days were packed with a lot of outside projects and involvement, I regret not having spent my time better in college. On the other hand, I'm still young enough to see my brothers and a few friends in the same situation.

        The result is that I'm able to spend my time better now, which will certainly pay off later. While you can look back and realize that you might have spent your time better (who doesn't wish they'd invested in some tech stocks at the right time?) you can also feel satisfied knowing that you weren't wasting all of it on something with no payoff. I spent so many hours of college seeing how fast I could beat each level of the 8-bit Mario Super Bros.

        Speaking of wasting time, I think my Slashdot break has gone on long enough.
        • who doesn't wish they'd invested in some tech stocks at the right time?

          Oh, I invested in tech stocks a the right time, I just didn't divest at the right time...
        • by Basehart (633304) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:03PM (#11433097)
          "Speaking of wasting time, I think my Slashdot break has gone on long enough."

          Not as long as mine...I own my own business so I get to read the whole thing. Which brings me to my pet "Wish I'd Know This In School" peeve, which is why didn't anyone, not even my parents, tell me that I could actually start my own business and not have to necessarily go and get a job working for someone else.

          During the last year of the English equivalent of high school, me and my classmates would go to the career counselling officer for lessons on how to get a job. We'd also take day trips local businesses and watch people we'd seen in the year above ours working at their little desks or operating machinery. We even took a few trips to local coal mines which really freaked me out (Anyone seen Kes [geocities.com]? that was me).

          Luckily I was interested in playing music - joined a couple of local bands - moved to London - joined a band that toured the World - moved to the Pacific NW - got a life - and managed get the hell out of the cycle of horrible, depressing life I was faced with, but it really needn't have been that way.

          How about one single hour a week about how to start your own business. Or how to handle money that your business will generate, or marketing your business, Etc Etc Etc. instead there was nothing. It was ALL about how to get a job.

          Needless to say we all knew that the rich kids at the private school down the road were being taught how to hire losers, or how to stay rich, so there was never any real mystery as to why things were the way they were, but I still feel sorry for my classmates.
          • True, entrepreneurship isn't emphasized much as a value in the educational system here in the US, and certainly not in the UK from people I know who lived over there.

            Of course, if you're smart enough to do it, you're probably smart enough to learn it yourself as I did and apparently you did too. It's strange though, as our culture, or at least substantial portions of it, in the US definitely does value entrepreneurship, it's just that people often don't realize this until they get out there and are confro
          • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:54PM (#11433612) Homepage Journal
            I also own my own business... having just started it a few months ago, I am discovering many of those same things. The learning process is frustrating, but it's coming fast. My partner was working on his MBA so he would be prepared for some of these issues, but he's since stopped - they teach you how to be a manager, but not run a business. It's not the same thing.

            As for the aforementioned "Slashdot break," I'm discovering that I am even more strict with my time than any of my previous bosses. I have been working 16+ hour days because 1) I know it's going to pay off for my business, 2) I love what I do, and 3) working hard for myself is far more rewarding than working hard for someone else.

            It's not hard to find a small business owner that you can talk to about starting your own company. Luckily, I've got a few contacts like that - uncles, friends, etc. that were willing to point me in the right direction. But when you're in high school or college, there's a ton to learn and not many folks that will encourage it. Still, I'm glad I took a "real" job right out of college. I had an opportunity to learn from others' mistakes and develop fantastic experience and skills (while someone else did the legwork of getting the projects and running the business). When I felt I was solid enough to start those, I made the jump.

            It's beginning to pay off now. I landed a big contract this week... it'll take care of my paycheck for another six months.
          • A semester or two in school on how to deal with all the bullshit paperwork in life would have been really useful. Hell, even just learning how to find out what offices and licenses have to be dealt with would help.

            Some classes on how to deal with middle management would also be cool. You know the type; people who have risen to the level of their incompetence and have power over others; Human Resources, Licensing officials, etc.
      • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart.gmail@com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:11PM (#11432500)
        By the time you are old enough to want to make a list of things to tell young people they need to do to be happy, you are too old to relate to any young person in a meaningful or influential way.

        Regrettably, this is due to age discrimination. Thanks to the public schooling (which has setup this concept of people of the same age range, all from a very early age, doing the exact same thing as everyone else, and worse, socializing with people of a very small age range.)

        So people grow up with this bizarrely narrow view of the world...people who are 19 do X, people 24 do Y, people 36 do Z.

        As I like to say, if you're over 14 and half your friends are within 5 years of your own age, you're doing something wrong. Widsom and expertise will come to you from a wide range of people.
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:58PM (#11433046) Homepage Journal
        "By the time you are old enough to want to make a list of things to tell young people they need to do to be happy, you are too old to relate to any young person in a meaningful or influential way."

        That is a myth that way too many younger people believe. Frankly life is still pretty much life. The problem is when you are young you are experiencing so many things that are new to you that you mistakenly believe that they must be new to everyone.
        They really are not. What most people find is the older they get the more their parents knew. Not everyone mind you but most people will find that.
        Now there is another myth that older people fall into. "Everything was better when I was younger." Humans tend to forget the bad stuff and remember only the good stuff. My parents have told me time and time again how they would not want to raise kids today. When I ask them they talk about how much better things where when they where just married than they are now. This was in the 60s so I asked them what about the Cuban missile crisis, the Manson murders, the Zodiac killer, and the Texas tower shootings? Older people need to remember the bad things in the past and not just the good.

        The biggest regret of youth is what you do not do. What you did not accomplish and who you did not listen too. A smart young person will listen to an older person with an open mind. You never know what wisdom you may gain. A smart older person will listen to young people with an open mind. You never know what what wisdom a new mind might bring to the world.
      • by cooldev (204270) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:16PM (#11433225)
        A good point, especially when it comes to those lofty, "influential", graduation-style speeches.

        But, as somebody who came from a family where nobody in the previous generation had gone to college, I would have appreciated more useful advice about college (and related preparation).

        For example, I've done extremely well academically and career-wise, but I was overly-stressed and worried throughout high school and college, and didn't spend enough time just living and having fun. This led to under-socialization, which is probably the biggest problem in my life today.

        Whereas my parents exacerbated this because they wanted me to be successful, peers who had parents (or other adults in their lives) with college experience had an advantage: they had a better understanding of how that world worked, what was really important, and what was coming.

        The internet now makes it easy for people of all backgrounds to learn from the life experiences of others, although the noise probably drowns out a lot of the useful stuff.
      • by painandgreed (692585) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:33PM (#11433396)

        By the time you are old enough to want to make a list of things to tell young people they need to do to be happy, you are too old to relate to any young person in a meaningful or influential way. But inevitably, generation after generation, the old people are compelled to spew advice which the young will absorb, but ignore, until they themselves are old and ready to acknowledge its correctness (and then to futilely victimize that generation with advice).

        I was the exact opposite. Believed everything I was told and took it to heart. Worked away. Worried about high school grades. Worried about college and prepared for "the real world" in the manner they told me. Once got old enough to gain my own experience and go into the real world, I realized it was all not true, and if it was ever true, it belonged to a world that hadn't existed for several decades. It's good that kids ignore or take what they're told with a grain of salt. Nothing about the wisdom my father gave to me about the white collar business world of the 60's pertains to the casual dress IT world of the 00's. There are no life long careers. Kissing ass just makes you the butt of office jokes. Unless you're looking at a really good college and scholarships, high school grades or even graduating don't matter. Once you have the piece of paper for your degree, your college grades don't matter unless you're attempting grad school. Once you have experience, your piece of paper doesn't matter unless it' used as a bullet item to impress some MBA. The most important thing to getting a job on your resume is the reference who turns it in to the person hireing and says "this is a friend of mine."

        No doubt, when I pass this wisdom to my own children, it will be irrelevant to the new world they live in.

      • I agree with you. I did faily well, because my mom motivated me. Not by telling me I need to do my homework but telling me that she couldn't do her homework when she was young and had to work on the farm. She was forced to quit school after the 7th grade so she could look after cows. Somehow she taught me that my school work is just as important as her or my father's job and the grades were like my salary. But I was never pressured to do homework, my parents were never on my case as to needing to do homewo
    • Most of the people you graduate with, no matter how popular/smart/wonderful they were in high-school will probably be completely worthless in college. Some will likely come home to be with their group of friends from high-school again and may not even finish college. They will be happy in their small group of friends forever, which is fine, but certainly don't believe that you need to limit yourself to that.

      There's also an important corollary to this: The opinion of high-school classmates doesn't really matter. Knowing this would have done me a lot of good. Don't bother trying to impress your peers in high school. In fact, go ahead and embarrass yourself. It won't be the end of the world. A year after graduation, no one will remember or care. If anyone does remember and care, those are the weirdos whose entire life will be spent obsessing on high school, the people who never move on with their lives, and so their opinion isn't worth much worry.

    • by Frymaster (171343) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:06PM (#11432449) Homepage Journal
      I have seen plenty of people with high-school diplomas or two year degrees from a community college/tech school do just as well (if not better) than me and my more expensive four-year degree.

      i have come to the conclusion that the self-taught are the people you want to work with and for.

      the self-taught have a better skillset at picking up new skillsets when the pressure is on, they're more willing to and capable of learning by experimentation, they tend to be far more flexible and diverse in their abilities and they're are often more motivated to try out new solutions.

      three cheers for the autodidacts [princeton.edu]

      • by pe1rxq (141710) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:18PM (#11432590) Homepage Journal
        I agree self-taught is great, however you should be carefull not to fall in the 'I don't need school' trap.
        Self teaching works best for those subjects you are really interested in, use school to bring the rest up to 'standard'.

        Even if you teach yourself a subject its great to hear it again in school, the teacher will most likely teach it from another viewpoint and I have found that this can help you from knowing about it to totally understanding it.

        Jeroen
      • the self-taught have a better skillset at picking up new skillsets when the pressure is on, they're more willing to and capable of learning by experimentation, they tend to be far more flexible and diverse in their abilities and they're are often more motivated to try out new solutions.

        And they are the same ones who will leave you horrible code, because they learned from web examples instead of a solid base. (real life case: mantain legacy app created by self-taught genius: a few thousands of lines of jav

        • The plural of anecdote isn't data.... I've seen guys with a Masters in Comp Sci write the same sort of garbage. As a disclaimer, I'm self taught. I also wouldn't (and don't) write code like that.

          I disagree with the willingness to expiriment and self-motivate being teachable - they're something that people either have or don't have. Someone who's (effectively) self-taught will neccesarily have them, but being a graduate certainly doesn't preclude it, either. One problem with being self-taught is the gaps i

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:29PM (#11432714) Homepage Journal
        It really depends on what you want to do.

        If you want to be a writer, say, just about the only thing a formal education can give you is an understanding of grammar and spelling. (/.ers, take note.) You do need this. After that, though, the way to learn to be a writer is by writing; also by reading, because editors (and readers) can always spot a manuscript written by someone who hasn't read very much. They tend to be cliche-ridden, among other flaws, because if you haven't read a lot, you won't know what everyone else has done before you. Writing, in short, is learned by watching and by doing. I suspect that this generalizes to other arts.

        On the other extreme, if you want to be a scientist, well, if you think you're going to learn enough about any scientific field to make a meaningful contribution to the human body of knowledge in that area without a formal education, you're insane. This has generally been the case throughout history (contrary to legend, both Newton and Einstein had rigorous formal educations) but it's even more true now, for the simple reason that most of the science that can be done by gifted amateurs has already been done. We know a lot about the way the universe works, and you have to know what we already know before you can add new knowledge into the mix. The romantic image of the lone amateur working away on some brilliant new conception of the universe that has so far eluded all those smart-ass PhD's with their books and fancy papers may be appealing, but the truth of the matter is, if that's the mold you try to fit, you're most likely to end up like these [timecube.com] guys [sollog.com].

        Most other fields are somewhere in between. There are a lot of successful businessmen with lots of formal education, and others without. Skilled trades, as mentioned by the GP poster, are largely learned on the job -- but they also have a rigorous and largely formalized system of education within the trade; "apprentice", "journeyman", and "master" are words with well-understood meanings, and if you want to make your living as a plumber or electrician or carpenter you'd best understand them. Programming (to bring the discussion home) is also in between. There are a few self-taught genius hackers out there, but there are a lot more self-taught people who think they're genius hackers but whose code is absolute garbage. Etc.
        • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:38PM (#11433448) Homepage
          The romantic image of the lone amateur working away on some brilliant new conception of the universe that has so far eluded all those smart-ass PhD's with their books and fancy papers may be appealing, but the truth of the matter is, if that's the mold you try to fit, you're most likely to end up like these guys.

          Wow. I formally request that somebody smart follow that first link [timecube.com] and report back here, 'cause I'm just too dumb (apparently) to understand what that guy is trying to say. I don't even know the answer to the rhetorical questions, such as:

          Educated cubeless stupid, you think stupid. Why worship a dumb 1 day god when I demonstrate 4 simultaneous 24 hour days within a single 24 hour rotation of Earth?

          The second link [sollog.com] is easier, as the great prophet (and ebay entrepreneur) Sollog only offers wisdom upon payment of a nominal fee.

          The internet has sure made life easier. I used to have to go looking for mimeographed sheets* stapled to telephone poles to find this kind of stuff.

          * Usually 8.5x14, printed on both sides, 8- or 10-point type, with ADDITIONAL material scrawled into the margins. I once found a TWO sheet screed in San Angelo, TX on how various corporate logos SECRET CONTAIN THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST, but that was a rare find.

      • Congratulations on stating a useless generality. In my overly general opinion, self taught people are not team players, too self absorbed, and unable to accept useful criticism. They also don't have enough follow through to finish tedious, time consuming tasks, and can't succeed in a structured environment.

        Now I could continue blathering on about the other things some self taught people do, or we could just admit that both of our statements are hogwash, and that self taught people run the gamut just like
    • by TheViffer (128272) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:08PM (#11432468)
      Going to a four-year college and getting a degree really isn't all that important anymore. Yeah, you get a job, yeah you get money, and yeah you have fun but honestly the pay off in the end really isn't all that worth it.


      Very good point, and I totally agree, seriously. As the great Judge Smails has stated, "the world needs ditch diggers to".

    • That the reason I did reasonably well in high-school with very little outside work was because I went to class. Even if I slept through some of it I was taking it all in. You cannot succeed unless you attend class. Don't think that when you get to college or the real world you can succeed by not showing up just because you don't have to. It doesn't work like that.

      The reason I did well in college was because I didn't go. It took a class full of people 3 weeks to understand an iteration. To me that was a

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Get the hell off my lawn.
  • Okay... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:52AM (#11432295)

    I think that when the *very first word* in your story is misspelled, you should probably hand in your "Lil' Editors' Fun Club" membership card.

  • Well (Score:4, Funny)

    by savagedome (742194) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:53AM (#11432300)
    I say Boo friggin' hoo. There is always time if you have the inclination. Rodney Dangerfield started doing comedy when he was in his 40s.
  • I Wish... (Score:2, Funny)

    by tyman (831421)
    I could have known where the parties were happening...
  • get a Roth IRA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Harrison (223649) <<johnharrison> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:53AM (#11432305) Homepage Journal
    Seriously. If you crunch the numbers and look at how much you'll make in interest by investing early, you will see that a Roth in high school will go a long way to paying for retirement. A Roth in your 30s doesn't do much.
    • Ummm... not exact sure about the tax rules for a Roth (USA) account are but for a RRSP (CDN) account, I wouldn't go too gun-ho on it at an early age.

      1. Your main advantage, taxes, are minimized because you are in the lowest tax bracket. Unless you don't intend increase your salary more than the standard increase your company/union gives you.
      2. You won't know how the best way to invest in things. There is a good chance you won't make a good choice.
      3. You might be better off paying off loans.
      • For a Roth IRA, which is probably the simplest one the the US, you put in after-tax money. You are not taxed on the gains. Thus being in the lowest tax braket is an advantage because you don't pay much at the start and you don't pay at the end.

        I agree that high schoolers have no clue about where to invest. A personal finance class should be required for all high-schoolers to graduate. Put it into a index fund if you have no clue. Move it when you have a clue if you think you can do better.

        High-scho

    • Re:get a Roth IRA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Harrison (223649) <<johnharrison> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:06PM (#11432443) Homepage Journal
      ran some quick numbers, very simplistic. YMMV.

      I assumed 10% return under two scenarios:
      In the first $3000 is invested each year as a 15, 16, and 17 year-old, for a total of $9k put in. Then no more investing is done. At 65 you have $963,381.

      Second scenario is starting to invest at 30 and putting in $3k per year until 65. A total of $108,000 is invested. At 65 you have $897,380.

      The moral of the story? You can't afford not to put money away when you are young. Sacrifice early for long term gains.

      Note that I am not suggesting that you stop after high school. I am suggesting that you start right now and not stop.

      • Re:get a Roth IRA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pendersempai (625351) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:23PM (#11432657)
        Yes, except...

        how the fuck does a 15 year old acquire $3,000?

        And how the fuck does he acquire another $3,000 the next year, and the next?

        If you're in debt because of college, it's a fool's errand to invest unless you can get a much better interest rate than the one you're paying on your loans. Otherwise you'd be better off paying off the loans.

        Oh -- and how the hell do you find a consistent 10% return on investment? The stock market historically returns 7%, and that's about as risky as anyone should get for the long-term.

        Yes, compounding interest can be very impressive, and your numbers are very pretty. But they're also very unrealistic.
    • If you had started investing heavily in high school and college and your first n years of work, what are the chances that you could have a big enough nest egg to not do wage slavery in a corporation and work on something you like (for money, but only enough to buy food or other basic necessities -- a vanity job, if you will)?

      Even if its not enough for early retirement (and it probably would be by age 40 or 45), it might be a nice nest egg useful for starting a business, buying a home (outright, or nearly s
  • Maybe we should read this as :

    Emminent computer scientist, author, painter, and dot-com millionaire, Paul Graham has written down the things he wishes somebody had told him when he was in high school in What You'll Wish You'd Known, suggesting, among other things, that students treat school like a day job, working on interesting projects to avoid what he has found to be the most common regret among adults of their high school days: reading Slashdot."
  • That's great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delmoi (26744) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:54AM (#11432316) Homepage
    You know, I kind of doubt it would really be possible to convice a highschooler that they really will wish they studied harder once they're an adult.
  • Mising the Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robocrop (830352) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:55AM (#11432327)
    Anyone else think this guy missed the point? Most people I know who whined about "wasting time" in high school weren't lamenting the lack of challenging, thought-provoking experiments to conduct in their spare time. They wanted more time to party and get wasted.

    Not that partying and getting wasted are inherently bad things, but I will say that all the people I know who kept telling me "school is a waste of time" are working in grocery stores and casinos, so one can draw their own conclusions.

    This seems more like another one of those bits of advice tainted by the rosy hue of nostalgia, and which better applies to adults. I definitely agree that, as an adult, it is imperative that you find something to do in your spare time that interests you. Otherwise the dull drudgery of the daily grind would begin to wear.

  • What I Wish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Deinhard (644412) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:55AM (#11432330)
    It sounds funny, but it isn't. I wish I'd known that my math teachers through High School were PE majors and math minors. Going to a small private school in the mid-south, they were all coach/teachers (sometimes in that order).

    After I got an A in College Algebra my senior year, I was sure I was ready for the CS curriculum in college. That first week of Calculus proved me wrong. What I learned later was that, despite my grades, I really didn't know math all that well.

    That was 22 years ago. I've since picked up higher-level math on my own, but it would have been a lot easier if I'd been given the groundwork ahead of time.
  • by Walrus99 (543380) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#11432340)
    I wish I'd known that when I started dating my first wife in college that she would turn out to be such a f****g b***h and gone running the other way.
    • I wish I'd known that when I started dating my first wife in college that she would turn out to be such a f****g b***h and gone running the other way.

      Funny comment aside, maybe you're the one that changed.

    • by selderrr (523988) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:43PM (#11432883) Journal
      I regret that this comment is modded 'funny'. I just went to divorce after my wife ran of with a bloke from the gym club without even the slightest sorry. Having invested 7 years of emotion, payed for the house 2/3, put 3 kids on te world and working my ass off (she did a lazy-ass college doctoral job worth shit, and then lived 2 years off of wellfare while I busted my ass trying to pay the bills) I wish I had known her better before I decided to bind my faith to hers...

      Good advice to all you youngsters : a girlfriend in highschool/college is a completely different person after you both start to work and begin a serious (=boring) life
    • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:21PM (#11433289) Journal
      Assuming that you were married for an extended period of time (5-10-15 years?) after you first met her, I'd argue that you probably had the biggest influence over her character and personality during that timespan. So if she turned into a b*tch, you might want to look into the mirror. If she was nice before you met her, and she was a b*tch when you left her, what's the variable?

    • by Casca (4032) on Friday January 21, 2005 @03:41PM (#11434860) Journal
      Heh. I wish when I was 16 and my 30 year old boss said, "This would make a really good makeout spot..." while sitting in her jeep in the dark corner of a parking lot, I'd have had a clue...
  • From TFA:

    In fact I suspect if you had the sixteen year old Shakespeare or Einstein in school with you, they'd seem impressive

    I remember reading that Einstein was considered a "slow learner" back in school, so he wouldn't have been terribly impressive. Of course, that just goes to show that it doesn't really matter how "slow" people say you are, only you can realize your own true potential (as corny as it sounds...).

    • I remember reading that Einstein was considered a "slow learner" back in school

      Urban legend. Einstein was an outstanding student.

      • Re:Einstein (Score:3, Informative)

        I remember reading that Einstein was considered a "slow learner" back in school

        Urban legend. Einstein was an outstanding student.

        From Wikipedia:

        Though he built models and mechanical devices for fun, he was considered a slow learner, possibly due to dyslexia, simple shyness, or the significantly rare and unusual structure of his brain (as seen following his death). He later credited his development of the theory of relativity to this slowness, saying that by pondering space and time later than mos

        • Re:Einstein (Score:3, Informative)

          From his biographers [audiblox2000.com]

          The popular image that men of eminence are learning disabled promotes an aura of romanticism around the learning disabilities (LD) field. Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, is usually at the top of the list of famous dyslexics.

          According to LD lore Einstein failed to talk until the age of four, the result of a language disability. It is also claimed that Einstein could not read until the age of nine. To strengthen their case LD proponents point to such facts
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:59AM (#11432360)
    From his couldn't-give-it-because-he-got-uninvited-to-the-h igh-school speech:

    "There is some variation in natural ability"

    No wonder his visit got the veto! That's public school sacriledge! Actually, it's bad news at Harvard now, too, apparently.
  • They told me. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dougie Cool (848942) on Friday January 21, 2005 @11:59AM (#11432366)
    The things I'd say I wish I'd been told in school, they actually told me, but I didn't believe them, because they sounded silly.
  • Go to a library (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yorkpaddy (830859) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:00PM (#11432368)
    I wish someone had told me to go to a real library, a college library. I wish someone had told me this in grade school. I remember checking out every Byte magazine at my local library and still wanting to know more. I didn't even bother to check out there books that say "a computer has a cpu, monitor, and keyboard". I wish someone had told me to go to computer groups when I was a lot younger. I wish someone had told me to go to colleges and hang out until I met smart people.
  • The author writes:
    What you need to do is discover what you like. You have to work on stuff you like if you want to be good at what you do.

    Why do our lives have to center around friggin' work? I would rather not work at all. And most people feel the same way, if they would just admit it. If we had the adequate resources, wouldn't we choose NOT to work at all, or just work a little bit?

    So what is wrong with just admitting the truth?
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:02PM (#11432392)
      If we had the adequate resources, wouldn't we choose NOT to work at all, or just work a little bit?

      Um... just who would be actually producing all of those adequate resources if everyone was choosing not to work?
    • Doing something constructive is better than sitting on your ass all day. Even if you're independently wealthy, you need to have something to keep yourself busy, even if it isn't a typical job...ie charity work, building stuff, traveling. Having a sense of accomplishment requires you to work, no matter what your means are.
    • Actually, a lot of rich people still work because they can't find ways to spend their time in a fulfulling way. i.e., they get bored! Yes, it sounds ridiculous to us, but I can imagine after a year or two of travelling and hanging out that I would be looking to do something productive. Granted, since they have enough money, they are able to pick and choose their work, so that they are rarely doing something that they don't like... it's more like being able to work full-time at your hobby.
    • by discord5 (798235) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:20PM (#11432613)
      If we had the adequate resources, wouldn't we choose NOT to work at all, or just work a little bit?

      What irritates me when I don't do anything for a long period of time is that I feel useless. I'm not saying that I am my job, but not having accomplished anything in a long period of time makes me feel that way.

      If I had adequate resources, I'd honestly choose to work a little. That way, I'd have enough spare time to do what I want, and enough work to feel as if I've accomplished something.

      Do I love my job? Sometimes, sometimes not. Depends on the moment you ask :) But it beats sitting in the couch watching TV all day feeling useless.

    • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:22PM (#11432647) Homepage
      Check out: THE ABOLITION OF WORK by Bob Black [deoxy.org] for a glimpse of the best hope I see for the future empowering people in ways other than through Stalinist type "work" settings. In that essay, Bob Black suggests eliminating needless work (90%+ of it), making much of the rest into play, and then automating the small remainder. That goes way beyond just tinkering with economic policy or trade agreements.

      From his essay:

      "Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following Karl Marx's wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue I support the right to be lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists--except that I'm not kidding--I favor full unemployment. Trotskyists agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work--and not only because they plan to make other people do theirs--they are strangely reluctant to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They'll gladly talk about anything but work itself. These experts who offer to do our thinking for us rarely share their conclusions about work, for all its saliency in the lives of all of us. Among themselves they quibble over the details. Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians think we should be bossed by businessmen. Feminists don't care which form bossing takes so long as the bosses are women. Clearly these ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to power as such and all of them want to keep us working."

    • >I would rather not work at all. And most people feel the same way, if they would just admit it.

      I would rather work. I simply love what I do. I'm sure I could get away without working for the rest of my life, but I'd go up the wall within a few days. Ask most PhD students, they'll probably say the same. (Given how we're paid, we'd better love what we're doing!)

      I think it's more of a difference in how you approach it. Today, in fact, I'm going to write part of a paper. It's not particularly fun, but by
    • by ThousandStars (556222) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:46PM (#11432916) Homepage
      I think you missed one of the points the author was trying to make, which is that for smart, satisfied people, work and play generally merge into a single activity at which the individual is very, very good. That's how you get people who spend 80 hours per week programming and such. People whose work is play never have to work, and they seldom have to worry about money. The sooner one figures out how to make one's work one's play, the better off and happier that person will probably be.
  • "wasting time" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saeger (456549) <farrelljNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:00PM (#11432374) Homepage
    Repeat after me: It's not "wasting time" if you're having fun.

    It's only those obsessed with status & material wealth who get wrapped up in the notion that every worthwhile waking hour should be spent working on advancing careers and whatnot.

    • I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      Friends

      I wish I had made more friends while in highschool / college. Instead i spent too much time alone. Either studying, playing videogames or chatting on irc. And now that I want to make new friends, I CAN'T. I work fulltime.

      So, make sure you make friends in college. It might be your last chance.
  • wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LuckyJ (56389)
    I see now why they vetoed this guy. Their eyes must have glazed over reading that thing. Imagine someone giving it as a speech to a young crowd that usually can't stand still for more than two minutes. Sheesh. This guy forgot who his audience was. If it were college grads, it might have been more appropriate, but still, it's a bit windy. Chop it down, bud.
  • by arkestra (799166) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:02PM (#11432394)
    Paul Graham is a very highly-driven individual, and his advice would work well for a younger version of himself. But I have plenty of friends who are happy taking a fairly laid-back attitude towards life. They earn enough to have a roof over their heads, plus a bit more. They'll never be Einstein. And they don't really care. Are they necessarily wrong? So - if you have lots of free time, you don't necessarily have to put it into worthwhile pursuits. Hang out while you still can. Do crosswords. Slack off. Some people really, really like slacking off, for hours on end. That's OK. Not everyone wants to become a dot-com millionaire. Explore your inner slacker as well as your inner Einstein. There'll be plenty of time to get angst about how much you're achieving later on.
  • by XBruticusX (735258) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:02PM (#11432395) Homepage Journal
    "The best plan, I think, is to step onto an orthogonal vector."

    If a high school student actually understands that statement it's pretty doubtful that they need to read that piece or need much academic direction at all.
  • He may be eminent and he may be a painter, but he's not an eminent painter.
  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart.gmail@com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:04PM (#11432425)
    Paul Graham has written down the things he wishes somebody had told him when he was in high school

    How about Brevity?

    (4324 words for chrissakes, and that excludes his footnotes!)
  • by cheezus (95036) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:05PM (#11432428) Homepage
    don't worry, you'll have plenty of adult life where you have to act like an adult. Waste your time now while you still can.
  • by madro (221107) * on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:06PM (#11432447)
    My wife and I talk about this a lot, because we were both smart and geeky in high school (she was also an athlete, though, so she had a much easier time of it).

    Our primary advice to our kids will be: "It gets better."

    High school will not be, and shouldn't be, "the best years of your life." People will be petty, people won't understand you. You've got to take it, and still treat other people with respect. (Even if you're smarter, you're not necessarily better -- if you're excluded, don't retreat to elitism.)

    All that said, I'm not sure if "wasting time" is so bad. Young children should be encouraged to play freely, not subjected 100% to a rigorous schedule of pre-planned activities. Not sure how much that can or should carry over into teenage years.

    Graham is advocating exploration of that which interests you -- in my mind, I should've been spending more time practicing social skills ... since in high school I was most interested in my female classmates.
    • by dr.badass (25287) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:24PM (#11432663) Homepage
      High school will not be, and shouldn't be, "the best years of your life."

      I wish I had realized sooner that the people I used to get that "best years" line from were always bitter old hags that seemed dissatisfied with their life.
    • by Slycee (35025) <rick AT vroop DOT com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:38PM (#11432830) Homepage
      Our primary advice to our kids will be: "It gets better."

      That's not advice, that's just a statement.

      High school will not be, and shouldn't be, "the best years of your life." People will be petty, people won't understand you.

      You are well-meaning, and that's important, but don't presume to know that your kids' experiences will be at all similar to yours. Kids can really surprise you, and yours may have a wonderful high school experience.
    • by CamMac (140401) <PvtCam@@@yahoo...com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:48PM (#11432936)
      All that said, I'm not sure if "wasting time" is so bad. Young children should be encouraged to play freely, not subjected 100% to a rigorous schedule of pre-planned activities. Not sure how much that can or should carry over into teenage years.

      As an old fart (25) in my first year of college, this is a serious understatement. I have met some unbelievely smart people. Students who are in Calc2 or linear Alegbra thier freshman year. Students who already have 3 years in two diffrent languages and aren't stopping. Unfortunatly, because thier entire life has been dictated by a schedual of classes, teachers and parents, these unbelievely smart people are incapable of making descions. They have gotten so used to being taught that they find it impossible to do something they haven't learned or to learn through trial and error. Which makes them useless.

      You want a skill any employer wants? Do something that you have no clue how to do. Learn how to learn on the go. And stop asking your teacher for every little bit direction. Figure out how to figure out what your teacher wants without bugger them.

      --Cam
  • Not a bad speech. Certainly better than the platitudes I got.

    I'd argue two points:
    1) I think goals are just as important as options. It's like a dialogue, really - find a goal you want that also gives you options. Options are nice, but goals are a good way to focus and plot progress.

    2) Graduation speeches and such are all well and good. This is a nice one. But I'd argue our culture and our school system need to change, not just the speeches. Guidance counsellors have proven useless for me and my fri
  • by stephend (1735) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:12PM (#11432517) Homepage
    Arthur: You know, it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.

    Ford: Why, what did she tell you?

    Arthur: I don't know, I didn't listen.
  • About 90% of my graduating class would be lost after the first few paragraphs...
  • No, I don't regret that so-called "wasted" time. That sense of having all the time in the world and feeling no real pressure to do much more than simply enjoy being alive and young and foolish is what makes my fondly remember those years. The moment you realize your lifetime is a finite resource is the moment you're really an adult.
  • "Suppose you're a college freshman deciding whether to major in math or economics. Well, math will give you more options: you can go into almost any field from math. If you major in math it will be easy to get into grad school in economics, but if you major in economics it will be hard to get into grad school in math."

    This is absolutely, 100% incorrect. He is assuming that a graduate economics program would take a math student without any prior economics training (false). In addition, in order to be an e

    • by chialea (8009) <[chialea] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:42PM (#11432865) Homepage
      > In addition, in order to be an econ major, you often have to take advanced math courses (for me it was Calc 3 so that I could take Econometrics).

      If you think that's an advanced math course, I have a whole world of excitement for you. Seriously, there's wonderful stuff out there that you haven't even gotten near.

      I've observed that math is a really great thing to study if you want a lot of options. With a small amount of training, you can do almost anything, because you have the critical thinking skills and the rigorous framework to understand it. I'm not saying that a math major could apply to a PhD in economics and necessarily get in without any additional training, but that it wouldn't be hard to get that training. The PhD program might even be more than interested in accepting someone who they had to train. Going the other direction would be considerably more difficult.

      Another interesting example is in finance. Financial companies hire physicists and mathematicians like crazy when they can get their hands on them (I've heard they also like theoretical computer sciences). Basically, they want people with advanced mathematical training, who they can direct at the problems of finance. From what I've seen, hiring the other direction would be very, very difficult.

      Math is mind-broadening. There are so many different structures and models to apply to problems in other fields. I've seen quite a few people be very sucessful simply by understanding more math than `needed' by their field, and applying it.

      Lea
  • Paul G has a companion essay to this new one you've got to check out:

    Why Nerds Are Unpopular [paulgraham.com]

    His old essay explains why high school sucks. This new one explains what you can do about it.
  • Guy's smart... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jpellino (202698) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:29PM (#11432721)
    .. I wish I was as smart as him.

    Oh, wait...

    Kidding aside, this is powerful stuff. I prefer the sort of biographies James Burke does in ecxplaining history - you realize things aren't as cut and dried and holy as they seem.

    I constantly tell my students and teachers that if they don't pay attention, when they get to college they'll realize what a piece of cake HS was, in grad school they'll realize how much easier undergrad was, when they get a job they'll long for the days of grad school, etc... but if they push and act like a demanding comsumer, each experience can be the best prep they can get for the next.

    Demand. One of my former students who's now at CMU Robotics came back to present to current students - he showed off some of his work but then got to the heart of it - never let your teachers off the hook. If they give you a textbook answer, press them. If they say they don't know, the next thing out of their or your mouth should be 'let's find out how to find out'... Never take no for an answer from someone in charge of your future. The late Paul Brandwein used to talk about how ENcouraging students literally means increasing their courage, and DIScouraging students only serves to literally decrease their courage. You want courageous students (OK - hopefully just short of trying out for "Jackass" - but it's their skeletal system...) who truly believe they can make a difference.

    I sat thru so many college courses taight by people who were a chapter ahead of us and considered themselves the World's Foremost Authority... During the 80s I could tell my computer students that the mass market software they were seeing was being done by people who had 6 months lead time and a stack of books that you too could buy. I referred them to ads asking for people with 5 years experience on technologies that were 5 years old.

    The ones who saw thru the hype and had the courage and believed have done amazing things at all levels - from raising amazing kids to inventing things to changing a small corner of the world.
  • by digitalgimpus (468277) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:44PM (#11432899) Homepage
    1. Your teacher isn't supposed to tell you to stay after class, and lay naked on the desk while she spanks you with a yardstick as you recite the alphabet with an apple in your mouth.

    2. Don't drop the soap in the shower after Gym.

    3. If you don't get lucky by senior year: become a computer programmer.

    4. Sex with the lunch lady doesn't count for #3.
  • Regret Sucks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by G-Man (79561) on Friday January 21, 2005 @12:46PM (#11432913)
    The only thing I wish I'd really known back then is that regret is, arguably, the only useless emotion. All the others, including those with negative connotations like hate or jealousy, can sometimes be channeled to a good end.

    Not regret, it's useless. It only serves as a warning that it should be avoided in the future. It uses its' sidekick, embarrassment, to keep you from trying things you want to do, but are afraid to fail at. Embarrassment is overrated, it fades over time and can even become a source of humor, but regret stays forever.

    Though maybe the only way to learn it is the hard way, what I wish I'd known is that you will never regret failing at something, you will only regret not having tried in the first place.

  • by caudron (466327) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:16PM (#11433223) Homepage
    Still doing that today, albeit with a far better income and a great family.

    What would I want the teenage Me to know? That it'll all be just fine.

    What else need be said?
  • by MicroBerto (91055) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:19PM (#11433258)
    I'm not done reading this, but here's my belief:

    I have TONS of things I wish I had done differently. But if someone (even myself) went back in a time machine and talked to me, I would have told you to screw off. After all, I was 18 years old, full of testosterone, and the smartest, hottest thing in the world. I wouldn't have listened, and even if I would have, it wouldn't have been the same.

    I like what happened later. I learned from my mistakes. I learned a LOT. Freshman year of college was a huge learning experience for me, and even though I had my fair share of bumps in the road, had someone just handed me the book on how I like to be me, it wouldn't have developed me fully.

    So learn from your own experiences - but learn quickly and don't waste too much time getting there. I could rant on and on about what you should and shouldn't do in college (actually there aren't many things you SHOULDN'T do :) -- but you will have to figure it out yourself for the best possible experience.

  • by SoCalEd (842421) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:35PM (#11433420)

    Time passes far too quickly, responsibilities appear all too unexpectedly.

    I *prize* the time I "wasted" in my late teens/early twenties. I travelled, I developed life-long hobbies. I tinkered with technology and developed new skill sets. I learned a lot about what true friendship was (and wasn't).

    I may have "buckled down" a bit later than many, but when I did I cinched that buckle tighter than I would have if I hadn't had a chance to mature at my own pace.

    Few people grow old and regret the fun they had as a kid.

  • by afstanton (822402) on Friday January 21, 2005 @01:51PM (#11433585) Homepage
    Get laid as much as possible, with as many different people as possible. It doesn't matter in the long run, and you'll have some great stuff to remember.
  • by ulatekh (775985) on Friday January 21, 2005 @02:34PM (#11434076) Homepage Journal

    My mom tells me I was reading by the time I was 1 1/2. I would sit in a big cardboard box filled with books, and spend the day reading. I remember being 3 years old, talking to a neighbor of ours who was a nurse, and having long, involved, scientific discussions about the human body. Life seemed like a great big toy that just kept growing the more you worked to uncover it.

    Then I entered kindergarten.

    Holy CRAP, was I ever unprepared for that! Instantly, I found myself on the receiving end of insults and other cruelties, coming from all angles. It had never occurred to me that something like that would happen. I had no idea how to deal with it. Needless to say, I ended up spending far more time with books (and later, my chemistry set & then my computer) than with the kids my age. I was interested in learning about the world, and the vast majority of them only seemed to care about bullying other people, consuming commercial entertainment products, and breaking rules. Even the other "nerds" acted this way and treated me horribly. I did everything I could think of to solve the problem, which mostly consisted of trying to be more like them, and to share their interests. That never worked, not even once: it's like they saw me coming from a mile away and knew I wasn't one of them and never would be.

    Elementary school, middle school, and high school were the same -- major social ostracism. (College was a little better, in that there were more people like me, but there was still a massive contingent of the thuggish types.) I could not for the life of me figure out why so many people chose to act this way. How could they attach so much importance to appearance and social status? How could anyone possibly care so much about meaningless things, especially when there was a huge and interesting world out there to be discovered?

    The problem persisted once I was out of college and in the workforce, but there was a new wrinkle. The same thuggish types were now working alongside me, ostensibly with the same qualifications I had, but their focus wasn't on doing their job competently or striving to be better...it was on faking their way through their job, goofing off, and stealing from the company. Worst of all, if they found someone like me who, just by existing, proved that they were bad people, they would tend to employ every low-life tactic imaginable to ruin my life. Four times, it rose to the level of getting me fired. Only once, in my early 30s, did I actually succeed against the thuggish types -- nearly all the people I butted heads with decided to leave the company, and I ended up as project lead! True, the 2 or 3 of us left had to do all the work by ourselves, but at least it got done competently. Unfortunately, the executives at that company were as gullible as the day was long, and fell for every con artist that came down the pike, and even though I and my small team improved our product to the point of creaming our competitors, the business end of things collapsed and took us with it.

    Then my industry was hit by the dot-com crash and the offshoring trend...getting fired four times didn't help me either. As of this writing, I've been unemployed for 2 years, I live in the spare room of my mom's house, and earn pittances anywhere I can -- fixing people's computers, "handyman" stuff, lots and lots of painting, and other grinding sorts of work. And that, for me, has been the final blow. Over the years, I've had to give up on popularity, on friendship, on happiness, and on hope, but at least I had my employability. Now that's gone. I worked my ass off and kept my nose clean, and have less to show for it that someone that spent their life partying. All I have left are my brains and integrity, and frankly, they don't appear to have any value in this world.

    I've been reading a lot lately, catching up on the books that I bought but never read. Finally, I got around to reading Ayn Rand. I started by seeing the movie version of The Fountainhead, then I read Atlas

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

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