For most of us, our formative years are an unbroken, unconscious succession of experiences – until they aren’t.
At some point, we become self-aware and realize that we are in our FORMATIVE YEARS (good God!), and that the way we spend this time is *actually* shaping our futures. We curse ourselves for not listening to everyone who told us this was the case.
For some of us, this realization comes sooner (see: the kid who has started a business at 14, programmed a robot, or invented a nuclear reactor, etc). For the rest of us, this realization probably comes in our late teens or early twenties. By then, we each only have about a decade left of what you might call defining or formative years. We may have plenty of time left in our lives, but we’ll never have the same energy, flexibility, and potential time advantage we have now.
This is when the budgeting needs to kick in.
Given that we might only have a few years left of really “formative” experiences (at 24, I probably have about 5 more), what will we do? Now that we are aware of being in our formative years, we can choose that which is forming us – and that into which we want to be formed. With that in mind, what experiences would it be worth having now?
Live in Paris? Travel in central America? Work on an oil rig? Write a book? Fight in the French Foreign Legion? Join an underground drag racing club?
If we start to consider the options and economize on the years we have left, we may find the choices to be hard. But certain choices – ditching short-term pleasures or distractions like video games – become a lot easier in comparison. Sitting around daydreaming or agonizing over hypothetical options isn’t the answer either. Any conscious choice toward a conscious end – in terms of character, skills, or future prospects – is better than submerging back into the unconsciousness of youth.
P.S. If you enjoy my work, please consider helping out with the medical response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can help get masks and other protective gear to medical workers by giving to YC startup Flexport’s Frontline Responders Fund (recommended by Paul Graham, Tim Ferriss, and others).