jump to navigation

Advice to a 15 something year old July 23, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, reminisces-1990s.

….and just about everyone else.

Somewhere sometime about 10 or so years ago I gave myself a some kind of a suggestion ! As you see I remember nothing else about the suggestion ( “metadata” – data about data ) other than the content of it (which of course arguably matters most )

The suggestion belongs to the class of those that are extremely simple but rather hard to follow. It went along similar lines –

“Give yourself one year and one topic. And for the rest of the year, read on that topic, watch documentaries on that, visit museums if and when applicable, try to meet relevant people who know stuff, listen to people talk about it, talk about it, encourage other people to take it up. And maybe you will become an expert on it. Or maybe you won’t. But do it as long as it does not disrupt your day job/day school and other commitments.”

When I say spend a year reading about it, its not like you give everything else up. And then it need not be something academic alone, it maybe something more hands on – carpentry, running, restaurants in Bangalore are good examples – essentially something that is vast and exciting enough to hold you for an year. ( Don’t ask me how do I know its interesting enough to take it up unless I take it up ? πŸ™‚ )

Now imagine I had blogged about it 10 years ago and an idealistic 15 year old somewhere picked it up and religiously followed it. Imagine what kind of polymath she/he would be by the time she/he was 25 ? or 30 ? What would her/his breadth and depth of knowledge/skills/experiences be ?

I dig into my quote collection to find this quote attributed to Mark Twain –

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Of course, I will not read too much into the above quote – there is an inherent bias in the way we judge results of events that happened versus results of alternate scenarios. But that will not stop me from giving this advice to every 15 year old.

P.S : Then again, nothing sacred about 15, its never too late (only some things harder) to consider the suggestion. In fact, the closest I have come to following my own advice has been the past year. Surely, no points for guessing the topic though. πŸ™‚



1. ‘ve g@t j@b « Epistles - July 23, 2007

[…] : School buddy Supreeth has a blog, where he gets metaphorical. ( Also appears to have taken up my advice to the 15 year old ( though of course he is 25 […]

2. Randomizer - July 24, 2007

Thats great advice, Sharath. I tried to follow that during my semester breaks back in MIT .. every vacation, learn something new. I followed it pretty religiously and I’m really glad I did. However, it all depends on what you choose… It has to be fun, or else it will never work !

3. Sharath Rao - July 24, 2007

cool, maybe you want to write about what kinda stuff you did, what worked, what didn’t etc.

4. Randomizer - July 24, 2007

Well, I was attracted to music related activities, so in my first vacation i went for keyboards classes, next one guitar classes, next one drums, next one ballroom dancing πŸ˜› . Now I can’t really say that these ‘worked’, because I’ve forgotten how to read music notes, forgotten all dance steps, and all that … but hey, at least i tried.

What doesn’t work – Computer/Academic classes of any kind! Tried .Net classes once, and it was torture… also tried Basic classes back in 7th std… hated that as well. Made a note to never go for academic classes of any kind.

5. Sharath Rao - July 24, 2007

I agree with this academic classes won’t work thing – I think anything that is more freelance in nature ( someone writing up open-source code ) is more likely to work…

In fact, I would even add that it should something that is orthogonal to your primary area of study/work & it should probably be unpaid ( a post on this one of these days ).

6. Randomizer - July 24, 2007

Actually, I think a ‘year’ is just too long… the same reason ‘New years resolutions’ never go beyond February πŸ˜‰ … Short term plans always seem to have better results…

7. Supreeth Kini - July 25, 2007

Mark Twain makes a logically contrary statement. For everything that we do, there is a complementary thing that we do not do. We do ‘X’ in lieu of ‘Y’, so repenting for not having done ‘Y’ is same as repenting for doing ‘X’.
As for me, I would say its all about Trade-offs and opportunity costs πŸ˜‰

8. Sharath Rao - July 25, 2007

yeah rite…this is not undermining the importance of inherent tradeoff in decisions …just that the utility/benefit of doing something is not known now – costs mite look exaggerated since we don’t know what the benefits will be….

and yes Mark Twain is right but the assessment that one should have spent his time doing X rather than Y is just to say that doing X somehow would have been more useful than having done Y – not that doing Y itself was of zero utility. πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: