3. Never have kids.
It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. — Tony Robbins
Most people are fascinated with time travel because it is that all-amazing opportunity to go back to your younger self and correct all the mistakes you might have made in the past.
And while everyone loves to think about a possible Back to the Future scenario, this type of thinking can sometimes lead people to feel a bit depressed at all of the mistakes they may have made in life.
Instead, I prefer to look at this a different way and think about all the positive decisions I’ve made and how, by doing so, I put myself in a much better place later in life.
For that reason, instead of thinking about what I did wrong, perhaps it would be just as beneficial to tell people what I did right as a method of advice.
Therefore, here are the top three things that I would say I unequivocally got right in life and would suggest others consider them as well if possible.
Getting my Master’s Degree (MBA)
When I make my monthly payment to Laurel Road loan for my graduate degree, I often think about how nice it would be to not have to make that payment each month.
However, regardless of how nice that thought is, I know that money going out each month was money very well spent.
While my undergraduate degree gave me a core foundation of knowledge that allowed me to feel confident in my ability to learn and apply these learnings to my understanding of the world at large, getting my MBA helped me level-up my thinking to understand that one needs to have a growth mindset to truly continue to progress in a world that is ever-changing.
A lot had changed in the world from when I graduated with my undergraduate degree to the time I started classes to get my graduate degree, as ten years had passed.
When I first stepped into the classroom and began to do the mental work of getting my mind back in shape to digest the information and think holistically again in terms of comprehension and application, I began to realize how rusty my thinking had become over time.
For me, this was the catalyst that sparked the realization the pursuit of knowledge and continual improvement was truly an inspiring endeavor and that I would make this a focus of my life henceforth.
The other added benefit was the additional confidence I gained from being able to continue my educational pursuits at a more academically regarded university than my undergrad university.
This added confidence helped me realize my intellectual capacity was on par with just about anyone else and, therefore, helped propel me to begin to expect much more of myself in terms of my capabilities and what I could accomplish.
While there’s nothing wrong with just having an undergrad degree, the reality is that, from a competitive standpoint, the value of one has decreased over time with the proliferation of for-profit universities, as well as credential inflation.
A bachelor’s degree is almost like a high school diploma was 30 years ago, so to separate oneself from the masses, going this extra mile and conquering another mountain will help propel one’s career dramatically in the long run.
Not getting married before I was 30
While I rarely deal in absolutes, as I feel everyone has to follow their own path, this is one piece of advice that I truly think EVERYONE should follow.
In my opinion, getting married when one is young (before 30) is equivalent to choosing a major when you’re in middle school and then dedicating the rest of your life to it.
How insane is that?
You just don’t know enough about ANYTHING to truly KNOW if this is what is best for you and who you really are.
The probability of someone getting married before 30 (74% for women and 64% for men) is amazing to me when one thinks about all the changes that people experience from 18–30.
These are some of our most formative years from a maturity and growth standpoint. Many times, this is the era in which we are truly finding out who we are, what we like, and what we want to do in the world.
To make the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone else seems silly when the chances are very good that you wouldn’t even want to spend the rest of your life with the current version of your own self as you mature and age.
Typically by 30, many of us have experienced enough things that we have matured to a position in which we know who we are, what we want in life, and have core values that will ground us for the rest of our foreseeable future.
When one decides to get married at such a young age and haven’t yet experienced enough variety of different things (e.g., dating different people) to really know the person they are married IS the absolute best person for them, there is a chance of regret and second-guessing creeping in later down the road.
To get married before that seems to invite the chances of the age-old reason of “we grew apart” to spill from your mouth years later. The reality is that you really just “grew up” and became two different people from who you were when you got married.
I would say the best way to prevent this is to wait until you really are a fully mature adult (usually by 30…later for some people) before trying to make such a monumental decision.
Not having kids at all
If the marriage thing was a bit controversial, I’m sure this one is going to dwarf that one from people’s personal feelings about this.
I’ve made a fair amount of decisions about my life when I was younger that have bode well for me in the long run, e.g., having a hyper focus on self-education, making fitness a core value of mine, not being afraid to be a novice at something, but this is the one that I think has provided the most dividends for me long term.
I know there are going to be those who disagree, but in my personal opinion, kids can be linked to the reason for at least HALF of people’s “problems” in life.
If you really think about it, the complications that come with having kids are so numerous and expansive, it is almost impossible to deny.
I could go through all the different ways that one’s life is inextricably complicated when one brings a kid into the world, but I think a better way to simplify the effect that kids will have on one’s life is share this overarching statement of what kid’s ultimately do to someone once they are created:
They greatly limit your options.
Want to go back to school and get your master’s so you can level up and have access to more options?
Not only can you probably not afford it because of all of the various expenses that come with having a child, but you probably also don’t have the time to do so.
Thinking about taking that job overseas that will allow you to live in a new part of the world and work for your dream company?
Nope. You can’t do it because that would mean taking your kids out of high school and having them leave all of their friends behind, so you have to wait at least three more years until they graduate. You think that opportunity is still going to be there?
Realize you’re in a dead-end marriage in which you have “grown apart” and no longer are the right people for each other?
As most people do, you’ll second guess yourself over and over and try to stay together “for the kids” while sacrificing your happiness (and life) over time.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to your limitations.
From a practical monetary perspective, your options for what you can invest in will be greatly restricted as well because of your kid’s 529 plan (just because a college undergraduate degree isn’t as valuable doesn’t mean it’s getting any cheaper).
Therefore, you’re going to have to pass on that virtual real estate idea, NFT project, or that new startup that you heard was promising.
And once your kid graduates, that definitely doesn’t mean that the financial burden is over, as 32% of young adults are still living with their parents today.
Overall, when you have a kid, you are put in a box in which you have very little room to make mistakes or err because of the great deal of responsibility associated with them.
If you’re perfect, then this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re like most people, having a little room to f*ck up is very much needed in this somewhat complicated thing called life.
And while I get that many people think having kids is the greatest thing ever because it teaches you a love that is “hard” to explain, my argument has always been the benefits of NOT having kids is pretty easy for me to explain, so I’m going to go with that instead.