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Hard-Core Career Advice For A 13-Year-Old

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I’m ashamed because I felt the need to brag to my 13-year-old. But she asked for it. My daughter Mollie had a homework assignment for her guidance class that had her ask me what I do for a living. This put me in a weird position. I do a lot of things. I didn’t know how to tell her.

But it also shows that school is too focused on “education leads to a job.” This is not true anymore.

The reality is the average person has 14 different careers in their lives and the average multi-millionaire has seven different sources of income. So anything that is “one-job focused” will create a generation of kids that will learn the hard way that life doesn’t work like that.

The world changes fast. The jobs I do now didn’t exist when I was 13. And the jobs she will do don’t exist now. So learning how to learn is more important than memorizing facts.

Here’s how the assignment went:

What is the name of your occupation? What are the educational requirements to work in your career?

I don’t have a single occupation. And you can drop out of school right now and do what I do. In fact, Mollie, I hope you drop out of school right now. Please?

I’m a firm believer that people feel more well-being in their life when they are around people they love, they are good at what they do, and they have some autonomy (freedom) in how they make decisions.

You have to give yourself permission to totally humiliate yourself repeatedly.

You get more freedom in your life by doing many different things. Some of which make money, some don’t, but all increase your competence, relationships and freedom: the three musketeers of well-being.

So I am a writer (I write books and articles). I’m a podcaster (I’ve had 10 million downloads of my podcast). I speak occasionally. And I advise or invest in over 30 different companies.

And I screw up a lot. If you do a lot of things, you screw up a lot of things. You have to give yourself permission to totally humiliate yourself repeatedly. If you can do that, then happiness results.

With companies I advise I try to stick to one criteria: can this company help over a billion people [I think I exaggerated here. Pathetically bragging to a 13-year-old. Maybe a million people is more accurate. Or, heck, a hundred people.]

And remember, there are zero formal education requirements for what I do.

What do you like in your work? What do you dislike?

I am really happy with the friends I’ve made in the past five years. Also, I learn a lot. Probably a day has not gone by where I haven’t learned a huge amount.

The thing I dislike is that sometimes I don’t say “no” enough (even though I wrote the book “The Power of No.”) Here is the secret: If something is not a “hell yes!” then you should say “no.”

If something is not a “hell yes!” then you should say “no.”

But even though this is a good technique, it is sometimes hard to follow and you end up saying “yes” because you want people to like you and you end up having less time to do the things that make you creative and give you life and energy.

I don’t know how to solve that. Practice.

How is your day typically spent? What are your work hours?

I have no work hours. Neither will you. You have school hours now but those are fake work hours.


Daily routine is very important. We are at different levels of energy and productivity throughout the day. For instance, at an extreme example, late at night we tend to be tired (that is why we sleep). So if you try to do important work at night, it might not come out good.

We are at our peak productivity in our brain from two to four hours after we are awake.

Daily routine is very important. We are at different levels of energy and productivity throughout the day.

So if you wake up at 5 a.m., from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. your brain is about 100 times more active than it is at night. So I wake up at 5 a.m. I read for two hours. Then I write for two hours because this is the activity that is most important to me.

Then I walk or exercise and then start to do things that require less and less brain power. Like advising businesses (I will do that first) and then do things like running errands or things that don’t require as much energy.

Our brain is only 2 percent of our body mass but burns 25 percent of our calories every day. So how you make use of this magnificent tool that you have is very important for how well your day turns out.

How did you chose your occupation?

I don’t have an occupation.

But then I got desperate and scared. I started building businesses when I was in my 20s because I needed to make some money.

When your sister was born it was like this new U.S. citizen moved into my house and she was one foot tall, didn’t speak English, couldn’t walk, shat all over the floor, and cried all the time, and I had to take care of her. So I felt I needed to make money to do that.

Sometimes I was good at it and sometimes I was incredibly stressed out and bad at it. Sometimes I wanted to run away. But I’m glad I didn’t. Because now both that little one-foot-tall person and you are now in my life.

I’ve built over 20 businesses and maybe 17 of them have failed and three have done well. But I’ve also loved writing and creating since I was a little kid. I’ve written every single day for almost the past 25 years.

Because I know a lot of people and write about a lot of people, I’ve also started doing a “radio show” (podcast) where I interview people. I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs (Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington), entertainers (Coolio, Amanda Palmer), many authors, many athletes, and all people who have tried to make their lives better.

I interview them because I want to learn from them and share their stories with my listeners. I try to be a good interviewer but it’s hard. I try to practice.

For every 10 people who like you, at least one or two people hate you and they are the ones who reach out and contact you. So the better you do, the more you hear from people who hate you. So you have to give yourself permission to do things that a lot of people hate.

And I like helping businesses because often we are solving problems very important to many people.

When you have impact on people, money is a byproduct.

I chose to do these things because I love them and I also love the impact they have on people. It was very hard for me to figure out all the things I want to do and it often changes. When you have impact on people, money is a byproduct. You get better and better at how to make that byproduct when you mine for value.

Every six months I end up doing different things. I have no idea what I will be doing for a living six months from now. Nobody does. Nothing in life is predictable. You can say, “I will do X” but then in a year you will end up doing Y and that’s fine.

Being unpredictable is more normal than being predictable. Humans were made to be nomads, to be in different environments, to roam the world, and we evolved to adapt quickly to new experiences.

So what new experiences we all adapt to six months from now is unknown. But I hope and think I will still love what I do and still help people and still be creative in everything I do.

What advice would you suggest to young people regarding career choices?

Whenever you are curious, ask questions.

If you feel a question is stupid then definitely ask that question. If you are shy about asking a question, then ask two questions.

Your mom has a good trick for this. Whenever she is at a conference and it’s question time, she raises her hand fast before she even knows what question she wants to ask. Then she has to figure out a question to ask.

Otherwise you stay in a tight line with everyone else. You have to step out of the line to see how the entire formation works.

Curiosity will fuel this giant engine we call our brain. It will help you learn things that nobody else knows. It will help you figure out what you want to do and be and what problems you want to solve faster than all the people who are too afraid to ask questions.

The next thing is: always be healthy. You can’t be creative if you are sick. Every seven years your body is made up of 100 percent new cells and the old cells die.

Where do the cells come from? Mostly from the food you eat. Eat junk and you are junk. Eat well and you are well.

Every day is the only day we have to work with.

Also remember this saying: “You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” If you surround yourself with good, creative, smart people then you will be a good, creative, smart person. These are like your “emotional cells.” They change 100 percent every six months.

Every day remember to be creative, even a little bit. Write, or read, or draw, or write down 10 ideas. This builds your “creative cells.” Note that my biology skills are off the chain.

Finally, remember that every day is the only day we have to work with. Regrets are already dead in the past. And worries about the future are unpredictable. So be grateful for the many blessings you have right now. You have a blessed life with an entire world that is your drawing board. Paint a beautiful picture on it.

Featured Image: Pete Pahham/Shutterstock