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[flagged] What I would do if I was 18 now (levels.io)
45 points by yeasayer on Sept 23, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

I like how some of the comments here completely ignore who Pieter Levels is. "Some blogger", LOL. I suggest you check out what he's created before simply poo-poing his advice.

Regarding said advice, here's my take; his post is about exactly what the title said - what HE would do if HE was 18 right now.

From my reading of him, he's an extremely independent, entrepreneurial-type who would not be interested in being employed by others(hence him suggesting you skip college). You need a fancy degree to get fancy corporate jobs, not to start lifestyle businesses.

Regarding learning how to code as soon as possible - I think that's good advice for most people who want to make things. Sure, you won't get that job at FB or Dropbox, but I have a feeling Pieter knows himself well enough to not even consider those as options.

Building an income. Yes, simply "producing" a business making $5K pm is, shall we say... optimistic. But it's still good advice for independent-minded people. It's a target to reach for. A prompt to at least attempt that goal. It's better advice than "get an unpaid intern position for a year."

Move and travel. That's easier for young people from rich countries, which, well, would apply to an 18 year old Pieter too. If I had been young and unattached with a currency advantage like that, yeah, I'd be out traveling too! Life experiences can teach you a lot about yourself.

Save and invest. Solid advice. You may disagree with his assumptions and math, but how many 18-year-olds even think of saving and investing money, never mind the amounts he suggests?

Follow your passions. Yeah, that's a bit pie-in-the-sky for me too, but to his credit, he does say that that would follow after you've accomplished his earlier advice(Build a business with a lot of income, ect.)

I enjoyed his post. And I suspect you'd enjoy it more too if you took the time to know more about the man who wrote it.



There are factors to consider for this kind of high school logic(logic 101?) implication. Do you want to talk about statistic? Or do you want to talk about other factors, like consequence of being privilege? Do you want me to change it to "most of white privilege"?

Idk, your naive questions that intent to force me answering black-white, true/false kind of questions don't make any sense to me.

People forget how much more free time and freedom there is at college. Yes, there are deadlines and schedules but you’re given opportunities that the usual 40 hr/wk job won’t afford. You could take student loans out to buy yourself dumb things, for sure, but you can also take student loans out for really good things, too. The rest of your life that won’t so easily be the case. I would love to have the time flexibility I had at college now that I’m “in the industry”.

School is a different kind of challenge from work. One provides clearly delineated tasks, coworkers and employers who are apt to help you complete said tasks in a timely manner, and pay for doing said work.

School, comparatively is $2k to $6k a quarter (depending on which public univeristy you go to in Seattle), and while some classes have vague goals, most lump everything into a handful of tests or a two dozen page paper, with 80 % of your grade riding on that. Study groups at community colleges, 2nd tier universities (say UW's satellite campuses), and even at major colleges are few and far between, with many professors discouraging them from forming.

I've proactively contacted every professor prior to taking their course since I re-entered college, and while it has definitely helped me screen some truly awful professors, what my parents describe as their college experience is nothing like what I or my friends has gone through.

If I didn't need a damn receipt to get a decent job in Seattle, I wouldn't have gone back to school. Even with a half decent Github, it seems a CompSci degree is mandatory unless your okay with throwing $40k+ in potential yearly earnings out the window for the next decade.

As a student I've always put my projects before school | uni, because from what I've read and been told experience and the `soft skills` are more important than a degree.

And shouldn't the experience gathered from side projects, eg., documented (or simply hosted) on github account more than a degree?

Seems almost entirely to be a matter of networking and having a degree of some sort to get into decently high paying jobs here in Seattle. Otherwise you end up at a small or mid-sized company, significantly underpaid and wasting your days with their shenanigans.

Who are all these people who "didn't learn anything" from university? What were they spending their time doing? I learned a ton about a wide variety of fields from experts in those fields; it was extremely valuable. Did this guy just goof off the whole time?

Ya, and when they say they never ask candidates about their education... OK, so you've never needed to hire a statistician, or a mathematician, or a lawyer, or a materials scientist... There aren't a ton of people walking around who picked that stuff up on YouTube.

A lot of people pay programmers a lot of money to brute force problems someone with a masters degree could solve in a week, and give you a correct O(n) algorithm instead of the coder's buggy O(n^3) solution.

I mean yeah, if you spend 5 years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars, you will learn more than in a one coding bootcamp. Like duh doi, no argument here(even though there's plenty self taught programmers who are better than the most college students).

People who say "don't go to the university" are mostly talking about the opportunity cost. Is university the best way you could spend 5 years of your young life and $30-120k? Fuck no.

If you are curious and driven - spend your money on books and video courses, and spend your time learning things that interest you. Create stuff, build portfolio, get a job or launch businesses.

You will get SO much more out of it than out of college.

More importantly - learn to think and to learn by yourself. 95% of learning will be done after the college anyways, so might as well figure out how to do this on your own, not by following teacher's instructions, preparing for quizzes, and following the inane and obviously horribly inefficient system.

Older student chiming in - it's very frequent that my friends who did graduate from university discount what they learned there. I think it's hard for people to understand that University taught them lots of things besides coursework, like how to deliver software on timelines, or how to socialize, they also discount the importance of patterns I.e. they don't remember their physics courses but they do have some ideas about how physics roughly works.

You can still goof off and get a lot from it if by goof off you mean partying, going to sports events, etc. I went to a large public school, learned a lot, met lifelong friends (some of whom have gotten me jobs), worked part-time throughout school, and also had a damn good time. This was 2001-2005 so I'm sure things have changed. Costs surely have.

He got an MBA at a well-known European university... hardly gooding off

> Happiness comes from intangibles, like experiences, relationships, activities, not stuff.

Experiences don't make you happy. It's one of the mistakes millennials make. Vacations are exactly the same as buying shit - you're just buying more shit, except your buying a pre-packaged consumer-friendly vacation. Taking a vacation to south of France isn't going to make you happy. You'll be just as angsty there as you are in your current place - don't need the south of France or Machu Picchu to tell you your life is empty.

My advice: Create.

That's happiness right there.

If you want experiences that result in happiness, create some new experience. You know you're doing it right if you actually make the news - when someone ELSE gives a shit about your experience enough to report about it.

The actual process of creating something new is what makes you happy.

> except your buying a pre-packaged consumer-friendly vacation

I know very very few people under 40 who travel like this. The common way seems to generally be grab an Airbnb and a cheap flight and figure the rest out.

I don’t know why you are being downvoted but your note resonates with me. This I say not based on intuition but experience. Not to say experiences do not matter, but they provide more joy for someone who has found satisfaction from creativity. Enjoyable experiences are the icing on the cake of a meaningful life.

I don't think there's much mileage is blanket statements of what "makes people happy". I've traveled and thoroughly enjoyed it and it made me happy, and I know people who I think honestly derive happiness from staying with the latest fashions, etc. To each their own.

The article already makes a blanket assertion that happiness doesn't derive from stuff, which isn't true for a lot of people. Plenty of people derive their happiness from material things.

> don't need the south of France or Machu Picchu to tell you your life is empty

This. It really clicks with what I have experienced so far. Sometimes, after done some travel activities, back to a hotel or hostel, sit in front of that place and think "what the fuck am I doing here". Nothingness is really real sometimes.

Create or make, I believe, is valuable this day where there are tons of consumers and less creators. A lot of consumer experts when those new version of mass projects come out. So, I agreed that creating something new, useful, helping non-privilege people to have better life, are probably the ways that make us happy.

As others said, young folks do the cheap thing, stay in hostels, or the sorta cheap, stay in AirBnBs vs the pre-packaged thing.

Also, those intangibles are "creating some new experience" - you're not buying a consumer item, you're paying for experiences.

Making things is a whole different thing, even though it can also contribute to some well-being in your life.

It's also interesting that you say that the new experience becomes validating if you "make the news" - so, instead of enjoying the process of creating, you're supposed to focus on the possible end rewards?

That's somewhat antithetical to getting joy out of a lot of endeavors.

> As others said, young folks do the cheap thing, stay in hostels, or the sorta cheap, stay in AirBnBs vs the pre-packaged thing.

Hostels and AirBnB are just cheaper, shittier versions of pre-packaged vacations, which is even worse.

Pro-tip: Don't travel anywhere without being invited there.

If you were invited there, you likely wouldn't need to be staying at a hotel or AirBnB.

Kinda-related side-note: When I was about 18 or so, someone told me never to go to concerts or clubbing without being a VIP. Same thing.

Don't be the rando-stranger-in-the-crowd-reduced-to-nothing. Always be the VIP. You'll be a lot happier that way.

You do you.

> If you save that $3k/m over 20 years and put it into Vanguard ETFs (at 7% over 20 years), you’ll be 38 and have $1.5 million in the bank! Save $6k/m, and you’ll have $3 million at 38. Yes, I said that correctly. Save $1k/m and you’ll have $500k by 38.

Simply, no. No. That's not how it work. You can't find index returning 7% avg on 20 year interval. Plus that gains are taxable in many contries, sometimes heavily.

A Roth IRA (a post-tax retirement account) in the United States will permit untaxed capital gains. The maximum yearly contribution is $18,000.

The S&P 500 returns 7% average on most 20-year intervals. [1]

1. https://dqydj.com/sp-500-return-calculator/ ; I tried to find a 20-year interval less than 7%, I could only find a few terminating in the last ten years. They were above 6.5%.

(not that I find most of what is in this essay plausible; that one quoted excerpt is fine)

$18k is the maximum yearly contribution to a 401(k) - it can be either a Roth or a traditional account. The money in your Roth 401(k) is less accessible than that in a Roth IRA until you convert the 401(k) into an IRA. You have to be lucky enough to have an employer whose 401(k) plan includes an S&P 500 fund with a decent management expense ratio. You also need to be lucky enough to have one which allows you to contribute to Roth accounts.

Roth accounts only make sense when you expect your effective income tax rate in retirement to be higher than your current marginal tax rate. In the current US system, your marginal rate at $35k is 15%. A Roth account would make sense for such an earner who expects to earn at least $45k or so a year in retirement. However, once your marginal rate is 25%, you have to be well into the six figures (around $230-240k) before your effective rate hits 25%. For almost anyone in the 25% bracket in the US, the traditional 401k/IRA makes more sense. If you're actually expecting six figure retirement income, you should be trying to shift as much of that into long term capital gains as possible. This also all assumes a single earner - double the income thresholds if you're a married couple.

According to the IRS the maximim contribution to a Roth IRA is far less: $5,500.


Yep, though once you reach a certain age it goes up to $6,000/year.

The $18,000 number sounds familiar. I think that's the maximum annual contributon to a 401(k) but don't quote me on that.

People say you should do reckless things when you are still young but strangely enough they also encourage to save money during that age, (almost 20 years?), to spend when you are quite old there.

Saving isn't wrong, but man, can average people save $3k/month? In developing countries, $3k is probably more than your entire salary.

I'd say that's simply NO NO NO NO NO NO way.

Alright, down vote me more dudes. You should give reasons for down voting. I'd guess it's just because of the "NO NO NO NO NO NO". And that's BS.

It's easy everyone, just be successful.

Don't waste your life on some shit. Learn! Learn! Learn! Develop skills! Learn programming! Work with smart people and learn from them! Measure your progress in KPI! Learn how to be useful for other people and solve their problems! Be persistent and not give up easy!

> This will probably learn you more about objectification and empathy.

'probably *teach you'.

Actually the lesson from going to strip-clubs is don't be a chump. In most cases the one on the losing side of the transaction is the dude handing over cash in exchange for literally nothing. Like paying to watch somebody eat a burger.

> Age is a social construct.


Agree with the learn to dance, write, code, love and socialize bit. Your 20's should be an exercise in sucking less each day. Shit, your whole life should be this.

Demonstrates the easiest way to success. Just tell others how to be successful - live a crazy life that seems awesome and blog/write about it! Pretend you know something they don't so they stay hooked on your "personal brand". Voila!

Hold on. That’s not how I make money.

I make my money bootstrapping companies like a remote job board called Remote OK (~$10,000/m) and Nomad List, a social network (~$20,000/m) and Hoodmaps ($0 still) that lets you find neighborhoods to stay. The majority of users come from my companies/apps (not me!) being covered on Reddit, HN, Product Hunt, and mainstream press, not my blog.

I have a book about bootstrapping startups that’s completely unrelated to digital nomads that makes $1,500/m in pre-orders, so that’s 5% of my revenue. Hardly a blip in terms of overall revenue and not the goal of my blog (I’ve had this blog for 7 years).

I write about anything from building code projects like https://levels.io/hoodmaps to dealing with my anxiety http://levels.io/anxiety to logging my travels https://levels.io/los-angeles.

In this case, I received a message of someone on Twitter who asked me what would I do if I was 18 now, that’s why I wrote it. It’s my subjective perspective.

So sorry, I did not take the time to learn more about you before posting. I can't delete/edit my post now or I would.

No problem, thanks!

I've always wanted to write a "how to get rich" book in which I simply describe how to write a "how to get rich" book. If done right it might actually work, and if it did you really couldn't argue with the method.

When I was looking to get rich quick back in the eighties, I saw several methods that focused on teaching you how to get rich quick by selling people information via classified ads. And, of course, you would find these products by reading the classified ads.

Not really any different than today's video courses on how to get rich by making instructional videos.

In both cases, for some people, it does indeed work :)

Did it work for you, is the question :p

Sadly, no. It's not that the ideas were invalid, I learned that I'm simply lazy and unmotivated.

There's a version of that in the travel blogger / digital nomad market where they shill their e-books about how to be a successful travel blogger / digital nomad. I assume Step 1 is to write an e-book.

The problem with your post is that he is probably the last person that would fit this description.

>create a business that makes 5k usd per month

Ok, cool. How many people who legitimately set out to do that, actually accomplish that?

>save 3k per month and invest it in ETFs, and you will have 1.5m by age 38

Ok, so if i'm making 5k USD per month, 1k goes to tax, and 1k as you say goes to living, now I'm just barely at 3k. 20 years ago, the market was at a relative nadir. Today it is at an apex, so you will need to time it correctly to achieve 7% yearly gains (!), of which 2% will be lost to inflation.

Given that 0.7% of the world are millionaires, and just 4-5% of the USA are millionaires, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is not so easy to just set up this business and invest everything for 20 years, willy nilly, hey ho presto I'm a millionaire.

Thesd numbers are further compounded by the fact that most money in this country is "old money", which means that those who are rich currently inherited their wealth rather than built a business that generated this wealth for them.

So forgive me if I am a bit skeptical, but I really don't like to see business advice overly simplified so that people will risk their time effort and money to succeed, when failure rates are actually extremely high.

Day trading has a 95% chance of failure. A business has 90%.

If you don't have a product, a team, a funding runway, and aloof competition... then you are going to lose all of your money as an 18 year old startup founder.

I didn’t even make it that far. He lost me at telling people to skip college and go to a coding boot camp. You might know how to code, but someone with a degree will have a little more analytical breadth and depth from math, CS, and even writing/communication courses.

Yes, I do agree. Hiring is biased on aggregate towards people with CS degrees, or at least the ability to do coding puzzles.

Shipping + getting shit done surprisingly is not that well respected (on aggregate).

What's worse is that he's suggesting you bypass corporate employment all together and just YOLO start a startup.

It's like saying "to be rich, first, make sure you have 5,000 a month coming in. Then, here's how you spend it."

I am currently attempting to monetize one b2b site I have and one b2c. Both have flaws and the going is tough. I am giving it a good effort but I'm not getting the leads/traffic I need to scale revenue.

Even if I do succeed at making just 1k revenue per month, there's no guarantee it will continue to exist even just 5 years from now.

5k per month, with 3k invested into a stock market that averages 7% per year? That feels a bit pie in the sky to me.

But what do I know? I'm just some guy on the internet, not a SF-based millionaire cofounder or digital nomad ^.^

5k/mo is pretty much rich from starting at 0. There’s many ways to aggregate that to more money beyond that. It’s like saying find a way to pay all of your bills and have 5k left over per month to be rich in the long run. Yeah, okay, but that’s pretty much a tautology.

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