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What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
24 points by Princeps on Aug 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments
I'm 16 and have interests in programming. I know HTML and in the process of learning Objective C for apps. There is so much I don't know and I want to learn as much as I can. What advice would you give?



I'm 44 now, and I know without any doubt whatsoever that my 16 year old self wouldn't listen to anything I had to say.

But you're smarter than I [am|was], so my advice to you is don't listen to others who don't build stuff. Or in a more positive way, only listen to people who actually build stuff themselves. Why the Lucky Stiff said it best:

  When you don’t create things, you become defined by
  your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only
  narrow & exclude people. So create.


> only listen to people who actually build stuff themselves.

Wow, amazing advice. It echoes my sentiment about investment advice, which is to only listen to people who actually run money (e.g. run their own funds, and even then, be on the lookout for ulterior motives). This translates to: never listen to your "financial advisor" (which is a misnomer if there ever was one)


Here's the only page you need to get wealthy through investing: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2007/01/24/are-index-funds...

tldr: buy indexed funds


In this case it's actually backwards. Financial advisors who are involved in companies that sell financial products necessarily have a conflict of interest - they only get paid if you buy something they get a cut from.

Fee-only financial planners, however, are unbiased.


> Fee-only financial planners, however, are unbiased.

How so? Their bias is that they need to justify their fees, and, according to many studies, their fees can't be justified:

WSJ: "Darts Top the Readers' Stock Picks": http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732423510457824...

Someone earlier suggested buying and holding an index fund -- that's good advice, for reasons given here: http://arachnoid.com/equities_myths


I don't think we're talking about the same thing. My parents' financial planner is not even slightly involved in picking stocks. His advice was on how to structure our family's savings, which included buying and holding an index fund and pulling the college UTMA account my grandpa started out of whatever instrument it was in.

Unlike someone who worked for a bank or an index fund, though, he didn't have a perverse incentive to sell us one of his company's products.


> I don't think we're talking about the same thing. My parents' financial planner is not even slightly involved in picking stocks. His advice was on how to structure our family's savings, which included buying and holding an index fund and pulling the college UTMA account my grandpa started out of whatever instrument it was in.

Fair enough, but since this kind of general investment information is freely available online, I personally wouldn't pay someone to provide it.

> Unlike someone who worked for a bank or an index fund, though, he didn't have a perverse incentive to sell us one of his company's products.

Except his own fees as a financial advisor, presumably ongoing. Also, you may not be aware of this, but if a financial advisor steers a client toward a particular fund, he gets a commission, despite the fact that he's an independent agent, not an employee of the fund.


> NAPFA defines a "Fee-Only" financial advisor as one who is compensated solely by the client, with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product. This definition is in direct contrast to most advisors, who earn commissions, discounts, and other incentives when their clients purchase financial products. Also, unlike other financial planners, NAPFA members are required to clearly disclose the fee in advance.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Persona...

What you're saying is true of most financial planners, but not fee-only planners. That's the whole point of being fee-only.

Also I will use the Internet as long as I can starting out, but things aren't always that simple. We hired an advisor this year because we received two complex inheritances (one foreign) and started drawing down college savings, all at once. My dad is a CPA and an ardent DIYer, but even he knew he was in over his head and needed to hire a professional.


You make good points, upvoted.


This quote opened and formed the theme of my college admissions and scholarship application essays. It worked.


Ergo create, and therefore be able to exclude those who are defined by their tastes?


"It will just happen" is advice for normal people, not you. Nothing will ever happen, not a single thing, that you don't work for. You have a chance to experiment and make mistakes socializing with girls and it's acceptable to even be rather crazy, and everyone will grow up and forget. Above literally all things, don't waste this chance. Going to a school program that has more men than women is a colossal failure of the kind of intelligence that actually matters. A relationship is the single biggest determinant of human happiness for you, weight it accordingly. Your window for finding one will end much sooner than you'd like so don't take for granted any little experience you ever have with a woman, because they will get rarer tending to zero.


Alternatively...

Recognize that you will never be happy in a relationship until you are happy with yourself. There is plenty of time to fall in love, seize the opportunity while you are young to explore and don't let yourself be tied down to a town/province/country.

My first serious relationship didn't come along till I was 24...by that point I had lived in 3 countries, visited dozens more and had hundreds of exciting opportunities (both in work and outside of work).

I know who I am outside of a relationship and I know that is a very attractive quality in myself and others.

"Going to a school program that has more men than women is a colossal failure of the kind of intelligence that actually matters."

Oh please! Going to a school program based on anything other than the quality of schooling program is a colossal failure of the kind of intelligence that matters. Schools have more than one department. Do what you love to do and make friends (of all kinds) from all over the school (Humanities, Hard Sciences, Maths, Soft Sciences..) - Life does not end with the classroom door.


You at 16 didn't need the kind of advice that I did. Congratulations, seriously.


I agree with miles, build stuff. But perhaps more importantly do stuff. It is highly unlikely you've discovered even a tenth of the things that you could be passionate about.

Also don't drive by looking backwards. When I learned to sail my Dad told me that you could tell a good sailor from a bad one by the straightness of the wake left by the boat. I kept looking at the wake and trying to correct for the various wobbles in it, and that made it more wobbly. I got frustrated and told him it was impossible.

He took the tiller and proceeded to zoom straight across the lake we were on. He explained that the only way your wake would be straight is if you kept you eyes on your destination. When I asked how you could know your wake was straight if you weren't looking at it, he said "People with you can see it and will complement you on it."

It wasn't until I was much older (like 25) when it dawned on me he wasn't talking about sailing.


I would be very happy if one day my son told a story like that. Your dad sounds like a man to emulate.


sorry, i think i'm a bit obtuse. may you elaborate more on this?


Perhaps: Pay attention to where you're going, not where you've been?


Actually do something.

I talked about writing code more than I wrote code and that was a dumb mistake.

Also, if I could do it all over again, I'd make it a point to really work with C/C++. I feel like moving to any other imperative language is pretty easy if you have a firm grasp of that language.

I would also not learn Objective-C, but that's more of an opinion than anything.


> I would also not learn Objective-C, but that's more of an opinion than anything.

    wouldYouMindExplainingPlease:whyYouAreNotFondOfObjectiveC:withAnExample:orMaybeTwo:


My big hang up is that it's not used much outside of the Cocoa environment.

Beyond that, I'm a really big fan of putting C in the hands of people who want to learn to program on the grounds that it forces you to develop good habits. You don't get awesome, abstract data structures, inheritance, etc. to help manage your project. You kind of have to develop good habits or else you end up with a mess of a project that is unmanageable after a point. Those skills apply to even modern, high-level languages. They are of course applied a little differently, but it forces you to learn good project management skills.


1) Math is way more than calculus. Writing proofs is the best way to train the general skills that will get you recognized as smart.

2) Stop being a coward. Always push yourself to do embarrassing, uncomfortable, or hard things, or you'll still be 16 when you're 21.

3) Gaming and computing is addictive. Don't waste precious life on it.

4) You're an idiot, and your unexamined decisions make you a bad person, though you don't intend to harm anyone. Find values to believe in, and use them to make hard or painful decisions with dignity. Foremost of those should be: treat your people well, even at your own expense.

5) Examine, accept, and embrace your feelings and your past, for better and worse.

6) Read more fiction to learn more about life.

7) You're a social animal. You'll never grow as much, or be as happy, as when you're surrounded by people.

8) Don't stop doubting yourself.

Very little of this has to do with programming or careers. But I don't regret not knowing C at 16 nearly as much as I regret all of the above. Learning to live well is so much more important.


I'm just a few years past you (18) and I can tell you the most significant periods of growth I've had were when I jumped in WAY over my head.

I did design, got offered a front-end dev job, and learned HTML/CSS within 1 week after failing for 2 years.

Then I did HTML/CSS, went to a hackathon and had to dive into Rails to finish on time, and I didn't "learn Rails" but I learned a TON (and won 2nd place!)

Took up a job doing more traditional ColdFusion and XSLT sites - learned a ton in 3 days. I was also forced into learning SASS/SCSS - learned a ton within like 2 weeks.

Keep going. Get in over your head. Take on the projects that you're not sure you can finish, understand it's okay to walk away from them (jobs, too), but try your hardest not to.

Also, take CS101 at your local college ASAP. It'll get you off your feet wicked quick.


Dear Jacques,

Herewith some remarks:

1. You have ADHD and are prone to clinical depression. Both are treatable. Spending decades suffering pointlessly isn't necessary to discover either of the former or the latter.

2. Go find someone who can teach you Olympic weightlifting. You love it and wish you'd started much earlier. It will teach you important lessons about persistence. Plus you are one of those lucky blokes who can gain weight by frowning at a barbell, might as well take advantage.

3. Don't go straight to university. Take some time to grow up a little first.

Yours &c &c

You.

Funnily enough, none of these are about a laundry list of technologies. When I was 16, people wrote web apps in mod_perl and DHTML was looked on as something you resorted to only occasionally.


> 1. You have ADHD and are prone to clinical depression. Both are treatable.

Actually, according to recent findings, neither of those can either be reliably diagnosed or treated. Recent meta-analyses reveal that anti-depression treatments (both therapy and drugs) are in the majority of cases indistinguishable from the placebo effect. As to ADHD, diagnosis remains a very serious problem -- it's a throwaway diagnosis that anyone can either get or avoid, depending on their tastes. And, like depression, there's no meaningful treatment.


It was very difficult to draft this reply without becoming unproductive and I hope you take it as constructive feedback.

The contrarian articles you see linked here on HN or published in the NYT are not a substitute for professional psychological and psychiatric advice. They are published because they are contrarian. "Scientists still agree" is not a story.

Obtaining a diagnosis for ADHD is not "a throwaway" in most countries because the first line of pharmaceutical treatment is stimulants with addictive potential. These drugs are tightly regulated and the legal diagnostic bias is against their being prescribed.

That the mechanisms are not completely understood and that some studies show a strong placebo effect does not mean that ADHD and depression can't be diagnosed or treated. The preponderance of evidence is that for most cases a judicious combination of pharmaceutical and therapeutic interventions can lead to long term improvements in quality of life for both conditions. Neither diagnosis or treatment is exact, but to throw them away for imperfection is an example of the nirvana fallacy that leads to preventable harm.

I encourage you to consider the possibility that you are deterring others from seeking help that could save their lives or significantly improve their quality of life.

In future you might consider refraining from doing so and encourage others you see struggling with mental health issues to seek out attention from a psychologist or a psychiatrist, either of whom is better versed with the current research than you or I.


> The contrarian articles you see linked here on HN or published in the NYT are not a substitute for professional psychological and psychiatric advice.

Say what? Would that be why the director of the NIMH has recently decided to phase out the DSM as scientifically worthless, saying "Patients with mental disorders deserve better"?:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/2013/transforming-dia...

> That the mechanisms are not completely understood and that some studies show a strong placebo effect does not mean that ADHD and depression can't be diagnosed or treated.

No, it only means that diagnosis and treatment claims are anecdotal, neither scientific no reliable. Surely you are aware that health service providers are rapidly moving toward an evidence-based practice model, which when fully enacted would eliminate the majority of psychological treatments across the board, both drugs and therapy?

> The preponderance of evidence is that for most cases a judicious combination of pharmaceutical and therapeutic interventions can lead to long term improvements in quality of life for both conditions.

Unless you choose to count the placebo effect as a treatment success, that is absolutely false. The current literature shows that neither diagnosis nor treatment is efficacious in any scientific sense. As to cognitive-behavioral therapy, it has recently been shown to be indistinguishable from the placebo effect:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23416876

Quote: "These analyses, in combination with previous meta-analytic findings, fail to provide corroborative evidence for the conjecture that CBT is superior to bona fide non-CBT treatments."

Meaning: CBT, indistinguishable from any other therapy, is also ipso facto indistinguishable from the placebo effect.

As to antidepression drugs, a recent meta-analysis that includes studies the drug industry chose not to publish, shows them to be clinically indistinguishable from placebo in most cases:

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fj...

Quote: "Meta-analyses of antidepressant medications have reported only modest benefits over placebo treatment, and when unpublished trial data are included, the benefit falls below accepted criteria for clinical significance."

> I encourage you to consider the possibility that you are deterring others from seeking help that could save their lives or significantly improve their quality of life.

I encourage you to learn science, and bring yourself up to date on the present self-inflicted plight of psychiatry and psychology. You clearly are living in denial, ironic given the fact that you may be a mental health professional.


> Would that be why the director of the NIMH has recently decided to phase out the DSM as scientifically worthless, saying "Patients with mental disorders deserve better"?:

An alternative reading is that he correctly identifies that the DSM is based on consensus and that where possible he would like to replace consensus with classifications built on additional modes of observations that have only recently become available. I see that as a positive development.

> Meaning: CBT, indistinguishable from any other therapy, is also ipso facto indistinguishable from the placebo effect.

For someone who believes in the immaculacy of science, you enjoy leaping to conclusions.

> I encourage you to learn science, and bring yourself up to date on the present self-inflicted plight of psychiatry and psychology.

Your rhetoric reminds me of some of the other anti-psychology literature I've seen circulated by various organisations holding other beliefs that might be charitably considered as "exotic".

> You clearly are living in denial, ironic given the fact that you may be a mental health professional.

I'm not, but good luck with your Skinner Box vision of psychology.

In me you seem to see the fruits of a vast conspiracy against science and the public. In you I see a person whose determination to XKCD386 is going to cause active harm to others by spreading the idea that depression or ADHD should simply be accepted and not treated.

This one can't be settled satisfactorily. Let's stop talking.


> An alternative reading is that he correctly identifies that the DSM is based on consensus and that where possible he would like to replace consensus with classifications built on additional modes of observations that have only recently become available.

An alternative to your comments would be for someone to read the original and discover that the problem is that, in psychiatry and psychology, these conditions are only described, not explained, and any meaningful treatment requires an explanation, an identified cause. Like in science.

> ... additional modes of observations ...

The issue is not "modes of observations", the issue is a widespread move toward using the methods of neuroscience to identify the causes of these conditions, and treating causes rather than symptoms.

> Your rhetoric reminds me of some of the other anti-psychology literature I've seen circulated by various organisations holding other beliefs that might be charitably considered as "exotic".

You aren't arguing against my views. You're arguing against the views of the director of the NIMH and dozens of other qualified critics including the editor of DSM-IV, all of whom hold the same general views I do. You're arguing against a historic move toward science.

> I'm not, but good luck with your Skinner Box vision of psychology.

It's instructive that you've posted no evidence for your position. As to a Skinner-box view of mental health treatment, I direct your attention to this account of deep brain stimulation, a procedure in which a neurosurgeon was able to erase all symptoms of depression in a severely depressed person by throwing a switch:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/magazine/02depression.html...

Quote: "Deanna later described it in similar terms. "It was literally like a switch being turned on that had been held down for years," she said. "All of a sudden they hit the spot, and I feel so calm and so peaceful. It was overwhelming to be able to process emotion on somebody's face. I'd been numb to that for so long."

"As it turned out, 8 of the 12 patients he operated on, including Deanna, felt their depressions lift while suffering minimal side effects — an incredible rate of effectiveness in patients so immovably depressed. Nor did they just vaguely recover. Their scores on the Hamilton depression scale, a standard used to measure the severity of depression, fell from the soul-deadening high 20's to the single digits — essentially normal."

End quote.

I emphasize this is a preliminary result, and at the moment it's expensive and risky invasive surgery, unsuitable for any but the severely depressed. My point is that I doubt the severely depressed clients who received this treatment will object that they're being turned into updated versions of B. F. Skinner's lab rats.

> In me you seem to see the fruits of a vast conspiracy against science and the public.

Locate that part of my posts in which this paranoid delusion finds support. There is no vast conspiracy, there is just mediocrity, denial and shortsightedness.

> ... by spreading the idea that depression or ADHD should simply be accepted and not treated.

Another example in which, with no evidence, you invent a position for someone else. The issue before psychiatry and psychology is not whether to treat or not to treat, the issue is that there is no reliable evidence that present treatments work. This is why alternatives are being explored, and why the DSM is finally being put aside.

> This one can't be settled satisfactorily.

Of course it can. Ask the director of the NIMH. Ask those who have received meaningful scientific treatments for depression. Ask the victims of recovered memory therapy whether they think that treatment merited the public support it received. This issue certainly can be resolved satisfactorily, and the first step has been taken -- the DSM, the "bible" of psychiatry and psychology, has been set aside as having no scientific value.


(1) Exercise everyday

(2) Try to get enough sleep

(3) Make a very conscious effort to get out of your comfort zone and try unfamiliar things, even if you only try them briefly.

(4) Understand and accept that sometimes it takes years before a project gives any substantial results, so don't get discouraged if a project seems impossibly hard and going nowhere at first.


I love number 3. I have stepping out of my comfort zone for the past year and I have done things I thought were impossible for me.

A great book for facing your fears and expanding your comfort zone is the Flinch: http://www.amazon.com/The-Flinch-ebook/dp/B0062Q7S3S


Publish, even if you don't think your work is ready. Better to publish five papers which all have loose ends in need of tying up than to publish a single work of undoubted genius. Other people will tie up the loose ends, and everybody will remember you as having the original ideas.

When I was 15, I did my first significant research, discovering a novel (and significantly faster) algorithm for computing GCDs of polynomials over algebraic number fields; but I was never fully satisfied with it, since it was only applicable to fields spanned by low-degree algebraics. My supervisor encouraged me to publish it nonetheless, and in hindsight I should have done so -- if nothing else, so that the two Master's students who extended it over the following years would have had something to cite.

In your case, you're interested in programming rather than mathematics or computer science, but the same principle applies: Don't hesitate to release something because it's "not quite perfect". If you've built something cool, release it -- you can always improve it further and do another release later.

Oh, and I'd give my 16 year old self one other piece of advice: Where girls are concerned, don't waste your time. Wait until your friends are partnered and decide they want to help you. It's much easier once you have a circle of friends who can offer help and advice and encouragement.


I'm a bit younger than you, but the biggest hurdle for me was just starting. Don't teach yourself Objective-C. Make an app.

I'd love it if you'd shoot me an email at zchlatta (at) gmail.com. I'm always interested to talk to other passionate people.


Listen to dad. Hes right about everything, you'll realise when you're older. Be kind to mum, you owe everything to her.


When I was 16, my parents were idiots. I'm 44 now, and they sure have smartened up a lot :D


> When I was 16, my parents were idiots. I'm 44 now, and they sure have smartened up a lot

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." –Mark Twain


The most important attribute that young programmers lack is empathy. All of the weird-sounding miscellaneous advice you get really flows from it. Commenting the "why" rather than the how, documentation, adhering to coding conventions, these are all just manifestations of being kind to the maintenance programmer, which is empathy. Making the user interface attractive and usable, providing helpful support and performing rigorous testing are just manifestations of being kind to the user, which is empathy. Cultivating articulate expression, in code, speech and writing, is empathy for those who must start from scratch to understand you and what you've done. Egoless programming is empathy for your coworkers. So you can throw away almost all of the specific advice I have mentioned and instead focus on being empathetic, and you won't go astray.


> What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

I'm 68 and I know exactly what I would tell my 16-year-old self:

1. Learn more math and science, and don't delay -- the longer you put them off, the harder they are to absorb. Math and science are the real deal -- nearly everything else is contentless opinion, much more heat than light.

2. Try to minimize time and energy spent on dating and sexual behaviors -- they're the most overrated waste of energy ever invented.

3. Learn how compound interest works, and avoid as many discretionary purchases as possible. "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it." -- Albert Einstein

I literally spent decades recovering from bad decisions made when I was young, all having to do with the above points. If I were able to confront my 16-year-old self today, I would kick myself down the stairs.


I would tell myself to not be afraid of publicly failing. I had, and sometimes still do have, a really hard time putting myself out there. So, do not be afraid of the judgment of others; if you are proud of what you're doing then that's all that matters.


Don't put anything on the shelf for "later". Do as much as you can now, even if it means less than perfect grades. Beware of psychological burnout if you're feeling discomfort with doing stuff. Don't go to college if you're having any doubts about its utility, but look at the course sequence for a candidate school and degree and acquire the books used for the core classes. Look for free lectures online too. If you don't have any, make at least one friend whom you can talk technical with anytime. Consider going to interesting Meetup.com meetups in your area -- especially when you're looking for a job.


1. Broaden your interests as much as you can. When I was 16 the filed of information architecture and usability didn't exist, so as time goes on tech will be less about code.

2. Actually play with putting together hardware. The era of building your own PC is coming to an end and you should experience that before it's gone.

3. Life advice: Treasure your older relatives while they're still alive and tell them that you love them. Try to capture as much family history as you can and write it down.


Really try to finish projects when you start them. It will be tempting to drop what you're working on when you get a new idea, or things aren't turning out the way you saw them in your mind; keep a journal for those new ideas. Keep things simple. Keep working the broad strokes before getting too wrapped up in the details. Do things in drafts, and refine in subsequent passes. Try to find like-minded people to collaborate with.


Study (& enjoy) math ...that's what I'd tell my 16 year old self.


Never, ever drop out of advanced math class. You will live to rue the day.


Yes, learn as much maths as you can...


Many of the advices that i would give to myself i'm giving them to my nieces, is good to have internet to back up some of them.

* be aware of its own cognitive bias (there is a nice listing in wikipedia)

* studying is not a waste of time, is forming a culture to better communicate with others and gaining a toolchain that will prove useful. And is not something passive, teachers guide, but is your responsibility to learn in a way or another.

* the boring math proofs worth at the very least as a training for better, more rigorous thinking, no matter if you ever see math again.

Regarding programming, recommended them to play with Scratch when were younger, and probably would recommend them to play with python as the next step, if they were interested in programming, at least.

But if I really could had given something to my younger self, probably would be the Grays Sport Almanac 1950-2000


Go to college anyway even if some of the material seems boring or irrelevant. Always own at least one musical instrument. Money is quite useful but is ultimately an instrumentality. Learn enough about law and economics to appreciate the limitations of formal systems and statistical methods. Subscribe to The Economist. Don't smoke tobacco, but do brush your teeth regularly. Find some physical activity you enjoy a lot, which will save you from having to exercise. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know, but don't underplay your ability to find out either. Employ adjectives sparingly. Read books that you find difficult to understand.


It's okay to quit things you don't like.


1) Don't worry too much about your future, follow your interests.

2) Don't panic about needing to learn everything at once. Take your time.

3) Learn how to finish things, even if that means taking on smaller tasks than you'd like.


This exact question was recently asked. Many comments from seven days ago [0].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6153368


Tell myself to finish a lot of the ideas I had started. That they were excellent ideas. It's what actually drives me a lot now when I have ideas and at points doubt what I'm doing.


Learn to learn. Find out and become aware of how your focus & energy level shifts through out the day and allocating those time in well spent manner.

Deciding on what experience will likely increase % of you working with high quality people on hopefully, meaningful work. Check out one of gazillion on going opensource projects that interest you.

Read books, learn to find good books, repeat

and of course do allow some balance in life, not everything should be about being 100% productive man.

gl


Don't try to be someone you're not. I spent a lot of time in my mid to late teens trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be.


1. Do a hard degree at a good school

2. Sleep around more

3. Try new stuff, but it's ok to say no to somethings

4. Make enough money that you have 6 mths savings and a few months lying around to invest - when an opportunity arises it will hit you that day and its great to just say yes.

5. Don't worry if you can't do all this now - time your life in decades not weeks.

6. Sleep around more. Seriously. Don't be a jerk about it but just have fun.

7. See 6. :-)


"You can do it".

Sounds super lame, but I've always suffered from from self-doubt and anxiety - especially as a young dude. If I knew at 16 that I was just about to fall in love with computers, get into university, travel the world, have a string of great jobs, then become my own boss, AND marry an amazing girl... I would be pretty fricking happy.


I would advise myself to use search engines[1] when they're available so my younger self could find relevant information[2].

EDIT: dmunoz beat me to it.

[1] https://www.hnsearch.com/

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6153368


Work in as many different countries as possible.

IT is one of the few jobs where you can travel/work easily. So do it.


Advice to me at 16? Forget [girl A], and instead, go for [girl B] or even [girl C]. Do whatever it takes to convince your parents/grandparents to buy, in your name, 100 shares of Microsoft stock and never sell it (because by the time they start paying dividends, you'll never have to work).

For a 16 year old, now, interested in programming computers, learn assembly language, even if it's just for a 6502 or Z80 [1]. It will give you a feeling for how the computer works.

Also, learn how to learn. What you learn now will change drastically over the next twenty years (when I started college, Fortran was still taught, you had actual multiuser systems, and there was no such thing as a "webmaster," and Perl had just been released into the wild).

Another thing to keep in mind---there really is nothing new under the sun. Arguments about writing an application in Python over C++? Old hat (C vs. assembly). Languages targeting a virtual machine? Old hat (UCSD Pascal, and before that, various IBM computers from the 60s and 70s). It just takes new forms, which need to be learned (see previous lesson).

And one lesson that might be unorthodox---never cut-n-paste code. Take the time to type it out. That's how an entire generation of programmers who grew up in the late 70s/80s learned---by typing programs in (from books and magazines) by hand. It's hard to see how this helps, but it does. It forces you to look at a program as you type it in, to see how it's constructed. No, really. In fact, if you read up on successful authors, you'll find a good portion of them actually copied (long hand, or typewriter, or computer) entire books by authors they liked.

Never be afraid of trying something out. It may not work, but now, you'll know a way of not doing something. Or why a certain approach won't work. Or will. You might surprise yourself. Don't let your lack of knowledge keep you from trying something, because you might in fact do something that so call experts said couldn't be done.

Oh, and keep this quote from H. L. Mencken in mind: "No one in this world, so far as I know-and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me-has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

That's all I have for now.

[1] Personally, I'd lean towards CPUs made by Motorola, as they're a bit more sane in the assembly language department, but really, any CPU assembly language will help. Well, maybe not the Intel 80x86 family. The 8086, 80186, 80286, 80386, 80486, Pentium ... it's just an insane family of CPUs.


get more friends and leave the computer alone from time to time


Don't waste time in grad school unless you want to be a professor.

Work out a little, girls like muscles.


Don't get hung up on the girls who are only looking for guys with muscles.


1. Get involved with open source software.

2. DO something with your skill

3. Be well mannered.

4. Be very careful what you put on the Internet. When I was young, I barely put my real first/last name anywhere, and the word 'avatar' meant 'cool picture of something I like, because there is no way I would put a picture of my face on the internet'.


i. Study as much math as you can handle. ii. Put effort into learning foreign languages; at least one well enough for easy reading and non-painful conversation. iii. Be wary of alcohol.


Actively pursue girls and recreational drugs more than you are.


What horrible advice. Be yourself, and learn to be friends with women. If you want to marry just one lady for the rest of your life, you're going to have to be "just friends" with every other woman on the planet anyway.

And recreational drugs? Learn to deal with life on your own without having to rely on crutches. I've seen too many people destroy their lives with drugs (including alcohol) and many more who need a hit/taste/boost/shot in order to deal with the stresses of life.


Sobriety can be a crutch as well. If you can't trust yourself to make reasonably sane decisions when you're totally loaded, how do you know you can trust yourself when it matters?

For the OP: Don't trust people who tell you drugs are bad when they haven't used them extensively. There are lots of ways to hurt yourself. I've seen plenty of people hurt themselves with drugs, but I've seen more of them hurt themselves in cars and on bikes and with crummy jobs. But don't over-do the drugs thing. And don't do drugs if you're not interested.


I don't think you understand the original author's sentiment towards drugs.

If he is telling his previous self to do them, he must have found something he enjoys in them. Judging by the average HN user, I doubt he's ruining his life with them and is instead viewing them as an alternative experience to learn rather than crutch to hide.


* Get PhD. Everyone should know at least something inside and out and have contributed to that little a bump to the human knowledge. At minimum stay in school as long as you possibly can.

* Take a year off before you decide to be a corporate employee or start a corporation of yours. Go see world. There has never been time like these to experience literally 100s of cultures that has evolved during past 1000s of years. If you postpone this to later age, most likely it's not going to happen because you will have job with limited vacation or partner who has different preferences or kids who can't travel safely to wild places. You are living Marco Polo's dream. Don't waste it.

* If and when you decide to seek employment, give money the least priority. A lot of young people are fixated on money in initial years either because they want to feel safe or want to prove themselves. This puts them on path to become corporate slaves that you see all around you and get disgusted. A lot of non-profits, pure science/art organizations and academic jobs has higher possibility to unlock your potential and give you enjoyment and satisfaction than initially higher paying jobs in big corporations and likes of wall street.

* When you are young (which I mean by less than 30 years old), involve in as many physical activities as possible. Mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, swimming, marathons... Pick an activity, set a yearly goal and train for it. For example, swim a mile in open ocean or run a marathon or climb a 14000 footer or do your first 5.10 rock climb. Subscribe to local groups that does these so you have motivation. All these are going to get much harder to pick up as you age. If you had started training for at younger age, you would continue to enjoy it in your 40s, 50s and sometime even in 60s. There is absolutely nothing more important than to be physically fit in your old age and you likely won't get there unless you are active through your life.

* Make physical things! Have something non-trivial to show for each year that you made by your own hands. This would require to learn electronics, carpentry, machine tools, automobile engineering, plumbing, sewing, cooking and so on. Pick one of these skills, enroll in to real course at community/professional colleges and set a target to make something. These are skills takes years to perfect and unless you start at early age, chances are that you are not going to master it.

* Don't rush to get married. A lot of times you will find a person who you think is perfect for you. You might even have anxiety to lose her/him. Take as much time as you possibly can without getting married. This is essentially to get to know person and them to know you. Once you get married, life is very different. You will take less risk and you will have far less time for anything else and your choices will be governed by mutual agreements instead of your own will. It's not a waste of time but it's different. If one you or both decides you have children, your life will change even more dramatically again. With even less risk taking, even less hard core exploration and even less time for anything else. Having children is rewarding but while you are young, do things and invest your time in things you can't do later.


Create.


Invest in some kind of fruit company


Launch cheap, build value.


join the army after college


Why after? Most do it before, I think that's the better strategy if you're going to do it at all. Easier to get fit when you're younger, the army will happily fund your college costs after, and if you're smart you might get to work with some neat tech in the army you wouldn't otherwise...


well for me I was finished with college when I was 20... maybe it would have been better to do it right after high school. Based on my personal life I think after college at 20 would have been a solid time to hit it, also noting that I graduated high school in 99 and college in 02, so I considered it during the nationalistic wave of that time period.


You could also be in the military and college via an officer training program like ROTC or the Navy variant.




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