Kids Today

There is significantly more value in young people than you realize. And I don’t mean in some sort of nebulous “children are the future of the planet” sense. I mean value for you, in the very near term.

We spend our early years getting it nailed into our heads that “age = experience” and to some extent even that “age = value.” We progress along in school based on age rather than any other metric, we’re told to “listen to adults,” and all that.

It’s natural to then think that the ladder continues linearly forever. But once you’re more or less an adult, it’s just a free for all. 50-year-olds don’t necessarily know more than 20-year-olds. Yes, experience is important – but age doesn’t automatically mean experience. A 50-year-old who has never ridden a bicycle does not have more experience at bike-riding than a 20-year-old who’s been pedaling since age 4.

Experience is WAY more specific than we think it is. “General world knowledge” is actually super localized to your time and place and culture; what I think of as “common sense” would do very little for me if I didn’t live in a suburban, middle-class area of the United States in the early 21st Century. So no matter how old you are, your knowledge and experience comes from the stuff you’ve deliberately focused on and not much else. Pretty much everything you haven’t deliberately learned is urban legends, old wives’ tales, etc.

Tomorrow my oldest daughter starts her video game design course. She’s eight. And she’s not like super advanced or anything – this is a course for her age group! I might know more than she does about life now, but let’s not pretend she isn’t going to lap me real soon.

Just keep that in mind the next time you’re making some snap judgments of people in a professional context. Even if you look at someone younger than you and think “I know way more than this person,” just know that their trajectory is much better than yours. They’re going to lap you. But you can ride that wave now!

Young people work cheap. How much you demand for your labor in the market is partially a result of the value you provide, but it’s also partially a result of what you need, and when you’re young you don’t have as many needs yet. (In fact, learning to keep “need creep” down is a big advantage all on its own.) And while you’re getting that immediate value now, you can also be building relationships with the leaders of tomorrow. If you think you’ve got it in you to outpace every person younger than you for the rest of your career, good luck. I’d rather invest in them, whether they’re 8, 18 or 28, and then reap that investment as we all age together.

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