Back when I was a teenager, Jamie Oliver was a joke to me. Naked Chef, ha ha ha. Girls love him, he probably can't even cook, gimme a break. If you mentioned him, I'd snort and go back to focussing on the playstation.
I never thought I'd say this, but Jamie is now one of my greatest heroes.
What changed in those 10 years? I got older and more mature, but I didn't find a great love for cooking. In fact, even just one year ago, my opinion wouldn't have changed at all. No, what happened was I decided I wanted to live a remarkable life, and in the process my perspective on what a great life is changed completely.
In fact, I now believe that most young people - indeed, most people - are selling themselves short, trying to obtain life security when they should be aiming far higher. And Jamie Oliver is a prime example of what young people can achieve in this world today.
Twentieth century dreams of an ideal life are built around job security. Even today, this remains true. Check out the New Zealand Dream. A house and a car. "Being very expensive they are powerful work motivators, with house mortgages often taking decades to repay.". Too right. Kiwis work some of the longest hours in the world to make that dream come true, and from that stems an obsessive need for job security.
Well here's a newsflash. Security is an illusion. Working your way up the corporate ladder will drain your soul and is laced with the minefields of glass ceilings, backstabbing bosses and Dilbert culture. All it guarantees is that you'll live your working life unfulfilled, saving for some hypothetical future when you'll be free to retire, yet too past your prime to properly enjoy it.
You might get your house and car, and if you're lucky, even a functional family. But when you're old and looking back on your life, will you see a great achievement? Did you save lives? Make lives better? Build a community? Become an expert, then selflessly share your knowledge? I'm talking bona fide altruism here. Nobody gives a flying monkey's if you got married, paid off a mortgage or raised three children just as boring and unmotivated as you.
Get 'em while they're young
The sad thing is, I see it beginning amongst us already. At my previous job, I worked with many young, healthy, hard-working professionals already on the outdated Kiwi Dream train. We were earning good salaries compared to the NZ average wage, and our lives were expanding to fit. I spent thousands myself on a fileserver. A fileserver! So I could watch hours and hours of pathetic pop culture. What a waste! I wasn't even really saving, and why would I? There was always job security on my side. I did my job, wrote some code, went to meetings, plodded home. I was "set". My friends were jealous, while I got more and more dissatisfied with it all.
We're better than that. We're way better than that. I quit my job for many reasons, but one of them was most definitely that I hated corporate culture, and had decided I didn't need it. In fact, in the four months since I co-founded Shoptime and started working on Get Your Game On, I've never been happier. I'm earning nothing, living on the stash of money I didn't stupidly spend, yet I've learned more and feel better than I ever did.
This has led me to believe that there's a better dream out there and a better plan to achieve it.
The New Recipe
The old recipe is to get a job, secure it, save and buy a house and car, maybe raise a family, retire. Yawn.
Here's my secret sauce: use youth to shoot for financial independence. Upon success, use it to make a difference. Upon failure, use experience and skills gained to fall back to good, secure job and get independence anyway.
Here's how it works. When you're young, your advantages are:
- Your skill and ability to learn. You've been taught a lot over the past few years, and at your age you still have a good capacity to learn. If you're lucky, you were even in a job that taught you sensible things.
- Your ability to sustain a high workload. This is huge. In your 20s, you're in your prime, able to work the long nights and crazy hours required to make this plan work.
- Your lack of commitment. A partner, and especially a child, can be a big roadblock unless you can get them on board with your plan. Most young people have few commitments, and to be honest you're probably better keeping it that way until later.
- Finally, your well honed skill at living off scraps. University students will know exactly what I'm talking about. Cheap flats, tiny food budgets, living off your parents, there are lots of ways to live very cheaply if you have to.
You should use these advantages the best you can. In my case, I've founded a startup, but you can do whatever makes sense. The end goal is, quite simply, to get rich. Don't do anything illegal, unethical or unconstitutional though. Nobody likes a cheater, your conscience will never forgive you and we'll soon find out anyway.
If you make it rich, congratulations! Now it's time to use your skills/power/money/fame for good. Make the world a better place. Make people other than your family feel truly sorry when you die, you changed their lives that much. Save kittens. Save lives. Leave any money you don't spend to the next generation, with instructions to use it like you did.
If you don't make it rich, hard luck. You'll need job security - but with the skills you've gained by trying to make it, you'll be a great job candidate at a forward-thinking employer - or you can consult of course. I don't think you'll have any problem earning money, with the experience you have. And you'll be 30-35 years old, which leaves at least 30 years to become financially independent again. Heaps of time.
But what about Jamie?
So where does Jamie Oliver fit into all of this? Well he's where I got the "recipe" from. He made his money from TV shows, and now he's trying to revolutionise how we view food. Check out this video of him at TED, I think it's nothing short of outstanding.
He's become financially independent early, and is now using his skills in a genuine attempt to make a difference. He may succeed or fail, but he gets all the points in the world for trying, regardless of the outcome. He's 34, and has been working on this for seven years. I'm 24. I'd love to be doing as well as him in 10 years time.
Want to share this post? Tweet