Advice for the Next Generation: Make Yourself Indispensable

There are many times that I think back over my life and wish I had done some things differently. We all do it, and we try to pass on our successes and failures to our children. Here are a few things that I often recommend to parents. The best education anybody will ever get is outside the classroom.

  1. Read at least 10 pages every day of a non-fiction book in various fields: science, history, literature, music, art, science fiction, theology, economics, etc. Increase it by one page per day until you get it up to 20 pages per day.  R. J. Rushdoony read at least one book a day that he “underlined, with a personal index on the back cover — six days a week for 25 years. He then followed suit with another 25 years of the same schedule.” Go and do likewise. In ten days, you will have read a 200-page book. That’s more than 30 books per year. In ten years, 300 books. In 40 years, 1200 books. Increase the number of pages per day, and you will have read in a lifetime more books than most people have seen in their local public library.
  2. Learn how to skim a book to determine if it’s worth reading all of it. Learn how to speed read to mine books for information.
  3. Keep a notebook of insights, facts, well-stated truths, and new vocabulary words. I use less expensive versions of the classic Moleskine Notebooks. I carry one with me everywhere I go. A tablet or smartphone can also work. You can’t trust your memory.
  4. Read at least one book in a category that you find difficult and even boring so you are able to discuss five principles about that subject. Think of yourself stuck with some guy at a party who is fascinated with celestial mechanics. You will make a friend.
  5. Take the initiative and ask questions of people who know more than you do. Listen more than you speak. If an answer is not clear, ask for clarification.
  6. Enhance your memory by learning the art of association. My book Memory Mechanics will help (Barnes & Noble sells an eBook version), but almost any book on memory techniques will do. One of the most famous is the Roth Memory Course.
  7. Be curious about why things are named what they are, how things work, who did what and when, etc. “Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it made her smarter.”
  8. Learn hard things. For example, try your hand at learning Morse Code so you can receive and send 15 words per minute. It will help you concentrate and focus. Learn a new language. The younger you do these hard things the easier they are to learn.
  9. Get a hobby.
  10. Be able to do a job interview without using the word “like” more than three times unless the word is absolutely called for as in “I would like to work for you” and not “Like, I would like really like to like work for you.”
  11. One of the best pieces of job advice I received was “learn everything about the company you’re going to work for.” I eventually became president of the company.
  12. Be able to give a talk for 12 minutes without using notes. If you are ever called on to give an impromptu talk, be ready to give one that lasts for about 3 minutes. Less is often more. When someone asks you to speak and tells gives you a time limit, DO NOT go over. You want people to say, “I wish he had more time” rather than “When will he shut up?”
  13. When arguing, don’t give anybody an excuse to reject your position other than the position itself. In simple terms, “Don’t be a jerk.” Becoming familiar with fallacious thinking is a good place to start for anyone who has the desire to be a better thinker and debater. There are numerous websites that explain informal fallacies. You might also may want to try the book Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice by Joel McDurmon.reject your position14. Start your own business so you will know how much work goes into running a company and how difficult it is to make a profit, hire and fire employees (most of whom aren’t qualified for the work), market, fill out forms, pay taxes, fill out forms, pay taxes, fill out forms, pay taxes. Young people can do this by selling things on eBay. My youngest son did this. It taught him a great deal about business, everything from pricing and writing ad copy to profit margins to customer complaints.
  14. Don’t be afraid to fail. Some of the best lessons you will ever learn come from failures, but only if you decide to learn from them by refusing to be discouraged or giving up.
  15. “Power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Sometimes (most times?) God uses our weaknesses over our strengths to turn us into the person He wants us to be. I’m a perfect example of this truth.

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