You are at a major crossroads. You are not yet vested in the adult world. As such, you are in an excellent position to make wise objective decisions for your future.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
-Upton Sinclair

That’s the problem with too many adults (even well-meaning and otherwise intelligent ones).  Their perspectives are clouded by self-interest and ego.

As a teen, on the other hand, your perspective is relatively uncluttered, enabling you to make positive choices that will have long term implications.

Do you dream of a big home in the suburbs with a weed-free lawn, three-car garage, a bonus room, and lots of stuff?

If so, you’re delusional.

Yes, that may have been your parents’ dream, but that’s because your parents were conditioned to want that, and, at the time, it made economic sense. 

This suburban American Dream was solidified in the 1950s and 60s when the USA was a leading oil producing nation, and the subsidies from the government through the GI Bill were unprecedented.  The suburbs were built under the assumption that cheap energy (oil, gas, and electricity) were our birthright.

That assumption has been proven to be false.

These days, most of our oil comes from foreign sources, and our military actions around the world are primarily about securing advantageous access to foreign oil fields.  The terrorism excuse is just a smoke screen.

Once enough Americans figure this out, either our President will have to come up with another smoke screen, or perhaps summon the courage to actually tell the truth about our military actions.

You want to see an end to the Oil Wars? 

Then get serious yourself about cutting back on your own consumption of products dependent on oil (cars, food trucked from across the country, and a whole host of consumer products).

By the way, since the dawn of the Oil Age, securing oil fields in other countries has always been a key reason for war, and not just for the Americans.  

Back to the suburban American McDream:

If you’ve been following current events, you know that lifestyle is destroying the planet.   Not only that, the McMansion your parents have a mortgage on today is probably going to be in a slum within a decade or two.  It will not hold its value.

Beyond shelter, running water, heat, and electricity, what more do you really need? Instead of a dream home, choose a dream life. Better to live simply, and avoid attachment to material things and the illusion of power so as to preserve your ability to stay rational and clear-thinking.

Be part of the solution, not the problem. Rather than chasing after stuff, why not dedicate your life to connecting with many people?  Instead of dreaming and scheming for a McMansion someday, why not dream and scheme for ways to live your life as to leave the smallest footprint you can?  

Instead of accumulating a lot of things, why not skip the “accumulation phase” of life?  Are you making a “decorator look” in your home?  Why not make a decorator look in your brain?

Learn to live on a low budget.

Do you really ever need a car?  Did you know there are some super cool alternatives to cars? Could your transportation needs be met with a bicycle or a pair of shoes?  Could you rethink your life and priorities to make that happen?  Did you realize there is no such thing as a “green automobile” and that if you truly want to be eco-friendly, not owning a car at all is the best option?

A university degree is not the best choice for a significant number of young people.  They and society at large would be better served in other pursuits. 

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), was one of the world’s wisest men on topics related to business, economics, and the future.  A university professor himself, Drucker in 1997 predicted the demise of the residential college campus within 30 years (by the year 2027).

The reason?

Costs have spiraled out of control, and technology allows us to deliver education and training in more efficient ways without purpose-built brick and mortar buildings.

My firm opinion is we are currently at the start of the Second Great Depression a condition that may last for the next decade–not a good time to be taking on onerous levels of student debt.

I agree with Drucker, and further feel the educational institutions that will survive are those closely allied with the local job market in delivering practical skills directly leading to jobs.  Essentially, we’re talking community colleges, junior colleges, and urban universities.  Expect a resurgence in respect and demand for skilled trades.

Universities don’t hold the patent on knowledge. Never forget you can actually learn things without paying hefty tuition bills, and never underestimate the potential of self-education.

someone who can find paths through unexplored territory

That’s the dictionary definition of the term “scout.”

In the future post Oil Age economy, your scouting skills may well be more valuable than any college degree.

What are scouting skills?

Emergency preparedness, physical fitness, active citizenship, gardening, handy with tools, first aid skill, outdoor cooking, camping, hiking, plant and animal awareness, strong code of outdoor ethics, working knowledge of useful trades, etc.

Without a doubt, the best scouts, will fare well in the future.

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Choose a line of work that will bring you a living wage, one that is environmentally sustainable, pure, and that contributes something valuable to your community.  

One example (out of many) of a “pure career” is what you saw up until the early 1970s in local hardware stores:  the clerk was actually knowledgeable in many trades, and could provide excellent guidance to each customer.  There were none of those “team players” like today who pose as professionals, but actually don’t know anything.  The shopkeepers of old really knew their trade, and we really respected them.  That is what I call a pure career.

Today, particularly good pure careers just waiting to be married to passionate people include: school teacher, plumber, machinist, metal fabricator, electrician, scientist, carpenter, small business owner (local grocer), policeman, and fireman.  Useful trades you can perform using manual tools, and heirloom methods, are wise choices.  If you’re interested in building vehicles, choose railcars, streetcars, and barges, NOT automobiles, speedboats, or airplanes.

The most important point about careers is how much love you put into your work.  Even the lowest status career is a beautiful pursuit when a person puts love into it.  For instance, a window cleaner who performs with exactness, attention to detail, extreme care, a certain flair, and a big helping of love, is far more impressive as a human being than a highly-paid accountant who lacks basic social skills.

Love–yes, that’s what it’s all about.

Be ready to dig deep into your soul to learn this lesson.  Learn patience slowly.  Many people travel a long road before they get there.  And that is how it should be.

Picture yourself in a walkable neighborhood where carfree living is a viable and realistic option. Choose to live in a location that enables you to get around on foot, bike, scooter, or public transportation.  These days only crazy people would buy a house in a location that required them to drive a car 11 trips a day.

Folks, suburbia is on the way out.  It’s dying.  

You’d be a fool to sink your money into an oversized drywall box home in the suburbs (Gregory Johnson likens such homes to puffer fish).  Instead, sink your money and time into your local community, into experiences.  

If you have more than enough money, but not enough time, cut back working for money, and increase your leisure time pursuits.  

It really is that simple.

Be physically active as long as you live.  Organized sports have their place, but in far too many cases, there is an overemphasis on competition, and the time demand on teens is excessive.  Have the courage to participate in sports in the way they were originally conceived: for recreation, friendship, and fun.

Try the philosophy of ultralight backpacking as a general philosophy of life.  Travel light through life so you can enjoy more.

Be a staunch supporter of your local community. Buy locally grown, chemical-free produce. Avoid soda pop. Patronize locally owned businesses to the greatest extent possible. 

Turn your back on the likes of Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonalds, Wendys, Dairy Queen, Arbys, Subway, Quiznos, Sonic, etc.  Instead spend your dollars at small, local, family-owned ethnic restaurants.  Give your money to the quirky places, and places with owners who conduct business with class and put the emphasis on food rather than image.   

Reject the giant retail chains. Intentionally boycott them.  Buy from the locally owned and operated stores, you know, the corner grocer.  Avoid strip malls.  Shop downtown.  

Unless your teeth are seriously misaligned, orthodontia is pure vanity.  A world full of perfect teeth people is a bland and boring world.  Teeth whitening is pure vanity as well.

The world needs people who aren’t into vanity.  The world desparately needs the kinks of society.

Reject conventional vacations in favor of green and ultimately more satisfying ones.  Learn to get your kicks close to home.

Sensible choices that can also be a blast include urban hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing,  cross-country skiing, or river paddling. 

Camp in local state parks.  Take the Greyhound bus for your next journey. Avoid airline travel.  Actually, within a few years, the option of flying will be reserved for only the wealthy anyway.

Travel by foot, bicycle, bus, or train. 

Keep yourself informed. Read a quality newspaper daily for the rest of your life.  Talk, and listen. Be curious and open-minded.   Cancel the cable TV subscription, and instead spend your money on cultural events outside the home: art, theater, museums, lectures, fairs, concerts, etc. Learn to see yourself through other’s eyes. 

And always, always, always vote!

Everyone has the opportunity to become great in lasting ways. This is achieved by living with integrity, courage, and wisdom. You can’t PR your way to greatness. Courage to stand up to faulty popular opinion is your salvation, not a day planner or a blackberry. You can’t live selfishly, and simply slap a label on your life that you’re great. People won’t buy it. 

While hard work and discipline are essential to the successful life, true success is not in an award, or bank account balance. It’s in the number of real friends you have, and intangibles such as your ability to enjoy life in deep and profound ways, and to have stood for something far greater than your own comfort, convenience, and bank account. Too many adults get so wrapped up in the mundane world and the chase after illusory success that they lose the ability to do these things. 

Never allow that to happen to you. 

Wise choices will not only transform your own life, but also make the world a better place. I wish you well on your life’s journey.