It’s graduation season, which means many parents will observe a sacred rite of passage: dispensing terrible life advice to their kids.
Mom and dad mean well. But the class of 2023 will enter a job market during one of the worst periods of uncertainty since the 2008 financial crisis.
I’ve endured similar crises, from growing up in poverty, to dropping out of high school to care for my disabled mother, to holding down two jobs while earning my college and law degrees.
Throughout my trials and my journey to becoming a self-made millionaire, bestselling author, CEO and investor, the one key to thriving was to not play it safe.
Here’s the worst and most outdated advice young people should ignore, and what to do instead:
1. “You need a fallback plan.”
A Wharton study found that just thinking about a backup plan can significantly reduce the likelihood of Plan A from happening, along with the motivation to even try.
There are only a handful of things you can break in your 20s that you can’t fix in your 30s. The only way you’ll have a shot at being the next Taylor Swift is to believe that you will be, and to not worry about what happens if you fall short.
Trust your capacity and agency to figure things out if Plan A doesn’t work.
2. “Cut down your screen time.”
Screens are the future of work. Playing video games for 10 hours straight might not help, but you can learn all sorts of lucrative new skills online.
If you want to start a side hustle, write a business plan, launch a website or market a product or service, the right resources are out there, and often at low or no cost at all.
3. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Partially untrue. While crippling anxiety should be addressed, not all anxiety is problematic. In fact, studies show that the most successful entrepreneurs harness anxiety and make it work for them.
They maintain what’s called a state of “optimal anxiety:” the balance between having enough anxiety to catalyze focus and improve performance, but not so much as to inhibit excellence.
4. “Go work at a big, stable company.”
It used to be sage advice to start your career at giants like Facebook, Google, Lyft, Netflix and Disney. But even companies that once promised 30-year careers are now facing massive layoffs.
Instead of going with a big name, go for the right role. Ensure that your interests and skills line up with the position you want, even if it’s at a small startup or midsize company.
Even better, use your skills and passion to start a business. It may sound crazy, but with a week of intense focus, you could use AI to launch a business earning $10,000 a month. And then you won’t have to worry about layoffs.
5. “Buy a house and settle down.”
Lastly, the most important piece of advice every young person should know: Cash is king.
Save cash and preserve as much liquidity as possible. If it means renting or living at home, that’s fine. The housing market is due for a big correction that may take years to unwind.
And in a high inflationary environment, saving cash is more important than piling on debt. Credit card debt among people between 18 and 25 years old is also at the highest rate compared to any other age demographic, so be more cautious with excessive spending.
Matt Higgins is an investor and CEO of RSE Ventures. He began his career as the youngest press secretary in New York City history, where he helped manage the global press response during 9/11. Matt’s book, “Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potential,” is out now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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