Scott H Young

I’m 24


Today is my birthday. It’s been a tradition here that I use this opportunity to write about my life, instead of sharing a new idea. It’s a bit selfish, but I’m allowed a little today. Feel free to skip this post and ignore my self-indulgence.

Overall this has been a very different year than the ones preceding it. It involved living in a new city, speaking at TEDx, and, of course, spending most of my year trying to learn MIT’s computer science curriculum.

Technically, this was my first year not being a full-time student. Although some might count my intensive MIT experiment as evidence I never really left, it’s been a stark contrast to my time in university.

Going Pro

Although I had earned a full-time income during my last year and half of university, since so few of my peers had a full-time job on the side, it was easy to think of myself as a student during that time. Now I’ve been running this business exclusively as my source of income, so I guess that makes me a professional blogger.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions asking me, “What’s next?” Often the implication is that I’m going to get a “real” job. I’ve spent nearly a decade building an online business that can support myself, so my learning experiments aren’t preparation for something bigger—they’re just my life now.

The biggest thing I’ve missed since starting the MIT Challenge has been the lack of time to focus on my business. I’m really looking forward to working on new courses, books and features for the website. Even keeping a once-per-week writing schedule has been tough, and I hope to spend the next year building things.

What Do I Do for a Living?

My career is certainly a strange one. It didn’t really exist when I started this website, and even though I now know a few dozen people who do what I do, it’s still a bit difficult to understand for most people.

Luckily my career doesn’t depend on everyone understanding. So when people ask why I’m not getting a job, or going to get my masters, I just smile and nod. The best thing about running an online business is that you never need to convince anyone it works—there are no VCs, admissions officers or HR personnel to tell me I can’t, it either works or it doesn’t.

Amazingly the business carried on, with very little decline in income, even though I did no new projects during my challenge. Although for passive income, it’s an awful lot of work, I was happy to know the systems I built over the last six years withstood me taking a bit of a sabbatical.

I’m looking forward to applying the skills I’ve built through my MIT Challenge to improving the learning courses I offer. In particular, I’m excited about reopening Learning on Steroids which has been closed for almost a year. [You can find out when it reopens by joining the mailing list]

A Year of MIT

I’ll save a full dissection of the MIT Challenge for when I finish (which is still on-track to be completed at the end of September). But if there’s been anything that’s impacted my life this last year, it has been this project. By far the largest and most ambitious project I’ve attempted, it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The biggest constraint created by the challenge was simply the lack of extra time. In the past I’ve had many extracurricular activities—travel, volunteering, business, hobbies. Juggling this blog and following the curriculum, meant working six days per week, so the past year has been a more focused one.

Despite the time commitment, actually following the courses has been relatively relaxed. The first few months were very intense, but I’ve since adapted to the schedule and made it easier, so now I hardly notice. Instead of burnout, I only feel a bit restless.

When I started the challenge, I said to a friend that part of my goal was to see if I could do it. Not a typical goal, in which the object of desire is my motivation, but rather a challenge where the motivation is to see if I’d fail.

I was terrified when I first started. Not only was the goal hard, but I was doing it publicly, where you can tell from my early detractors, there were many hoping I’d fail. I may not have done it perfectly, but having nearly finished I feel the confidence I’ve gained to take on new challenges is vastly more valuable than anything else.

What Next?

It’s an interesting question because, for the first time in my life, I don’t have an answer. I spent nearly seven years knowing what was next—building an online business so I wouldn’t need to get a job. After that, the looming prospect of this year’s experiment focused me. But what now?

The easy answer is to just keep doing what I’m doing—continue helping people learn better, writing articles and books, maintaining the status quo.

I’ve never been much for the status quo. Stagnancy is death. Although there may come a time in my life when I yearn for routine, now is not that time.

Instead of a single answer to that question, I have a lot of them. There have been many dimensions of life I’ve wanted to pursue, and perhaps I’ll spend some time dabbling in each of them, enjoying the brief respite before I get swept up in another juggernaut of a project.

In no order of preference or probability, here’s some of the things I’ve wanted to undertake:

  • Try new sports. Now that I live in the mountains, I may take up skiing or snowboarding. It’s been a long time since I learned a sport, and it’s an element of my life I’ve wanted to improve for some time.
  • Write a novel. I have no desire to become a great writer of fiction, but I miss the creativity of my amateur game development days, and learning to write fiction could aid me in my nonfiction writing which supports my life.
  • Learn new languages. Spanish has been on my to-do list for awhile and I’ve always wanted to live a few months in Japan. The social aspect of learning languages also makes it quite a different challenge from the math and science of MIT.
  • Travel more. There’s so much of the world I haven’t seen yet, and I miss the adventure. While travel is far cheaper and more accessible than most people realize, having a location independent income removes even that weak excuse for xenophobia, so it might be time to leave my comfort zone again.
  • Author a (real) book. I’ve self-published several ebooks, but I keep hearing reminders that I should write a real book. Initially I had considered doing so for the MIT Challenge, but I feel the self-blogging efforts over the last year exhausted most of the topic for me, so I’d rather wait. That said, the concept of rapid learning is one I’d love to tackle in a more serious format, and then I may have another project to consume my life for another year.

Need, Status, Fun

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, suggested that there are three layers of motivation for human behavior. People who do things for need, for status and for fun. To him, fun was the highest motivation and a sign you were truly living well.

The fact that my to-do list of projects are mostly about fun and less about necessity or status may indicate I’ve climbed up that ladder in my own life. It certainly wasn’t always this way, and I can remember spending much of my time focused on the first rung of that strenuous climb.

More than anything else, I’m grateful. I’ve worked hard, but so have many whom life has not been so generous with. So, before I go to celebrate two dozen trips around the Sun, I want to thank everyone for making it possible to do what I love and share it with you.


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34 Responses to “I’m 24”

  1. anurag says:

    Very Very happy Birthday Scott, really appreciate your work.
    May you forever stay young :-)

  2. Success says:

    Happy Birthday Scott.
    Your passion is incredible.
    Stay awesome.

  3. Paul says:

    Happy Birthday Scott! and all the best for the future

  4. Mateusz says:

    Wish you all the best, Scott. Happy birthday!

  5. Karenee says:

    Whatever adventure you undertake next, I’m looking forward to seeing you live full forward into the present. I’ve been inspired by you, hopefully enough to push through the edges of the rut my life has been till now, though those initial stages sometimes seem insurmountable. But I’m making significant steps forward.

    Congratulations on 24 years of growth! Thank you for sharing them with us.

  6. Happy Birthday Scott! I just turned 24 a month ago and I’ve been doing some thinking about my purpose in life too. While I’m glad you’re having fun, there’s something I don’t understand about the life you’ve chosen: do you feel like you live a life of purpose? All the things you suggest seem fun, to me they all seem like things you’d do on the side: I can’t fathom why you’d be content with a life filled with just them. Maybe we’re just different people with different priorities (and that’s fine) but to me the lifestyle you’ve chosen for yourself seems a bit boring and banal. I don’t mean to be insulting, I’m trying to understand why you’ve chosen the particular activities that you have to fill your life.

  7. JB says:

    I am very surprised that you are not even planning to use your MIT knowledge at all. If it was just for fun then why take all the classes including the ones you already took or weren’t interesting. I think if you sit down and think for a little bit you could find some synergy between comp sci and your learning methods. Just a suggestion though, you know yourself more than I know you. The most important thing is that you have that zest (as Bertrand Russell calls it ) for life and I wish the best of luck to you!

  8. Scott Young says:

    JB,

    No immediate plans, but that doesn’t mean I won’t use the knowledge. I also spend much of my time learning things that aren’t immediately practical, but turn out to be useful later.

    Shrutarshi,

    Life has phases, it has periods of focused, purposeful development, and periods of relaxed stillness where you let opportunities and events flow over you. As for purpose in life, I feel grateful that I can invest so much time helping people learn better.

    -Scott

  9. Tony Perea says:

    Happy birthday Scott! So many achievements at such a young age come surely with great effort and commitment. Thank you for sharing your passion for learning and personal development with us!

    I look forward to hearing from your “Japan adventure” if you happen to go there, as it’s something I’d like to do as well.

    Best wishes.
    Tony

  10. Michael Justice says:

    Happy bday Scott love what you have done. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  11. Li says:

    Hi Scott!

    Happy Birthday! I’ve been reading your blog for about 5 years now and through your blog I’ve gotten to know more amazing bloggers. Hope you have a great 24th birthday and thank you for being an inspiration for me :)

  12. Daniel says:

    Happy Birthday Scott!

    Good luck for the next year and I’m exciting to read about your new endeavours!

  13. Hi Scott,

    Congratulations! You have a couple of wonderful things you want to do the next year.

    Looking at your ebooks, I would love to see you write a (real) book based on the topics you have covered in your other books. How would you integrate all the topics in one technique/system/method?

  14. Akshay says:

    Happy Birthday, Scott, well actually- belated happy birthday. You are doing a great work and I wish you All the best. Actually you are an inspiration for us(seriously).

    I’ll be looking forward for you new exciting projects, articles. They are really inspiring.

  15. Mowdah says:

    Happy birthday keep up the good work and making your goals . i thought i cant handle 7 books in 4 months weļl now i know i can and will. excited to sēe your post next year hopfully from japan

  16. Audrey says:

    Happy Birthday Scott! You have had an intense year. It seems to be human nature to always be reaching for the next thing. I hope that you can take the time to rest, and integrate what you have just accomplished. I think resting, or coming back to center/stillness, after intense movement is so very important. You have worked hard, and something fun and completely ridiculous is totally in order.

  17. Carl Shan says:

    Scott,

    It’s been a blast reading your thoughts over the past few years. I can’t believe it’s already been so long. I remember getting coffee with you in SF a few months before you were about to start the MIT project — surprised that time flew by for me.

    Ping me at my email if you’re ever in the Bay again. Like your growth towards doing things for fun, I saw a lot of personal development in myself as well. I’d love to chat again.

    Carl

  18. Camilo says:

    Happy Birthday, Scott! Your work is a source of inspiration for me. It’s good to see someone defying the status quo in so many ways.

  19. Sandy says:

    Belated Happy Birthday Scott!! Its been just 3 days i found this blog, and its helping me a lot! I’ll be reading all your previous articles.
    God bless you. Have an amazing year ahead! :)

  20. David Zinger says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Scott:
    All the best on the next 24 and the next 24 after that. You are amazing.
    David

  21. Swati says:

    Scott
    Belated Happy B’day. This is strange doing things like MIT challenge for fun. Are you einstein or what? I mean doing all this heavy stuff without purpose….You said in your website “DONT TELLL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR AIMS”…Are you too doing this..no big plans .. :-))))

  22. Happy Birthday Scott, I wish you well in all your new adventures. I am glad to hear that fun is at the top of your list and that you have learned to not listen to conventional wisdom, but to your own hearts intuition.

  23. Alexandra says:

    Very very very Happy Birthday!
    I wish you to do well everything you’ve planned. I really impressed about your personality, and you have given me many answers.
    So, I do hope you will be able to take from life more!

  24. shreevidya says:

    a very happy birthday scott(belated one), hav a nice time ahead.

  25. Steve Bithell says:

    Hi Scott and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    I’m 45 and I wish I had your courage. Long may your experiment continue, and may it bring you happiness!

  26. Diogo says:

    Happy birthday Scott! Just keep doing what you love and have fun doing! The best wishes for you man! And keep writting! Because you are really awsome in what you do!

  27. josh says:

    hbd mate
    blog is real inspiring, cheers!

  28. Udeet says:

    Happy Birthday Scott! :)
    Thank you for your efforts. They have been really helpful. Keep it up :)

  29. Scott Young says:

    David,

    Thanks–hope to meet up again when I go back to Winnipeg in December.

    Carl,

    Definitely. I don’t know when I’m heading back to SF, but I’m sure it won’t be too long.

    Everyone else,

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, they mean a lot!!

    Swati,

    Well I like to share a bit of my life with people here, but I omit a lot of my goals until after they’ve been long finished for exactly that reason. My MIT Challenge is a very unusual (and public) exception!

    -Scott

  30. Wesley says:

    To learn Spanish check out duolingo.com

  31. Jason says:

    Happy Birthday, Scotty!

    Any plans of getting married and settling down?

    Who’s the lucky girl?

  32. Scott Young says:

    Jason,

    I doubt I’ll get married before my early thirties. I’m not planning to settle down and start a family immediately.

    -Scott

  33. [...] those of you new to the blog, each year I do a birthday self-reflection post. If you’re uninterested in my yearly introspection, [...]

  34. [...] those of you new to the blog, each year I do a birthday self-reflection post. If you’re uninterested in my yearly introspection, [...]

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