Be an Adult

Society defines an adult as someone who has reached the age of majority. For myself that was less than a year ago. My nineteenth birthday won’t be until August. To a lot of people I’m still not an adult. A young-adult/teenager blend that doesn’t really classify as an adult, but still needs to shave. I don’t see the world this way.

I believe that you are an adult when you take responsibility for your own life. What, other than age, separates a child from an adult? Knowledge? Probably not. There are some exceptionally smart ten year olds that could easily surpass the intelligence and knowledge of a particularly dull person approaching middle age.

Is it independence? Well as much as you would like to believe you are independent, that is really just a myth you’ve perpetuated to bolster your self-esteem. You rely on the government to protect you. You rely on the grocery store to prepare your food and you rely on every other person in society to function effectively. Most people if left stranded to fend for themselves in the wilderness would simply die. Few of us have lived a day of entire independence from society nor should we need to. Humans were designed to function together.

Is it your level of financial stability? My father once told me that you aren’t an adult until you pay your own bills. Coming from a middle-class household and attending University means that my own income only accounts for two thirds of my expenses, but my family helps with the rest. But although this argument is a good one, plenty of adults are deep in debt or rely on the financial support of others to survive.

You are an adult to the degree to which you take responsibility for your life and the world around you. Being an adult means that the buck stops with you. You are responsible for the well-being of your life and indirectly responsible in the well-being of the world around you.

Responsibility is an easy thing to say and a very difficult thing to accept. It is a belief system that many people preach but few actually live. Very few people have fully matured into adulthood. I’m certainly not there yet, but I strive to be. Many of the people I’ve seen throughout my life are still children. Children wearing suits, going to work and still avoiding responsibility for their reality.

When I started this website over a year ago, I had several people look at a few practice articles I had written to gauge their thoughts. Most of these people were kind, but hardly motivating. My own mother, bless her, told me that she thought it was good, but people might not want to hear from someone who at the time was still in high-school. I told her that maybe that was just a risk I’d have to take.

Two hundred articles and close to a thousand inspiring comments from readers later I’m glad I took responsibility for my own path. Life isn’t going to provide you with certainty, you need to take responsibility for it yourself.

Responsibility doesn’t mean control. Few things in life are under your direct control. Your mind and life may be in complete disarray, far removed from the area of your power. But that doesn’t deprive you of responsibility. You can always abdicate control, but never responsibility. If your dog ran off and bit someone, in many places you would be held accountable. The dog isn’t under your direct control in that instant but you are still responsible. In the end, anything in your life is your responsibility, whether or not it is under your control.

This is a deeply unsatisfying concept to most people. One that they shy away from their whole life. It is very uncomfortable to feel responsible for something you don’t also feel immediate control. But few of these people realize that this initial uncomfortable feeling, this idea that you are responsible for what is currently outside your control, is the start to greater control.

Parity with the Universe

I have a little sister. Like many young children, we expected everything to be completely fair and equal between us. If one of us felt like we were doing more chores than the other, it wouldn’t go silent. If one of us got a gift the other one expected a comparable donation. There needed to be a sense of parity between us at all times or there it was a greatly perceived injustice.

That attitude exemplifies what it means to be a child, the opposite of an adult. A child always expects that the world should be fair, when in reality it rarely is. In reality things are going to occur in your life that you have little control over. But your responsibility never diminishes. A child sits and whines because it isn’t fair. An adult takes responsibility and moves forward.

So you don’t have the right background, resources or enough time. So what? Just because you are dealt a bad hand doesn’t mean life won’t extract a cost. You are the only person who will suffer. You are shouting into an empty room with no reply. The universe is quite indifferent to your perceived suffering.

I’ve had this conversation with many people before. People who are often deeply unhappy with their life but do little more than complain about it. Many of the time these “adults” will look at me and in a condescending tone point out that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That I don’t have the life experience to understand the underlying reality. Status is an easy crutch to use when trying to win an argument, but it doesn’t make you correct.

Get up and take responsibility for your world. This responsibility is universal and absolute. You can abdicate control, but never ultimate responsibility. Exercising your responsibility is the key to gaining control. Where you don’t perceive responsibility you are impotent, where you do there lies the capacity for growth. Take responsibility. Be an adult.

  • John Wesley

    Acting like an adult is a big problem for people in our age group. Most don’t know what it means and don’t want to do it. They think life is going to be a nonstop party, so they keep waiting instead of taking responsibility. Once reality sinks in there are going to be a lot of really disappointed people out there.

    Is this our fault? Probably partially, but the last thing society teaches is responsibility and self restraint. We’re taught to worship fame and wealth but not how to build it. After spending 4 years partying in college, it’s a shock to finally be on your own and realize that you don’t have anything. Many people decide to ignore this reality.

  • Chris White

    Great Article Scott, I enjoyed it and agree with everything you said. It’s amazing to me that in my college classes I see 30-year-olds with lots of more-or-less professional experience who seem younger than particularly mature 18-year-old freshman. It also seems like least mature people make the harshest critiques yet have have unlimited excuses for why their own work isn’t as good as it could be. In my observation the quickest way to asses whether someone else is an adult or still acts like a child is how they respond to critique, adults are almost always respectful—even when disagreeing with a critique—and rarely make excuses and when they do make excuses they are always legitimate, I almost don’t want to call them excuses, but I’m not sure of a better word without the negative connotations. As I’ve matured over the last couple of years I tried to model myself after these people, I certainly have a ways to go, but I’ve had professors and other students complement me on how much I’ve changed since I started taking responsibility for myself.

    Anyway, I love your blog Scott, I recently purged almost all of my RSS feeds and yours is the only longer format blog I’ve kept a subscription to.

  • Scott Young

    Thanks for the comments John and Chris.

  • Kali

    Keep it up, Scott. You really are an inspirational person 🙂

  • karl staib

    A thoughtful article from a wise young man… I’ve just turned 30 and I struggle to be mature sometimes, especially when I’m caught in office gossip. I know not to gossip, but it’s hard not to because I want to fit in. You’ve got a great grasp on where you want your life to head. Keep up the good work and when you have a chance check out my blog –
    Karl Staib

  • Laura

    The divide between child and adult is a actually a very recent development. Childhood as we know it, a period in which people have little or no responsibility, only developed during the Victorian Era, before that, as soon as you were able -you worked.

    “The Victorian Era has been described as a source of the modern institution of childhood… The Victorians concomitantly emphasized the role of the family and the sanctity of the child, and broadly speaking, this attitude has remained dominant in Western societies since then” (

    Being sceptical of the term and its meaning makes perfect sense- ‘childhood’ is a construct that modern society has created and we all blindly follow its rules.

  • Scott Young

    Thanks for the comments Laura and karl.


    Great website. Keep it up.

  • Jan

    Wow! Just ….wow!
    Scott, I just can’t believe that you are as young as you say you are.
    Age is truly just a number….
    You have grasped the meaning of adulthood better than most people I know in my own age group (and I am going on 40). I absolutely despise the refusing-to-grow-up society that we are in, but instead try to guide myself towards taking responsibility for my own life and actions. I believe that for every situation life throws at you there is an appropriate action to be taken. Not necessarily a pleasant or easy one, but an appropriate one. I believe that a decision to do the appropriate, rather than the convenient, defines an adult decision.
    Mind like water, really. Or as Nike says…just do it!

    Hoping that the pendulum swings the other way soon,

  • Blake Burdette

    I really enjoy your blog. It’s well written and you are truly a master blogger, full of advice and insight. Amazing work.


  • max night

    I am yet still a child, but an adult at heart. I take responsibility for my actions, but I cant help but live with my parents because Im not yet 18. heres an interesting notion. Its quite true that an 18 year old can be quite the adult, and a 40 old can be the child, but what if this line between the two was affected by intelligence, or lack thereof? What if someone had a mental disability or disorder? I doubt the line could be affected by this but I suppose there would be a tendency for unintelligent people to behave most like a child, would there not?

  • yemi oluwasola from Nigeria

    Guy what agreat article you’ve got.I will appreciate it if you can send such article to my mail in the future.

  • Josh H

    I am only 14 and find myself more advanced than most of regular society, when I go to school and see kids making horrible decisions i stop and think “why what is the point of this”. Also i think intellegence is a sign of how fast you will grow into a more intellectual growth, into an adult. But anyway Mind over Body deffinitly

  • niquez

    Substantially, the post is in reality the sweetest on this worthy topic. I concur with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your upcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the great clarity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. De lightful work and much success in your business enterprise!

  • jelly mom

    Personally, I think you wrote a pretty good article. What you really failed to mention about being an adult is the responsibility to take care of yourself – and this means more than just cooking. Being an adult means that you will remember to pick up/clean up after yourself and dispose of it properly ~ regardless of whether you are still living at home, a dorm or sharing an apartment ~ and doing these things without being reminded. Being an adult means that you recognize the difference between chores and responsibility.

  • Mary

    I personally enjoyed your article. You may be very young but being young doesn’t mean you can never make a good point. I am very young myself, 18 in fact, and I believe that when you mentally become an adult you realize that you are responsible for your own quality of life. Truthfully you can not control many things that happen in this world, however you can control your own actions. I can’t tell you how many people I know that are my age and some a few years older that waste their lives. They refuse to get a job, make excuses to not go to college, and continue to live financially off of others. It isn’t the fact that they are poor and unemployed that makes them childish, its the fact that they make this life choice and have the audacity to complain about their quality of life. If your depressed because your poor, put in the effort and get a damn job. If you feel too uneducated to survive in the professional world than go to financial aid and get yourself into college. The bottom line is if your are unhappy with your life, 90 percent of the time your the root cause of your problem. Understanding this is the key to thinking like an adult.

  • msmike

    WOW! It was so refreshing to read something intelligent from someone so young. My daughter is nearly 29 (yes, 29) with 2 children of her own. She still acts like she’s 15. She wants everyone else to take care of her and blames others when things don’t go her way. Sometimes I wonder where she came from because she missed the life lessons I was trying to teach her. Good for you! You’ve given me hope for our youth!!!

  • Kathy

    Nice work Scott! I am truly impressed. You are wise beyond your years. I will have to introduce my 16 year old son to some of your work. I hope that you will continue to learn and grow as an adult. No one has all the answers. Believe me; as a 39 year old, I know. I am a psychology major, have raised 4 children and have numerous life experiences. I learn more every day, including different scenarios in the same situations that I may have already experienced. This brings me to the realization that sometimes there is more than one correct answer.

  • Judith

    Scott, you’ve done a commendable work here. I needed this. Maturity is not all about your physical appearance, though it’s inclusive. I believe God wants us to be faithful in everything He has given us. Scott i believe that there is much greatness in you and i hope to get to know you better. God wants to use you to touch li8es beyond this scope. God loves you. Please send me your email so we can talk more.