Partying and Personal Development


Can partying be a source of self-improvement? Although I tend to write more about work and productivity, because those are my strengths, I’m probably a fairly typical student when it comes to partying and socializing with friends. Because of this I’ve been asked a number of times on how I feel this fits with the pursuit of getting the most from life.

My University Social Life

In highschool I rarely partied and never drank. This gave me more time to work on personal projects that really interested me. But it also meant that I did less socializing with my peers outside of school. While this was a tradeoff I understood and accepted at the time, it wasn’t ideal.

When I started living in university residence two years ago, I decided to switch my previously sole focus on productivity and spend more time working on my social life. Becoming more outgoing, fun and spontaneous, I met dozens of new people and built a fairly large social circle in the first few weeks.

Today I would say I’m closer in between those two ranges. I meet with friends every day, going out to a social or club once or twice each month. I do drink when I go out, but I place my emphasis on meeting people and having fun, not getting drunk. Occasionally I haven’t been perfect in this rule, but most the time it has worked for me.

Why the Focus on Productivity?

I love the work I do here at this blog. If someone asked me whether I had to choose between giving up all social contact and giving up my ability to create, there wouldn’t be a moment of hesitation in my mind. Productivity isn’t drudgery to me. It means the ability to do more of what I love faster, better and more effectively.

If you don’t have a similar passion for your job, studies or personal projects, I can see why it would be difficult to understand my relentless focus. When I was in the third grade I organized a small club with a few friends to try and come up with ways to make and sell things. Ever since that early beginning, the joy I’ve got from creating and working on personal projects has exceeded almost any other drive I’ve had in my life.

Are Partying and Self-Improvement Opposites?

Looking at the kind of people who party all the time and self-improvement doesn’t usually jump to your mind. As a result, it is easy to see why many people believe partying is the antithesis of personal development. Party, drink and socialize all the time and you most certainly are working against self-improvement.

I think this is an issue of mixing up correlation and causation. Although partying all the time doesn’t usually match up with overachievers, that doesn’t mean it is actually destructive towards personal development.

The reason I feel there is a strong association between over-partying and under-achieving is because when you lack that drive to create and work, partying seems like a much better alternative. When you hate your studies and don’t know what to do with your life, getting drunk four times a week seems better than just sitting home alone.

The solution to this problem is to work on that drive to create. Explore and experiment until you find something that fills you with passion, even if you can’t make a living off it immediately. From that point you can spend time building a career, business or income stream around that initial drive. (For more of my thoughts on building a passion, read my article: What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?)

Where Can Partying Be Beneficial?

Partying isn’t all bad. The real question is whether you are using it to improve your social life and regain your energy or whether you are just trying to escape from the truth that you don’t have a creative passion. Improving your social skills, regaining your energy and meeting people are all valid reasons for going out.

The other question is if you are partying to meet new people, relax or build your social life, are you accomplishing this? Like the person who works twelve hour days but accomplishes the same amount as the person who only works four, going out three nights a week might not do much more than going out once.

Drinking and Partying

I’m of the belief that drinking is to socializing what caffeine is to productivity. Ultimately it’s probably not a good thing, it isn’t necessary and often it is used as a crutch. Chugging back that third espresso or beer to boost your alertness or confidence probably isn’t ideal.

That being said, I haven’t been perfect in resolving this issue for myself. Over the summer months between May and August I might have had one drink, but usually my complete cutbacks also meant less socializing. I’ll probably work on cutting down or eliminating alcohol in my social life, probably through a 30 Day Trial sometime in the future.

Partying is a bit like watching television. There can be really great shows that inform and entertain, but if you watch a few hours each day you are probably just using it as a distraction.

  • Brett McKay

    I agree there’s a fine line to walk between partying being beneficial and partying being detrimental. I think it’s good to get out and mix it up with your class mates every now and then. You can establish strong relationships that can one day help you out later down the line.

    I don’t drink and I’ve never found that to be a detriment to socializing. People respect me for my decision and we have a good time. I don’t know where all this garbage about peer pressure came from. I’ve never felt it.

  • Avi Marcus

    Having just read “The Now Habit”, which urges guilt free play, then the question is exactly what you said – is the party a reward for work or part of your personal time, or is it a way to procrastinate and push things off (like life)?

  • Jonas Park

    Although achieving an ideal work/play balance is certainly a salient topic for a personal development article, I sense here that you wrote this just to fulfill your weekly output quota. There isn’t really a coherent idea put forth here except the message that partying is okay and serves one’s social life and productivity. The primary impression I get from you here is that you went out to party once in a while, had questions about its efficacy and sought to justify it. Yes, partying IS certainly justifiable especially when done with the deliberate intent to enhance your socialization — it would have made a truly great piece if you explored the Why and How of partying much further.

    Perhaps it’s understandable after you’ve produced a string of absolutely superb articles within the past half month such as: How to Set Goals Creatively, 9 Great Ways to Invest in Yourself, and Reviews of the Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged. I’d love for you to do a piece on socializing and partying from a university student’s point of view that is much broader in scope and practical than this one.


  • Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk

    I couldn’t disagree more with Jonas…this post resonated with me. When I was reading it I thought, “This is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the web.” Just goes to show you can’t please everyone. 🙂

  • Scott Young

    Jonas and Jean,

    Whenever I take a departure from my normal posting routine I’m not going to please everyone, but hopefully it keeps things interesting.

    I wrote this post in response to quite a few questions about what my stance was with partying and going out in University. The reason I haven’t written a lot of socialization articles or partying/meeting people is because there are already dozens of great authors on those subjects in the web, and I don’t have too much to add.

    I suppose this is a more self-indulgent post to show some of my reasoning about an area of my life besides work, school, exercise and typical personal-development topics. Although I like to stick to the subjects I’m good at, it does give a bit of a skewed perception for how I actually live my life.


  • Jonas Park


    I hope I didn’t give the impression that I didn’t enjoy the article – I know you put in a great deal of thought and effort into every piece you do. I think that I simply became so accustomed to witnessing a bunch of exciting mental breakthroughs every time I came here, and this bit was quite a change of pace.

    You mention that you haven’t written that much on socialization and college life because you “don’t have too much to add,” and I must say I’d disagree, along with the majority of your readers! On the contrary, I’d be greatly interested in how you manage to fit in a fulfilling socialization into a lifestyle primarily based on active pursuit of productivity and growth – What you do, Why, and How, etc. You have a lot to offer on that front, to say the least.

    And Jean – You have a beautiful website. I too am in the process of building a website and finding that it is one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced in life. The content of my site probably won’t deal with personal development per se but I’d like to model the basic gist of it after Scott’s and yours (straightforward, interactive and aesthetically pleasing). I’ll be seeing a lot more of your sites.

  • Graham

    Actually, partying can be a great networking opportunity. As a photographer, I never step out of the house without a handful of business cards. Every single person I meet is potentially someone I can work with in some way. Parties are a great opportunity you might not normally have to corner a complete stranger and talk at great length about what you can do for them.

    Most people at parties are dying to find someone to engage in any conversation with so they aren’t left standing awkwardly alone. I sometimes attempt to engage on a bus or plane the same way, but there it has nowhere near the same effectiveness. There is no event where people are more willing to talk to strangers than a party. Instead of awkward, shouted small talk about impossibly trivial things, why not make your conversations about what you can do for them? Every encounter should end with a handshake and an exchange of business cards.

    It’s also a great excuse to show up knowing no one – I’ve been known to crash parties literally walking by off the street if it looks interesting. 99% of the time, no one says a thing, so long as you are well dressed and carry yourself confidently. It takes literally 3 seconds to make a new friend at a party, simply by opening up with a big smile and going for a handshake with an enthusiastic, “Hey buddy!”

    The second you realize almost every there is feeling at least if not more awkward and out of place as you, you’ll be in control and can literally take over a room. Just be positive, shake a lot of hands, and make damn sure to remember at least a handful of names, preferably of the best dressed people.

    Until I realized that parties are a BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, I used to feel completely lost and out of place at them. I don’t drink, I loathe the banality of small talk, and I am just not that into “going wild”. Now, I feel like every party is a chance to expand my business. I have a lot of purpose and drive at parties. It informs every conversation I have, and ironically, I’ve found it actually makes me more effective and interesting with the people I’m engaging. They sense dedication and admire the tenacity to get results. Nothing is more impressive than someone who knows what they want, and knows how to get it.

  • Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk


  • Rondon


    You mentioned that “there are already dozens of great authors on those subjects in the web, and I don’t have too much to add.” Can you share some of those resources?

    So far the only thing that comes to my mind is Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to win friends…”.


  • Scott Young


    I’d need to do a search to find more, but off the top of my head:


  • Cadsuane

    I don’t normally feel the need to comment on the blogs I come across, but just this once I’ll make an exception. It’s refreshing to hear such healthy views on socializing, and partying in particular. Unfortunately, not everyone holds this view, and it really does depend on the kind of people you have around you – in your community, school or workplace – as to what opinions and pressure you are most likely to come across. Brett Mackay is obviously one of the more fortunate people who a) has a great circle of people around him, that really do respect and, by the sounds of it, support his decision – not everyone is so fortunate b) has the strength to fend off or has the ability to be completely oblivious to any kind of pressure – again, not everyone is so fortunate.

    I was never interested in drinking, but when I was at the age of leaving school and beginning to experience the community around me as an adult the pressure was indeed on to go “partying” – which meant either house parties or nights out on the town – and not just at the weekend either. Any of these social events I attended would guarantee at least one conversation/debate about the merits of being a non-drinker and guaranteed pressure to “go on just have one” and “what’s the big deal”. Some people actually seem personally offended at the presence of a non-drinker in their midst.

    Even to this day (I’m in my 30s now) in the workplace the norm is to “work hard/party hard” with many a story of drunken madness being told on Monday morning.

    So, the pressure is there, in a lot of workplaces and within social communities – and you do need to have a strong character and/or lots of support to stand your ground and carry on regardless. As I’ve said – not everyone is so lucky!