I’m 21

Today is my 21st birthday. And, as I’ve done in the past, I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learned over the last year. This is a more personal entry, so if you’re not interested in a self-indulgent post, feel free to skip it. Another article on getting more for life will be up next week.

Highlights of My Year

I try to inject aspects of my personal life into this blog. But, seeing as I don’t aim to write for this website as a diary, but a useful resource, a lot is glossed over. So, in case you didn’t pick it out cryptically from my hundred or so articles last year, here’s what I’ve been involved in:

  • Eight grueling months of international business planning competitions.
  • Began learning French (I leave for France August 31st).
  • Saw my website blossom into a full-time income after a few successful projects.
  • Then, later, watched my website decline dramatically because of my difficult schedule.
  • Volunteered to help organize the largest student run business banquet in Canada.
  • Raised over $35,000 as a student fundraiser.
  • Had one relationship end when my girlfriend left for France.
  • Had another relationship end when I decided to leave for France.
  • Released The Little Book of Productivity and nearly completed work on my next (and biggest) book, Think Outside the Cubicle.
  • Spent a month traveling through Scandinavia, England and Belgium.

This year has been one of my most challenging. Managing an international competition schedule, full-time classes, freelance writing, volunteering and a business was difficult. I don’t recommend it. It may be a cliche, but I have learned a lot from those challenges.

Lessons Learned

Spend Time With What You Love, Ignore The Rest

This includes people, pursuits and passions. It’s easy to let other people persuade you on how you should be spending your time and who you should be spending it with. I definitely fell victim to this, getting involved in too much at the expense of the pursuits and people I really care about.

Watching this business wither due to neglect was painful, especially as I saw my time being drained away to commitments I didn’t care nearly as much about. Some of my relationships were also collateral damage in the pressure, so I can say it was a frustrating lesson to learn.

I’ve realized how important it is for me to focus the few things I actually give a damn about, and ignore the many things I don’t.

Don’t Follow the People Who Aren’t Walking the Same Path

It’s easy to get caught up, following people around you. I’m not going to say this is always a bad idea, but it is a bad idea when your goals are different. If I’m aiming at eventually running an online business full-time when I graduate, then I can’t operate from the same mindset as someone who just wants a safe job.

I think we all take cues from other people for how to behave, whether subconsciously or directly. But, it pays to ask yourself whether you want to go the same direction they are headed. If not, why are you following them?

There are Few Genuinely Win/Loss Moments in Life

When I started setting goals seriously, I wanted to win at all costs. Of course, that’s what I had been told I would need to do if I wanted to do something great. I now realize that, for the most part, this attitude is destructive and stupid.

There are few moments in life that you can clearly label win or lose. Instead of focusing on those moments, it’s best to just stay in the game. Last year, I would have seen being unable to support myself full-time from this business by my graduation as a loss. Now, I don’t see it that way. Even if I need to get another job and work first, I can still keep writing, keep playing and eventually I’ll win.

I think the reason so many people lose isn’t because they weren’t swinging hard enough. It’s because they quit too early after striking out.

If You Want to Appear Sophisticated, Criticize Something

The easiest way to look foolish is to believe in something, to support something, to be optimistic. Because, when you take a stand, you can always fall down on your face. If you want to appear sophisticated and intelligent, the easiest way is to sit in the corner and criticize the efforts of people actually sticking their neck out. You get points for showing their faults, and by supporting nothing, nobody can give a rebuttal.

I’ve realized I don’t want to appear sophisticated if that’s the cost. I’d rather be optimistic, pursue and create things that have flaws and be criticized for it. I’ve also learned I don’t want to spend time with people who are quick to criticize and slow to produce.

Next Year

Here are a few of the things I will be up to next year:

  • Living in France for an entire year.
  • Major updates to the website, including new products and freebies.
  • Travel throughout Europe and possibly beyond that.
  • Working to become fully bilingual in French and English.
  • And, of course, continuing to show up, every day on the things that truly matter to me (writing, exercising, learning)

These will undoubtedly influence my writing for the next year. One of the difficulties (or possibly a strength) of writing for this blog is that the blog evolves almost as much as I do. So, I can’t say for sure exactly where it is going to go, but that’s part of the fun.

Thanks for reading this past year. Interacting with readers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of starting this website, far more than anything else. If a few people enjoyed the posts, I’ll be glad I took the time to write them.

  • Valentina

    Happy Birthday Scott! May this new year of your life will be filled with good friends, good things and good times!

  • Daryl Furuyama

    Happy birthday! I like how you say that it’s more important to just stay in the game. When I was learning about investing (I still am), one of the things I learned was that it’s not about making the big gains (which are exciting), but playing smart enough that you aren’t taken out.

  • marwa kamal

    Scott H Young

    Happy birthday!

    following your enjoyable articles ..

  • Thomas

    Happy Birthday Scott! I just want to say I enjoy many of your articles.
    Are you sure you are over your first relationship? 😛
    Have fun in France.

  • Miguel Albano


    kudos on the 21st birthday. Going on 30 myself next Monday, if you’re travelling in Europe, don’t forget to come over to Portugal.

    You’re going to love the food 😀


  • Blake

    Happy Birthday Scott! I’m sure I’m not the only one who not only doesn’t mind your self-indulgent birthday posts, but actually finds a lot of value in them. 😉

    I’ll be 21 in March, and this post was an excellent reminder that I do have peers out there who are striving for much more than binge drinking, getting a degree, and praying for job security. It’s hard to stay focused at times when it seems like I don’t quite fit in with the typical college guy crowd, but reading your insights and progress is a good motivator.

    Keep up the awesome work!

  • asfsdf

    lucky you

  • Bobby

    Happy birthday Scott!

  • Guillaume

    Happy birthday, Scott!
    It’s always a (interesting and valuable) pleasure, including this one.
    I wish you the best in France … and I’m sure you’ll agree after this year that this is the most beautiful Country in the world !
    And by the way, I’m french, so if you need any help, contact me and I’ll be glad to help you.

  • Elena

    Happy Birthday! I agree with Blake – I find your birthday posts to be really interesting and inspiring. Thank you for your writing.

  • Priyanka Vaidya

    Happy B’day Scott!

    You sound (and write) a whole lot more mature than a 21 year old. (I’m sure several people have told you that already!)
    I have 6 years and 19 days on you and would like to achieve at least half the bullet list in your latest post =)
    At the moment I’m trying to raise my head out of the (procrastination) sand one grain at a time!
    Good luck with your French, website, and travels.


  • Anthony

    Happy Birthday Scott! I knew you were in university, but for some reason imagined you being older than 21 due to the quality of your writing.

  • Rahul Shankar

    Happy birthday Scott!

    This was a great post. The part about spending time with what you love really struck a chord with me. Its been something I’ve been giving a lot of thought the past few months. Interestingly enough a few hours before I read your post I read excerpts from Seneca’s ‘Letters from a stoic’ on Tim Ferriss’s blog. It echoes quite the same message. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something?

    A word about other activities on your blog – I did notice the dip in content and was a bit disapointed but luckily for me your previous content had given me the push I needed! Personally I think articles about yourself are not all bad. Any interesting, somewhat radical personal experiments and success stories are always what had the most impact for me. I’ll keep checking back for more!


  • Utpal Vaishnav

    Happy Birthday Scott!

    I enjoy every bit of the words you write.


  • Chris

    Grats with your birthday Scott!!!!

  • Ashish Gourav

    Happy Birthday!!!

    I’ve also recently celebrated my 21st birthday i.e. on 4th august 2009.

    Look forward to your next posts

  • Fred u

    Happy birthday Scott!

    Great job with the site, and I’m also looking forward to your future posts.

  • Allen

    Happy Birthday Scott!

    You are wise beyond your years:) Congrats on taking the time to learn from life’s lessons and to work hard early in life to figure out what you love.

    You have a very bright future ahead of you!

  • Scott Young


    Are you ever over your first? 😉 I’m completely happy at the moment.


    Thanks. I try to avoid the common blogger conceit of writing endlessly about myself when it isn’t relevant to other people (and the equally disasterous problem of writing impersonal stock articles), and I fail from time to time, but I like to make an exception on my birthday.

    Believe me, I feel the pressures to binge drink, chase diplomas and seek job security. I write this blog often to remind myself!


  • Olga

    Happy birthday! Thanks for a great blog and I hope you achieve everything you wish for yourself!

  • petit_foufou

    Bonjour Scott !

    Belated joyeaux anniversaire. How is your French learning and traveling going? Will you be blogging about that? Especially interested at how you
    are going about your goal of living one year in France. 🙂


  • feng

    hi Scott,

    happy birthday! i enjoyed reading your articles, many of them are so relevant and on time that i think i will print them out and file them up. the book on studying less was insightful too. completely worth the money.

    this article too came just on time. i have just started a business recently and just missed the 9-5 job that i had before a lot. knowing about the insecurity and loneliness really doesn’t make dealing with it any easier. and going your own way really taxes your relationships. anyways, good job, keep it up!


  • maria

    i really enjoyed this post. very inspiring.

  • Pamela

    Wow, to be so young you are very wise! I am in my forties and I give this type of advice to young adults your age that you give.
    Amazing! I am a follower.