Advice for my fifteen year old daughter, or anyone in high school trying to figure out their future.

I’ve had a pretty successful career so far, especially considering the rather unconventional path I took to get to where I am now. As you might imagine, this creates a bit of a challenge when counseling my teenage daughter. Am I a hypocrite for pushing her to go the traditional route when I experienced success by going a very non-traditional way? Is that the best advice? Should I let her wander and find her path?

I don’t have THE answer, but I do have an answer. Here’s what I’ve learned in my forty something years on this planet. Money and professional success won’t necessarily make you happy in life, but also won’t necessarily make you unhappy. They are mutually exclusive. Money and success just exist. They just are. I don’t know if you would hear either if they fell in the forest. Ok, I think you get the point. So should teenagers go to college? Major in something that will lead to financial success? Or go with their heart and passion? Or not go to college at all?

Here’s the deal. Time goes by. We age. We experience life. You can do this with money and success, or you can do it without. Do you want to be 25, 35, 55 without an education? Without financial independence? Without the personal satisfaction that professional success brings? I firmly believe that if you are a good person, make good decisions, treat others right, etc…you will be happy, but regardless, when you hit those milestone ages, you will BE. You will exist with the happiness and life satisfaction that you built and earned along the way. My message is not the cliche “there’s miserable rich people and happy poor people.” But rather, you are going to be who your DNA and life experiences have made you. So, don’t you want to be the person you are going to be anyway, but with money and a great career?

To quote Daniel Tosh, “Money doesn’t buy happiness?” Uh, do you live in America? ’Cause it buys a WaveRunner. Have you ever seen a sad person on a WaveRunner? Have you? Seriously, have you? Try to frown on a WaveRunner. You can’t!

I know, I know, I just said earlier that money and success won’t make you happy, and now I’m quoting Tosh implying it will. First off, it’s funny! But seriously, money is an enabler. That’s all it is. If you are happy, money enables you to do fun things, travel, experience life. If you are unhappy, money won’t change that much. You might smile while you’re on the WaverRunner, but once you get off, you’re back to your unhappy life.

So what’s my advice? Feed, nurture, and develop BOTH of these mutually exclusive fundamentals. Be a good person. Live, learn, love, and be happy. And while you’re doing this, go get the best education you can. Pick a school and program that will lead to financial and professional success in something you love and are passionate about. That’s the key to a truly happy and fulfilling life.

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