Dear 19-year-old me

Hey me, it’s me. I’m writing to you from the future, 19 years from today on our 38th birthday. Yes that’s right, its future Hass sending you wisdom now that I have exactly double the life experiences that you’ve had up until this point.

I hope you’ve already stopped to ask how I sent this from the future. The answer: I have no idea. This is one of the paradoxes with ttime travel. This message simply needs to go into the queue now and be sent at some point in the future when the technology exists, maybe 10,000 years after your 38th birthday.

Anyway, it’s been a lovely birthday to cap off what has been a rather ugly week in America. Two widely documented and instantly shared videos of black men getting shot and killed by police, followed by 5 police officers being killed by a sniper in Dallas. All horrible and avoidable tragedies. You’ll wish that you had the power to stop this and so many other disasters before it.

I know you’re still quite young and idealistic — as well as undeniably handsome. You’ve only had a few sips from the cup of journalism, and you find it quite intoxicating: truth to power, light in dark places, mmmmmm that’s good stuff. Summer will be over soon, and you’ll jump into journalism with both feet when you get back to school. That single choice to participate deeply in your college newspaper will define your life’s work for at least another 19 years. You’ll actually make a career out of saying in your head “I did that once in college” and then doing it again.

There is a flaw in your thinking around journalism though. Humans are non-deterministic. The facts flow in, but the results are inconsistent. A commitment to journalism and to truth may be less effective at making the world a better place than you may think it is. You’ll see this repeatedly, where facts and reason do little to change outcomes. The most disheartening example in your career so far was the build up to the second gulf war. You could see from the data and explain it in graphics that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the war happens anyway.

While you’re in school, I encourage you to study more politics and economics. Those forces of persuasion and resources are critical to success. Power makes the world go round. This is not the same a politics or economics, but they are interrelated. I’m not telling you we have the answers here, just that these are questions you should start working on now, it’s taken me nearly 20 years to get to the question, and I don’t have clear answers yet.

It’s important to think about the end product of your actions, and measure your contributions that way. How can you make the world a better place? Simply providing information may not be enough. That internet thing that you really enjoy farting around with is going to get bigger. Everybody will be there, and often objective truth gets lost.

That’s it for the heavy stuff… (I’ll just gloss over that we haven’t fixed climate change yet; robots are about to destroy all of our jobs; while we turn a blind eye to the deaths of brown people around the world by easily preventable diseases or political & religious strife. Like I said, humans are non-deterministic.)

A couple of other tips:

If you’re going to get a tattoo, do it now, so you don’t have to clear it with your wife later. “Do it with Passion, or not at all” on your left wrist.

Invest in Apple stock now. Next year Steve Jobs will announce a Mac without a floppy drive, it will change many things. Nine years later he will announce a phone that will fundamentally rewire the connections of our society and economy. In fact, I’m writing this letter to you on my phone.

If you’re ever on a plane and you think you might be sitting next to Chelsea Clinton, but aren’t really sure. Trust me, it’s her. Strike up a conversation.

Hamilton. Buy tickets now.

Your first new car. You’re going to have her for a while, and you might be buying it when you live in Brooklyn, but trust me you’ll want to think about how it would handle in a snowier part of the country. Get the 4WD and super nice trim package.

Humans will continue to perplex you. Try your hardest to understand them, but don’t expect to ever make any real progress. Whatever you do though, make connections. That’s what matters. You’ve made some good ones already, and many of them wrote on our wall today. That will make you smile.