How to Make Yourself Indispensable: Advice for Young People

There are many times that I think back over my life and wish I had done some things differently. We all do it, and we try to pass on our successes and failures to our children. Here are a few things that I often recommend to parents with children. The best education anybody will ever get is outside the classroom.

  1. Read at least 10 pages every day of a non-fiction book in various fields: science, history, literature, music, art, science fiction, theology, economics, etc. Increase it by one page per day until you get it up to 20 pages per day. R. J. Rushdoony read at least one book a day—“underlined, with a personal index in the back cover—six days a week for 25 years. He then followed suit with another 25 years of the same schedule.” Go and do likewise. In ten days, you will have read a 200-page book. That’s more than 30 books per year. In ten years, 300 books. In 40 years, 1200 books. Increase the number of pages per day, and you will have read in a lifetime more books than most people have seen in their local public library.
  2. Learn how to skim a book to determine if it’s worth reading all of it. Learn how to speed read to mine books for information.
  3. Keep a notebook of insights, facts, well stated truths, and new vocabulary words. I use “Moleskine Notebooks,” but there are a number of cheaper knockoffs. If you are ecology minded Ecosystem Notebooks also work well. I carry a compact notebook with me everywhere I go. A tablet or smart phone can also work. You can’t trust your memory. Check out Michael Hyatt’s “Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking.”
  4. Read at least one book in a category that you find difficult and even boring so you are able to discuss five principles about that subject. Think of yourself stuck with some guy at a party who is fascinated with celestial mechanics. You will make a friend.
  5. Take the initiative and ask questions of people who know more than you do. Listen more than you speak. If an answer is not clear, ask for clarification.
  6. Be able to do a job interview without using the word “like” more than three times unless the word is absolutely called for as in “I would like to work for you” and not “Like, I would like really like to like work for you.”
  7. Be able to give a talk for 12 minutes without using notes. If ever called on to give an impromptu talk, be ready to give one that lasts for about 3 minutes. Less is often more. When someone asks you to speak and gives you a time limit, DO NOT go over. You want people to say, “I wish he had more time” rather than “When will he shut up?”
  8. Start your own business so you will know how much work goes into running a company and how difficult it is to make a profit, hire and fire employees (most of whom aren’t qualified for the work), market, fill out forms, pay taxes, fill out forms, pay taxes, fill out forms, pay taxes. Young people can do this by selling things on eBay. My youngest son did this. It taught him a great deal about business, everything from pricing and writing ad copy to profit margins to customer complaints.
  9. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  10. Learn a computer programming language.
  11. Learn a second language
  12. Learn Morse Code. I’m 63 and I continue to tinker with Morse Code. It’s a great way to develop concentration skills. Try it some time. One of these days I’ll write an article on how to do it. Your children should certainly learn Morse Code, the earlier the better. We may all need it if the State starts messing with talk radio, the internet, and other regulated communication systems.
  13. Learn a few magic tricks with cards. Close-up magic is the best way to capture the attention of an audience. The most impressive is the floating card trick. It’s easy to learn once you have the necessary equipment and do the proper preparation. Once set up, you can pull a card out of your pocket and amaze your friends with a trick that seems to defy the laws of physics. Here’s a short video of me performing it.
  14. Don’t be afraid to fail. Some of the best lessons you will ever learn come from failures, but only if you decide to learn from them.
  15. “Power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Sometimes (most times?) God uses our weaknesses over our strengths to turn us into the person He wants us to be.

Please feel to add to the list in the comment section.