17 Lessons from 17 Years

This is my first post as a 17 year old. The pivotal birthday was 2008 August 17, a Sunday. My youth is just slipping away. :grin: I’ve written this list of seventeen things I’ve learned over the years.

1. Passion is fleeting.

I used to be fascinated with the color blue. Then when I was 6 I switched to red. Around 14 I switched back to blue again. Now I’m starting to like green (notice my website’s colors?).

Don’t count on being dedicated to writing, piano, blogging, or photography all your life. Don’t root yourself in material mediums, because it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is how you do it, or more clearly, what purpose it is for. My purpose is to courageously inspire and facilitate the worthy endeavors of others. I’m going to have to polish that up into a mission statement someday, but it’s a good place to start. I can look at anything I do and ask “is this doing that?” If it’s not, I drop it.

2. Be humble, not because it’s safe, but because it’s courageous.

It takes courage to admit ignorance, and you will never know everything, so you should always have humility. Even if you could know everything, you should stay humble because arrogance is bad form. Let your brilliance be self-evident in your projects and by the voices of others. Oh yes, I completely contradicted this when I named my blog “Brilliant Photography.” But I remain humble in my writings (smack me upside the head if I don’t).

Don’t be humble out of fear. You know someone is humble out of fear because he abandons his humility as soon as he becomes rich or famous or college-educated. A man who is humble for safety transforms into an evil monster once he believes he is in a position of unassailable authority.

3. Do good always.

Dedicate your life to the service of others rather than the acquisition of widgets. When you’re friends obsess over the collection of widgets, turn them to the side of light which involves abandoning the love of widgets. You need widgets, but only to help you to do good. Just like a need a camera for my photography, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to dedicate my life to the collection of expensive lenses.

Doing good always has lots of perks. When you do evil you have to slyly connive good people into helping you. You have to convince them that you’re doing good. It’s hard to manage. You may have to keep two sets of books, two websites, two mission statements, and a disguise, and if anyone finds out you’re behind the evil deeds, they’ll leave you if they’re good. But if you’re doing good to start with, you don’t have to hide in the shadows.

4. Be selfish sometimes.

But only when it facilitates you to do more good for others. I could go out and give my computer to a bum who would really make good use of it. But then I wouldn’t be able to do good for others with the computer, like what I’m writing here. If you give up every resource you have for the benefit of others, you’re on the wrong path entirely. From a pragmatic stance you’re being selfish, because you’re crippling your capability to help others by giving up all your tools now. You may as well donate both of your kidneys to charity. :grin:

5. Live beneath your means.

It isn’t reasonable to buy a million dollar house if you earn $50,000 per year, even if you can pay the mortgage each month. Even if you have been saving money for decades, it still isn’t reasonable because of the tremendous property taxes and maintenance costs. If you’re working at a normal job, and losing that job means you lose your house, you’ve sold a piece of yourself. You have to put up with flak and you’re living for others. Even a dumb 17 year old can see this is a bad idea. So if you are going to be an employee, make twice what you need and have a year’s salary in the bank. Then you don’t have to fear walking away.

6. Eliminate negativity from your life.

I did this passively when I was fired from my job. I was planning on hanging on there forever if not for the sudden firing, despite it being pointless except for the occasional paychecks. It’s better to take the initiative and eliminate negativity from your life, rather than waiting for negativity to eliminate you from its life. But when you recognize negativity that left on its own accord, you gain the power to courageously pick the higher path in the future, which is to take the initiative yourself. This means if you have a friend who is constantly asking you which hair curlers to buy, and she refuses to stop despite your prodding, tell her it’s over because of the hair curlers. Or, even better, write an article about it on your blog and then share it with her, so you’re contributing to a wider audience who wants to benefit from your expertise on hair curlers.

7. Put inspiration first.

It’s okay to focus on little details to make part of your life perfect. I’ve been doing a ton of that in the last week at Thripp.com, which is why you haven’t heard much for me. But only focus on the details when you don’t have the motivation to work on the big picture. Inspiration strikes randomly, so be sure not to reject it for trivia. I used to do this with my photography, where I’d see a beautiful sunset or fascinating patterns of light outside my window, but I’d continue working on editing old photos. By the time I’d get up to go outside, the magic would disappear. Now, I drop what I’m doing and run outside instead. It’s more fun that way.

8. Your time is valuable, computer time is not.

Leverage automated systems to do work for you, or build them yourself if you have to. For example I use WordPress with plugins (the network variant) to manage everything on this blog. A particular thumbnailing plugin makes posting my photography and creating galleries a breeze, because it generates all the thumbnails and displays them automatically. I just have to add a photo in one post and it appears all over the site. When I changed the site’s design last week, I went for big thumbnails. I just changed the plugin’s settings and deleted the old thumbnails, and it made new ones automatically. This uses more computer time (processing power) than doing everything by hand, but my time is more important than my server’s.

9. Presentation is important, to a fault.

I just spent a lot of time redesigning this blog, as you already know. But remember that there is a happy medium between good design and good content. If you spend all your time on presentation, you have a cake that’s all icing. A cake that’s all icing is an ugly, sickening pile of crap. You need something to complement the sweet icing, and that is a starch-packed vision. Good presentation and good ideas go together; having one without the other does not work.

10. Make a choice and stick with it.

If you’re going to buy blue shoes, don’t spend three weeks considering black shoes. It’s better to take action and be wrong than wait and never go anywhere because you have no shoes to wear. If you can’t choose, just ask, “is this going to kill me?” If the answer is no, pick the option on the left. It’s not important enough to dilly-dally on. I dilly-dallied over using Drupal for a while before choosing WordPress. I could have no website and nothing written and still be analyzing charts. That would be completely stupid. Just pick already.

11. Have one system.

I used to write phone numbers with the area code in parenthesis. But I stopped because you shouldn’t do that in file names for computers (parentheses and spaces are a no-no, especially in URLs). Hyphens are unambiguous. When there’s an equally good way to do something that yields less complexity, especially mental complexity, pick it instead, and apply it consistently across the board. I do that for my photos’ file names and my computer’s clock. You can see it on my blog. I use Universal Coordinated Time all over the place, which is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (my time zone now) and 5 hours ahead during standard time. But it’s better because it’s standardized, and it’s become natural to me. (I look at 07:39:39 on my clock now and I instantly know it’s nearing 4 A.M. :cool: ).

12. Do it now.

It’s taking me a while to learn this one. It’s better to do things that are going to have to be done now than later. Especially stuff with rigid deadlines, like work and school assignments. When I go back to college on Monday (5 days away), I’m going to apply this lesson. Instead of putting off assignments till the last minute, I’m going to do them as soon as possible even if they aren’t due for months. I know already that even if it takes the same amount of time to do the projects, it will feel like I have more free time because my free time won’t be filled with the burden of worry. But it won’t take as long, because there is a significant loss of focus in shifting tasks and coming back to a project multiple times. This is multitasking’s downfall. Just do it already!

13. Don’t work pre-emptively.

This sounds contradictory to the above, but it means you should not take actions that you think you’re going to need later but you aren’t sure of yet. I could buy a new computer now, but then if I realize I’m perfectly happy with the computer I have now and keep the new machine in the box for three years, it’s a waste because in three years computers will be faster and cheaper. Or I could start writing my will now, but I’m probably going to be around for a long time. By the time I’m old and decrepit, my life’s mission will be so far evolved that the old will would be of no relevance. It would have to be rewritten from scratch. So by working pre-emptively, I’d end up doing double the work.

14. Stand for something.

Don’t live by the dogma of others, be it religious or organizational. Create your own dogma, because only you can know what’s right for you. I am not a feel-good writer. That’s what I said “can know.” Most people don’t know what’s right for them. That’s why they go with a dogma. They’re weaker and less clear-minded than the makers of the dogma, so it possesses them. If you’re living by the dogma of others, you’re standing for nothing. Man is not designed to live by a book. The ultimate purpose of a dogma is to crush your spirit, brainwash your mind, and transform you into a money-producing dogma-promoting drone. But no matter who you are, you can break free and expand your mind if you work hard enough at it.

15. Don’t write for the critics.

If you have a concept, and it has holes, but it’s so sharp and provoking that it has great merits despite the holes, and you can’t think of a way to patch the holes while keeping the edge, and you know it will inspire thought and analysis in the minds of others, then by all means, make the statement anyway, unabashedly and without shame. Don’t even mention the holes. Pretend it’s perfect. To 99% of your readers it will be. Don’t write for the poisonous 1%.

The mere fact that people are willing to read your writing means you have a captive audience. Your audience wants to hear your clear thoughts, and they’re predisposed to find the good in your writing. They are not hecklers nor critics. Hecklers cannot derive any value from your thoughts, because they refuse to open their mind to them before tearing them down. They will find fault, even if they have to create it.

People who write or speak for the critics use statements like “in my opinion,” “as far as I know,” “I think,” “almost,” and “some people” a lot. Instead, use “in fact,” “I know,” “everyone thinks,” “exactly,” and “all people.” Dare to make generalizations. Write and speak concisely. Even if you’re completely wrong, it’s a lot more interesting and you’re going to impact a lot more people.

16. Talk to everyone.

To borrow from The Simpsons, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. You actually know everyone you don’t know, because there is an underlying connectedness between human spirits that transcends words. Most strangers won’t kill you. When I’m at the college campus, I generally have no fear of murder or bodily injury. In fact, I carry an $800 camera with me all the time, and nobody’s mugged me yet.

Dare to use your real and whole name, in person, on your blog, and on MySpace. Everything hides behind names like MrCool1234. When you get a comment from Richard X. Thripp, it cuts to the bone. You can’t make up names like that. Put your real identity behind your words. You’ll become so authentic, people will fear you.

While others live in their cozy shells, ignore the shells entirely and go right to the core. Ask a stranger about his life’s purpose, his story, and his accomplishments, and you’ll add to your own experience while raising his awareness.

17. Protect the sanctity of human life.

Human life is sacred and universally valuable. Animals are not people too. If my mother’s life was at stake, and I could kill a thousand cats to save her, I’d do it, because cats are worth nothing compared to humans. The value of the life of a cat pales next to a person. It’s not even a blip on the map.

Abortion is evil and any woman that kills her unborn child is a murderess. The highest purpose of a representative democracy is to protect the rights of man. [Note: direct democracies kill babies for the greater good. Jefferson hated them.] Our governments are openly destroying our rights, in an attempt to tear down 2000 years of Christian ethics. No, this is not dogma. If we don’t protect human life, then what do we have? We’re ants. Even ants take care of their young. Soon, we’ll be killing old people because they’re sick and bums because of their low quality of life.

If you campaign for animal rights, wake up. The rights of man are more important. Make a great impact, not a frivolous one. Start campaigning for human rights today. We shouldn’t have to campaign for them. They’re God-given; they should be recognized de facto. But “should of’s” get nothing done, so campaign anyway.

The final lesson: offend everyone.

Some of my readers will find point 17 quite offensive. Good. You can’t offend someone who knows the truth. The truth is that human life (and only human life) is sacred, and the only reason you’re offended is because you’re afraid of the truth, having lived under a dogma of death and lies.

If you offend someone, count it as a blessing. You’re making progress, huge progress. Obviously, don’t put your life in danger. But if your statement didn’t have an echo of truth, it would offend no one. No one can get an angry response from me by saying “you’re not on the right path with photography.” I love it and I know it’s a great talent to share. I can inspire others, I can change lives. I’m so secure in this knowledge, I can even write articles that totally contradict it without flinching. Only people living in fear can be offended.

Be bold, even on sensitive subjects. Be humble, not wishy-washy. Aspire to go further. And finally, live with courage, the courage to better yourself and the world.

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