Today is my 18th birthday. While I wrote a long and pompous article for my 17th birthday, I will be doing no such thing this year.

18 is a bigger milestone than 17, because I no longer have to do business in my father’s name. I can open my own bank account, eBay, PayPal, AdSense, and other accounts. I can be drafted by the army (I sure hope that doesn’t happen). The police can tase and clobber me with impunity. And I can claim virtual independence from my parents and family.

This year has been highly unproductive. I took off six months, basically doing nothing creative, eating junk food, playing video games, reading blogs rather than writing them, taking bad photos, idling, and not being in school. I lived at a lower frequency of awareness for most of this year. I would like to say that it was a learning experience, but it accomplished little. The only benefit is that I feel more wise and less driven now. I thought creativity was ingrained in my consciousness, but I found that it is an applied skill. I am perfectly capable of creating nothing and contributing nothing to the world.

While I wrote a lengthy article in October about becoming a vegetarian, and maintained that diet for ten weeks. I stopped last December when I started loosing my sense of taste and smell. It was a combination of eating bad foods, eating very little (1000 calories per day), and not sleeping properly. I’ve always been a night owl and was struggling to get up at 8 A.M. five days a week for my college courses at the end of last year, so I was only getting three hours of sleep or not being able to sleep at all for quite some time. Sleep deprivation has harsh effects on your body.

I was going to stop eating meat again today but I forgot and did anyway at lunch. So I should be able to claim vegetarianism from the day after my 18th birthday and will eat vegetables at dinner today.

As I’ve written before, I have no love for animals; my only reason to not eat meat is for the sake of my health. Our small intestines are too long and our stomach acidity is too low to digest animal flesh. That’s why meat that is not heavily cooked and processed makes you sick. While prepared meat in small quantities is healthful and a good source of protein, eating it three meals a day—or even one meal a day—is bad for you and cuts years off your life. It’s much easier to eat no meat than to eat a restricted amount, because you know exactly where you stand.

However, I won’t claim to be a vegetarian until the end of the year because I’ve proven my lack of commitment.

Rather than graduating from Daytona State College this year I will be graduating next year and only taking Calculus II and Music Appreciation this fall. In a way this is a blessing in disguise—I will have time to be involved in social projects, the school newspaper, Phi Theta Kappa, and other college events, whereas I had limited time with a 15-credit workload. I completed an online computer programming course over the summer (with an A, fortunately), and my fall classes start on August 31. I will likely start blogging again at Daytonastate.org.

Since my classes are in the morning, I have been adapting to getting up in the morning. The past three days, I’ve gone to bed at 9 P.M., 4 P.M. and 7 P.M., and got up at 4 A.M., 2:30 A.M., and 5 A.M., respectively. I’d like to get up at 5 A.M. every day. I’ve done this in the past for several weeks at a time, but I’d always get involved in a computer programming project and drift, until I’d be going to bed at 3 A.M. and getting up at noon. I can’t afford to do that anymore. I must be more rigid. I don’t care what time I go to sleep—as long as I’m up at the same time early every morning and am not tired, I’m happy.

During my period of creative negligence, I did complete one project: Bookley, the open-source integrated library system, which required two weeks of programming. It is 4000 lines of PHP code and it works quite well. Eventually I’ll implement it for the public library I want to open in a few years.

I’ve written a few articles in the past month, and I’ve been posting new photos again, though far fewer than during the glory days. I want to write at least ten articles a month from this point on. There are still a lot of personal development concepts I want to cover. I find that I become more collected and driven writing about personal development than reading the work of others. It would be nice to hit 250,000 words on this blog at the year’s end (189,000 now), although the quality of my writing is more important than the quantity.

After five months of inactivity, in the past month I’ve released five updates to my WordPress plugin, Tweet This. It adds social bookmarking links to your blog posts, with an emphasis on Twitter. The new versions have focused on bugfixes and stability, while adding small yet important features. The next version, which I will start soon and complete by the end of next month, will add automatic posting of your blog posts to Twitter with a host of filtering options. The plugin will soon be a complete Twitter solution.

My talents and accomplishments must now be filtered through an adult lens rather than the lens of a child. I will not claim youth to impress others with my writing, photographic, or musical abilities. If my skills were exceptional at 15, they are merely standard now, for I do not improve at a rate commensurate with my age. In the next year I will accelerate my rate of personal growth through real accomplishments.

I do not feel young, and my future is a blank. I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years. I’m not interested in working for any company, but I may have to. “Have to” is a limiting term however. When you say you “have to” do something, what you mean to say is that you have chosen to do so. My blog is less popular now than it was last year and I am only clearing $35 a month from advertisements, though admittedly Th8.us is expensive to host. I can’t live on $35 a month. I could only hope to not require a job if I was making $1000 a month, and I’m far from that. I remain unemployed for now.

2009-12-20 Update: Do not follow my advice in the next paragraph. Stick with your family and take care of your family. Independence is less important than you think and you should not try to put distance between yourself and your family or friends. I was a fool for what I wrote below.

I live alone in a trailer in my parents’ back yard, which I moved into at the start of this month. I have a computer, Internet, bathroom, shower, sink, water, electricity, microwave, toaster oven, hot plate, refrigerator, freezer, bed, air-conditioner, and plenty of closet space. I spend most of my time here. Before, I lived in my parents’ house. It is very important to put distance between you and your family, because if you do not you will forever remain a child. If you’re turning 18 soon, move out—do whatever you can to get away from your parents. If you can’t get a house or apartment, move in with a friend. If you can’t do that, buy a travel trailer and put it in your parents’ yard, then move into it. If there are any out buildings or a guest house, those are also an option. Better yet, go to a college 500 miles away from your parents. If you cannot move out, move your computer to your bedroom. Go out more—without your parents. Start locking your door. Buy your own food. Make money online blogging, or get a job. Pay the electric bill. Get a driver’s license and a car, or share your parents’ car. Independence is not a psychological mindset. Independence is PROPERTY.

I have no friends and few acquaintances. I am in contact with no one from my previous workplace or college classes. I don’t call them and they don’t call me. If I said I’ve ever had a true friend, I would be lying.

I am going to change this year. I am going to create real connections rather than superficial socialization. I am going to be more emotionally involved—I don’t care if that sounds wimpy.

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.