Ten Years Ago, I Discovered the Mises Institute. These Are the Things I Wish I Had Done Differently
Quit College—or Better Yet, Don’t Even Start
When I was in university a decade ago, this was some wacky, contrarian advice. It wasn’t unheard of for intellectual, middle-class youngsters to opt out of college, and it was still the early days of efforts like Praxis, but realistically there didn’t seem to be any alternatives. So, I went to university because that’s where you learn things and become a grown-up . . . or something.
These days, half of American parents say they prefer their kids not enroll in a four-year college program.
It’s too expensive a product, and what you’re getting is so worthless that had you sold the product on the free market the government would take you to court for fraud. The return on investment from higher education is widely diverging across fields and universities, but even for Ivy League universities most soft sciences (arts, humanities, psychology, etc.) have negative net financial value.
Not to mention that the woke brainwashing it exposes you to is hazardous to your mind and well-being.
I should know, since I went to some of the highest-ranked universities in the world, and in my current professional life I use roughly 0 percent of what I learned there.
Fair enough, the content knowledge of monetary and financial history often comes in handy; the use of English in editing and writing is crucial; and the varying styles of academic editing is necessary. Still, none of those skills required me to spend six-something years attending lectures, writing essays, going to university parties, and burning unbelievable amounts of cash (“Should have just bought bitcoin,” I hear myself complain).
I often say that the most important thing I learned at Oxford was that you can have a PhD and still be an idiot. Universities are a failed institution, and college degrees are scams. Just plunge yourself into that which interests you and learn how to provide value for others.
I could have read Ludwig von Mises on my own, studied our financial past, attended Mises Institute events, and learned everything I know today without saddling myself with the overhang of six years’ nonproductive behavior.
At the time, all the exercise I did was running. Having played soccer as a kid, it was basically everything I knew—and it always seemed meditative for me. Running was how I relaxed, how I processed pain, and—I naively believed—how I grew stronger and healthier. Turns out, many health benefits of running are exaggerated, and the exercise value trails off pretty fast as the body adjusts; as exercise, it’s incomplete.
Given how yoga just clicked for me when I was introduced to it a few years later, it’s not far-fetched to believe that I would have embraced it earlier had I just been exposed to it.
Yoga is a physical exercise—but it is also a deeper spiritual and ethical practice. It captures everything about being human, and analogies to life’s many challenges can be found in one’s own yoga journey. It disciplines the mind and humbles you; it is a life-changing practice and experience I wish I had gotten interested in much earlier.
Be Less Agreeable
To be “nice” is among the worst things to be. “Nice is an illusion,” writes Deborah Adele, of The Yamas and Niyamas book fame. “A cloak hiding lies. It is an imposed image of what one thinks they should be.”
Nice people are generally not truthful enough. Avoid them or make a point of piercing their nicety with brutal honesty.
Like Sarah Knight, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k would say, for most of my teenage and adult years, I gave away too many of my f**ks for too unimportant causes. I cared about what my friends and family thought and believed and respected their emotional frailty too much. Too often, I took people’s wacky experiences at face value instead of calling BS on things that deserved it.
I cared too much about my academic achievements (that pesky credentialism again!) and grades and degrees—even though they amounted to nothing, and nobody will ever see them. It’s like I ran through my twenties with a giant chip on my shoulder, having to prove something to somebody else. Instead of leaving people alone, ignoring that which wouldn’t serve me, I became a constant champion for any odd belief I held at the time—a real-life version of that “someone is wrong on the internet” meme.
Not everyone’s opinion or experience is worth listening to, and not every asshat with a point of view is worthy of your time or cognitive space. Most information is noise, and your brain doesn’t deal well with overload; therefore, guard your mind space extremely carefully. Don’t watch the news, don’t argue back at clowns in fake political TV debates, and don’t clutter your brain with irrelevant information.
All that matters is what you do and how well you do it. Stop being nice, shut people down more often, and call BS on things that are bull. (This definitely would have gotten me into trouble, but the optimal number of fists hurled at one’s face isn’t zero.)
Extreme meat consumption is what made modern humans what they are. Meat—and particularly the fat and the organs—contains all the nutrients that humans need and none of the toxins that come with vegetables and grains, certainly in these days of ultra-processed food.
Ten years ago, I was still a vegetarian—a lingering outcome of misguided climate activism years prior. I was scrawny, thin, temperamentally unstable, constantly bloated, and constantly tired. My migraines were invasively frequent, and it never occurred to me that what I ate governed the way I felt or thought.
Meat would have saved me a lot of suffering and wrong turns over the years.
On Alcohol, You Had It Right
I didn’t drink alcohol until I was about twenty-eight. In what was my first, and deepest, contrarian position, I refused to touch drinks throughout my teenage years and during university. In my mid-twenties I got fascinated by whisky and the seemingly sophisticated notion of twirling a glass of amber liquid while reading in a comfy armchair. I started having some drinks a few times a month, with friends and in the comfort of my library, and quickly found that what I said loudly for decades was correct: alcohol is a poison, though in the form of high-quality scotch, a very tasty poison! It makes me slow, ruins my sleep and metabolism, and desperately makes me want to eat the most garbage of food.
One drink meant two or three days’ workouts went straight out the window. Not worth it.
Oh, and of course, I wish I had studied bitcoin when I first crossed paths with it in 2015. Get your hands on as large a stash as possible seems like a trivial sort of advice. Besides, as Gigi says in 21 Lessons, “Bitcoin will be understood by you as soon as you are ready, and I also believe that the first fractions of a bitcoin will find you as soon as you are ready to receive them.”
And at twenty-two, I don’t think I was ready to receive that—or any of the above advice, for that matter.
But a boy can dream.