raising the ambitions of young people

Published on May 21, 2020

Projects that aim to raise the ambitions of young people are particularly interesting to me.

Earlier today, someone in a community in which I am a member posted a link to Hacker Founder Pop Up, a virtual experience to connect top founders and VCs with young hackers who are building companies.

What I like about this project is that it is solely focused on impact. The founders are not charging for this event, and there is no information on their website about the long-term growth of this project. They are trying something new, and we will all see if it works.

Young people, especially those who have spent sufficient time in the education system, are generally less ambitious than they should be.

I was lucky enough to be one of the people who thought about big ideas in school. I aspired to be a venture capitalist at one point. I wanted to be a founder. While many of my ambitions were not ones that I would pursue today, the fact was that I wanted to think big.

I saw the world as a place to make an impact, rather than a set of systems where I needed to find my place.

Through coding, I learned that systems could be manipulated; the status quo could change. Startups taught me that anyone with an idea, a passion, and the capacity to work hard could make a difference in the world. Together, these ideas lay the foundation of my ambition.

When I think back to my experiences as a young person, there were many points where, if I had been pushed a little bit further, I would have given up.

I could easily have given in to doing the bare minimum at school, and spent the rest of my time playing video games. I could have followed the crowd and joined sports clubs, which were popular in my hometown. But I didn’t, and I’m happy that things went that way.

We need more projects that aim to raise the ambitions of young people. We need young people to think bigger.

How can we accomplish this goal? I believe a good place to start would be just making young people aware of the fact that they can have an impact. Then, when they know they can have an impact, they should naturally start doing new and novel things, and we can build the infrastructure they need to grow.

Knowing you can do something is an amazing feeling -- you are granted a sense of liberty that is unparalleled. But when you are young, what you can do is so severely limited, and most of what and how you think will be influenced by the few people with whom you spend the most time in-person. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does impact ambition.

I’ll start now. If you are a young person, know this: you can. You can build a technology startup when you get older. You can learn to code today. You can become a venture capitalist, if you really want to become one.

The road ahead is tough, and I will say that I have had to give up a lot to get to where I am today. I didn’t attend parties with my high school friends. I missed out on a lot of those moments, and I’ll never know if they were worth my time. Today, though, I write as someone who is working in tech, who was able to realize at least one of their ambitions.

What matters is that you try. Anything. Most people that you know will not try, and if you tell them that you are going to try, they’ll tell you that you can’t do it. That’s because those people feel bad for not trying themselves.

Being young is a great time to experiment with new ideas.

If you are still really young -- in the first year or so of high school, or earlier -- then you haven’t gotten there yet, but soon enough you'll start to be bombarded by the question “what do you want to do with your life?”

This question is not easy to answer, and I still don’t have an answer and I am a member of the “working world.” That said, exploring new ideas will help you get a better sense of what it is that you like doing. If you are already being asked to answer this question, you’ll know how stressful it is to answer. The best way to answer it, though, is to explore.

If you are not young anymore, that doesn’t mean that you cannot have an impact. It is now your responsibility to raise the ambitions of young people. Tell them that they can do something. Show them how you did something meaningful. Build tools that allow them to make an impact, no matter how small.

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