One of my favorite television shows to watch when I was younger was the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb. The show revolves around two young protagonists and their daily adventures in the anarchic world of suburbia during summer vacation. Each day, Phineas and Ferb do something highly ambitious and creative, like, say, building a rollercoaster – all to the annoyance of their more conventional older sister (and the complete ignorance of their parents and teachers.)
In every episode and every summer project, whether they are building a robot, a factory, or the aforementioned giant backyard rollercoaster, Phineas and Ferb routinely meet an adult who asks, “Aren’t you a little young to be building this?” Phineas, being the plucky entrepreneur he is, answers matter of factly, “Yes. Yes we are,” after which both cheerfully go on their way to creating awesome things.
If this does not do the trick of highlighting how delightful and subversively entrepreneurial this show was, it does highlight an important question and an important answer for ambitious young people. Whether we are starting companies, traveling the world, conversing with intellectuals far older than us, or undertaking audacious creative projects, we will be faced with those who wonder if we are too young for what we are doing. They may even be right.
We should embrace this. In fact, I would argue that, as a rule, undertaking goals for which you might normally be considered too young can be a remarkably satisfying way to live.
You will find some that some extraordinary opportunities are opened to you if you are motivated and willing to work harder, venture further afield, and fail more often than others your age. While your peers are waiting for the great events of life to happen to them, you can take the responsibility of enjoying them in your youth. This is part of what makes Praxis so great – the opportunity to do impactful work and have the high-level intellectual experiences that are so often denied to young people.
You will find that the freedom and mastery gained are well worth the risk of tackling any project greater than your years. Peter Thiel argues in Zero to One that entrepreneurs should look for the seemingly small markets that they can dominate. Well, there is not much competition or distraction for young rollercoaster engineers, and I would guess that the same is true for 18 year-old startup employees, 16 year-old musicians, or 14 year-old developers. For young people with the grit and curiosity to try something beyond the “pay grade” of their age, there is a great deal of latitude to explore, develop, and even make mistakes.
As the legends and myths (and *ahem* cartoons) we absorb in childhood illustrate, it is indeed true that adventure comes when we do do things against all expectations to the contrary. The mere act of going an extra mile in the face of the unknown will make every challenge more meaningful and every celebration more deserved. Succeeding or even just trying while young will be tremendously frustrating to those who wish to limit you, but it will be quite fun.
Imagine the life you would choose if you did not tell yourself that you are too young to lead it. What is actually stopping you? Go do something unexpected and grand (building a rollercoaster should not be out of the question) while you’re still young enough to want it.