Reason #24: Eternal Optimism of the Young Mind

When I was at Camp Mighty, one of the speakers read this awesome quote (I can't remember the attribution) that basically said it takes a certain amount of foolishness to be wildly successful. It's the naive, optimistic fool who takes the big risks and keeps chugging along — because once we believe we can't, we can't. It's a self-fulfilling assumption. If we stop trying, we'll never get there.

Steve Jobs would agree:

And who has that wonderful foolishness? Youth.

I took some really big risks — I continue to take big risks — and I often wonder if I would've made those jumps if I were older, more jaded, more realistic. I had/have more to lose than the average 20-something, considering I have a child who relies on me for things like food. But it's precisely that optimism and youthful zeal that helps keep my plates spinning. It's that undefinable foolishness that keeps me thinking I can do this. I will do this.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine echoed that same idea — that the most successful 20-somethings are a generation of people "who see no boundaries, see no limits, see no obstacle that they can't hurdle — it is the most stimulating environment that you can ever be in."

Although the article is about mega-millionaires and bestselling authors, we don't need to embrace that level of ambition to harness the power of our 20s. We can define success in any way that feels right for us, while still experiencing that quiet buzz in the back of our young minds, humming "shoot for the moon."

I alluded to this in my post On Growing Up:

Yet what I lack in perspective, I make up for with possibilities.

With blind ambition and positivity.

With leaps of faith and time to spare.

With impossible hopes that can easily be possible.

I happen to think that positivity begets positivity, and the most successful people could also have been considered fools. It might be difficult to tackle a prestigious degree/launching a business/chasing your dreams along with motherhood, but if there's anyone who can do it, it might just be us. The wide-eyed fools with leaps of faith and time to spare.

The Times Magazine article also made another interesting point that I think is quite applicable to us. The advantage of less lifestyle adjustment:

How many people do you know who said when they were young that they planned to work for a couple of years, put some money in the bank, so that they could later pursue their passion and start a new business or strike out on their own?” he asked me. “It almost never plays out that way in practice. What seems to happen is that after some period of time, people are making good money and they’re typically spending all of it and it becomes really hard to dial that back. If you bought a house or have all sorts of obligations of one sort or another it may be very difficult.

Dear god, exactly.


Once you get used to a certain lifestyle — a certain discretionary income or comfortable job path — it can be harder to switch gears, be that a lofty career risk or the chaos of new parenthood. Not impossible, of course. But if you're feeling a little low about your young-mom status, add another check to the "pros" column.

Twenty-something parents definitely have more to lose than single 20-somethings — so maybe we're not spending 80+ hours a week on a start-up company or pouring ourselves into our work without guilt — but we still have that unique spark of youth that ranges from flickers of hope to full-on fireworks.

Harness that. Use it.

It's our advantage.