My humble advice to 22 year olds

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

You're living in one of the most important years of your life. It makes sense to build a strong foundation at this age so you can set yourself up for success. The advice below is a collection of what I’ve learned in the last few years by reading books, living in Qom, working at a large tech company, and - most importantly - talking to my father. I also use this as a daily personal reminder.

Become a deep thinker

The world is full of shallow thinkers. Few think deeply. If you can manage to think slightly deeper than others, you will be rewarded significantly. People talk about privileges all the time. In my opinion, the ability to think deep is one of the most valuable privileges. Unlike other privileges that aren't earned - such as being born to the right family or being tall - this type of privilege is attainable.

Although it’s attainable, it’s not easy. You have to actively work on yourself to get there. One simple benchmark you can use to test your deep thinking level is to pick up a boring, difficult book and read a few pages entirely. If such a task seems too mundane, it’s time to heal yourself. The healing process will take time. You may need to take some painful measures to remove the fog from the brain. Read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Your life will change if you read through it entirely.

Learn basic economics

Whether you’re on track to becoming a nurse, lawyer, engineer, or a politician, you should be familiar with basic economics. Understanding economics will help you make better decisions and become an independent thinker. This book is probably the best resource to help you get started. It’s a rather big book, but don’t be discouraged. Remember two things:

  • Never ignore second, third, and fourth-order of consequences. Always think multidimensionally.
  • Feelings can be dangerous when making decisions - especially those that effect people other than you.

Plan out your life, not your career

Have a clear goal of life and plan everything around it. The most effective way to think about what you want to ultimately accomplish is to think about death. What do you want people to remember you for? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Spend a couple months thinking about it and plan your career around that. That is much more effective than working at some random company and climbing up the corporate ladder without having a clear vision.

Having a goal of life will give you passion, motivation, and drive that is necessary to accomplish things that seem impossible. You will never be content with the status quo, and will always be actively working to improve the world around you. The world will reward you in return. Do enjoy the process and have fun while you’re at it. Your hard work is pointless if you’re not enjoying it.

Be the dumbest person in the room

Surround yourself with people that have high drive and IQ. Be a small fish in a big pond, not the other way around. If you’re thinking of joining a company, go to the very top. If you’re planning on going to a grad school, join the best. If you didn’t go to a top university (like me), do whatever you can to join a top company. Do this early on. Don’t wait around.

Move to the right hub. If you’re a techie, move to Silicon Valley, Bangalore, etc. If you want to become a Priest then move to the Vatican. If you want to become an Ayatollah then move to Qom. If you want to become a Mufti then move to Egypt.

Once you're in the right hub, learn to spot an elite. You'll often run into one in unexpected places such as your cousin’s birthday party, a mosque, or even a Taco Bell. Once you find one, befriend them right away. These people are rare. It's easy to befriend them. They usually don't get approached by noobs that are eager to learn from them. They'll be more than happy to help.

Once you befriend these rare birds, learn from them as much as possible. Ask them for advice, treat them with free coffee, and do chores for them. Learn how they do work, obsessively. Don’t worry about being a creep. They'll appreciate your passion. Elites also like to hang out with other elites. Try to sneak in their circles and make friends with anyone you can find. Right now you're a nobody. The first step to becoming a somebody is to make friends with elites and hear everything they have to say, even if you don't agree with some of their points.

Think Big

I was once scared of thinking big until my father gave me an interesting advice. It’s rather morbid, but Muslims will get it. Go to a graveyard and think about death. Death is inevitable. It can happen today or in a hundred years. Since you’re going to die one day anyway, why not do something really, really big? One way to think big is to multiply a tangible goal by some arbitrary number. If you’re hoping to make $80k right out of college, can you think of a way to make $300k instead?

Another way to think big is by studying your role models. Read their biographies. You'll notice that they too were once broke, unknown, and untalented. Reading biographies of people you want to become is probably the most effective way to think big. You’ll learn from their mistakes early on so you can avoid them, and you’ll get to learn the techniques they used to accomplish their goals. Biographies are much more effective than self-help books. You literally get to live the entire life of someone successful in just a few days of reading. Isn't that incredible?

Be involved with your community

Humans are made to interact with other humans. Isolation can cause serious depression. Join a community that is doing something that you care about and participate in programs regularly. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t as organized or if there’s politics involved. Try to help out in any way you can. At the very least, donate some of your income. You'll become happier.

Whoever you are and wherever you are, I sincerely wish you the best.