in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

Sunday Firesides: Attention Adults — You Should Know What You’re Doing

In discussions about getting older, people will sometimes say, “When you’re young, you think adults have it together. But when you become an adult yourself, you realize grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing either!” This is shared as some kind of conspiratorial secret — a ubiquitous-yet-under-discussed truth.

Yet this “truth” is hardly universal. There are plenty of adults out there who do know what they’re doing.

It’s true that, regardless of age, no one ever stops facing uncharted territory that initially leaves them perplexed. 

But by the time you reach your thirties, you should have developed a decent amount of emotional and practical intelligence — a set of adaptable mental tools that allow you to adequately grapple with any problem, no matter how novel. 

If you haven’t developed such a capacity, then something has gone awry, either with the upbringing to which you were subjected or the personal development track you self-selected; either way, this lack ought to be addressed, rather than excused.

The idea that no one knows what they’re doing, even the supposed grown-ups, does a disservice to individuals and society alike.

The more you personally believe that the chaos and confusion that marked your youth must continue ‘til the grave, the more hopeless life will feel.

The more we collectively believe that no one can ever really be competent, the more readily we’ll accept mediocre schools, dysfunctional government, and corrupt corporations as an unalterable inevitability.

If there is a great secret these days, it’s that a society of capable grown-ups does exist, that it’s ever in need of new members, and that the only requirement to join its ranks is a willingness to develop the kind of serious gravitas, consistent reliability, steady self-control, and diverse know-how that makes for life-enriching, culture-strengthening maturity. 

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