The twenties are an integral decade in a young man’s life. The habits and world view adopted in this foundational period will play a large role in determining much of what happens later. Understanding the importance of your twenties is integral to increasing the odds that later years lead to success and fulfillment. The more bad habits you accumulate early on, the harder it is to get back on track later in life. As explained in The Defining Decade, the importance a man’s twenties plays in his future cannot be overstated, and yet many at this stage in life are making life-altering decisions without being adequately informed of available alternatives and consequences.
There are a few common pitfalls for a young man in his twenties to avoid. The top three are drug addiction, marriage/children, and debt. All of these things limit a man’s options and make it harder for him to discover and fulfill his mission. Avoid falling into these traps and you’ll be ahead of the majority of your peers.
College is a great way to take on a massive amount of debt
If you come from circumstances which can be loosely defined as middle class, your parents will likely encourage you to go to college. This is because for Baby Boomers, doing so was the standard means of beginning a career and facilitating upward mobility. As you may already know, this is no longer the case.
If you are considering college as a means to receive an ‘education’, odds are its a poor option. There are many forms of knowledge, and higher education in the United States mostly delivers a mostly theoretical, politically left-leaning kind. College delivers left-biased book learning.
I’m a voracious reader and a big proponent of learning, but books are readily available outside the system of higher education at a significant discount. Furthermore, while colleges will proclaim they teach their students how to ‘think critically’, what they really do is teach them how to argue within the confines of a pretty narrow ideological band. A college diploma is very expensive proof you’ve completed four years of leftist cultural indoctrination.
Even looking past college’s obvious cultural bias, it still isn’t a good value proposition for the majority of young men who are undecided on their path in life. At eighteen, most young men will be in the beginning stages of their journey of self-discovery and still exploring which professional avenues best fit their particular interests and talents. College is an incredibly expensive way for someone to learn about themselves. It’s also full of distractions, making it a poor venue to increase self awareness.
College’s real value proposition is as a place to party, experiment with drugs, and hook up with girls. These things have their role to play in a young man’s development, but let’s stop deluding people that college is any more than this.
There are some edge cases where going to college may present a more attractive proposition than usual. One of these cases is if you enter into it fully aware that it’s primary function is as a place to increase your tolerance for alcohol, socialize, and meet girls and your family has the financial means available to afford you this opportunity without much strain. If this is your situation, by all means enjoy the the postponement of your adulthood to the fullest extent.
Another good use case for college is if you are able to secure an athletic or academic scholarship to a top tier school. If this is your position not only will you be able to enjoy the benefits of college without the financial risk, but (in the case of the athlete) you will enjoy an exalted status and social position.
College culture reveres organized sports. If you are on a sports team you will be in a better position to capitalize on the only real benefit college can provide: access to persons several steps above your financial/social strata. If you’re in a position to enter a top tier school and enamor yourself with the country’s elite, college’s potential return on investment might actually warrant its high cost.
By virtue of the scarcity and competition for scholarships and placement in top schools, this route will not be an option for the majority of young American men. So, if you’re not the son of rich parents, a top tier athlete, or someone who knows exactly which career they want, what should you do?
I have an unconventional suggestion for the adventurous young man who has graduated high school and is unsure about his path in life. Not only will the route I suggest force you to develop discipline, a strong work ethic, and grit, it will allow you to save a bit of money to invest in a business and/or travel.
A viable alternative to college
I would argue the best thing for the average young man who has just graduated high school is to get out and explore the world, have some adventures, and rack up experiences points while fiercely defending his personal freedom. Avoiding marriage, drug addiction, and debt will provide you with increased mobility to quickly adjust your course when and if you please. For these reasons, getting a job as a seasonal wildland firefighter is my unconventional advice to the young man who has graduates high school and does not see the value in going to college.
Not only can wildland firefighting provide you with invaluable skills for whatever career you later decide to embark on, its an adventurous and exciting experience which can provide the time and money needed to travel the world.
Man’s spirit craves adventure. Wildland firefighting provides ample amounts of it, both on the clock and during the off season. Wildland firefighting can provide you with invaluable life/work experience while funding your escape from the cultural bubble of the United States through international travel.
What wildland firefighting is like
While your experience as a wildland firefighter will depend on what type of crew you join, we can draw some general conclusions about what the job entails.
Physically demanding, mentally challenging
Wildland firefighting is a physically demanding job which is performed outdoors, often in hot, harsh environments. To be hired you must pass an arduous work capacity test, which consists of a three mile hike with a forty five pound weight vest, completed in under forty five minutes. This is the bare minimum official physical standard. Many crews, especially hotshots, will have their own, much more stringent physical requirements.
While engines and helitack can be much less physically arduous, hand crew and especially hotshot work is no joke. Prepare for the hardest manual labor you’ve ever had in your life. I’m talking multiple hour hikes to a piece of fire line in over a hundred degree heat wearing long pants and a flame retardant long sleeve shirt (or ‘yellow’ as they’re called) carrying a forty five pound pack. That’s your commute to work. Once you get there you’ll work for sixteen hour shifts digging line or thinning fuel in advance of the fire.
This is fortuitous, because it will ensure you’re exhausted enough to fall asleep almost immediately on the lumpy piece of ground that will serve as your bed for the majority of the summer.
Wildland firefighting will test your capacity for suffering and endurance. This is another reason why it’s such a great alternative to college for young men. Your capacity to endure suffering is directly correlated with your chance of success. Wildland firefighting gives you an incredible opportunity to toughen yourself both mentally and physically. The mental toughness you grow and develop on the fireline is a trait you can use to dominate every other aspect of life.
Wildland firefighting shares many parallels with the nation’s armed services, including its organization. You’ll work on a crew with a strict organizational hierarchy and be expected to follow the chain of command. While it’s slowly changing, this job is one of the few remaining places where you can say what you want without fear of reprisal for dissenting opinions or beliefs. This is not a politically correct work environment. You will be judged based on your effort and the quality of your work, not on your politics. This is in refreshing contrast to the bulk of American office culture.
Also unlike the majority of American jobs, which are knowledge based, wildland firefighting entails real work with tangible results. Your performance will be judged and you will be given criticism. If you are able to acknowledge your weaknesses and work on improving them you will finish the summer a better man than you started it. This ability to hear and adjust to valid criticism is an invaluable skill for a young man interested in becoming the best version of himself.
What you’ll learn
Besides how much water you need to work a full day in ninety eight degree heat? How about:
- how to chew bung (chewing tobacco)
Ready to begin a job that will make you a better man? This article has some great tip on how to land your first wildland gig.
While seasonal wildland firefighting is a great option for young men, I would not recommend it as a career. This is a government job, which means that while its relatively safe from economic vicissitudes (though with all these government shut-downs even that is debatable), it’s also full of bureaucracy, group-think, and red tape. I’ve seen plenty of people who have made a career out of wildlanding, and they usually look the worse for wear. That’s what a life of backbreaking physical labor mixed with an abundance of form filling, all for a pittance, will do for you.
That being said, you are eligible to receive a modest retirement pension after a few decades of government servitude. If you think you’re someone who could suffer idiotic authority for that length of time you might consider it. It won’t make you rich, but it can provide a comfortable lifestyle.