Advice for 21 Year Old Me

I think this is closer to a 17 year old me, but it accurately reflects the mindset of 21 year old me… probably 29 year old me too. If I’m honest, 36 year old me as well but we’re going to chill him out for now.

So, for practically my whole life, I’ve been attempting to grow up to be Mr. Miyagi. My version of Mr. Miyagi has evolved since seeing Karate Kid at the tender age of 6 or so, but the foundation has never changed.

The taiji I practice and, more and more, teach has less to do with the form and push hands and more to do with [taiji] and [daoist] philosophy and how I can live a balanced life that follows these foundational principles.

I’ve recently crossed paths with some potentially younger “students” (I don’t, and perhaps never will, see myself as a teacher in the classical sense). I spoke on the phone with one yesterday and will speak with him more in the future. I thought there may be some things for younger people to learn if I gave my younger self some advice.

I will continually update this post. I turned 21 in the year 2000 to have some idea of how old I am when you run across this post.

I think there are some universal principles that would be useful to practically any human anywhere, but perhaps they will be more American leaning. Then there are the ones specific to myself, but they could also be relevant to someone reading this if they have a similar personality type. I will section them off.

These principles aren’t currently in any particular order. That may change in future revisions. If you’re reading this now it’s in an extremely rough draft form. I saw no reason to not post it as is as it will be a constantly evolving document.

Universal Advice

Master the art of financial offense and defense

I’ve always naturally been good at financial defense and only got better over time. I was theoretically good at financial offense (I read a lot about it), but I never put it into practice. Also, master disciplined savings. Saving you do every single month and never touch. Understand compound interest.

I always told myself I’d get serious about that sort of thing if one of my crazy ideas didn’t make me a million dollars by the time I was 35. I would recommend getting serious about it immediately.

I will include more resources and examples as time goes by, but I would recommend reading, and mastering, the information in the book [“Your Money or Your Life”] and I would play with [retirement calculators] (I’ve always done that) BUT begin acting on the information immediately.

If, for example, you saved $50/month for the next 15 years you would have $7,000-$28,000 saved right now. That’s just at $50/month (which you could have easily done at 21). Imagine what it would have been with more disciplined saving and financial offense.

Master the art of daily habits

Daily habits not only make everyday a good day, but they are the most efficient way to get you to where you want to be. Understanding that when you get there you’ll want to be somewhere else makes daily habits even more important. All there really is is that day (hour, minute, second…) Master those habits.

Master the art of oral hygiene

32 teeth are better than 29. Don’t believe your father when he said something about having really strong teeth and not needing to take care of them (I was really young and it left an imprint). While true and true for you, oral hygiene is still important (see daily habits).

Master the art of understanding the opposite sex

You did your best (and continue to try). Try harder. It’s worth it.

Master the art of cooking and nutrition

You don’t need to be a chef, but master cooking simple healthy stuff. It will save you money (more money to save) and will make you healthy (more future money saved in terms of health costs). While you have been genetically lucky, that isn’t a reason to be lazy.

Master the art of physical fitness

You’ve done well here and continued to. What you need to do is mix it with daily habits.

Cultivate the crazy and calm self in a balanced way

You naturally have more than enough crazy in you. It’s not something you need to cultivate. Cultivate calm and enjoy the natural crazy. This advice would be vice versa for someone naturally calm. Crazy isn’t crazy. Crazy is in the realm of art and being a little more “extreme” so you have the extremity in times that require extremity. Practicing the martial arts or being involved with a sport / activity that takes you out of your comfort zone is one good way to cultivate “crazy.” For you, Casey, to cultivate calm, I would recommend Chan Buddhism, yoga and taiji (taiji clearly wasn’t enough).

Cultivate mentors in a conscious fashion

You’ve naturally acquired some outstanding mentors and will continue to. Be more conscious about it.

Cultivate a career path

Money is useful and the most reliable way to get it is working. The most reliable way to make more is mastering something. Cultivating a career isn’t “lame.” It’s just another form of kung-fu / mastery. Like your taiji path.

Find one cause

Yes, the world is a messed up place, but it’s actually really awesome and always getting awesomer, [statistically so]. Don’t believe the chicken littles. You don’t have to figure out how to solve all of the problems. Find one and work on that.

Master another culture

You did this, but it’s a good idea for anyone to do. The most different culture possible is a good idea. It will change the way you see the world. If that isn’t an option, any culture will do. If you’re into country music and culture, learn about hip hop culture. If you’re religious, learn about atheism. If you’re refined, learn about being a thug.

Master the art of disciplined saving

I suppose I covered this already but, for now, it’s worth repeating

Master goal setting and planning

You’ve done well at this, but do your best to get better sooner. It’s also important to understand why your goals are what they are. Often times they aren’t “your” goals. Be careful about that.


Everyone thinks they know what they were thinking at some point in time. They are wrong. The only way you truly know what you were thinking is through regular, honest, journaling. This will also help you reflect and figure out why you do what you do.

Start journaling more clearly now. Always have a date. I’m a little “OCD” with it now and do a timestamp, you might as well start doing it too. I would like that additional information.


Below I mention “life style being the best medicine.” This is important for everyone but doubly important for you. You’re about to spend the next 15 years trying to figure out how to manage being bipolar. You suspected that a calmer life would have done much to help with management, but being bipolar made it hard to create a calm life. Forget pursuing anything else. Pursue a calm life. It will save you a lot of time, energy and resources.

Advice Specific to Me

Take on no debt

Debt can be a good thing, but it isn’t any good for you. Unless you’re buying a house or doing some high level business deal, you can save for anything you want to buy or business you want to start and live on ramen noodles if you have to. Take no money from anyone and when you do, pay it back immediately. Even if it’s 50 cents. Pay it back immediately.

Don’t waste time with college

You already wasted time and money with college once. You even payed off the debt from it. Don’t do it again. It’s a waste of time for you. Instead focus on a career. You’ll be spending your whole life reading and learning and you don’t need a college degree for your career path (if you focus on it). If you ever want to do some high learning and a university is the best course of action, wait until you’re financially able to do it and audit classes. Investigate online learning. If you want the “college experience” work, get an apartment close to a college and just hang out there. That’s free.

Wear all black

The enjoyment you get from wearing a variety of clothing doesn’t come close to the cost (monetary, energetically, time). Just go all black now. It’s high style and works in every situation and requires no thought. You can express yourself artistically in other avenues.

Master minimalism sooner

You’ve always been a minimalist compared to others, but you don’t have anything on me. Get on my level sooner.

Start studying yoga now

You were always waiting for the “right time” to start studying yoga. Now is the right time.

Money / Power is not the root of all evil

You were conditioned to believe that. It’s not your fault. Stop believing that and get money and power. They are just tools and have no inherent goodness or evilness.

Master the art of sales now and start selling

On the note of money and power, being a salesman is the best path for that. You gain skills that are useful for acquiring power and you gain resources (monetary, material and social)  from those skills. They feed on one another. You’re also highly interested in the topic. Might as well put it to use in a more utilitarian fashion. Wait until you see what Donald Trump does. It will blow your mind.

Stay fluent in Spanish

You always told yourself that you would pick up Spanish again later (I went to a Spanish immersion school and was fluent). While this is true, you’d be fluent in Spanish and Chinese right now instead of just Chinese. You’d probably also be fluent in some other Latin based languages because of their similarity to both Spanish and English. Then you’d be working on another language right now. Keep learning languages. It’s something you like doing and it’s highly useful.

Go to bed early, wake up early

This compliments lifestyle is the best medicine. There is only trouble waiting for you late at night. That’s when the freaks come out. Freaks are fun, but make them the exception to your sleeping pattern, not the rule. You’re naturally freaky enough.

Lifestyle is the best medicine

This is probably the most important thing for you to understand right now. This is true for everyone but it is doubly true for you because you’ve been blessed and cursed with genetic style of mental processing (currently called bipolar in some of it’s forms) that requires a lot of effort to cultivate and keep healthy. Medication is not enough for you and most likely never will be. Do not develop a “it doesn’t matter” attitude about it because you think, at times, you will be forever cursed. Stay focused on mastering this genetic style of processing. You always have been, and will continue to be, focused on figuring this out, but “lifestyle is the best medicine” is the key you were missing. Perhaps it’s better stated that lifestyle is the only medicine (for you).

Practice the taiji form every day

While you don’t like the form much, it will compliment the “lifestyle is the best medicine.” Not only will you gain the benefits from practicing the form, but it will also cultivate creating daily habits.

Your way isn’t the best way

Quit trying to tell people how to do things. It’s a waste of your time and most people don’t like it. Just focus on your way and master that. Let other people figure out their way.

Chan Buddhism is what you are looking for

You had no access to Chan Buddhism and it is the least well known style of Buddhism. Chan as the perfect balance of Buddhist things that fit your style and nature right now. It provides the structure and balance you need to compliment your natural “black stallion style.”

Don’t get married (next year)

You end up getting married as an experiment. Don’t do that.

Don’t go “all in” on miltownkid

You’re crazy enough already. Go half in.

Always have a job

While you’re an entrepreneur by nature, take a balanced approach. Always have a job. Not only will always working be financially offensive, but you can learn much needed entrepreneurial skills if you treat work like an education. There is much learning to be done inside of jobs.

Last Updated: Saturday, December 26th, 2015 7:16AM

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