Long ago people typically married as teenagers, but today we usually tell people to date while young, but don’t get married til later. In the US in 2018 the median age of first marriage was 28 for women, 30 for men. Many religions have not allowed you to join until you were old enough to make an adult choice.
Great post. When I was a teenager I was a literal communist keen on bringing about world revolution. I wanted to get a tattoo of a hammer and sickle to make me commit to it because I feared that the siren song of capitalism would turn me. I am so glad I did not marry that cause.
Wait and date is all good but that doesn't tell us when to stop. What is a quantitative measure that tells me "This is your One Time - take it."?
You learn more while dating than while married; so date for a while.
This advice seems consistent with a recent Scott Alexander post in which he observed that young peoples’ beliefs behave like they are in the high-temperature phase of a lifelong simulated annealing process.
I'm skeptical of Causes. The people I see working for causes seem to be doing at least as much harm as good - maybe more. Because the world is complicated and there are good, often non-obvious, reasons why it is what it is.
For 99% of people the thing they can do that will most help the world is earn an honest living - find something to do with your life that's useful to others, as evidenced by their willingness to pay for it.
Sure, there are other things you could do that would be useful and which nobody is willing to pay for. But it's far more difficult to identify these - you can easily do long-term harm while intending to do good.
There's little distinction these days between marriage and dating. Both can last as long as one likes and neither is viewed as permanent. Practically speaking, they're now different words for the same thing.
I'd say, regardless of age, throw yourself into it (whatever it is) with passion when you feel the passion and let the train take you wherever it takes you, You can always get off at the next station if you don't like the scenery, whatever you call it. Even at my advanced age and with my vast life experience :-), I might not retain my current beliefs till my personal end.
Perhaps I'm suggesting avoiding marriage entirely, at least in the realm of purely personal beliefs and affiliations.
You appear to be neglecting an important factor: you learn best when young. Holding off on choosing a cause until later in life may well put a low ceiling on the human capital you can personally bring to bear on the cause because you won't be capable of becoming a leading talent in the field if you start training at 40.
I think I needed almost the opposite advice when I was young. I held off on marrying any causes, due to option paralysis and wanting to maximise impact. Then one day, I decided it was important to start contributing my energy and finances somewhere, then optimise those investments as I went.
I know this isn't the exact opposite of what you're saying, because you do encourage dabbling with causes here. I think I just needed to be encouraged to dabble more seriously with ideas, in the sense of actually putting some amount of resources into things I thought were important.
But that scouting time did also shape me as a person and keep me grounded, so perhaps you're right, and hindsight bias is making me think I could have done more. I also had a lot of willpower and self-improvement changes to make before I could be as effective as I am now for my current causes.
I'd argue there's an "oxygen mask" thesis here. It now seems to me that it would be best to spend our 20's growing stronger, and our 30's doing something with that strength, even though a lot of us are idealistic and want to make the world better before we're out of our 20's. At least, this has been my observation of my intellectual circles around Sydney and online. It seems good practice to still get a little idealistic and involved, just not at the cost of self-improvement.
College could and should be busy time. If you are taking it easier, that is a choice not an imperative of your situation.
This is the standard explore/exploit tradeoff, yes? When you know less, explore more. Once you understand the space and your preferences, then exploit.
Broad early, specialize later. Play the field before you pick one.
This seems like fairly common sense advice?
But, nitpick: you say "later on you will have more time, money, energy, insight, and social connections". I don't think that's right -- I think later on you have more money, insight, and connections, but less available time and energy. College is not a very busy time compared to later with a family and career. So perhaps there's some version of, invest time early as part of exploration, then focus with other resources later.
I said to date, just not to marry.
OTOH, education proceeds, at least in part, by making mistakes as you go along. The adage "Fail fast, fail often" might be as good a guideline for personal affiliation as it is said to be for business initiative.
When younger, I believed in Whiggish history and for 10 years I followed a guru. I'm now a skeptic in both realms, but I don't think I would have gotten to that without having made (what I now regard as) earlier mistakes.
In fact, had I started out as a skeptic, perhaps I would have gone the other way. I appreciate that even the gods I currently espouse might some day fail me. But the way I see it, that's their bad!
You rightly assume that people tend to get wiser as they get older; but young people mostly do not agree, viewing older people as tired, unduly pessimistic sell-outs.