What’s easier now than later? BJ Fogg responds

Ramit Sethi · August 3rd, 2006

Reminder: Last week, I wrote a post called It Never Gets Easier Than Now. This week I’m featuring responses from people I admire on what’s easier to do when we’re younger.

Dr. BJ Fogg, Professor at Stanford, Director of the Persuasive Technology Lab, and founder of Yackpack, writes:

As you get older you lose the freedom to devote months of your life to something whimsical, be it travel, a hobby, or a startup. You eventually see the limiting factor in life is not money but time — big chunks of free time.

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In my 20s I put a sleeping bag in a backpack and set out to circumnavigate the world — flying, boating, hitching, sleeping in strangers’ homes. Another year I decided to learn French, just for fun. So I picked a city off a map and moved there. I knew nobody, I had no language school to welcome me, and I spoke only 50 words of French. I decided I would live like a French student as much as possible. So I ate at their cafeterias, I studied hard (mostly on my own), and I made friends with the locals (and never, ever talked to Americans). I went to church and starting play the piano for the congregation. Two French families sort of adopted me. They took me to their family reunions, their summer homes, and sailing on the Mediterranean. Twelve weeks seemed like two years. When I came back home, I passed the Ph.D. proficiency in French. But the real value was becoming French for three months, making great friends, and seeing life in a new way.

In my 40s now, I would love to repeat this in China or Thailand, but it just seems too complicated now. If I could find a big block of time, I wouldn’t be able to forget everything back home enough to brainwash myself into another culture. . . . Maybe.

See the original article that inspired this, It Never Gets Easier Than Now.

Other responses

  • Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, and speaker [response]
  • Mark Hurst, founder, Good Experience [response]
  • Debbie Newhouse, training specialist at Google [response]
  • Meetpaul Singh, Stanford BS, MD, MBA, and venture capitalist [response]

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  1. This brings up a really interesting point:

    Why is it easy to do these things in one’s 20’s, but not later?

    I know the reason ‘why’ is that you have less time. Why do you have less time?

    Why can’t you live your whole life as if you were in your 20’s?

    This is a discussion question. You’ll have 30 minutes to write your essay.

  2. Because it’s hard to potty train a 2 1/2 year old in the US, much less in France or Thailand.

  3. John McClendon

    “Doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age” Much Ado About Nothing, act II scene 3.

    I think you will find that stuff you could easily endure at 20 (sleeping on stranger’s floors, living on ramen etc.), becomes less palatable at 35. This is just human nature and you’re not going to change it.

    If you happen to be the one person in history who has achieved a perpetually young attitude, you COULD live your whole life as if you were in your 20’s, but it would start to get very risky at a certain point. At some point you have to establish a lucrative career or job path in order to start saving money against the day when you MAY not be able to work anymore because of disability. You’re parents will die at some point leaving you without that safety net. For most people, generating that kind of cash flow require commitment and reliability to one employer or at least one field of work. There are obvious exceptions of brilliant people whose work is so valuable that they can generate great cash by just writing a couple of articles a month, but we’re talking averages here. So, If you’re comfortable with the prospect of possibly surviving on Alpo in your old age then go ahead and live like you’re 20.

  4. Vince Chan

    I thought when we grew old and senile, we’d get all that free time back again? Though everywhere might look like China and Thailand because we may not recognize anything anymore.

    Isn’t it good to revert back to a kid again? You get fed by hand… you get adult diapers… etc.

  5. Ben Casnocha

    It’s amazing how similar these responses are to my 18th birthday post. Travel, travel, travel!