How to not peak in high school

I haven't even begun to peak

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If you have kids or a younger sibling in high school, please consider sharing this post with them. You may save them from a life of mediocrity.

Back in middle school, I was obsessed with trying to be popular.

One fellow nerd and I even made a scatterplot of popular v. smart. So yeah, I wasn’t exactly cool material. In fact, quite the op

posite. I was a chubby sensitive kid in advanced classes who liked to play on my laptop. So when high school came around, I never got invited to the “popular kid” parties. I was and always am a nerd.

In high school, I wasn’t OK with this. I wanted to fit in with the “cool kids”. It wasn’t like I had no friends. I had my crew of friends and still went to parties and hooked up with girls, but there was always part of me that wanted to be in that “popular clique”. At 26, that part of me is fortunately very dead.

A quick look through LinkedIn and Instagram shows most of those “popular kids” peaked in high school. Most are working boring jobs and haven’t left our hometown. They’re still hanging with the same friends they had since 6th grade. Meanwhile, the nerds are living across the world working exciting high-paying jobs and making friends in high places. We’re never peaking, always rising up and doing cool new things. It’s good to be a nerd.

With that in mind, I asked my audience of 19,000+ nerds on Twitter “If a 16-year-old asked you how to avoid peaking in high school, what would you tell them?” Here’s some of my favorite responses and my thoughts on the matter.

I smoked weed daily junior and senior years of high school. I was also in 6 AP classes, on the board of a regional leadership program, and made $40,000+ selling stickers on the internet. So yes, you can do both, but—

I often think about what I could’ve been capable of if I didn’t spend every night and weekend getting stoned. Sure I did better than most. But if I did all of that high as a kite, what could I have done if I wasn’t dumbing myself down? Why couldn’t I have made $500,000 in high school? Or if I spent more time creating content instead of getting high and listening to music, why couldn’t I could’ve been one of those high schoolers with 1M followers?

You can party and do well in school. I am proof of it. But Max is right. Spend your time studying and doing cool projects; for me, that would mean spending more time creating content and online businesses, but for you, that might mean volunteering at an animal shelter or learning French. Either of those are much more rewarding in the long-term than getting high.

When you’re a kid, you’re naturally curious. As a teenager, it’s easy to lose this sense of curiosity and think you’re too cool to be a curious learner.

But there’s nothing cooler than curiosity.

High school is like the bread & butter in the 5-course meal of things you can learn. College is the salad. But the real meal is out there waiting for you on the internet and in books and podcasts. If you want your brain well-fed, you need to hunt for knowledge far past the school curriculum. In the words of Mark Twain, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”

Please for the love of God do not do what I did.

I didn’t take any art classes in high school because they were weighted less on the GPA scale than AP classes. I wasted countless hours of my life in Calculus AB and Calculus BC when I could’ve been making cool art or trying woodshop (I really wanted to take woodshop but the GPA weighting was bad).

If you want to take a class, take it. Forget about the GPA weighting.

And please, do not do extracurriculars just for the resume boost. I personally didn’t do this, but I saw plenty of kids doing it. Do extracurriculars that sound fun and meaningful to you. I remember talking to our valedictorian and he played violin up until senior year even though he hated it—he just wanted the resume booster. I 99% guarantee you he hasn’t touched it since high school.

Learn a new skill, hang with a new crowd, join the writing club, do whatever, there’s not many opportunities where you have all these opportunities at the palm of your hand. When you become an adult like me, you’ll legit have to go find this stuff and pay for it out of your rent money. So to answer your question, I still haven’t learned woodshop… yet!

There are few things more rewarding than improving at a skill. And the only way to improve at a skill is practice.

You will gain more happiness and joy from 15 minutes/day practicing your guitar than 1 hour/day scrolling TikTok. For me, my issue in high school was staying consistent practicing skills. So I never improved as a guitar player or writer or anything until I got older and learned the importance of daily practice.

Start small. 5 minutes/day. 1 poem/day. Whatever. Stack up streaks (yeah like the Snapchat thing). Set reminders or alarm clocks. Do whatever you gotta do.

This is how Jerry Seinfeld (a very famous comedian for all you zoomers who haven’t even heard of the show Seinfeld) practiced stand-up comedy. He wrote a joke every single day and marked an X on the calendar to count up the streak. If he missed a day, he’d start the streak over from scratch. Simple. And it works with everything from writing jokes to working out. The only way you get better is by daily repetition.

“But it’s too hard!!!” That is the sound of 16-year-old me giving up on growing my YouTube and learning guitar and all this other stuff. Uh yeah thats the point.

Nothing worthwhile is easy.

What I didn’t understand then is that everything is figure-out-able. You don’t need to be a super-genius, you just need to be more determined. Be OK with not knowing the answer, find joy in figuring it out.

As a friend with 500,000+ followers who has raised millions of dollars for his startup told me, “You never feel like you know what you’re doing. Figuring it out isn’t part of the game, it is the game.”

Final thoughts:

Every teenager is scared to be “cringe.”

Well, let me tell you something. Embrace the cringe.

Every influencer, entrepreneur, whatever looked “cringe” to some people in the beginning of their careers. Check out this pic of Travis Scott with 17 fans at his show. Seth Rogen started out his comedy career at age 13 telling terrible jokes about his grandma. Haters on TikTok would’ve called both of these genius millionaires “cringe”. But real artists and entrepreneurs know that looking failing and looking “cringe” is part of the process of becoming great.


Goal: be the #1 destination for creative cyberpunks

📞 Take a virtual trip to the Mobile Phone Museum. Which ones did you have? I had the Motorola RAZR and felt like the coolest kid in the world.

🐦 I think this VC fund thesis would probably outperform most lol.

🔥 I’m coming out guys. I’m e/acc if you couldn’t tell… Wait, wtf is e/acc? and why is everyone talking about it in tech?

😂 Irish politicians are trying to ban some memes. I don’t think I’d do very well in this country. Should I try to get my book banned there for PR?

🔥 Stripe’s Black Friday recap was cyberpunk af. No software company cares about design like Stripe. Speaking of that, life’s too short to use ugly software.


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As always, if you want to learn the secrets of millionaire memelords, check out my book Memes Make Millions.

Thanks for reading nerds.

Create some cool shit this week.

Jason Levin