Be Who You Want to Be By 30 (or be broken down by homeostasis)

napoleonWhat impact does homeostasis have on your career as you get older?

What are some of the practical implications of this?

And, now that you have this information, how can you use it to become successful and reach the top of your field?

These are some of the questions that I’ll now jump into. . .

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Break out of Homeostasis.

Be Who You Want to Be Before Age 30

A man’s character is formed before he is 30.

–Napoleon Bonaparte

By the time you are past 30 your character is formed. You will not change.”

Lee Kuan Yew, First Prime Minister of Singapore

A man without a heroic bent starts dying at the age of thirty.

–Nassim Taleb, philosopher and author

The brain–including one’s personality, habits, and world view–is most malleable under the age of somewhere around 30. Neuroscientist Jay Giedd says that our personalities change more during our twenties than at any time, before or after.

Homeostasis grows not just stronger, but also more dangerous to disrupt, the older a person gets. Young people tend to greatly underestimate how much stress (discomfort, pain, change, fear, etc.) they can bear, while older people are prone to overestimate their physiological capacity for breaking out of their homeostasis, and changing their brain and body.

The philosopher William James, who lived between 1842 and 1910, wrote much about the phenomenon that we now know to be homeostasis. Science, at that point, had little information about the brain and its functions, the endocrine system, and the formation of habits. James was ahead of the curve when he wrote that:

The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. It is to fund and capitalize our acquisitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the fund. For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.

Most ground-breaking innovations and great achievements are made by young people

Over the years, many people have observed that the greatest–most original and creative–work done by musicians has been done in their youth. Under the age of 30, to be specific. Is there any truth to this observation? If so, could it also be that this holds true for other career fields too, other than just music?

Albert Einstein said that “a person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of thirty will never do so.” Historically speaking, there is a very clear trend suggesting that this is correct. Two facts which support this are that:

  1. Young people are less cognitively challenged when it comes to accepting and adopting new information, scientific theories (as noted by Max Planck), and technology.
  2. In addition to being born into a new paradigm, young people have more energy, ‘faster’ brains, and less physiological resistance to change (a weaker homeostasis).

. . . This allows young people not only to see patterns that older people don’t, but it also affords them the fortitude to follow-through on their ideas, do something about it, and have an impact.

Here are a couple of people that you probably know of, who achieved extreme success, or made exceptional discoveries at an early age:

  • Blaise Pascal created the first version of the calculator as a teenager, and went on to innovate theories on geometry and probability theory in his early twenties.
  • Isaac Newton’s early scientific innovations, in mathematics, optics and mechanics, were made in his mid-twenties, at home, during the Great Plague.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte got promoted to brigadier general at age 24, general of the army of Italy at age 26, and became First Consul of France at age 35.
  • John D. Rockefeller–at the age of 31–had created Standard Oil, consolidated 22 out of 26 rival refineries in Cleveland, and built the foundation that would go on to make him the richest man in history.

Andrew Carnegie had been mentored by Tom Scott in the railroad industry during his late twenties, made a good sum of money from oil at 29, and got into the steel industry (where he would make his fortune) at age 30.


  • Nikola Tesla’s first well-known invention, the induction engine, was finished at age 30.
  • Thomas Edison’s first truly successful invention, the phonograph, was completed at age 30.
  • Albert Einstein conceived of most of his ideas in his twenties (and accomplished relatively little for the rest of his life).
  • Steve Jobs founded Apple at age 21 with Steve Wozniak.
  • Bill Gates founded Microsoft at age 20 with Paul Allen.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google, both aged 23.

Obviously, you could argue that this is merely anecdotal evidence, and that it doesn’t necessarily prove anything by itself–and that is a valid argument. But when you couple it with the fact that the human brain–in particular the prefrontal cortex–is ‘evolutionarily complete’ around the age of 30, and combine that with the fact that homeostasis grows in strength as you get older, you wind up with some pretty convincing evidence suggesting that it is not just an anecdotal observation.

Still, many people will not want to believe this–because it is a very disconcerting idea; a harsh reality. Those people will want to dispel their discomfort by, for example, pointing to the success stories of Colonel Sanders (who founded KFC at age 65), or Sam Walton (who founded Walmart at the age of 44).

And that’s also true: those guys went on to do great things at an older age. But there are two things to consider:

  1. These people are outliers (among extreme-achievers).
  2. And, while they did not achieve their success before age 30, they certainly did not squander their youth. On the contrary: they spent it well; acquiring knowledge, positive work habits, and facing fears; breaking out of homeostasis.

Another popular ‘late bloomer success story’ is that of Ray Kroc (who made McDonald’s popular at the ripe age of 52). But that example is also taken out of context, for Kroc himself said that “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.” In other words, he had spent years in preparation and practice.

Therefore, the theory that most major accomplishments are achieved by young people likely does have some truth to it.


There is a consistent historic trend of extremely successful people, high-achievers, pioneering innovators, scientists, and inventors making their biggest contributions around the age of 30, or younger.


And, the people who make great scientific contributions, accomplish impressive achievements, or reach massive success in business at a later stage in life, nearly always spent their youth well; looking upon it as training, as an investment into their future. For example:

  • While Johann Wolfgang von Goethe did not publish Faust until 1808, when he was 59 years old, he had spent most of his life prior to that reading, writing, and studying.
  • Ted Turner created CNN in 1980, when he was 42 years old. But he had spent his childhood reading hundreds of books educating himself, and had been working 16-hour days in the billboard industry since age 24, making large sums of money. He was no stranger to business.
  • Mythologist Joseph Campbell was relatively unknown until he published The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949, at age 45. However, between age 25 and 30, Campbell did nothing but read classics and history books for nine hours per day.

I could go on and list many more examples, but I won’t. I repeat: These people did not squander their youth. They used it for the deliberate aim of acquiring positive habits, to learn, and to build work ethic.


There is an even more consistent trend among extremely successful people, high-achievers, pioneering innovators, scientists, and inventors to deliberately use their youth (20s) as a ‘launching pad’ for propelling them to greatness.


As managerial guru Peter Drucker said: “There is but one requirement for managing the second half of your life: to start creating it long before one enters it.”

The million dollar question: Will this trend go on?

In the latter case, of people achieving greatness as a result of deliberately spending their youth in training for it? Yeswithout a doubt. In the former case, of people making their biggest (scientific) discoveries and ground-breaking innovations in business before age 30? No, not necessarily. Let me explain why. . .

While the cerebral advantage of younger people–that of being born into a new paradigm, being better equipped to notice and adapt new technology, and being less confined by their homeostasis–will remain, as it is a part of the human condition, other things are changing–rapidly. Such as the rate at which information is being produced, and the amount of existing knowledge.

Going into the future, this is likely going to reduce the number of people capable of achieving extreme accomplishments at an age under 30, because: the ‘bar to greatness’ is being pushed higher at an exponential rate. Let me explain why this is so.

The Accelerated Growth of Information and Scientific Knowledge Since the Time of Isaac Newton

  • According to mathematician Richard Hamming, the knowledge of science has doubled for every year since the time of Isaac Newton (in the mid 17th century). In other words: despite standing on the shoulder of giants–or rather, because of it–every new generation has to solve more advanced (scientific) problems than the previous generations.

What I did [in mathematics] would not make me successful if I were starting now.

–Richard Hamming

  • All of Hammings’ discoveries that were considered to be great contributions to the scientific community and the general good, were made in his first 15 years. He said that: “In mathematics, theoretical physics, and astrophysics–in the past–the best work was done by a person very young. . . Most great scientists’ work was done surprisingly young. . . If you want to go into a field like mathematics, and you’re 40–forget it, you’re not going to do much.”
  • In Newton’s time there was only one branch of science, called ‘Natural Philosophy’. Even at the time of Benjamin Franklin, scientists were still hobbyists, who often had to build their own tools. Today, we have LOTS of specialties, laboratories, and institutes. Hamming estimated that there existed around 10,000 fields of specialty in 1995.
  • If you assume 10,000 specialties as of 1995, then 340 years from that time–in 2335–there would be 10 billion fields of specialties, given the rate of growth. While this is just an estimate, it seems extremely unlikely. Clearly, the doubling of scientific fields cannot go on forever. In fact, it will probably not go on for many more generations. However, it is most likely still going on, as of right now, in 2015.
This funny-looking guy is Richard Hamming. He was damn smart and practically birthed the computing industry.

This funny-looking guy is Richard Hamming. He was damn smart and birthed the modern computing industry, with processors and so on.

  • Then you also have to consider that we now have the Internet. Nowhere is this trend of accelerated growth more visible–or faster–than when it comes to information online. Here’s what Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2011:

Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We now create five exabytes every two days. See why it’s so painful to operate in information markets?

  • Economist and futurist Tyler Cowen, in his book Average is Over (from 2012), writes that scientific problems are becoming increasingly complex in most areas; that they are less susceptible to simple, intuitive, and big breakthroughs. By and large, this also holds true for business–except in novel industries, such as the Internet-related fields online marketing and social media.
  • Cowen explains that the reason young people, like Mark Zuckerberg, who’ve achieved extreme success, did so because they went into industries where the threshold–the ‘bar to greatness’-hadn’t yet been raised very high. In established industries, this is becoming more difficult to do for each day that passes.

Mastery within nearly all fields is taking longer, and becoming increasingly challenging. Even in fields where creativity and youth are huge advantages–such as mathematics or physics–the ‘bar to greatness’ continues to get higher.


  • Cowen goes on to explain that in 1905 Nobel-wining physicists, on average, made their breakthrough discoveries at the age of 37. In 1985, the corresponding age was 50. In chemistry, the age increased from 36 to 47 during the same period, and for medical scientists the age rose from 38 to 46. So, as you see, the trend is evident: it is taking longer to become ‘world-class’ in the established fields of science.

Homeostasis Will Make You or Break You as You Grow Older

In some fields, maturity is the best thing. But not in mathematics, theoretical physics, and astrophysics, where RAW creativity counts, youth is a great advantage, and experience is not.

–Richard Hamming

Statistically speaking, the chances of you entering a new industry are low. Why? Because the school system is set up in such a way as to train you for the already established industries.

So, assuming that you do not enter into a new industry, you must realize this: you are running a marathon, not a sprint, where your ability to defy homeostasis, and remain adaptive, will determine whether or not you’ll become an innovator.

If you want to reach world-class standing in an already established industry where, as Hamming put it, “maturity is the best thing”, then you must use your youth as a launching pad.

Whatever you do, you must not waste your 20s. You must start living a lifestyle conducive to breaking out of homeostasis, so that you will remain crisp as you get older.

Practical Tips if You Should Decide to Enter Into a New Industry or Scientific Area

If your goal is to enter a new industry and have as much impact as possible, do this: maximize the potential of your youthful brain.

When you are young and ambitious, you want to put yourself in a position where you have maximum incentive to learn as much as you can, and work as hard as possible. For example, by being an entrepreneur, or by working for a small company where people listen to you and you’re given a lot of responsibility.

Alternatively, if your interests are not related to business, you should get involved in some (scientific) field where you have the opportunity to pursue your curiosity unhinged by bureaucracy, obsolete tradition, regulation, and other things that put your brain on a leash.

You have to pursue a deliberate strategy.

* * *

That was a lot of condensed information I just threw in your face!

Let’s consider the implications of these things, shall we?

Here’s How All This Stuff Relates to Homeostasis

You may have heard about elderly people who were ‘shocked’ and fell sick by being relocated, moved out of their homes, and put into elderly care. This is homeostasis at work; too much change, too suddenly, happening too late in life is dangerous.

As you get older, starting around age 30, you will become more conservative. You will slowly begin to drift–instinctively–towards routine, safety, and monotony. This is because homeostasis grows in power the older you get, and if you do not deliberately practice breaking out of homeostasis starting from an early age, you’re not going to be able to do it later in life.

There are two conclusions to draw from this:

1) From a physiological standpoint, your brain and body may not allow you to take risk, or endure change, as readily as when you were younger.

2) Therefore you need to start doing things that require change early in life, to increase your adaptability. Work hard and spend more energy than you need to ‘just get by’, use your brain as much as you can, deliberately incur stress on yourself, flood yourself with novel stimuli, take on increasingly large challenges, and face your fears. Break out of homeostasis.

By doing this you’ll not freak out, get shocked, or become sick when you get put through too much change. Like inoculating a child with smallpox to save its life later on, a lifestyle conducive to breaking out of homeostasis will act as a preventive measure to strengthen its practitioner. . .

. . . and ensure that you’ll win the marathon.

* * *

If you like this article, check out my book Breaking out of Homeostasis.

You’ll learn (1) how to be more adaptable and stress-tolerant, (2) what it takes to change your life, (3) how to use your brain and feel more alive–with 200 unique exercises, (4) how to increase mental vigilance (5) how to learn faster through pattern recognition, and (6) the most important thing for choosing your career before age ~30.

“Breaking out of Homeostasis is one of the most important books I have read in a long time. You read one or two books every few years that completely change the way you see the world and this is definitely one of them.”
~Martin Sandquist, Billionaire (Founder Lynx Asset Management) 


  1. Martinn says:

    I think Ludvig created a pure motivational article here by targeting his age and youngs like him.

    I am 31 now.
    And i was feeling the same when i was your age. I have to be successfull until 25 or no thing matters after that age. Than i become 25 but not everything worked well. But i said to myself 28 will be the golden year and so on… Please consider an advice from someone walked the same path as you did. Life is thuff. You will see lots of failures. And life will not quickly bring success. You have to experience lots of things. Even playing video games can help you if you understrand how to study it… Doing stupid things does not matter if you have a mentality to drill them. You will see when your age be 30…

    • Here’s what I get from it. Pre 30s is success. Post 30s and you’re a failure because your mental and physical functions begin to fail. Subtract salary and I would hire post 30 programmer, analyst, manager, teacher everytime. GL to your company when you hire a fresh 24 masters degree or 28 with 4 yrs of actual experience. Did you know knowledge accumulates, same with experience? You should take the population of pre 30s and calculate the ones who are successful according to your definition. Might come out to 1-7%. Then take the population of post 30s and calculate the ones who are successful. Might come out much higher percentage wise. Btw your pre 30s examples of world renown famous people are all outliers and anomalies.

      • This is good. I’ll write an article to respond to this in some time.

      • The effective 40 year old is a man who spent his twenties learning instead of watching TV – I thought Ludvig made this pretty clear.

        The title of the article may be a little melodramatic, but it’s hard to get the attention of the twenty-something who has the most potential to benefit from breaking out of the homeostatic herd. Most of the people who will actually benefit from reading Ludvig’s material are probably over thirty and still aren’t billionaires but have avoided being totally ruined – and they won’t refuse to read or use something just because of an exaggerated title.

  2. I’m 26 now and it doesn’t terrify me that I’ll have rigid beliefs by the time I’m 30. Interesting side note – astrology says that Saturn makes a complete revolution in one’s chart every thirty years – so what you begin to form in your mind and heart in your 20’s becomes stabilized after 30 and sort of rules your life for the next 30 years… I take this with a grain of salt of course, but the key understanding here is if this is the case, I’d rather spend time developing myself in every way possible and have a set of positive beliefs that’ll fuel me to the highest level of success when I’ve crossed the big 3-0!

  3. The reason these people had success before the age of 30 it’s not because they were simply young. Of course being young helps someone to use the mind and body to the maximum but if it was only an age thing, then all 20-30 year old people would have huge success. For every successful 30-year-old there are thousands and thousands of 30-year-olds who didn’t succeed much.
    The reason why these particular people had success by the age of 30 it is because they were meant to be successful. They had the genetics and the upbringing to achieve greatness.
    You said that some people achieved success at a later age but they had been working on their skills when they were younger.
    I will bring up a very extreme case were someone had a huge success at a very very late age with no prior skill practice at all.
    Anna Mary Robertson Moses known as “grandma Moses” was a farmer all her life. She began painting at the age of 78!!! for the first time and she became one of the most successful contemporary painters.

  4. This reminds me of the “erosion of horsepower” chapter in Millionaire Fastlane. The choices we make in early life have the most impact on our future.

    I do have to say that it isn’t really the absolute age that is the problem – but the way those years were spent. It’s not that people in their 30’s or 40’s (even 50’s+) don’t have enough capacity to make extraordinary contributions but these neural paths might have become inaccessible because they haven’t been used.

    By overcoming resistance (BOOH) on a younger age you’ll be able to do so at an older age. ( Study on preservation of neuroplasticity at older age when living an “active life”.) aka not being a plant zombie watching tv and masturbating 24/7.

    Use it or lose it basically.

    Looking forward to the book Ludvig!

    • I like this post. (I also like the handle “Simon”, the reason for which is probably obvious to most).

      I was a common unskilled laborer well into my thirties, living from paycheck to paycheck. I finished uni only in my forties. I’ve been homeless and I’ve been jailed. Now I do cutting edge research in a technical field I am helping to create and now and then I embarrass men with PhDs, some of them experts in my own field, by finding their mistakes.

      I don’t think you are necessarily doomed in life if you aren’t a millionaire by thirty. But I had two advantages over all my former cohorts at the bottom. One of these advantages, I got for nothing – I was born with above average intelligence. The other was that I have always *read books* and used my mind. Most of my leisure time has always been spent reading, solving some kind of problem, or writing. Or exercising.

      If you make a habit of learning and thinking when you are young, you will be able to continue learning and thinking for at least the great majority of your life. If you waste all your free time on television, you really will be tapped out at thirty, with little opportunity left to develop your potential. That is what all those guys I knew did – they worked hard, did what society expected of them, watched television, and got nowhere. Some of them were fairly smart and many of them were resourceful and extremely hard working. They will live and die in poverty and obscurity.

      When people say you should “make something of yourself” by thirty, I agree – but not in the way they mean, which is merely money and status. One must /literally/ make something of /oneself/ – i.e., one’s brain. If you don’t teach your brain to work hard by age 30 – or better yet, age 15 – it will never work very hard for you.

    • Well said guys. I’m glad you get the point.

  5. I’m 29, does that mean I’m screwed?

  6. This is really cool, where can I learn more about this??

  7. Hello! This was such a good read. I’m going to be 30 by Sept. I came to a point in my life that I was at homoeostasis and it really felt scary. I used to work as a call center agent and it was a thankless job. I was about to get a promotion but I got sick and when I got back, they gave my promotion to someone else. This woke me up. I quit my job and started teaching English to Japanese. Then now I work as a writer. I love writing and it has really changed my life!.

  8. LOVE this post Ludvig.

    A good reminder for me that I am doing the right thing by working as hard as possible whilst still in my twenties when my energy and creativity is high. I totally agree with you that the first 30 years of our lives either make or break us. The habits we develop early will shape the rest of our lives.

    Hope all is well mate!

  9. Not sure I understand, are you saying its not possible to be successful or rich or pioneer after 30?

  10. Allen M says:

    I feel I’ve been slipping the past few weeks / month+ now (not exactly sure how long). It’s easy to read something motivational, get pumped and do well for a few weeks and let it slip. My life isn’t even that difficult. :/ I’m going to re-read my notes of this site and try to get back on track.

    I was also thinking about buying Witcher 3. I don’t really even play that many video games anymore. Today I read an article stating that the developers spent a bit over 1/2 of the game’s funding on advertising. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but I didn’t realize how much I was being impacted by advertising.

    I’ve been reading a lot of random review / tech websites and been wanting to buy various things, a lot of which wouldn’t even benefit for me, just fun to buy. [optional TL;DR rest of paragraph]. Stereo preamp for my dad as his went bad, bigger monitor (won’t likely fit desk very well though), new computer for my friend (or a new one for myself, refit my old parts for him, but I don’t really need a new one), bicycle [brakes on old one wore out, have replacement parts ~$100, but would rather buy new since the replacements will wear out again. A new bike could prove a decent improvement over my old 80’s bike. Then again, I haven’t been biking, partly since the bike I have access to is a borrowed bike].

    • I have a small idea I can recommend that I found useful. It has to do with Ludvig’s “incremental change article”. Instead of trying to create habits through willpower/motivation its much better to use the incremental change method. Of course with things like video games you just have to stop altogether but for everything else. You can literally build 30 habits a year without willpower. Here are some examples:

      1. Cold shower: Start with 5 minute warm shower followed by 10 seconds of cold shower. Then incrementally increase the cold shower period and decrease the warm shower period over the course of 3 months.

      2. Meditation: Start with just a minute the first week no more. Add 30 seconds every week.

      There are important things to make sure:
      1. Start “super”-easy – Start so easy that your brain thinks it is nothing. This way even on tough days you will stay consistent.
      2. Change the durations weekly not daily: If you do it daily it will be too frequent. Change it weekly.
      3. Dont jump: Keep the increments small even if progress feels slow. Think long term.

      It really helped me get over reliance on motivation. Hope it helps you too

  11. I think that it is unlikely for most people to enter into a new industry, so the better option–at least from an investing standpoint–is to think long-term and become good at something already established, while keeping homeostasis in mind as one grows older. At least I’m sure that’s the best for me, because I’m a pretty risk-averse person and wouldn’t want to be, for example, an entrepreneur.

  12. I noticed something funny. In the 3 quotes in the beginning, you list the people’s titles, but not Napoleon, signifying that he is the greatest. Is this something you did intentionally and if so why? I haven’t seen this before.

  13. Another great post Ludvig

    My take on this is to play the Losers Game in your Twenties to capitalise on opportunities when they start to appear in your Thirties.

    Also technology has raised the bar of young success higher than ever before whilst placing upon Gen X an earlier Homoeostasis (23-27).

    The cause of this to me is most people don’t want put down time in their twenties via the Losers Game but believe the Media that they can be the next big thing minus the work.

    As Munger alluded to a high-level Losers Game puts you head and shoulders above the competition by your Thirties.

  14. Hi Ludvig

    This is so interesting and you have really sparked something in new.

    You are right that It is getting tougher and tougher in the aspect of mastery. I also love the tips you have listed to be able to achieve mastery.

    Can’t wait have your book. I do hope it will also be available in Kindle.

    Thanks for sharing

  15. Felicia says:

    Takeaway: do not be a narrow-minded fool :)
    Don’t accept the norm’s idea of what is “right”, work to attain and remain autonomous of mind, and beware that homeostasis grows on you as you age!

  16. Speaking of math discoveries: Do you know about the case of Yitang Zhang ? He was an unknown academic (lecturer in his 50s) who published only one paper. And suddenly (30 years is a long night?) , boom, he solved a big problem that is out there for centuries. Many world class professors could only dream of such achievement.
    Why is he interesting? In today’s academic world, to build a reputation, you have to publish frequently in well known journals which are ranked (literally, by their ‘impact factor’). Scientists reputation can be seen from his ‘citation index’ and number of his publications, so many of them just post shit which no one reads to boost their score. He didn’t care about that (be real in the world of fakes?). He was poor, although he was obviously able to do well in a conventional way.

    “He says that he sits on the bus and thinks. Seven days a week, he arrives at his office around eight or nine and stays until six or seven. The longest he has taken off from thinking is two weeks. Sometimes he wakes in the morning thinking of a math problem he had been considering when he fell asleep. ”

    Instead, he chose to spend years (decades) in silent preparation. I would conclude that you need to spend years in anonymity, while you suck, failing, trying and exploring in order to improve yourself. This is especially true for writers and most of fields that are well established. And it requires balls, especially in a fields that are not paid well along the way (arts, literature, most of academia as opposed to IT, finance, law, medicine…). But in any case, it requires obsession, focus, time and effort.

    “His office has a (…) . There are also books on modern history and on Napoleon, who fascinates him, and copies of Shakespeare, which he reads in Chinese, because it’s easier than Elizabethan English.”
    Obsessed mathematician but still studies history. Left anonymity in 50s. Started university at 23 (was passionate learner since childhood).
    I’m not writing this to support any specific opinion, although it could be related to my previous comment. You might want to read full story:

  17. Martigan says:

    “many people will not want to believe this”

    Nope, I don’t find that hard to believe at all in fact. I see this all the time.

  18. Reading this absolutely terrifies me. I’m just coming up to 27 and the thought i could develop a rigid fixed immobile mindset when i hit 30 is a great fear i have

    Good wakeup call but man i hope it doesnt happen to me

    • The scary part is that it does not happen immediately. It happens in a sneaky manner, over many years.

      “i hope it doesnt happen to me”

      –It’s a matter of practical prevention; not randomness.

  19. Mr.SNAKE says:

    If your LOA article got you in trouble, caused havoc, and resulted in unsubscribers and haters then what will this do?

  20. Very interesting Ludvig,

    I wonder if all that time I thought was “wasted” backpacking alone in exotic locations and quitting jobs to fling myself across a continent or two to see what would happen will end up working to my advantage by allowing me to break out of the safe routine more easily?

    I do feel what you said about drifting towards being more conservative is true. I just turned 30 myself and I can really feel the urge to travel, take risks and do stupid shit fade by the day.

    Let me know when the book comes out. You have at least one sale for sure!

    • Tough question, G.
      The future will tell.
      …All I know is that a lot of young–and confused–people nowadays are becoming backpackers and digital nomads. I felt the draw too, and nearly rationalized it. Now I can say that it would’ve been a foolish diversion, on my part.

    • Hey G,

      I don’t think that

      “…backpacking alone in exotic locations and quitting jobs to fling myself across a continent or two..”

      can be classed as wasted time; a fulfilled life is one that will include constant education and development. I think putting yourself into situations in different countries and cultures is an education and with that education comes personal development.

      If you then use that information that you’ve gathered whilst travelling either immediately or at some point along the road of life then how can that time be wasted?

      This is what people truly mean when they say enjoy life when you can. What they mean is do stuff like get on a plane at a moment’s notice and go and try and survive for 6 months on the $500 in your pocket and your intuition. Because there will come a time in your life when you simply can’t do that.

      The key of course is to not make that mode of life your driving force, because it is one thing to travel around the globe gathering ideas and concepts which you process and act upon in order to improve the quality of your life. Rather than to slip into a mode of travelling for travelling’s sake and gaining an attitude which means that you develop a kind of permanent ‘holiday mode’ and do nothing in between your travels but work some crappy job so that you can get ‘back out there’.

      All in all there is no point regretting anything you did in your past; because until we overcome the Grandfather Paradox and a multitude of other problems associated with time travel, you can’t change what has happened all you can do is learn from it and grow.

      A ‘wasted youth’ is only really wasted if you either don’t realise you wasted it. If you do and you use that knowledge to make sure you don’t waste your present and your future, then as Kipling said;

      “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
      And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

      • “This is what people truly mean when they say enjoy life when you can. What they mean is do stuff like get on a plane at a moment’s notice and go and try and survive for 6 months on the $500 in your pocket and your intuition. Because there will come a time in your life when you simply can’t do that.”

        For me this is something I have thought many times, especially while flying (nostalgic, right!?). I have also thought a hundred times, “what if the plane crashes” would I be happy with my life now?” then I try to live better when the plane lands.

        But really, excuse my digression, I think this is soo true as far as advice goes! It’s one of those things you regret….but maybe it is just a rationalization??


        What is the Grandfather Paradox? Maybe it was mentioned in the Michael Fox movie “Back to the Future”, but I never watched it!

        I how do you like my indented paragraphs? :)
        This is how they used to do it back in the day!!

      • The Grandfather Paradox is a theoretical sticking point with time travel. It states that time travel is impossible because if you could travel back in time, you could go back and kill your Grandfather, which of course mean one of your parents wouldn’t be born and thus neither would you.

        I personally think that a new parallel universe would be created upon that event whereby you didn’t exist…now that’s what I call digressing. :-)

  21. Inspiring, and true.

    All too often I hear in reference to youth years, “Enjoy it (not working, having little responsibility, homeostasis and poor habits) while it lasts.” And I see that people can really take this to heart, even though the younger that they are, the more they should BOOH and shape themselves. How unfortunate and ideologically messed up this is–((well, my interpretation. I guess you should certainly appreciate childhood’s pleasures—I just interpreted the saying as ‘let life happen to you and indulge yourself as much as you can before you’re forced to get your s**@ together and survive by doing something.’))

    Having heard about the years from 20-30, I’m wondering if you have a similar opinion on the years 14-20?

    • Through ages 14-20, the most important thing is probably to avoid doing really stupid shit and avoid squandering your life by trying to be liked by people (picking up drugs, cigarettes, getting into criminal groups, etc).

    • Abgrund says:

      I heard the same bullshit (“enjoy it while it lasts”) when I was a teenager. This sort of advice comes from losers who may or may not have enjoyed their youth but have certainly wasted it and can’t cope with adulthood.

      The only worthwhile pleasures – of childhood or any other age – come from success. That success might be learning to speak, winning a race, finishing a book, getting an “A”, buying a car, learning to drive, getting laid, getting a degree, a promotion, a Nobel prize. Or, perhaps, seeing your child do any of those things. Success does NOT include getting high, or watching porn, or winning the approval of others, or merely surviving. I do not object to any of those things, but if that is all that motivates you – if *success* is not your driving force – whether you are 14, 20, 30, 60, or 6, your life is over.

      My opinion is that the years from age 14-20 are more important than those from 20-30. This is the time when a person first has the first real opportunity to mould his own destiny, still has enormous flexibility, and (at least in Western cultures) is largely protected from consequences while being provided with some slight resources at no cost. It is also the age at which Nature has ensured that all a boy really wants is pussy.

      I don’t know how Ludvig feels about it, but I think the most important advice for a teenage male is: get laid, don’t get involved. Married cougars are a great option. The virgin next door is not. But what teenager ever listened to advice?

    • Alexander is right. I totally wasted–and nearly screwed up–my life from age 14-20.

  22. Nice article Ludvig, though I will say that whilst I agree with the gradual accumulation of actions that bring on homoeostasis in later life. I don’t think you can underestimate the plasticity of the brain, yes it will be harder, but not impossible.

    Fields like mathematics are so specialised and so involved that unless you are a Rain Man type character then the chances that you are going to solve one of the Great Questions if you have been a video-game-playing janitor all your life, are slim to none.

    However all is not lost if you want to break out of homoeostasis post the age of 35 as the brain has enormous capacity for change. I’m sure there are countless examples of people past the age of 35 who made massive changes in their personal and professional lives for the better.

    Ultimately though it’s good advice as like you say, change is best done when you are most susceptible to change.

    Can’t wait for the book by the way :-)

  23. I think this is partly an issue of mindset… most people give up on life by the time they’ve been in homeostasis for their entire 30s. As Benjamin Franklin said “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”

    Some of the greatest thinkers in history didn’t break out of homeostasis until their 30s or later, and continued doing great work for the rest of their lives.

    Buckminster Fuller started at 32, shocked by the death of his daughter. Nietzsche started truly thinking independently around age 34 when his health was failing and he resigned his job as a professor.

    There is however a deeper biological problem of declining metabolic rate with age, that seems to reduce raw intelligence. This can (at least in part) be mitigated by adopting lifestyle choices focused around maximizing the metabolic rate (a la Dr. Ray Peat – who is doing creative work on this subject still in his late 70s and is himself sharper than any 20 year olds I know).

  24. This book is going to be epic…

  25. Richard says:

    To add to Abgrund, it’s my opinion that your 20’s are practice, 30’s real, 40’s consolidation, 50’s & 60’s cooldown, 70’s / 80’s reminiscence.

    Of course, you can break this mould easily…but apart from responsibilities (kids etc), you also have the ageing process. You’re not going to sleep on the floor of your office at 45 unless you’re utterly determined / on death ground.

    Ideally, you want to fuck up as much as possible in your 20’s whilst still making progress. You’ve likely got no house, no wife, no major lifestyle sacrifices to endure. You’ll be able to look your creditors in the eye and tell them you have nothing so its not worth bankrupting you. Not that it will matter if you’re dealing with overdue tax or loan repayments ;)

    Your 20’s paint your landscape. Your 30’s mould it. Your 40’s admire it.

    One of the ways you can tell the “gauntlet runners” is by how much they’re risking at a young age. Many people will happily raise student debt of £20k/£30k to become an “interior designer”, whereas they could have used that to buy stock, rent a small office & make a going concern.

    BTW insolvency doesn’t wipe student debt. So you can’t even bankrupt yourself to get rid of it (en Angleterre).

    It all comes down to the simple facts. You get back what you put out. If you’re prepared to waste your formative years having meaningless sex and playing socialite, you’ll pay for it later. Stick the course with something you enjoy, get paid for it, INVEST the money into something bigger, repeat. That’s all.

    A note about Caesar.

    What I’ve described applies to Caesar. He didn’t really come to prominence until his early/mid thirties, the age Alexander DIED. Indeed, it wasn’t until Caesar was ~ 32 that he actually began to harbour real ambition, or so the sources tell us. This is important.

    At 32, he was Quaestor in Further Hispania (Spain). Suetonius tells us:

    “As quaestor it fell to his lot to serve in Further Spain. When he was there, while making the circuit of the assize-towns, to hold court under commission from the praetor, he came to Gades, and noticing a statue of Alexander the Great in the temple of Hercules, he heaved a sigh, and as if out of patience with his own p11incapacity in having as yet done nothing noteworthy at a time of life when Alexander had already brought the world to his feet, he straightway asked for his discharge, to grasp the first opportunity for greater enterprises at Rome”

    This story of Caesar “weeping” at the feet of a statue of Alexander is quintessential to his rise. Without this episode (if it actually happened), he would likely not have pushed as far as he did.

    Of course it’s debatable, but I hope it demonstrates what I’m trying to say. You’re not going to die because you run out of cash. Stop dancing to someone else’s tune and make something of your life. Fucking up is good for you with nothing to lose.

  26. Curious Keith says:

    Popularity has its prize, and you just lost it!
    I’m glad you don’t dare to speak your mind tho!

  27. I’m not really going to say a lot on this, because I haven’t got the time.

    But like some others here I think you CAN change over 30.

    I think there are more important factors determining someone’s success over age.

    1. The ability to cope with negative forces that attempt to stop (this article included), like fear or people telling them they can’t do it etc.

    2. The people you surround yourself with. (probably the most important of all).

    There might be more…

  28. Regarding those comments (and especially infographics) that give examples of late starters: as Ludvig said they still have put in their time and effort. It’s like people saying you don’t need a degree because… Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. It’s relative: in the end it comes down to your real value, your knowledge and ability to contribute, and everyone’s path is different. Therefore I see age, degrees, titles, qualifications etc as a ‘nominal’ variable, and not so much important, and who you are and what you can do as a ‘real variable’ and important. In the long run, it does not depend on your age, It depends on your effort.

    “Success is when luck meets opportunity”. Some will start their preparation early in life, and increase their chances. Some will start later but work smarter and harder and manage to catch up, and some won’t. For some, opportunity will come earlier than for others. And someone will miss it. Those who don’t prepare will never get it.

    • Yeah that’s pretty much what I think too. It’s nice to find someone who thinks like you do! :D

  29. Your analysis of the subject is exceptional ludvig, but what are the reasons behind what’s happening?

    Sure, taking advantage of your youth is really crucial. But what affects your growth potential after a certain age? (except your brains development)

    Maybe the need to create a family messes up with your achievements.

    One of the parameters that determine your future after a certain age (let’s say 30) is that you normally “have to” start spending time to make a family which can absorb a huge amount of your time. But except the reduced personal time it limits your ability to take risks because you are not alone anymore.

    Combine this with many years of failure or criticism and nothing good can be achieved in the end.

    Do you think it’s good or bad that the bar is continuously pushed higher?


    • ” But what affects your growth potential after a certain age? ”

      –Goals > necessity > motivation.

      “Do you think it’s good or bad that the bar is continuously pushed higher?”

      –I have no opinion. It is fact, and I am just trying to adjust.

  30. Abgrund says:

    An interesting post, and obviously written by a single man under thirty. Life, as we all eventually discover, is a knotty thing. You set out in one direction only to discover, years later, that not only does the path not lead where you expected but that you no longer want to go there. Age, and the knowledge and perspective that (sometimes) come with age are an advantage over youth that can outweigh the latter’s flexibility and energy.

    The elephant in the room is family. What happens to most men in their twenties is not that they passively lapse into stagnation but that they marry and have children. The marriage part usually works out badly, but either way the course of life is irrevocably altered. I have to wonder how Ludvig feels about his own parents, and how his own life has shaped their choices.

    The age at which people lose their mental flexibility varies enormously. It is easy to find people who have become “locked in” as teenagers, incapable of meaningful learning or change, but one also can find people who retain adaptability into their seventies. Maybe the difference is genetic, but it can’t hurt to establish habits of thinking and learning when young. I think it’s always better to start moving sooner than later, even if one moves in the “wrong” direction.

    To the extent it encourages younger people to adopt a positive direction in life, I agree with Ludvig’s intent, though not the particulars.

  31. Hahah I love your commentator section.

  32. mr SNAKE says:

    Hehe, clearly a controversial topic. Kudos for bringing it up. You have balls (I imagine you will be attacked by angry geriatrics if this goes viral!).

    Regardless of whether you are correct or not it is important information/knowledge, and certainly a “harsh reality” that will be fiercely resisted.

    Personally I don’t know if this is valid or not, but from casual observation it definitely seems to be the case. I can see it all over my own relatives, all born in a middle class environment, bred in comfort, but having achieved nothing noteworthy. Including myself :P

    I make no excuses.

    • How could I forget this! Yes, I too am sick and tired of the “It’s OK” attitude. It’s NOT OK to allow others to get rich off your time. It’s NOT OK to be a single mom. It’s NOT OK to be fat and lazy. So many enablers in our society trying to make money off ignorance that it makes me sick! Kudos indeed.

  33. I don’t agree with Napoleon and Lee Kuan Jew. I changed after 30.
    I know you “toot this horn” to prove your point; your target market is below 30, not such dinosaurs like me.
    But the truth is you can always change. It’s just harder and harder with each passing second. But there is a hope for people at every age. Check out the second infograpic:
    I wholeheartedly agree that the sooner you start disciplines increasing adaptability, the better for you.

    • agreed…you can teach an old dog new tricks!

    • Yeah you can always change, and you seems like a pretty strong-willed guy Michal. I have been following you (in a non-predatory manner). Hehe.

      Honestly I don’t really know what to belive about this right now.

    • Michal,
      Actually, I don’t know that the typical SGM reader is below 30. And in real life, I mostly spend time with people older than myself.

      I agree with you (and others) that change can happen later in life; it’s just less likely. I believe the more people I can convince of this, the better.

      Regarding the infograph: Reid Hoffman is a very interesting person.

  34. Well this was certainly a motivational piece! As I’m still in my early 20s, I guess it’s high time to shape my life before it’s too late.

    Great article!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I really like this post Ludvig. Hopefully there’s still time for me ;)

  36. How old are you, my friend?

  37. You make a solid point here. Almost makes be anxious about my future when I know it’s all about right now and in a few short years it could very well be too late. I’m on the right path, but there’s not much room for error. Now I’m all the more motivated to strive harder, quite my job, and become a success. I haven’t been here in a while Ludvig. Your site has come a long way and it’s looking great!

  38. Don’t agree with this article Ludvig (I do admire your stuff, so don’t get all defensive). this is one of those articles that everyone can agree with all the points you made, by cherry picking the data to support your idea, but could equally find contradicting data to counter the idea.

    ..for example: “Neuroscientist Jay Giedd says that our personalities change more during our twenties than at any time, before or after.” I disagree, and would say its “set” by the time you get to 10 year old, (or earlier). any changes thereafter are behavioural adaptations to the enviroment, on-going, even when you get well past 30.

    I think the enviroment/culture a person lives in determines alot how a person thrives/survives, plus, major “events, traumas, etc” can cause us to change the course of our lifes at any age. I would say for an older person who may not value money (as a yard stick for success) would have no reason to become an expert at making money. but it does mean its not possible.

    I’m pretty sure there are plenty of examples of people who “woke-up and smelt the coffee” in their 40/50/60s when they were clueless in their 30’s.

    I think the reason most people stay in homeostasis is because there’s not a good enough reason to get out of it, so its easier to stay in it. not because they haven’t developed the capacity before they were 30.

    58 years old (case you were wondering)

    • –Yes, I suppose you could call it cherry picking (it’s my opinion, not a scientific treaty). However, I’ve done a good deal of research on the topic, and while I kept this article (and section in BOOH) short, there is much more that could be said.

      I do not disagree that people over 30 cannot change; they surely can. I simply believe it is less likely–by the day–unless preventive measures are taken.

      At the end of the day, life is uncertain. And, while I could be wrong, I don’t believe I am in this case.

  39. Hey Ludvig. Great article as usual. I strongly believe what you say here is true. Didn’t know it was that common with discoveries being made by people younger than 30.

    It’s sad to see how many people view their 20s the wrong way; as the time to “relax and have fun” (watch TV series and party).

    By the way, should the link to this article really be “”?

  40. Great article as always Ludvig. I wasted my 16-26 years old period, and for the past three years have been recovering that lost period. While in my 27-30( now i have 30) years i have been recovering the lost time, it’s by no means easy. But if William James did recover himself starting at 29, everyone can also.

    Cheers, Daniel.

    • Im pretty much in the same situation. Many would say that I am relatively “successful” given my age cohort, as I am above many in the hierarchy who started before me some years ago.

      This William James seems like a curious character. I just skimmed his Wikipedia page. Have you maybe some good source on him, where you read that thing which you infer that he was 29 when he turned his life around?

  41. Amazing article. I was doubtful at first how a book on homeostasis would work but now I see it really having amazing potential. It could be like flow. Is like you have a style of your own full of quotes and evidence from lives of the greatest. My questions

    1. What advice do you have relating creating ones own megastar niche ? How does one go n about accomplishing this in such a rapidly changing economic environment? How much value do you see in the traditional going up the managerial ladder route?

    2. I think statistics provides a better explanation For the age vs. Success trend. It takes even a genius at least 10 years to figure out what he works well with and to develop the knowledge and skill set (from age 10). From age 20 every year reduces your probability of success not (just) due to homeostasis but sheet statistics. The simple: if you haven’t done it in all this time how will you now?
    I’m not discrediting homeostasis as a cause it most certainly is. But so is family, psychology of self confidence etc. But simple statistics is the most dominant reason. In other words if technology tomorrow eliminates homeostasis we would still see this trend But less severe

    3. When can we patient sgm readers buy the book?

    4. How does this relate to the picture of the future painted in the net oceans and do you recommend the rest of the futurica trilogy?

    • Damn autocorrect. I mean Netocracy

    • Regarding megastar niche here is what I think…..

      Im no expert (hehe i dont think there are any in this niche, maybe I can be the first?) but it seems to me that there are two main sorts:

      * Those that invent something new (very rare).
      * Those that take something or many things that already are kind of obvious, but haven’t already been “connected”.

      I have no idea how the first sort does it…..maybe pure luck or genetics? And then they get famous and the media glorifies them and dumb people idolize them.

      As for group #2 I think that they are smart/ambitious people who kind of work at it, and promote themselves.

      Like I said Im no expert at this but this is how it seems to me, and I am studying and practicing to be like that second group.
      Maybe you have some other insights?

    • For managerial positions and the traditional route:

      It’s fine if you enjoy the work. But for very ambitious or talented individuals, the traditional career paths are generally too slow.

      As Ludvig has alluded to sometime, and as I can personally vouch for, you have to become a linchpin if you are in a big company.

  42. This has nothing to do with the article, but I wonder if fasting had a big impact on Tesla’s creativity or willpower? I recently read his biography as well as other info, and it seems he would fast frequently and sometimes go for days just thinking about his inventions, without interruption of food.

  43. * adds = typo.

  44. Ahh…this adds sheds some light on your cryptic “Enter the Gauntlet” article. :)

  45. Good write-up and nice sequel (sorta?) to your previous post about entering the gauntlet! Am definitely looking forward to your BOOH book. This is a topic I’m very interested in.

  46. Connor W says:

    I think this is one of your best articles in a while. You blend together quotes and your own analysis well in general. But in this case, the topic is just applicable, interesting, and every so slightly frightening that it all came together really well. At the same time though, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a big difference between doing and preparing. At least, I know that in my own life, I can spread out prepping over months, but still find the actual event to be radically different in mindset. So I think there may be something more to be said for the wisdom and experience the older generation brings to new industries. I think it is notable that so many of your examples of outliers spent so much time studying the past. Like Newton said, “on the shoulders of giants” I suppose.

    Anyways, regards,
    Connor W

    • That’s nice to hear, Connor.

      Doing and preparing can be the same. When you’re at the gym, forcing yourself to do another rep, are you being passive? No. You’re doing something; lifting the bar. At the same time you’re being preventive by–probably–adding on several years to your life span.

      –The same argument can be made for reading, learning, and studying.

      “I think it is notable that so many of your examples of outliers spent so much time studying the past. ”

      –It is a very clear pattern. (Nearly) All the best people study history.

      • mr SNAKE says:

        Yeah preventive measures and “action” can definitely be aligned. Just consider Ali training for his championship bouts, like the one in Manila.

        An example of BOOH would be in this case perhaps the deliberate practice of doing something novel each day? Your doing something (new) while at the same time preparing for withstanding old age. That’s how I see it at least.

        btw I’ve also noticed the history pattern from the biographies I’ve read.

    • mr SNAKE says:

      I don’t really see this big difference between “doing & preparing”, what do you mean??

  47. Ludvig you have an uncanny ability to put into words some of the things I have been thinking abou, but not quite been able to express or mentally finalise.

    Although I don’t expect to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, I think that it is nearly impossible to accomplish anything truly earth-shattering simply by following the traditional education system and going into an established discipline whether in business or science.

  48. Nice, I look forward to reading your book when it comes out.

    I’m with you / Cowen on the importance of entering new industries. And what Cowen says about guys like Mark Zuckerberg has held true earlier in history too, like for Rockefeller & Carnegie (as you surely know).

    As far as I know, when they (R&C) entered into the oil/refinery and steel industries, those industries were new too. And they both also had solid business backgrounds before that, starting in their late teens, and learning from older businessmen before branching out on their own.

    • One more thing!
      Carnegie was an interesting guy. He liked education & reading most of all, and wanted to sit around reading all day even in his 20s/30s, and felt it was the noblest task of man. Yet, he couldn’t “stop himself” (his words) from continuing making lots of money. I recommend his biography by David Nasaw (I think that’s the name!)

    • Everyone can’t be Newton, Einstein, Tesla, or Rockefeller, but nevertheless this is obviously an important pattern to keep in mind and memorize so that you don’t fall victim to various fallacies, like most “success stories” propagated through media bias.

    • I haven’t read that book, but it’s on my list. I’ve heard good things about it.


  1. […] up more on this visit kind of stuff visit Ludvig Sunström at and read this if you want to know more about […]

  2. […] 47.Knowing deep down that you’ve arrived at this situation because you refused to take a shot at living on your own terms, you allowed yourself to be bogged down by responsibilities, and you’ve become inflexible and terrified of change. […]

  3. […] embracing that change – makes it easier to break out of all sorts of homeostasis, rather than be broken down by it, as Ludvig at SGM might put […]

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