Youth Equals Excitement

There’s this cute George Bernard Shaw quote:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

If defeating age is really that easy, why would anyone stop playing? Injuries for one. Lack of time and general fatigue for another. Those two elements will be hard to hard to overcome, especially the first one.

A more malleable variable is the simple fact that we tend to turn less excitable in age. And it is excitement that undergirds playing – you play because you are excited to play.

The easiest path to excitement is novelty. In youth, experience is limited, which means there are many more firsts, which means there is a greater capacity for novelty, which all means you are less likely to fall into a jaded state of “been there, done that.” Still, the world is very large, so there’s always more to see. But BTDT tends to move beyond the literal – I’ve actually seen that movie and it’s bad – into a general dismissal of exploration – I’ve seen enough to know there’s nothing to see in that thing I’ve never actually seen.

Youth also equals innocence, an innocence defined by not having realized the downsides of risks. Once you have been burned enough times – an inevitable part of aging – BTBT is but one of many defensive moves used to remain safe. The status quo, however bad it may be, feels preferrable to change, since change can bring lower floors of negativity; the potential for higher positive floors is obscured by the possibility of loss.

It’s not that any of this is unreasonable. In fact, it’s the outright reasonableness that makes the logic so appealing to a mature person. But when rationality leads you to undesirable place, it’s worth considering alternatives, for rationality is often less a single thing than it is post hoc explanations proffered to make one’s decisions palatable. In this case, you now know that you are now biased to focus on downsides. This focus both makes the bad outcomes less likely and, if they do occur, more tolerable. You are indeed better prepared than you were in youth! So use this preparation to your advantage and let your mind wander toward enthusiasm and excitement.