First Is Better Than Youngest

In 1906, 33-year-old Fred Marriott broke the world record for highest land speed in a wheel-driven vehicle. Driving the steam-powered “Stanley Rocket,” it was the first time a car exceeded the 200 km/h limit. When I was 18, I could easily hit 220 km/h in my parents’ 8-year-old BMW. Does that mean I’m better than Marriott? No. It simply shows the power of 100 years of societal and technological progress.

The world may spin ever faster, but can we take credit for its acceleration? “The author is the youngest person ever to be named an ambassador of French culture in Argentina.” And? Would an older one have done a worse job? Teenage millionaires are the result of technology and inflation more so than of some innate genius.

Culture is obsessed with who does it quickest, but often, titles like “30 Under 30” only say you did something worthwhile faster than someone else. How do we know it was worthwhile? Because that someone else did it first, and chances are, many people young and old will keep doing it regardless. The cause has been established, its purpose is well-served.

Youngest is stressful. First is daring. Anyone can play CV bingo. Going ahead when “this might not work” takes courage. Forget youngest. Choose first. There’s no guarantee you’ll do something worthwhile, but at least you’ll never have to worry about your top speed.