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These chapter descriptions explain the book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World by Marshall Brain, ISBN 1-9657430-3-9. For more information on the book please click here.

Chapter Descriptions for The Teenager's Guide to the Real World

The Teenager's Guide to the Real World starts in Chapter 0 with the central reality that teenagers get to design their own lives. Many of the choices that teenagers make as teenagers will affect them for the rest of their lives. The book is designed to help teenagers see the amazing freedom they have to control their lives and their destinies, and to then help them make good decisions about the future. After reading this book teenagers understand a great deal more about themselves and the world around them. They are able to explore and think about their choices with a new clarity and understanding, and are therefore able to begin planning a path toward success.


Chapter 0 - You Get To Design Your Life

[Click here for the complete text of Chapter 0]
You are in a position of incredible power when you ask yourself questions like, "Who am I?" and "Who do I want to become?" You are the only person who can answer these questions. You, and only you, get to choose exactly who you will become in the future. This chapter will show you the incredible range of options that you have as a teenager.


Part 1 - The Hard Facts

These are the basic facts of life that you must understand before you can do anything else. Most of these are hard because they will force you to break down fundamental assumptions that you may have about yourself and your world right now. Start with them.

Chapter 1 - Money Really Matters

[Click here for the complete text of Chapter 1]
Have you ever wondered why adults spend so much time thinking and talking about money, jobs, taxes, prices and so on? For any normal adult living in America today, money ranks right up there next to oxygen. Without money you cannot eat. You have no place to sleep. You cannot drive. You have no freedom. It is this simple reality that causes adults to be so concerned about money. Chapter 1 explains the reality of money and shows you how much money it takes to live a normal life in America.

Chapter 2 - Teenagers Lack Experience

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Teenagers have not been out in the real world and experienced life as independent people. That can make things hard because it can skew perceptions or cause you to make decisions that have bad long-term consequences. This chapter will help you to see and understand what "lack of experience" means, and how you can correct the situation.

Chapter 3 - Adults Rule the World

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Adults rule the world. I can clearly remember as a teenager being quite mystified about this fact. Why arenít teenagers ruling the world? It's because adults make up 70% of the U.S. poulation while teenagers make up only 10%. Adults also own and operate everything. So what are you going to do about it? If you are going to succeed--in fact, if you are going to accomplish anything at all, whether it be saving the environment or becoming a millionaire--you need to learn how to fit into the adult world. This chapter shows you how.

Chapter 4 - You Can Ignore Your Peers

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Compare teenagers to adults. Who is more successful? Who can accomplish more? Who can do more good for the community and the world? Who will people listen to? The more time you spend talking to your peers, the more you are like them. The more time you spend talking to adults, the more you are like an adult. Adults can accomplish a whole lot more. Adults can actually make things happen. Therefore, logic would indicate that you should be talking to adults if success is your goal. This chapter will show you what your peers are missing and what adults have to offer.


Part 2 - Facts About Jobs and Careers

You will have a job--that is a fact of life. By planning ahead you can get a job that is both high-paying and enjoyable.

Chapter 5 - You Must Have a Job to Live Life

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Most people miss the fact that you must have a job until they are well into their 20s or 30s. By then it is much more difficult to do anything about it. If you start thinking about it as a teenager, however, you gain a tremendous amount of control over your life. Given that you have to have a job, why not have a fun one? Why not have a job you really enjoy? Why not have a job that pays you $100,000 per year or $1,000,000 per year rather than $20,000? Why not? You WILL have a job. There is no way around it. You might as well make it a good one. This chapter will show you where to start.

Chapter 6 - Education is One Key to a Good Job

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Education is one key to a good job. In todayís job market what you know determines what you earn. The more you know the more you make, especially if what you know is important to some segment of the business world. This chapter shows you things you can do as a teenager to educate yourself in the things you enjoy doing.

Chapter 7 - Good Jobs Go to Good Employees

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You learned about the importance of good jobs in Chapter 1. Good jobs go to good employees. That is a fact of life. What are employers looking for in good employees? This chapter will show you.

Chapter 8 - Suits Send Signals

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Suits are a fact of life. In fact, suits have been a fact of life for quite awhile. As a teenager, you probably have an aversion to suits--a deep dislike that runs right to your core. I know that when I was a teenager I felt that way. I felt like a total geek whenever I had to wear "nice clothes." Yet, I wear a suit as I am writing this. I wear a suit every day. I actually choose to wear a suit and like the fact that I do. What I would like to do here is explain what caused that transformation.


Part 3 - Facts About Love and Marriage

You might have noticed that, as a teenager, your brain and body seem to be obsessed with members of the opposite sex. This section explains "the facts of life" and what they mean to you both now and in the future.

Chapter 9 - Love is THE Fact of Life

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Love is a fact of life. For all human beings, and especially for teenagers, it could be said that love is THE fact of life. It is one thing that is central to all human existence. You might have come to this realization already. Simply by looking into your own mind and noticing how much of your time it spends thinking about people of the opposite sex, fantasizing about people of the opposite sex, dreaming about people of the opposite sex, wondering about people of the opposite sex, feeling depressed about people of the opposite sex and so on, you get a good idea of how important this topic is in the human realm. This chapter will show you why love, marriage, sex and babies are so important to human beings.

Chapter 10 - Relationships are Random

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In the previous chapter you learned that love, sex, marriage and babies are all intertwined. You also learned that love and sex are both firmly wired into your brain and your anatomy. This explains why love, sex and marriage are such "big deals." That is all well and good. It explains why we have love and sexual attraction. However, none of it explains why Christina wonít go out with you this weekend, or why Darren doesnít know you exist. That kind of stuff all falls into the category of "relationships," and, unfortunately, this part is messy. This chapter will help you understand the confusing world of relationships.

Chapter 11 - Men and Women are Different

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Men and women are completely different. As a teenager it is very easy to miss this simple truth. One way to understand the fundamental differences between men and women is to look at their anatomies. There are other fundamental differences as well. This chapter will help you to see that men and women are equal, but they do have lots of differences in how they view the world.

Chapter 12 - Marriage is Forever

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In our society marriage is the structure people use to create a stable family unit. A man and woman marry with the intention of staying together for life. Within that bond they usually have children and raise them. This arrangement is good for the children. It guarantees that the two parents are totally committed to the children and to each other. I can remember thinking as a teenager that marriage would be natural and easy. You fall in love and then you get married and you live happily ever after. Right? It turns out that that view of the world is a little naÔve because it leaves out the most important part. This chapter explains what marriage is about and what it means to be married for life.

Chapter 13 - Teenage Sex is an Option

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To any adult it is "obvious" that teenagers should not have sex. What adults generally forget is that for many teens the brain and body are sending signals that indicate otherwise. The question for you as a teenager is, "Should logic win this one?" Your body has a desire to reproduce. To your body sex is important. Can you discipline yourself enough to live with the urges and wait until you get married? That is the question this chapter looks at. This chapter helps you see both sides of the "teenage sex" question and lets you make your own choices.


Part 4 - Facts About Your Attitude and Values

You are in total control of your attitude and your values. You can choose to be happy or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, shy or boisterous, honest or dishonest, or anything in between. The only person who has any control over your attitude and values is you. This section will show you some of the possibilities.

Chapter 14 - You Can Be Confident

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It turns out that lack of confidence is a terrible thing. It robs you of a tremendous number of opportunities in your life. It wastes time. It causes emotions that hurt and tear you down. In extreme cases it causes people to commit suicide. If you are in the huge army of unconfident teenagers now, I know exactly what you would think if I were to say to you, "You are a good person--be confident!" You would think, "Yeah, thatís fine for you to say, but it doesnít apply to ME. I AM a loser. I AM an idiot. I AM a weenie. I am miserable and I hate it." Or maybe you are less extreme than that and are merely mildly disgusted with yourself at times. What I would like to do in this chapter is try to show you a different way to look at the world.

Chapter 15 - You Decide to Be Happy

Since it is a fact of life that the person you spend the most time with is yourself, and since it is also a fact of life that other people would rather be with a happy person, there are a lot of good reasons for you to try to be happy. This chapter will help you see how to get there.

Chapter 16 - Being a Teenager Has Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a teenager. The problem many teenagers have is that they donít recognize the disadvantages so they can avoid them, nor the advantages so they can exploit them. This chapter will point them out to you.

Chapter 17 - Appearance Counts

Appearance counts in the way you present yourself and your ideas. For many people this is a disconcerting and seemingly unfair fact of life, but it is a fact of life none the less. You can have the best idea in the world, but if the way you choose to present it looks bad it is very likely to be rejected. This chapter will help you to understand why appearance is so important to human beings.

Chapter 18 - Virtue Triumphs Over Evil

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This chapter explains "right" and "wrong" and shows you how to build a moral framework for your actions. This is the most important chapter in the book.

Chapter 19 - You Can Say No

In the previous chapter you learned about right and wrong. One problem you might notice about "doing the right thing" is that it can be extremely hard to say "No" to certain activities. This is especially hard when you are in a group and everyone else is doing something that you believe to be wrong (or simply not right for you). One of the best ways to do the right thing is to set boundaries for yourself that you will not cross. This chapter shows you how.

Chapter 20 - Every Action Has a Reaction

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That is a fact of life both in the physical world and in the world of human society. Another way to look at it is to use the words "cause" and "effect." Every effect has a cause. One other way to think about it is to say that everything you do has short- and long-term consequences. When you do something you should expect the natural consequences, whether they are good or bad. Good actions generally have good consequences. Bad actions generally have bad consequences. This chapter talks about cause/effect chains and shows you how to see them in your own life.

Chapter 21 - Certain Mistakes Will Ruin Your Life

There are certain mistakes that you can make as a teenager that are harmless. For example, you can get a speeding ticket and it will have no long-lasting effects except for the $1,000 you will end up throwing out the window on insurance. Or you can fail a class through laziness and likely recover the next quarter. Your teenage years are a time to make lots of mistakes so that you can learn from each one. However, there are other mistakes you can make that have much longer-lasting effects. The effects can be so long-lasting that they negatively affect the rest of your life in one way or another. Your life ends up being much harder than it would have been if you had prevented the mistake from occurring in the first place. This chapter describes a number of long-term errors you can make.


Part 5 - Facts About Success

There are a number of things you can do to help yourself become successful. This section explores some of the most important facts of life.

Chapter 22 - You Can Create a High Level Vision

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You can create a high-level vision of any space that you occupy. This vision allows you to evaluate yourself as well as those around you. It allows you to analyze and, in many cases, truly understand the problems you face. It allows you to become much more strategic in your thinking. Once you realize that it is possible, you can practice this skill and use it to accomplish things both great and mundane. This chapter shows you how.

Chapter 23 - Goals Guide Your Success

If you were to try to identify the most important things that distinguish successful people from those who are not, you would have to pick goals and dreams. Goals and dreams directly control your success. They also give meaning to life.

Chapter 24 - You Have Options

In order to reach your goals and be successful, you have to become an expert in finding options and picking the best one for each situation. Finding options involves research and creativity. Selecting the best option involves optimization and rational decision-making. Successful people are excellent at both of these activities. They get excellent at these activities through practice.

Chapter 25 - Everything Takes Time

Everything takes time. That is a hard fact for many teenagers to swallow. Nonetheless, by understanding and accepting this fact of life you can gain a much clearer understanding of what you are doing now, why you are doing it and what will happen to you in the future.

Chapter 26 - You Can Control Your Anger

Anger is a tough one. You can be going along at age 10 or 11 doing just fine without a care in the world. Then puberty comes and completely changes your personality. A lot of teenagers end up having a problem with anger as a result. As a two-year old you got angry. You had all sorts of screaming tantrums, but it was impossible for you to control your anger because you lacked the ability to think and reason. As a teenager it is different, because presumably you are able to think as a teenager. One consistent trait of all truly successful people is that they learn to control their anger and use it productively.

Chapter 27 - You Learn by Listening

Perhaps you feel this way sometimes: You feel like you MUST say something or people will forget you are there or think you are stupid. Or perhaps you find yourself talking constantly but saying little or nothing. Earth is a planet full of people, many of whom have excellent ideas and interesting things to say. Those ideas are available simply by listening.

Chapter 28 - Success is Your Responsibility

A successful person stripped of all worldly possessions might temporarily be without a home, but he or she would never be "homeless." A successful person knows how the world works and has a set of important skills and knowledge that are intrinsically valuable. A successful person is able to use that knowledge to become successful again. This book has discussed a number of specific attributes that help a person achieve success. As you search for success in your own life, you can strive toward improving these attributes and making them work for you. This Chapter summarizes several of the keys to success.


Part 6 - Facts About Money

Money is incredibly important in American society. You become homeless if you don't have enough. If you have more than you need, you can afford to do things that enrich your life or the lives of others. Money management can be fairly complicated, however, and it is easy to make mistakes. This section shows you the fundamental facts of money management so you learn the basic vocabulary and concepts.

Chapter 29 - You Can Control Your Finances

The "world of personal finance" is a huge space with hundreds of options and its own peculiar vocabulary. Most teenagers therefore have no idea what personal finance is or what it means to control your finances. That lack of knowledge can severely limit your chances for success. If you take it step by step, however, you actually can penetrate this field and completely understand it. In this chapter we will start at the beginning and see how the most basic things in life directly affect you and your finances.

Chapter 30 - Retirement Accounts Build Wealth

As a teenager, retirement is probably the last thing on your mind. While you are under 30 you may think that saving for retirement is totally irrelevant. However, retirement is a fact of life and adults are highly concerned about it. When you hear adults talk about 401(k) accounts and IRA accounts and annuities, what they are talking about is retirement. The goal here is to help you to understand what they are talking about and why they think it is so important.

Chapter 31 - You Have a lot of Financial Options

If you are new to "financial management" and "investing," one of the hardest things to figure out is the answer to what should be an easy question: "Where should I invest my money?" The reason that the answer to this question is not simple is because there are so many options, and each option has so many variables attached to it. These options are a fact of life. If you can learn about all of the options available you can make much smarter financial decisions. This chapter describes the nine most common options and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Chapter 32 - You Will Buy a House One Day

There are significant financial advantages to owning a home. However, the purchase of a home is normally the most complicated financial transaction in which a person participates during a normal lifetime. This chapter will help you to see what is involved.

Chapter 33 - Life Insurance

As a teenager, life insurance is something you do not need. However, at some point in your life you will be approached by life insurance salespeople. This encounter may happen as you enroll in college or just after exiting college. It is possible for an agent to pressure you in to buying a lot of life insurance that you do not need. This chapter will help prepare you for the encounter.

Chapter 34 - Frugality Saves Money

For most adults some form of frugality is a fact of life. For example, buying items on sale and using coupons are marks of frugality. Perhaps a better, more modern way to talk about frugality would be to call it "creative saving." Thatís all it is. Frugality is the attempt to save money when you can, rather than spending it.


Part 7 - Other Facts of Life

There is a wide variety of other things that will be useful to you as you work your way toward becoming a successful adult. This section lists a number of other important facts of life.

Chapter 35 - Laws, Police and Lawyers

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The most frustrating things in the world to many teenagers are all the rules, laws and restrictions that seem to impose limits on everybody. A teenager is faced with a wide variety of limitations. This chapter explains where they all come from and why they are important.

Chapter 36 - Sports are Eternal

Sports are a fundamental element of most societies on this planet. The human obsession with sports stretches way back in time to the giant Roman coliseums built before the birth of Christ. Sports are central in many different ways. Once you accept that sports are fact of life and that you cannot change this fact, a lot of other things make sense.

Chapter 37 - Life is Short

Life is short. That is a fact of life. It is impossible to understand this simple fact as a teenager, however. In this chapter you will gain some perspective on the topic.

Chapter 38 - People Have Opinions

An opinion is a position that a person takes on a particular topic. Everyone has opinions, and the range of opinions is often amazing. In this chapter you will have the opportunity to see why your opinions are important, and also to learn how to gather information to help form your opinions.

Chapter 39 - People are People

You are a person. You will spend a good portion of your time dealing with other people. These are both facts of life. Because of these facts of life, it is important that you understand something about human nature. By understanding what makes people tick, you can work with them rather than against them and accomplish your goals much more quickly.

Chapter 40 - You Are Not Alone

When something happens to you it can sometimes seem like you alone are suffering. This is a natural feeling. For example, if a close friend dies or you get rejected by the college of your choice, it can seem like you have been singled out for punishment. You feel like you are alone and the world is against you. The key thing to realize is that you are not alone. This chapter shows you how to handle rejection, crises and death.

Chapter 41 - Material Things Do Not Bring Happiness

[Click here for the complete text of Chapter 41]
Material things do not necessarily bring you happiness. That is a fact of life. It is a hard fact to understand sometimes, especially in a society that tries very hard to teach you otherwise. It is very common to get into a mode where you think, "If only I had object X my life would be perfect and I would be happy." Then you get object X and a week later you aren't happy at all. This chapter shows you some other ways to look at life.

Chapter 42 - You Can Avoid Scams

There are a million enterprises on this planet that depend on ignorance for their livelihood. That is a fact of life. Some of these activities are outright scams (for example, a shell game in New York City), while others are legitimate businesses that use rather odd practices or situations that cause you to do things you would not normally do (for example, time shares). Adults understand how these enterprises work and avoid them because they have already learned about them. Unfortunately, "There is a sucker born every minute." What that expression means is that when you are born you are naÔve. You can be sucked into a scam because of your inexperience. Each year the millions of naÔve teenagers who turn into new adults (suckers) keep these enterprises going because they can each be scammed once. That is all it takes. This chapter introduces you to some of the familiar scams that most adults already know about so that you can avoid them.

Chapter 43 - Your Parents are Human Beings

One of the things you might notice after reading this book is that a lot of the things your parents do make more sense now. You may still not like what your parents do, but their actions make more sense. This chapter will help you to consolidate your understanding of your parents.

Chapter 44 - America is Designed for Business

The American Economy is designed for business. That is a fact of life. The entire economic environment of this country favors people who start and operate businesses. By starting a business you have the potential to tap into this economic engine. In this chapter you will learn how you can start a small business in America. In the process you will learn a great deal about how the world works.

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Keywords: teenagers, teenager, teen age, teenage, teens, teen, adolescents, adolescent, parents, parent