Jack LaFond - 18

Year 18 is a very important year in a person’s growth. This article is here for you if you’re turning 18 soon, to read what a talented young builder went through looking back at this crazy age. Take a few lessons from their experience and save yourself the trouble, you’ll need them!

Who are you?

Hey, I’m Jack LaFond. I was born and raised in the sunny city of Tampa, Florida. I just turned 20, but I want to share my year as an 18 year old.

What are you interested in? What work do you do if any?

Programming since 12 years old, I've been interested in everything surrounding the world of technology. I started out messing with inspect element on my middle school’s website. Seeing how I could edit code and witness visible changes on my screen amazed me. From there, I went deep into the world of computer engineering. Work wise, my area of expertise varies a lot. I’m sort of a jack of all trades, no pun intended. Currently, I’m doing marketing & product development at Basic.Space. We’ve created a fantastic online shopping experience that aims to provide smaller retail sellers and innovators with a tailored place to sell their products. Beyond that, I’ve kind of done it all. From working at Creature World, one of the biggest and most recognizable NFT projects in the world as Head of Community Tech, to working as Customer Service at OpenSea for a few months, the largest NFT marketplace on Earth.

Has what you’re interested in changed at all in the past year?

Yes, actually. I found out that I could probably never professionally work as a software engineer, which was a surprise given how long I’ve been programming. In my 18th year, I pushed myself to be hyper-focused on making money while stuck at home during the pandemic. This mission of mine materialized into starting a software development freelancing business. I learned a lot through coding 24/7, always being disposable to clients, and having to constantly meet project deadlines. The love that I had for coding was quickly drained by my burnout.

A lot of people at 18 take up software engineering as a hobby, with the end goal of using the skill to get a job. I learned that I want to build things on my own time with no restrictions. I want to be able to pick things up and drop them. I wanted to have the freedom of it being a hobby and nothing more.

What’s your north star?

When I was 18, my personal mission statement was to do anything it took now to ensure I could lead a comfortable life in the future. That mission statement has significantly changed in the last 2 years. Now, my north star is now more about being around people I love and creating memories with them. When I just turned 18, I was in the mindset of turning into what I believed an adult was. Someone who focused on work, the grind, and making money. In that process, I lost the part of my childhood that was most crucial. Building connections, memories, and doing stupid shit. Being 18 is about doing dumb things (and learning). Looking back at that now, I sacrificed lots of moments and social interactions, because I was so driven by greed. If you’re not able to make time for creating memories and working now, you probably never will. It’s all about your foundation. If you prioritize work so early on, you get stuck in that mindset. I’m very glad that I broke out of it. It has changed me for the better.

What are some of the biggest takeaways from your year as an 18 year old

  1. I’ve had this mantra on and off for the past 2 years and it’s the biggest thing I learned from 17-20:


    I held myself to such high standards, that the slightest loss felt like the biggest possible magnitude. I went through one of the hardest breakups of my life when I was 18, and this mantra is what got me through it. As long as you’re not staying stagnant, it’s always going to be ok in the end. Even if that doesn’t feel like that in the moment. What’s most important is not remaining stagnant. As long as you grow… no matter how significant that growth is… the discomfort from that growth will shine through at the end of the day.

  1. Your parents (generally speaking) always have your best interests at heart. I fought my parents for so long, thinking they were holding me back. Looking back at it, that was probably the stupidest f***ing thing I could’ve thought. If there are times where you’re disagreeing with parents over something, or you think you know more than they do, I promise to god you do NOT. Your parents know so much more than you think and you need to give them credit for that. You’re their kid. They don’t want to see something bad happen to you. It’s not because they want to control you, it’s for a good reason. I regret how I fought that. My year as an 18 year old was a lot about rebuilding trust in my relationship with my Mom. Looking back, not only was she right about everything, but it would’ve been so much easier to say, “Ok I understand and will listen”. They’re usually right, plus nine out of ten times when they’re wrong, they admitted it. They’re humans too. They love and care about you.
  1. Internet friends are some of the best things you can have in your whole life. I’ve had internet friends on and off since I was 13 years old. At first, it’s all about video games, but going on 17, 18, 19, and 20, they’ve become much much more than that. They have become the people who shaped who I am today. One of my best friends, Alistair, has been one of the most influential people in my entire life as a person, but also professionally and with programming. He literally taught me TypeScript from his bedroom in England to mine in Florida on Discord calls. Moments like those made me realize that you do not need to be sitting in front of a person to have that kind of soul connection with them. I actually met some of my longest online friends for the first time this past summer and it felt like we had that real, physical, connection with each other. I understand that lots of parents of younger kids are worried of who’s behind the screens of the people their children are talking with online, but in my experience at least, 75% of the time they’re just other kids looking for a friend. My Mom was so worried about me that she asked to speak with all my internet friends to get to know them. Funnily, my Mom is now best friends now with Alistair’s Mom through Facebook. These are the people who are gonna be the best men at my wedding.
  1. For the love of god, do not overwork yourself. This is the biggest thing I’ve learned. When I was 18, I was working jobs at OpenSea, Basic.Space, Creature World, on top of an in-person job. 4 jobs on top of being a full time student. For 3 months, I slept, ate, worked, and if I wasn’t doing one of those things, I still probably was working. I lost so much from that. Do NOT sacrifice years of childhood and personal growth for a few thousand dollars. Don’t do 50 things poorly when you can do one or two things very well. You will get burnt out and everything will be forced to stop. It took me 4 months to refocus and refresh myself. I had to refocus my brain and drill back into myself that it’s ok to relax. You have entire life to work, don’t spend these years with that bullshit.

Wrap it up, Jack

  • Spend your 18th year finding out who you are. That is one of the biggest things I could ever recommend.
  • There will be lots of hardship, heartbreak, moments you think you can’t do it, but you can and you will. You’ll go past 18, onto 19, and there’ll be lots of moments where it feels like everything is falling apart. It’s one of the hardest years (aside from 21 maybe) because the world feels like it’s pressing down on you.
  • Make friends, talk with everyone to everyone you can possibly talk with.
  • APPLY FOR A CREDIT CARD. IF YOU’RE IN THE UNITED STATES APPLY FOR A DISCOVER STUDENT CARD. They literally give you money to be a student. I have friends who are 20 and still don’t have credit cards. Don’t be that friend. Build up your credit score, you’ll thank me in two years.
  • Be smart about relationships as a whole too. Become friends with someone before you ever get involved with them. Don’t rush anything to fill that void. Be friends with them for a year, get to know them. Relationships are a marathon not a sprint. Don’t be f***ing Usain Bolt.

Farewell Video:

Disclaimer: This article is written from the experiences Jack has had in his life. His life will not be perfectly applicable to yours. For that reason, don’t take what he says as law.