What do you want to do when you grow up? I remember the first time I was asked this question. My answer was that I wanted to be a ninja, slowly it evolved to being a lawyer, doctor & eventually, president - all before I turned 14.
Then I started to think for myself a little bit more; pro skateboarder, journalist & film editor. Dabbled in all of those; received awards, sponsorships & recognition by high school graduation.
Then I really had no clue what I wanted to do. But I was familiar with the Internet as I had used it in part to build relationships and gain said recognition, sponsorships & awards.
I've been using the Internet to build a knowledge base, relationships & make money since I was a teenager. So it dumbfounded me to discover that my peers were not doing the same. At 18 I possessed no special computer skill set that put me at an advantage against my peers.
Yet today, almost 8 years later, the same honor roll students struggle with basic computer problem solving. Beyond that, they seem clueless as to how to leverage the Internet for their personal gain, here are a few ways I think they should be using it:
Knowledge - this is by far the MOST robust knowledge base EVER known to mankind & people have taken it for granted. You can learn EVERYTHING from kindergarten to 12th grade & beyond. Math, Business, Computer programming, English, Law, Physics, Legal Theory, Foreign Language & the list goes on. This is such a sore subject because higher institutional education has such a firm place in most peoples mind as the only way to get ahead in life, but I will state my opinion: you should think long and hard about the time & money that you will invest into a college education before you commit from peer pressure, it can & will have a lasting effect on your life.
Relationships - who do you want to learn from or work with? In the United States we are at 80% Internet penetration, that means there is a 4 out of 5 chance that the person you want to work with or talk to has an Internet account somewhere. You can & should leverage this to your advantage, I've had the opportunity to hang out with Black Thought & The Roots, eat sushi with Neon Indian, Interview one half of Dead Prez, speak with Shaq for my blog, meet technology industry veterans & do business with some of the worlds top VC's because I was able to build a relationship online & ask for a meeting, phone call or otherwise. You should do the same for your goals.
Money - This is probably the biggest reason to figure out how to effectively use the Internet. I would say that 35% of my earnings to date have come directly from me selling products or services on the Internet. Another 60% came from jobs I found on the Internet. You can make money from home doing almost anything on the Internet: as a voice actor, adult entertainer, designer, developer, customer support representative, writer, editor, bracelet maker & even as a yoga teacher.
What I have been circling around for this entire post is that the information revolution could be here, but it's not, because 90% of people only know the Internet as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Yahoo , YouTube & Twitter. I'm actually really frustrated with the amount of progress we've made as a human race to date, I can't even order food online where I live (there are over 150k people in a 16 sq mile area) & it's 2012.
In short: I occupy the Internet and so should you.