Over the summer I spoke with a young woman, freshly graduated from high school and about to start her college career.  She had just turned 18 and had one big goal… to get a tattoo.  A big one, an edgy one that couldn’t be covered up without the help of a heavy coat with a hood.

From an academic perspective, she’s an intelligent girl who graduated high school with honors and has ambitions to go far in the professional world.  I gave her one piece of advice.

Remember, the 65 year-old you is at the mercy of the 18 year-old you.

“Huh?” was her response.

I told her that lives are like bank accounts.  The more we invest in them early in life the more they tend to pay off later in life.  We can do things that will improve our chances for success and there are things we can do that will have negative effects.  A friend of mine was convicted of a felony back in the 70’s after a decade of very rough living.  Today, he’s as good of a person as you could meet, but his life is still negatively affected in very real ways as a result of the things he did thirty years ago.  He can’t vote, he can’t get a decent job and money still comes out of his meager paycheck for 30 year-old mistakes.  He would be the first to tell you that he’d like to have a long hard talk with the younger version of himself.

There’s no problem with tattoos and piercings.  It’s a personal choice.  But with all choices there may be consequences that you haven’t counted on.  You just need to understand that that ink on your arm or that extra piece of jewelry may be the defining factor that eliminates you from getting hired.  There are tons of employers out there who don’t care at all about that sort of thing.  But, there are some that do.

The 18 year-old brushed off my advice telling me that “tats” are becoming more socially acceptable.  I agreed that they are, but if I’m running a company and I know that my clients are expecting to work with clean-cut professionals, guess what?  You don’t get the job.

And that is not something the 65 year-old version of you wants to hear.

I know you’re young and you’re wanting to make a statement.  You want to prove your an adult. But, think about the life of the future version of yourself.  Are you making it easier or harder on them?