My Free Marketing Newsletter

Brutally honest career advice to my younger self

I’m 42.

The first 10 years of my career were a roller coaster of emotions:

  • Rejected by MSFT
  • Rejected by Google (2x)
  • Fired by FB after 9 months
  • Fired by mint .com after 10 months
  • Built 20+ startups that didn’t work out

But I’ve also:

  • Built AppSumo to $100M/year in revenue
  • Grew my YouTube channel to 1M+ subscribers
  • And have interviewed 1% of the world’s billionaires

In short… I’ve made A LOT of mistakes. But I’ve also learned a lot.

Today, I want to share a few pieces of brutally honest career advice that I’d give to my younger self (so you can avoid some of my pitfalls).

1/ It’s okay to feel lost

When I was younger, all my friends were becoming accountants, consultants, and bankers… but I knew that wasn’t for me. At the time, I felt lost and confused.

But looking back, I was exactly where I needed to be.

When you’re in your 20s, you’re not supposed to know exactly what you want to do with your career.

Instead of trying to predict your career path, focus on taking daily action.

2/ Take more swings

I tried A LOT of businesses when I was young and broke, but I had a lot of time (Everspeed, CollegeUp, HFG Consulting, Entrepreneur27, etc.).

Early in your career, you can afford to take more risks because you have fewer obligations.

Create your own luck by taking a lot of relentless action.

  • Do free work to get your foot in the door
  • Fly across the country to meet with an investor
  • Start the crazy business idea with your roommate

Take more swings. You only need ONE to win.

(Share this on X/Twitter)

3/ Be the hub

When I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2004, I hosted dinners, beer meetups, and conferences…even when I didn’t know anyone.

Me (in background) + Tim Ferriss at a meetup

The interesting people I helped at the time, like Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferriss, and Ryan Holiday ended up helping me 15 years down the line.

One way to get started right NOW:

Ask the smartest people you know, “Who is ONE person I should meet?’

A coffee or Zoom meeting may be the smartest investment you’ll ever make!

4/ Document your learning online

I’ve been writing on my personal blog since 2000 (!!)

It’s led me to connect with amazing people and meet my business partner Chad Boyda.

Creating content is a career cheat code.

Worst case? You learn how to write and promote your work.

Best case? You attract life-changing opportunities.

You also get to look back on yourself and appreciate how far you’ve come. 😌

5/ Learn copywriting

When I first started AppSumo, my buddy Neville tried to convince me to let him use “Copywriting” in our emails to help generate more sales.

I was skeptical, and for good reason!

The first line of the email he wrote was “If you get a boner when I whisper the word ‘Garamond’ into your ear… might be interested.” 🙈

But guess what? The day that Neville’s email was sent out was the first day AppSumo made a $10,000 profit in a single day.

Copywriting is not about hitting a word count or writing a five-paragraph essay.

It’s about capturing attention and persuading action.

You will never be disappointed by improving your communication skills.

Two great resources:

  1. The Boron Letters (It’s free!)
  2. Neville Medhora’s Copywriting Course

6/ Master the art of the cold email

I’ve been sending cold emails since I was a freshman at UC Berkeley.

The best cold emails:

  • Get to the point
  • Instantly grab attention
  • Answer “What’s in it for me?”

If you don’t get a response? Follow up without being rude.

If you shoot 100 shots, you’re bound to land one hit.

7/ Mentors are overrated

Wanna know the best way to find a mentor? Become someone worth mentoring.

  • Start things
  • Encounter a problem
  • Ask for SPECIFIC feedback, not advice
  • Report back on how you did
  • Repeat 🔁

You’ll realize you never needed a “mentor” in the first place.

8/ Build independent income streams

When I was young, I thought I was special because I started many businesses in college, had a blog, and worked at Facebook.

The reality was I was dependent on my boss.

Getting fired taught me that EVERYONE is replaceable.

One of my first side hustles ( only made around $50/month BUT taught me the fundamentals of coding and marketing.

Start more side hustles. You’ll learn more, earn independent income, and maybe even replace your income to go full-time.

9/ Give way less fucks about other people

No amount of money, followers, or acknowledgment will quench your thirst for fulfillment if you don’t learn to be proud of yourself.

The truth is the people you’re trying to impress aren’t even thinking about you in the first place.

Instead of trying to prove others wrong, prove yourself right.

10/ Have more patience that it will work out

In my 20s, I was impatient to get rich and famous. I beat myself up a ton.

That’s a miserable way to live. You don’t have to be so hard on yourself.

If you’re doing the reps, the results WILL pay off.

Wealth comes from compounded time.

Be impatient with actions and patient with results.

(Share this on X/Twitter)

11/ Practice positive self-talk

After getting fired from Facebook, it took years to make peace with the voice in my head.

I ignored all the cliche mindset advice because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life.

But as I’ve gotten older and more mature – I’ve realized how powerful your self-confidence matters for your life and business.

A practice that’s helped:

Any time you say something negative about yourself, also say something positive. (Thanks Tynan for the tip.)

You can be your biggest critic as long as you’re also your biggest cheerleader.

What’s something nice that you can say to yourself right NOW?

12/ Don’t jump ship too early

One of my biggest regrets is shutting down CommunityNext (my conference business) when I should have hired someone to keep running it.

Someone else took that idea, ran with it, and sold it for multiple millions of dollars.

Instead of quitting when it gets boring – find someone to run it while you work on the next thing.

13/ Don’t let work consume your life

I worked A LOT in my 20s.

I don’t regret it – because it got me to where I am today.

But don’t forget to have fun too!

Your youth is about a diversity of experiences.

Play sports. Travel abroad. Hang out with friends.

Ironically, doing those things will give you more inspiration for your work.

14/ Peer up the career ladder

I wish I job shadowed and interviewed more people.

In school, we’re conditioned to fall in love with job titles, without knowing the day-to-day work.

It sounds cool to be a surgeon until you realize you have to deal with blood all day.

Here’s a template you can use:

“Hey, I’m a Senior at X college interested in [specific field]. Can I see what you do for a day?” 

Don’t let an impressive-sounding title distract you from what matters most: doing work you enjoy.

(Share this on X/Twitter)

15/ Your network DOES matter

Growing up in the bay was a huge cheat code.

I was surrounded by talented and driven people.

As cliche as it may be, the people in your life DO matter a ton.

If you can’t geographically surround yourself with exceptional people, surround yourself digitally.

Who’s on your WhatsApp? Text groups? Twitter DMs?

And are those people helping you get closer or further from your goals?

16/ Read more biographies

A wise friend once told me, “There are million-dollar lessons hidden in $30 books.”

Biographies give you a unique peek into the lives of great people.

Instead of learning from your own mistakes, why not learn from those who have come before you?

Some of my favorites:

17/ Keep a journal

I’ve kept a private blog since my time at Facebook.

It’s helped me become aware of my thought process and emotions.

Document how you’re thinking about your life as you’re living it.

You don’t even need to share it online.

Plus, it’s cool to see how your thinking evolves.

18/ You’re gonna be okay

You’re young.

It’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out.

Zoom out. We’re just a bunch of monkeys floating around on a tiny rock in space.

Hang around optimistic people. Do things that inspire you. Enjoy the party while we’re around.

It will all work out.


Rooting for you,

Noah 🌮


PS. Million Dollar Weekend is the business book I wish I had when I was younger. It contains everything I’ve learned from building eight million-dollar businesses. Let’s build your dream business this weekend! 💚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free Weekly
Marketing Newsletter

Join 100k+ subscribers to the Free Weekly Marketing Newsletter for insider tips, cutting-edge strategies, and personal tool recommendations.
Arrow right
Arrow down
All tactics. No fluff. Action Takers Only 🚀