Brutally Honest Career Advice from Noah Kagan

And How I'm Applying It In My Life

Read time: 5 minutes

Welcome to The Ascend Archives Friday Edition where I share insights from the brightest minds in business and life and how I'm applying them to my life.

After driving 4 hours this morning through winding Costa Rican roads up and over mountains, I landed in a coffee shop called Tayakiry Cafe in La Fortuna. If I was just inside the cafe and didn’t know there was a massive Volcano in the distance out the window, I’d think I was in Austin, TX. Bougie flowers, strong WIFI, and Maroon 5 blaring on the speakers.

This weekend will be full of hikes, searching for monkeys, hot springs, and ziplines. But for now, I’m grateful to have this spot to crank out my newsletter.

It looks like a beer but its Iced Black Tea

Today, I’m going to share 7 out of 21 pieces of brutally honest career advice Noah Kagan wishes he knew earlier. Noah was the #30 employee at Facebook, #4 employee at Mint, founder of AppSumo, and author of Million Dollar Weekend.

I appreciate Noah’s authenticity on his podcast to share his wins but also his struggles. Hope you find something valuable from the list below!

Brutally Honest Career Advice from Noah Kagan

1. Be a Hub

Being a connector is a superpower.

You don’t have to be an expert to bring people together. Organize a meetup for an activity you enjoy, start a club, or host weekly dinner parties. Bringing people together is valuable and when are the host, people want to talk with you. Opportunities naturally start to flow.

This is an area where I want to improve. Previously, I have connected people on a small scale. One off people looking for advice on how to buy a business or someone that needs a real estate lawyer in Chicago. But I want to experiment with being a host for in-person gatherings in Austin. Still need to figure out who my audience is and what it will look like.

2. Document Your Journey Online

Learning how to write and communicate is a differentiator.

Look back at what you have accomplished, then share it publicly. Noah explains how this allows you to be a magnet in your hub to other people who resonate with your thoughts and experiences.

This has been a gamechanger for me professionally and personally in 2024. Clearly writing my thoughts in proposals and business plans has led to clients and potential partnerships. Writing out my feelings has helped me better understand my emotions and work through personal issues I’ve been holding on to for years.

Like Noah said it has also opened up opportunities to connect with like-minded people and start conversations with people who resonate with my experiences and interests. I see this being a part of my life for the foreseeable future.

3. Persistence and Follow Up

People are busy and have hundreds of competing priorities.

Don’t be afraid to be persistent when there is something you want. But instead of thinking about if from what can you get, think about what’s in it for them?

Be timely and respectful until they tell you to stop.

This is a very timely reminder for me. I have been reaching out to dozens of people for conversations, proposals, and opportunities to work together. I get afraid to follow up because I don’t want to come across as desperate or annoying. But I need to remember that people have a lot going on and that I am providing them value. The key part that Noah calls out is being respectful.

I have a bunch of follow ups I’m going to send next week…respectfully.

4. Find specific experts in specific areas

We are not skilled in everything. And there’s a lot we don’t know. Noah encourages us not to be ashamed of that and to seek people who can teach us.

These coaches, mentors, and teachers can help us accelerate the learning curve in whatever area of life they are experts in.

This has been a game changer for me. Right now I lean on my business coach and therapist. But I have a long list of experts I want to hire one day. A personal trainer, a nutritionist, a massage therapist, and maybe even a writing coach.

These coaches and experts can be expensive but they are investments in myself and I’ve already seen great results from the small investments I’ve made thus far.

5. Have more patience for success

Wealth comes from compounded time.

This makes sense on the surface, but hard for me to implement in the moment. Once I got a glimpse of some early success in my consulting business, my expectations naturally skyrocketed. I was like oh yeah, I am good at this. Let’s reach my income goals in two months instead of six months.

But I didn’t end up reaching those goals right away. The past 6 months of entrepreneurship have been full of ups and downs. And the one word that keeps coming to me to describe this journey is a rollercoaster. There are days and weeks where I have tons of momentum and I’m going downhill and others where it’s a struggle climbing uphill.

It’s a long game so I just gotta keep enjoying the ride.

6. Give yourself positive self talk 

Noah points out how much we talk to ourselves through the thoughts in our heads.

We don’t realize how many of these thoughts are negative. Be aware of these thoughts and positively reframe the story. You get to choose the story you tell yourself.

I monitored myself for a few days and I couldn’t believe how much this was happening in my head subconsciously. And a lot of it is surprisingly negative. One day, I left a conversation with someone and told myself that I sounded stupid and awkward. Another morning I snoozed my alarm and thought about how lazy I was. There are many of these little things that add up over time. I can either tell myself that I suck or I give myself grace. Which one I decide has a trickle effect on the rest of my day.

7. Be willing to take swings and stack them

Noah references the famous Teddy Roosevelt man in the area quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming”

Teddy Roosevelt

I love this quote. It’s a great visualization of being on the battlefield vs in the stands. There’s a difference between taking action and just watching.

Like my mom and my grandfather used to say, “If you throw enough shit up on the wall, some of it will stick.” The first swing especially in entrepreneurship isn’t always going to work, but I’m getting better at not getting discouraged and continuing to throw shit against the wall. I’ve had some small wins in the past 6 months, so I’m going to keep stacking them until I hit it big.

Final Thoughts

It’s fun to take a few hours and reflect on how principles like these are playing out in my life. I also now have a few things I can work on in the next couple weeks. But for now, I’m off to explore this beautiful country of Costa Rica.

Have a great weekend!

Thank you for reading! As always please reply and let me know what resonated, what didn’t, or what you question. I love chatting about this stuff!