What advice would you give to a young person starting out?
Well. Whether I’ve met you or not—young person—my observation is that you are probably not as screwed up as you think you are. And even if you are screwed up, it’s time to start acting like you’re not.
Give yourself a little bit of a break and let yourself have some dignity. Hold your head up and act as though you’re capable of something better than what you have. There is so much negative self-talk that we do to keep ourselves feeling terrible about everything. Sometimes it can be helpful hearing a dork like me talk about this, but sometimes it can be helpful to talk about it with your friends and discover what horizons are out there that you may not even be aware of.
It’s about having a strange combination of high expectations for yourself, but for the things you’re capable of doing. It’s kind of unreasonable for you have high expectations about things that you have no business even trying, for example: “I’m mad at myself because I tried to run a marathon today and it didn’t work out.” There’s no reason to think that you would be able to do something that other people have spent years preparing for. It’s not realistic, yet you beat yourself up about it, so then you feel incapable of doing other things.
Go a little easier on yourself, and in so doing, be prepared to make and do things that might seem silly at first. Just keep moving: don’t ruminate and stare at the wall. Don’t just play with your phone: go out and produce something.
Also, take a walk and get out of the house. Just un-pot yourself a little bit. Put yourself into a different environment where you don’t have to be the person who feels bad about themselves.
I am a fan of Merlin's work. To me, he feels like the crazy uncle at the family get together that is being silly and funny until you realize he has hit you in the gut with facts and truth, about how you work, and how you fit in a world that for the most part doesn't know how to be productive. I listen to his podcast Back To Work and frequently go back to his essay Better for inspiration.