How to cope when you meet someone who is younger and more successful than you
8 strategies to overcome the existential dread
👋 Welcome to the latest issue of The Jungle Gym – the newsletter that helps you build a more fulfilling career by integrating your work and life.
✨ If you’re a new reader, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to check out this introductory post, which explains what The Jungle Gym is all about.
📬 To get future issues delivered to your inbox, enter your email here:
Last Wednesday, I turned thirty-five.
As a newly geriatric tech worker, I regularly encounter people who are younger and more successful than I am.
If you’re not familiar with the despair that accompanies these interactions it’s because you are either Jeff Bezos or, a newborn baby.
While our ancestors only had to deal with these encounters in person, we moderns are under assault at all times. Whether you’re listening to a podcast or scrolling social media, you’re bound to come across one of these younger, more successful people flaunting their latest professional milestone or passive income stream. Unlike our grandparents, we don't have the option to just move away. So, we must learn to cope.
Fortunately, in my thirty-five years of living, I have developed several strategies that will help you overcome the existential dread of your next encounter with one of these younger, successful types:
1. Assume they aren’t actually successful
Sure, this guy says he “sold his company,” but how much money did he really make? Is he even twenty-seven, or is he making that up too? Sad that he needs to lie about his success to get strangers to like him…
2. Picture their misery
Even if he did make some money from selling his company– at what cost? Does he have any friends? His girlfriend looks pretty miserable– maybe it's because of their debt burden from his gambling addiction.
3. Question the value of success
What good is "success" anyway? It's not like earning more money makes you any happier. Didn't you once read that $70k per year was all you needed for a happy life? Was that adjusted for inflation? Who cares.
4. Rewrite your own narrative
It's not like you haven't been successful– you're just playing a different game. This guy did exactly what his parents expected while you pursued your own path. One that isn't measured by society's standards. When you think hard enough about it, you actually feel kinda bad for this guy.
Jesus, are you really that insecure? Has one encounter with a stranger really turned you into such a petty person? Maybe if you were more secure you would have achieved more of what you wanted to in life. Maybe if you were less obsessed with status, you would be a happier person.
6. Pursue self-improvement
Okay, you can't change the past, but you can certainly improve the future. Start eating more salads. Get back to lifting three times each week. How much does testosterone replacement therapy cost?
7. Compare yourself to older, less successful people
When you really think about it, things could be much worse. You could be that investor who was a couple of years ahead of you in college that got ousted from his firm after his deleted Tweets got leaked. Or what about your old boss who's still stuck in the same job after five years? Bet if you went back to that company you'd end up being his manager…
8. Be Grateful
Or maybe, you don't need to compare yourself to others to appreciate what you have.
Maybe it's enough that you get the opportunity to spend another year, another month, another day, another minute above ground.
Sure it's an emotional roller coaster of triumphs and setbacks– but that’s just what it means to be human. What else could you ask for?
I just got back from a family trip to Mexico last week. Our son, Cooper got to run around in the Ocean for the first time, which was fun to experience.
Ash and I are also really excited to share that Cooper is going to have a little sister in June of next year!
After experiencing what it’s like to have a son, I’m really excited to get the chance to raise a daughter. If you’ve gained any wisdom on raising girls or going from one to two kids, or trying to balance parenting duties with company building, I’d love to hear it. Just shoot me a response or drop a comment below.
Layoffs & Career Coaching
Speaking of company building, I’ve got a quick request for you– if you know of a company that’s conducting layoffs in the next few months and is looking for an affordable way to help their transitioning employees land on their feet, I’d really love to help connect them with a world-class career or job search coach.
Also happy to connect any individuals with a great coach to support their next transition.
More to come on what I’m working on in the months ahead.
The Jungle Gym
Reviewing my writing from 2022 reads like a person adjusting from the raucous party of 2021 to the hangover of 2022. While I really like some of the tirade essays I wrote (like Against Engagement Farming, Fail Porn & Cope Culture), I think the overall tone of the newsletter went a bit dark.
In the coming year, I’d like to serve as a bit more of a guide for people trying to navigate their careers amidst disruptions of high interest rates, artificial intelligence, and receding globalization. There are plenty of people who can write doom-and-gloom articles about these trends– I intend to help people figure out how to make the best of them.
Despite the darker tone, it's been a banner year for subscriber growth. We began 2022 with 4,661 subscribers and ended the year with a whopping 10,776. Much of this growth can be attributed to Substack's excellent recommendation feature. Big thanks to my top 20 recommenders including:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Looking ahead, I'm hoping to reach 15,000 subscribers by this time next year. If you publish a Substack and would like to support this goal, I'd be grateful if you'd consider listing the Jungle Gym as one of your recommended newsletters. Even if you're unable to do so, I'd still greatly appreciate it if you could forward this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
Thank you for your continued support. I’m very grateful to have you as a reader and excited to keep bringing you more good things in 2023.
First and foremost, Congratulations, Nick!
Second, I think there's another consideration in your list, which is being a party to someone else's success and being satisfied with that. You may not even realize that you were a party to it, but through positive "butterfly effect"-like interactions with those in a fairly small community (In SF tech circles, everyone knows everyone.), you may have indirectly, if not directly, influenced someone else's success. You were a great mentor at Tradecraft and have no doubt had a profound impact on others.
Third, as a parent of three - a boy, 4, another boy, 3, and now a daughter, 3 months - still working in technology, my definition of "success" has changed, though I've maintained my perspective that success is measured in decades (#4), rather than months or years. I've always been a tortoise, never a hare. Thus, I don't bother wishing I were a hare, just a better tortoise.
At 35, you have a lot of life left to live.
Hi! New here, and glad I found this space :) Genuine q: are you being ironic with this post and these 8 ’strategies’?