To whom it may concern: Some advice if you’re trying to make it

Esteban Contreras
4 min readDec 14, 2020
The New Yorker, December 2020

From time to time, a student or young professional reaches out for advice of some kind. My guess is they spam strangers to build up their network so I don’t always respond. But from time to time someone gets my attention by reminding me of a younger me: Trying to learn. Trying to grow up. Hoping to get a visa and a job and a chance to make a living. And trying to be good at something while building something useful and making a difference of some kind.

I recently saw The New Yorker Dec 2020 cover and it made me think of all the young twenty somethings who are ‘faking it till they make it.’

It reminded me of eating the same sandwich for an entire year. It reminded me of making excuses about how my long name in Spanish was why I never got any interviews. It reminded me of getting home after a long day, an hour long commute, and then spending hours reading and learning and dreaming and blogging and podcasting — sometimes just out of fear of getting stuck in a job I hated or getting fired or wasting space.

Well, here’s some stream of consciousnesses off-the-cuff unedited advice… if this is you trying to make it. Whatever ‘making it’ may be for you.

1. Times are tough and many around you will be focused on the challenges. Keep going. Don’t give up. Be one of the brave ones.

2. Clean up your space, stop drinking, be grateful, and stay hopeful.

3. Be accountable for your work and your actions.

4. You are not what you do. Know who you are and why you do what you do.

5. You are already unique so stop trying to be.

6. Hard + smart work that is full of integrity is always rewarding — in itself, as lessons and skills learned, and often in more tangible ways that will help you move out of that closet-sized apartment or your parents’ place.

7. Beware: Many will make you believe that there are ceilings and walls and special clubs you can’t get into. They are trying to keep you down. They are trying to put you into a box.

8. If you have been convinced that there really is a ceiling and a wall… Knock on doors because eventually someone opens it. Just be careful with getting into a special club that turns you into who knows what.

9. Honor the memory of many who came before you who did a lot for you to have the incredible privilege that you have to even access the internet and drink clean water. Be aware of your privilege, even if it seems like those around you have more of it. Don’t take what you have for granted. Don’t envy. Don’t boast either. History and statistics and perspective will remind you that you are living in unprecedented time (in a good way). Life is what you make of it.

10. Stop focusing on the injustices against you and think of how you can be the most just person you know. Do what’s right because it is right not because others give you high fives. And remember that you cannot be perfect. No one can. So make sure you know what standard you are chasing and why.

11. Have a couple of hobbies where you can get good at something that you love.

12. But don’t waste time.

13. Get off the couch and move. If you don’t, you won’t be able to move later on.

14. Family, if you are blessed to have one that loves you, is better than gold.

15. Gold may be worth investing into. Bitcoin may be easier and more rewarding — at least until you lose half and start saying things like “HODL” in the shower. Or at the very least, just save what you can. It is cliche, but every Starbucks and DoorDash order you make makes you poorer later. Also, it is true that it is better to give than to receive — so give.

16. All the riches in the world will be of no use to you when you die.

17. If someone offers you riches, keep in mind that nothing is free. There is a always a cost. Riches have corrupted many a good person. And there are many who live plenty, joyful, and meaningful lives in poverty. Don’t believe the hype that money solves all problems. Or that there are easy ways to get rich.

17. Don’t let the present culture dictate your worldview or your attitude. Don’t believe in a ‘utopic’ future world that is to be demanded and forced because you will end up dissatisfied, angry, depressed, and full of hate. Utopias have never and will never exist. No matter how much you yell at those around you who just want to live a calm and peaceful life.

18. Learn about history, faith, religion, philosophy, business, sociology, politics, psychology, art, design and science. And seek truth and wisdom — not confirmation bias.

19. Love God and love other people as yourself. That means you have to love yourself but don’t love yourself first. And don’t love another human first either — You will just fail each other.

20. The ends never justify the means.

21. Stop reading self-help books, self-help fools on social media (including this ridiculously long and poorly thought post) AND ummm…. take a break from your phone.



Esteban Contreras

VP of Product at Fleetio. Created and curate the Product State newsletter