I'm 25 living at home in the Bay Area with a 'useless' degree from UC Berkeley & no real clue what to do with my life; what is your advice for me? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by John L. Miller, Ph.D, Software Engineer/Architect who has worked at Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Oracle, on Quora:

Lots of people worry about figuring out what to do with their lives: what to be when they grow up, what's important, and so on.

There's a secret: even the people who have it figured out and know what's important only know what's important to them at that moment. It can all come tumbling down the next day. I say this not to discourage you, but to tell you you're not as lost as you feel.

If you feel like you're at a dead end and have wasted your life, here's what I recommend:

  1. Don't look back. Life is long. At 25 you still have most of your adult life ahead of you. More than enough time to make and lose a fortune, write a book, get a great career, whatever. Don't spend time looking back and berating yourself for your choices. Look forward, and apply what you've learned so far to chart a better course.
  2. Pick achievable goals. Going from living at home to having a mansion and a Ferrari in 5 years is probably not a great goal. Deciding you want to move out in a year or be able to pay rent to your family is. Deciding you want to make at least $2k a month is. Setting a deadline (e.g. three months) to come up with a one-year plan is.
  3. Be frugal. If you're spending money on clothes, watches, eating out, concerts - knock it off! Whatever you decide to do, if it involves change you'll need money. Set a budget to meet your goals, and allow yourself a set discretionary allowance, e.g. $100 / week for eating out & entertainment. Stick to it.
  4. Track your progress. There'll be ups, and there'll be downs. Track your progress somehow, in a notebook or a journal or a calendar you tick milestones off of, whatever. Just make sure you have something concrete you can look back on in the hard times, or when you feel like you're not making a difference with your work. It's important to be able to remind yourself that you ARE doing something.

In the mid-term, you'll need to figure out a longer term plan. Investigate things you like doing that can be your career. Don't go back to school without knowing for certain you like what you got back for, and that you'll make money from it. Instead, consider careers you can work your way up in, or apply your 'useless degree' to. For example, history majors who are good at writing and researching can do research on librarians, technical writers, and a variety of other professions.

You won't succeed without trying. And you won't try if you're looking backward or moping. So get up and get moving.

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Published on: Jan 9, 2017