Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Culture: What We Can Do About It

Now, let us briefly turn our attention back to the culture around us again. After all, the culture around us affects all of us in an important way, and we have concluded before that it currently has the harmful effect of forcing people into premature aging.

Can the culture change? Yes and no. The reality is that the entertainment industry operates based on profit, like any other industry. If the market situation does not change, the marketing strategies of that industry is not likely to change either. If we want its message to be inclusive of everyone, then we must get more 20-somethings, 30-somethings and 40-somethings to attend concerts and buy related stuff. Here we have a vicious cycle situation. Most of the very visible popular cultural icons out there today do not appeal much to people over 25, as a result of the industry's current focus on the ultra young end of the market. Who are they going to rally around, whose concerts will they be going to then, even if we can get enough over 25s to realise that it is in their cultural interest to increase their participation in the entertainment industry's market? I guess this will take a while to sort out, unfortunately. Therefore, don't expect things to suddenly change next year, for example.

Meanwhile, even if the culture 'out there' cannot be changed, you can change the culture 'around you'. After all, we are not generally affected by culture 'out there', we are affected by culture 'around us'. Culture that is 'out there' but not that much 'around us' may as well be like the culture in Thailand or Japan to us - it may enter our consciousness and lives in some ways, but in the end it is distant and foreign, and does not have much of an effect on our lives.

So how do we change the culture around us? Firstly, we have to realise that that whilst the entertainment industry does affect the most visible parts of our popular culture to a very great degree, it does not control ALL culture. Even if some of the currently most visible stuff does not sit well with us, there is plenty more to choose from. We retain the right to choose what comes into our lives, and dismiss what is irrelevant. If the most visible parts of popular culture send the message that we are too old to be cool, or that it's time to give up and 'settle down', then so what? It's not MY culture. Just like we do not choose to be around frenemies who harm us more than they do good, we can choose not to be indoctrinated by a culture that sends out harmful messages. That doesn't mean you need to start 'living under a rock'. It just means that you need a balance of messages in your life. You are inevitably going to be affected by the distorted 'you are old' message out there, so make sure you have enough of the 'you can dream big and there's more than enough time to make it' messages in your life. It's like how you need enough healthy food in your life to balance out the junk food you inevitably eat over the course of your days, or how you need enough days of relaxation to balance out the inevitably stressful ones.

Speaking about the part of culture that is not backed up by the entertainment industry, here's something for you to think about? How about that favourite artist of yours from 10 years ago? Haven't heard of them for the past 5 of so years? It's likely that they are still making music somewhere out there, but have been forced to go independent. Seek them out and you are likely to find that they are still actively making new stuff. The culture of 'the past' actually lives on, you see, even if it's been forced into premature irrelevancy from an industry point of view.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Essence of Youth, and How To Regain It if you have Lost It

Many people around the world have tried to capture the essence of being young, and in the case of those who believe they are growing old before their time, to regain the essence of being young. People have done all sort of paradoxical things, like trying to catch up with the current fashions even if they don't like it, whilst indulging in the music from decades ago, just to regain that spirit of being young. Some have even opted to have lots of plastic surgery - but that just made them look very plastic.

Make no mistake: the essence of youth is not in any fashion, music or the way you look physically. An old fashioned and unattractive young person is not less young because of the way they are, after all. The essence of youth is in the way one views the world, their own life, their place in the world, and their own future in it. The essence of youth is seeing and believing in a vista where there is a lot of time and space to dream in front of you. The essence of youth is being unafraid to dream, being unafraid of failure and instability. The essence of youth is, above all, having the freedom, the confidence and the energy to dream big.

The key to regaining the essence of youth is to regain the capacity to dream big. This capacity may have been eroded by encountering and realising the difficult aspects of life, and the many injustices and limitations this world has. We need to regain this capacity if we are to enjoy the spirit of being young again.

Some people believe that if you have lost the essence of youth, it is difficult, if not impossible, to regain it. They generally come from the point of view that once you have lost your innocence about this world, it becomes very difficult to regain the hope and optimism associated with youth. They generally come from the point of view that young people only have that great capacity to dream because they have an overly rosy view of the world, that innocence is bliss.

I cannot disagree more here.

Whilst I do agree that innocence is lost it cannot be regained, the same cannot be said about one's capacity to dream, and to turn these dreams into reality. Whilst by their mid-20s most people would already know that the world is quite imperfect, and the playing field is far from level in many areas, it doesn't mean one cannot still dream big. After all, things like gender equality were largely dreamt up and then put into practice by people who were mature and realistic in their thinking.

Knowing the difficult aspects of reality should not stop you from dreaming big, it should just mean that the contents of your dreams and the plan you follow to turn them into reality needs to take into account these aspects of life. For example, one difficult reality we have to live with in this era is that dreams tend to take longer than before to be achieved in one's life. Another is that multi billion dollar industries run almost every part of this world, and the preferences, culture and actions of many people are under the control of economic interests. They are not easy things to accept, but we just have accept these facts. What we can do is to 'train' our minds to be able to dream big even as we are very aware of the limitations of this world.
For example, knowing that dreams take long to achieve in the present era means that you have to adjust your timeframe in your game plan accordingly. However it doesn't take away from the fact that you can still have similar dreams compared with if you didn't know this fact.

In fact, only those who can dream big whilst being aware of the pitfalls of reality can turn their dreams into reality. Being aware of the difficulties and limitations you will encounter means that you have a much more solid game plan in life. Isn't that a good thing?


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When you were younger, why were you happier?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

When you were younger, why were you happier?

If you wish to achieve a goal, you need to be very clear about what it is first. Therefore, if our goal is to maintain the spirit of youth in ourselves and in our culture, firstly we have to pin down what that spirit really is.

Many 20-somethings and 30-somethings have reported that they feel LESS happy than when they were younger. Which is kind of surprising, because they now have an income to spend, don't have to deal with the bullying and other crappy aspects of high school anymore, and they may even have a stable relationship and a family. Back in high school, many of them just wished that they could get out of that place as soon as possible, and get some money of their own to spend. Now that they have all that and more, even if things are a bit stressful sometimes (paying bills, difficult bosses and clients at work, etc), shouldn't they be at least a bit happy? For many people, the answer is no. In fact, they have become nostalgic about high school, that place they once wanted to leave behind forever.

It's not like life was any easier back then, either. Sure, you had your parents looking after your every need, you didn't have to deal with exorbitant bills that threaten to put you into debt all the time, you probably got away with working less hard than you do now, but then there were bullies and the cool groups vs outcasts problem everywhere, your finances were controlled by your parents and you basically had no freedom at all. Some of you also had to deal with teachers you didn't like, who may be no less difficult than the boss you have now.

So what was different? What made back then more tolerable than right now? I've tried to answer this question for many years, and the one thing it comes down to is what I call the vista of youth. The vista of youth is endless hope, endless possibilities, and a space wide enough to hold the wildest dreams. Whilst being in high school was no fun for many people, the vista of hope kept them alive. Sadly, this vista has often been eroded quite badly by the time people reach their late-20s or their 30s. By this time, they have seen other people get ahead whilst they are languishing in failure land, chalking up failure after failure. By this time, the media driven culture has effectively made it clear that they are too old to be cool. All this combines to make that dream seem all that more impossible than it once seemed.

But as we have concluded from previous sections, all those things are illusions. The truth is that in your 20s and 30s, you are still on your way down the long road to chase down your dreams. If at this time you lose the vista of youth, and therefore lose the youthful spirit it brings to your life, you lose the will to travel on and fight on, like a soldier who loses their will to carry on in a battlefield, who just falls to the ground and die right there. Isn't that sad? If you don't want that to happen to you, you must fight to keep your vista of youth fresh all the time until you reach your destination in life. Next we will talk about how to do just that.


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Friday, November 15, 2013

When Does Somebody Become Old?

So where do we draw the line between 'young' and 'old'? Is it 25? 30? 40? 50? Or 60?

I actually believe being old is not a number, but a life stage you enter when you are ready to. When 25 year olds get told that they are old, it often causes a crisis (as we have been talking about so far). When 40 year olds get told that they are old, it doesn't cause such a major crisis usually, but they surely don't like it much either. But when a 70 year old gets told that they are old, chances are that they would be willing to accept it as a matter of fact. The typical 70 year old doesn't enjoy the physical limitations of being old, like lower mobility, back pain and having to take their medication every day, but they are probably not that bothered to be considered by society as old people.

I believe people are content to accept the label 'old' when they are ready. This would be when they have done what they set out to do in life, and have played the role they were born to play. This surely can be said of most 70 year olds out there, hence their contentment with being old. At 40, chances are that you have only very partially achieved the above contentment, hence you don't want to be old yet. At 25, chances are that you haven't even fully explored your dreams and your own narrative in life, to be told that you are old is like being told that life is almost over even before it really had a chance to bloom. In other words, you are old and are contented to be so when you feel that you have done your life's work. To tell a 25 or a 40 year old that they are old is simply illogical and cruel, even if that is what our media is effectively saying.

Old is settled, content and accomplished then. The opposite of 'old' is 'young'. If that's the case, then young must carry with it ideas of being unsettled, not yet content and wanting more in life. Because being old is settled and content, it is calm and charming in its own way, and not only the people who are ready to be old can appreciate that, we the not-yet-old can also appreciate these qualities in old people. Because being young is unsettled and unsatisfied, it carries with it an energy to do things, an energy to dream, an energy to achieve. In other words, the state of being 'young' carries with it the required energy to do what it takes to become accomplished and contented in life, and when the work is done, this energy ceases and is replaced by a calm contented feeling that is the state of being 'old'. In life, if you want to live it fully, first you need to be young and fully embrace that spirit of being young by embracing your dreams and going for it with all your energy. Then, when your life's work is done, you will enter into a contented old age. The more you are able to embrace being young, the more you are able to have a contented, golden old age.

Therefore it is important for young people to embrace being young, and it is truly toxic that some sections of the culture are making them feel old. This is why we must fight back against the distortion.

30 is the new 20, we often people say. And 40 is the new 30 too, apparently. Many people have laughed at these slogans, as if they are silly things people say. After all, physically 30 cannot really be the new 20, right? And a 40 year old will always look and function like a 40 year old, no matter if it's 2014, 1984 or 1954, right? They are just thing people say to cope with getting older in a youth obsessed culture, making this difficult reality easier to swallow, right?

Physically, thirty is the new twenty really makes no sense, I agree. But socially, it makes perfect sense. Why? As we concluded in the last section, people need to be 'young' so that they have the energy to achieve their life's work, and then when they feel accomplished they can enter old age contentedly. In a previous section we also concluded that people actually generally take longer to find their dreams, to work towards their goals, and to do their life's work to their contentment. That naturally means that people NEED to remain in the state of being young for a longer period than ever before in human history. A longer life expectancy has made that convenient too, but the driver behind this really is the delay in being accomplished in this day and age, rather than the fact that many people live into their 80s and beyond.

Many people have a strong reluctance, consciously or subconsciously, to embrace this concept of an extended youth. After all, this goes against our logical upbringing. Many things in this world have an absolute value that is objective and unchanging. Your ten dollar note cannot be extended into twenty dollars after all. This leads many people to think that any extension in the state of being young is purely wishful thinking from those who do not want to age gracefully. But as we have established, the states of being 'young' and 'old' shouldn't be defined by absolute numbers, but should be seen as two different life stages. Unlike your age, which is a simple mathematical calculation whose formula stays constant throughout history, life stages are relative, and in different periods of human history, different life stages have emerged (and more rarely some have been erased). The life stage of being a teenager, for example, only emerged during the last century, even though it seems to be just part of common sense nowadays. Even though it wasn't there for most of human history, for our generation the extended youth is real - you can embrace it, or if you don't, you will be forcing yourself to grow old before your time, a truly bitter experience.

Therefore, not only should you shut out the media's ridiculous 'unintended message' about 25 or 30 year olds being too old to be cool, you really should embrace the extended youth philosophy too. By embracing it you will have the energy and hopeful spirit to chase your dreams down the long ride that it usually takes in this era. In this day and age, voluntarily ceasing to be young before the age of 40 is absolutely stupid, and youth should last well into the 40s in many people's cases.

But with the media effectively pushing over-25s into the old box, how can we fight back? This will be the theme of the next few sections.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

The Media is Making Many 20-somethings and 30-somethings Feel Old

Society tends to think of 20-somethings and quite often 30-somethings as people who are young, vibrant, have a great lifestyle and an endlessly optimistic future. Almost every movie that features somebody in their 20s or early 30s portrays their character in this light. After all, 30 is the new 20, and 40 is the new 30, right?

Apparently, out there in the land of the real world, 25 may as well be the new 50. If I could have ten dollars every time I hear somebody under 35 spoke about how old they felt now, I would probably have enough money to buy a car with the money now. If this phenomenon were isolated instead, we may not need to pay attention to it - I am sure there is the odd otherwise healthy teenager out there who thinks that their best days are over and that they are prematurely old, but since such cases are thankfully still uncommon, we can't see it as a society-wide problem. But with people around 25 or older, complaints of feeling old, whilst not really universal, are still indeed common.

Most 25 to 40 year olds do not really suffer from the physical effects of aging that much - apart from an inability to party all night and an inability to consume too much alcohol. But you really can't pinpoint aging on that - after all, teenagers also cannot (are not allowed to) party all night or drink alcohol. My point is, it's very possible to live a young lifestyle without these things. Still, when so many 25 year olds think they are getting old, it certainly can't just boil down to their individual imaginations or just the fact that they can't party all night anymore. So what's causing their feeling?

I think there are two main reasons. One of them is that the media has become extremely skewed towards youth.

Unlike any other time in living memory, people well under 25 now make up most of the major icons in the Western popular culture. For example, 2013 was called 'the year of Miley Cyrus' by many people - yet she was only 21 that year! This is actually not normal, and as I will argue later on, not healthy. But many 20-somethings really have nothing to compare to - this is the only way popular culture can be that they know. But why is this the case, and how may we be able to mitigate the effects, and hopefully in the longer run change this situation?

Young people are attracted to the world of popular culture, often before they are teenagers. It's there they get their voice and their identity as youths. In high school, what music you listen to or what celebrities you identify with is a huge part of your identity. For many years in their lives, the entertainment industry had produced the soundtracks to their lives, the movies that defined the culture of their generation and their subcultures, even the language that defines their speech. Although it's actually produced by a multi-billion dollar industry, teenagers tend to think that popular culture is theirs to own.

But time passes, and it passes quickly. Suddenly, when you find yourself in your mid-20s, you are well above the average age of the cool people in the music and cultural scenes. What's more is that the whole culture becomes geared towards a younger generation, and becomes something you can no longer identify with. The cool people nowadays speak a different language, and seem to be talking about a different culture altogether. It's not uncommon to hear people around 25 or so saying things like 'kids these days don't know what music really is', and it's not logic defying either - there's a different generation with different tastes out there, and they are the ones being catered to by the culture out there, in the very same scenes that used to cater to OUR culture. It's like you have been kicked out of the cool scene.

It may not be everyone's ultimate goal in life to be 'cool', but being told by the media that effectively you are uncool because of your age is like being told, via loudspeakers that are omnipresent in your life, that you are old. There's no sweeter way of saying this, unfortunately.

A few decades back things were quite different. The average age of people making it in the entertainment and popular cultural scenes was quite a bit higher, for starters. Even in that industry, it used to be that you matured and your career matured in your 30s and 40s, nowadays at that age you are usually considered too old to be still relevant to popular culture. And it's hard to imagine this would not produce knock-on effects in society.

So we have now established that the popular culture, driven by the media and largely controlled by a multi-billion dollar industry, is heavily skewed towards extreme youth, with serious consequences for the rest of society. But the next question is, why is it so? And will it change any time soon?

Different people have given different answers to this question. But there is one central reason for all this, I believe: MONEY. It may not explain everything you are seeing out there, but it sure is a major part of the puzzle, I believe. You see, most companies exist mainly to make money. Most of the entertainment and popular cultural industry exists not because people like music, movies and celebrities, but because there's money to be made.

Let's use the music industry as an example. Now think about the last time you bought a CD. What did it cost? Somewhere around $20 to $30, maybe. If you downloaded it online, it would have been even cheaper. You see, CDs don't sell for much, and therefore by extension must not earn the industry much. The costs of producing the CDs, getting the advertising out (and advertising is everything these days, so they do spend a lot on this), and other associated costs may often not even be recovered by people like you buying the CDs. Things like tours and concerts is where the big money actually comes in.

Now think about it: did you go to a concert recently? How many did you go to in the past year? If you are over 25 or so, it's quite likely that you haven't been to a concert in a while, and that you didn't really go to that many in the past year. You have work to do, after work and on weekends you just want to relax and meet your friends for brunch, and in fact, you just cannot stand the screaming teenagers and early-20s crowds bound to be present at concerts anyway.

And then there's another thing: if you went to a concert recently, did you go to one of a mega popular artist, one that the industry has poured lots of advertising money to support? Chances are you did not. You may even have attended the concert of an unsigned artist, and many of your favourite artists may indeed be unsigned or indie. Years ago you concluded that the stuff the industry was promoting was overrated, and there are better things to be found elsewhere. Today, you just think it has become even more true. Speaking for myself, I have maintained a personal music chart since I was a teenager. Back in 2002, most chart toppers were what they were promoting on radio. But by 2013, there were probably more unsigned chart toppers than there were radio promoted chart toppers.

These days, in my opinion, chart hits are often created rather than arise naturally. It starts with overwhelming airplay. The few weeks before and after a chart hit is released, there would be overwhelming airplay everywhere you go. Often, even my mother, who does not listen to the radio much, would start singing these hits to herself when she is reading or working. Why? She was 'forced' to listen to it when doing her shopping. You see, a lot of supermarkets and grocery stores have the radio on too. And when certain hits are played every hour on almost every top 40 format station, you would have to be living under a rock not to have it imprinted in your mind. After the imprinting comes the hype. At that point, many minds which are more vulnerable to outside influence would begin to believe they actually like the song in question, and when this happens with enough songs over a period of time, they actually believe that they like the artist in question. Next they are getting their concert tickets, and when enough people do that, the industry makes a lot of money.

Again, if you are over 25 or so, the above process usually does not apply to you. Surely, you may like a radio hit or two every now and then. But surely, you can't be bothered to really like all the crap that they play on the radio over and over again whilst you drive to and from work every day. But younger minds are more easily influenced. They have often not been exposed to as much music, they will more easily believe the hype that the media creates around everything, and their music tastes are also more malleable. And there's this thing about searching for an identity and needing a shared identity with their peers. Therefore, if you convert enough people to be 'fans' in that age group, you reach a tipping point where it just spreads like wildfire. It's really the stuff of dreams for a mass production entertainment industry whose primary goal is to rake in as much profits as possible. Surely, not all teenagers and early-20s people are like that, but there are enough out there to make this business model very profitable.

The fact is that, even though over 25s make up most of the population, from a entertainment industry's money making point of view, things may be a bit different. Most over 25s just don't go to concerts enough for the industry to care too much about them. Over 25s, when viewed as a market segment, do not make them the big money. The younger market is where the money is to be made. They are the ones to appeal to. And the best way of appealing to a population is by making them identify with whatever you are promoting, thinking in the mindset of and speaking the language of the people you are trying to appeal to. Therefore, the entertainment industry doesn't really speak with the voice of the whole society. It doesn't even speak with the voice of 'young people in society' in general (which should at least include all under-40s). It most often speaks with the voice of those it wishes to appeal to - teenagers and people in their early-20s.

Now think back to when you were a teenager. You probably thought that old people were uncool too. If you didn't, you almost surely knew some friends who did. And amongst you and your friends, 'old' used to be defined quite differently too. People who are over 30 were so old and uncool to you back then. You surely didn't think of 35 year olds as your peers, right? Chances are they were closer to your parent's age than your age, which made them even more uncool. If you want to sell to the younger market, there really is no point in using a 35 year old as the face of your product most of the time. It's like if a company wants to sell a product to young women, the last person they would want to use would be an elderly man. This is why the media is full of 'ultra cool and popular celebrities' whose average age would be around 21, and why most of them are doomed to disappear from the public radar in the next 10 or so years.

In the real world, almost nobody has accomplished much at 21, but in this heavily skewed media driven culture, people peak at 21, because that's the best way money can be made for the industry, even if this really distorts reality. Surrounded by a culture where people peak at 21 and fade away by 35 or so, we can begin to think of ourselves as old, even when we are only about a third of the way through an average life expectancy. Seeing that the culture that we used to identify with as teenagers and the celebrities we used to like are all long gone from the public radar, living in an age where they have been prematurely swept away and are to be found in places of nostalgia only, we become resigned to talking about the 'good old times' like 70 year olds. But what we need to remember is this, it's all very distorted and crazy, and shouldn't influence our perception of the reality.



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Sunday, October 20, 2013

This is What You Have to Survive Now

So you're stuck in this dead end job, have an unsatisfactory relationship (or no relationship), feel powerless to do anything about it, and I am telling you that dreams now take longer to achieve so don't except to get there until your late 30s or your 40s? Do I really want to get you depressed? Can't I just say that, once that you have survived your own three years of the Quarter Life Crisis, everything is going to be fine and my 30s are going to be magical?

Unfortunately, I am just telling the truth. Dreams do take long to acheive, and I don't sugarcoat things.

But fortunately, this doesn't mean that you have a decade or more of despair in front of you. Far from it. From my experience, although people don't generally emerge from their Quarter Life Crisis having all their dreams fulfilled, some people are able to regain some spirit of optimism and find a way to balance their lives. They eventually go on to make their dreams come true. What I am saying that, the solution to the quarter life crisis is not finding an instant ticket to your dreams, because you won't be able to find one, but to find a way to allow yourself to not be burnt out, to keep your spirit of youth alive, and to keep your dreams alive until they are achieved.

Cast your memory back to high school. There's quite a large chance that you didn't want to be there too. You may even have nostalgic memories about it now, but at that time you didn't want to be there. Yet you survived it, and in hindsight, it wasn't that bad (or why else are you nostalgic about it?). The road towards your destination in life is the same. Each day on this long road there may be things that you don't want to do, there may be frustrations here and there, and you may develop severe self doubt along the way too. Yet, as long as you know you will get out of here, and have hope about a brighter future fuelled by your dreams, you will survive, like you did in high school. And whilst you will be wanting to get to your destination as soon as possible, the days before you get there may not be bad at all - just like although you wanted to get out of high school as soon as possible, in hindsight it wasn't that bad.

To sum it up, the bad news is that the long road towards feeling accomplished is something you will have to survive. The good news is that, with the right strategy, you will survive it well, and eventually you will get there. The strategy is both in your mindset and in the things you do in everyday life. The rest of this book is dedicated to such strategies. They include kicking poisonous way of thinking, strategies to sustain the optimism of youth and the capacity to dream through a long, sometimes difficult time, and how to continue to believe in yourself when the rest of the world no longer believes in you.


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Extreme Youth Achievement: The Reality is that Dreams Take Longer Nowadays

In this day and age, it seems that if your dreams will come true it will happen at a much younger age than it did in previous generations. 20-year-old mega-rich celebrities and 25-year-old world changing CEOs are everywhere, and if you haven't heard of a few cases at least, you must be living under a rock.

The truth is, all this is an illusion, driven by two phenomenon: the entertainment industry's recent focus on the younger market, and the boom in computer related technologies. If you look carefully, most of the mega-rich by 25 people are either sports stars, or belong in one of the two categories mentioned above. Whilst sports stars and a few young celebrities are nothing new, this mass proliferation of young rich celebrities and young rich IT CEOs is a recent phenomenon.

The entertainment industry has, in recent years, moved towards focussing strongly on the younger section of the market. We will explore this in more detail in Chapter III Section 3.3. But the effect of this is that you get to see mega-rich 20-year-old 'celebrities' on your TV almost daily. If you happen to be a struggling 30-year-old who still doesn't know what you want in life, that would be painful to watch. I've heard fellow 20-somethings complain of seeing some teenager making big money in the entertainment industry making them feel like an old failure so many times that it's not funny anymore. If you are one of these people, think about this: behind many of these teenage 'overnight successes' are a team of CEOs, producers, marketing experts, media tycoons and the like, who have access to all the major media channels to promote their products, including the most popular TV shows, radio stations and magazines, not in one or two cities but as a network around the world. It's often more the 'success' of a team of middle aged men with lots of money and power that you are seeing, I would go as far to say. Which means there's nothing really to be amazed by there - most commercial success in this world belong to middle aged men with lots of capital and power, no matter what business they are in.

Similarly, the proliferation of young CEOs, often under 30, in the IT field, no less prominently seen than those teenage millionaires on TV, also adds to this feeling of ourselves falling behind in the stakes of life. Computers are maybe the only field where the CEOs can be this young. This is because computers are relatively new and their development has been at a rapid pace in the past few decades, making older generations on average LESS competent than younger adults in this area despite their decades of life experience. It's probably the only area of life where this is the case, and eventually this trend will end too. Having said that, whilst the younger generation on average is more competent with computers, very few can really do something like invent a new search engine or a new social network. I personally have been into computers since a young age, many people (of my own generation) come up to me and ask me to fix their computers, but I couldn't have started Google or Facebook by a mile. There's being good at computers, and there's being expert enough to be able to invent something useful and translate this idea into practical use on a large scale. The vast majority of young people just don't belong there, because their life's work, their calling, is elsewhere. And if it's elsewhere, the gap for young CEOs to emerge isn't there, unlike in the IT industry. Another thing: even if you are really expert at writing code and setting up big complex websites, you need the capital to essentially start a moderately sized company. This option is not available to the average computer geek - it is available only to people with good connections to the commercial world, and who are lucky enough to have the backing of investors before their project even has a chance to take off.

If you think about it carefully, extreme youth achievement is not a reality outside of these areas of life. It is a phenomenon that has not affected 99%+ of the world at all. It's like how just because the media has reported a few cases of people in their 20s dying of cancer in the past year doesn't mean that all 20-somethings should start seriously worrying about their risks of getting cancer. What I am saying is that we should ignore these examples of extreme youth achievement, because they represent cases that have emerged out of special circumstances. Notice that I said 'special circumstances' rather than 'extraordinary ability' - having 'extraordinary ability' is good and often essential to extreme young success, but by itself, without the forces of circumstance that we explored above, will get you nowhere near there. Flipping this idea around, you can also say that even though somebody may not have achieved extreme success at an exceptionally young age, it doesn't mean that they don't have extraordinary abilities. It often is just that they weren't in the right circumstances to get into that fast lane, which is the case 99%+ of the time anyway.

So for the 99%+ of us who cannot get into the fast lane, what does chasing our dreams look like in this day and age? It takes a surprisingly long time. Amongst all the illusions of extreme youth achievement being in reach for lots of young people, something is lost: for the 99% left out of the fast lane, dreams actually take longer to achieve in this day and age.

There are two reasons for this: we want more in life, and even if we didn't want more in life, the changes in society's structure mean that it takes longer just to get the basic necessities of life sorted anyway.

Let me be frank about one thing: we, as a generation, do want more in life than any other previous generation that has ever lived. We must face up to this fact, if we are to be realistic about our long road ahead. A lot of us want so much out of life that it is impossible to settle down before 30 no matter how 'efficient' your life is. And we need not be guilty about this: all our lives we have been exposed to more choices, more opportunities and more possibilities in life than any generation that grew up before us. In the 1950s, young men mostly expected to work an average 9-to-5 job and bring home the bacon, and young women mostly expected to be housewives. There was not much of another choice for most of them. There was not only no opportunity to want something more out of life, most people didn't realise that you COULD want something more out of life. But our generation grew up differently. We have always known that we COULD want something more out of life, and most of us would not settle for an average 9-to-5 or housewife existence.

Wanting more out of life may be natural for our generation, but it comes at a cost too, like everything else. It's like if you want to buy a bigger house you have to pay more. The cost of wanting more out of life is that the road between the start of your adulthood and your destination in life is going to be longer. If you want to make an impact on this world, or even if you just want to climb a few rungs of the corporate ladder, it's going to take longer than just aiming to get and hold down an average 9-to-5 job. There's no shortcut around this.

What's more is that for some of today's young people, not only do they want to dream big, they haven't quite figured out what their life's work is about yet. Again, in the 1950s there may not have been many possibilities to choose from, but it is very different today. In this world of so many possibilities, whilst some people may be able to pinpoint that one thing that is their calling before they even reach adulthood, others may have to search for a while before they find it. It's OK - it's like how some people find their life partner right out of college and others only find their soulmate in their 40s or beyond. Whenever there is a process of choice and searching for the right answer to make the right choice, some people are going to take longer than others. This again may contribute to a longer time to turn dreams into reality.

There's also the effect of society-wide changes. For example, if home ownership is on your to-do list, that one is going to take quite a bit longer than forty years ago. The cost of a house has gone up so much that no matter how big your salary is you cannot hope to complete that one in the same timeframe like you could in the 1970s. The longer road to one's destiny also means that many 20-somethings are unwilling to settle down. If you want to find a lifelong partner who is sure they are going to commit for life, that goal again often has to be moved to the 30s to be realistic.

Society's refusal to acknowledge that dreams take longer to acheive nowadays means that many young people actually don't realise it. They become too harsh on themselves, measuring themselves against a timeline that is quite impossible to do. They also frequently burn out well before they reach their destination, as they haven't been psychologically prepared for the long ride ahead, and often lose the requisite youthful spirit well before they can afford to do so. In this book, one of the most important things we will look at is how to sustain this spirit of youth for the long ride that chasing your dreams mean these days.


Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Quarter Life: Dreams and Aspirations at a Crossroads

Quarter Lifers are truly at a crossroads when it comes to their dreams and aspirations. Although they are told to give it up in various not so subtle ways, part of them wants to hang on. They often try to be more 'practical' with their outlook in life, but then they really don't feel like doing that after all. Often it is trying to force themselves to be 'practical' and stop chasing their dreams that trigger a full blown quarter life crisis.

Often, the very 'choices' to be made in a quarter life crisis have something to do with continuing to chase your dreams vs completely stopping doing that altogether. If you are having or have had a quarter life crisis, examine the life choices you are having difficulty with. There's a good chance that they relate to this very idea.

In fact, I believe this basic conflict is at the centre of most of the dilemmas arising out of a quarter life crisis.

I personally have had a quarter life crisis at some point in my life (earlier than usual), and I have come through it concluding that keeping your dreams alive is important, not just for now, but for your future too. I have also concluded that most of the factors pulling quarter lifers away from chasing their dreams are only illusions. I will deal with most of them in this book.

If it is your decision to give up on your dreams, then I am one to respect it. But I think that's a very sad outcome.


Some Related Musical Inspiration:


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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Messages Confusing Quarter Lifers

Quarter Lifers having serious doubts about their dreams and grieving their youth en mass sounds like a whole generation gone mad. To many quarter lifers themselves, having this sort of similar to midlife crisis experience in itself is very unreal for them. It's just not supposed to happen.

Yet I believe it is happening, because the of the messages the outside world is sending them. These messages often come unintentionally, but they have powerful effects all the same. These messages include:

1) The media is telling them that they are old

The media is effectively telling them that they are old, in perhaps unintentional but very powerful and omnipresent ways. More will be explored about this twisted phenomenon in Chapter III.

2) Society, via parents, mentors and friends, is telling them to settle down and quit their youth, when they are not ready to

Traditionally, one is expected to have settled down by age 30. Yet, for many reasons, today's quarter life generation is not yet ready to do so (these reasons are justified, and will be explored in later sections). Yet it doesn't change the fact that society is telling them that it's time to settle down, and traditionally with settling down you quit your youth with all the wild dreams that come with it.

Today's late 20-somethings and 30-somethings are NOT ready to quit their youth, period. This message is a major part of what is causing their grief, I believe. I will explain why almost nobody is ready to be 'old' before 45 nowadays in Chapter III, Section 3.4.

3) Society is telling them that you haven't made it in the stakes of life, even though it's really too early to tell

Combined with the two messages above, the rise of extreme youth achievement in the form of under-30 CEOs and mega rich celebrities with an average age of 21 further reinforces the notion that it's time to give up your 'unrealistic' dreams for many quarter lifers. After all, those who were going to make it have made it already, and whilst you also had your fair share of dreaming, you clearly haven't made it like them. What's the point of continuing to dream big?

The combined effect of these messages and other like them is essentially that you are too old to be young and have 'unrealistic' dreams now, let's talk about settling down and accepting your life as a regular, boring adult from now on. For a generation that was raised telling them that they are special, telling them that they can dream to be whatever they want to be and that they can make that dream come true if they work hard, this is truly a bitter pill to swallow. But gradually, the message is internalised, and that's when there is a quarter life crisis - when they 'realise' they have to accept this bitter reality, and grieve the stolen spirit of youth.

But let's look at the problem from a rational point of view. Should 20-somethings and 30-somethings really give up on their dreams and aim to be a regular average adult instead? Is there still any reason to maintain their dreams at this age?

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

So What is Causing The QLC Symptoms?

The reasons why people have a quarter life crisis is still under debate. It is usually recognised as stemming from unmet expectations and a difficulty in making future decisions in life. However, I believe there is another reason why these symptoms occur.

Taken together, the symptoms mentioned above actually sound like a combination of symptoms from the middle stages of the classical five stages of grief - anger, bargaining (dressed up as indecision and a desire to just do whatever crazy thing that comes to mind - but really it's just plain old bargaining if you think about it) and depression (which is why 'nothing feels particularly right' and why sometimes people have low energy during this period).

But what are these people actually grieving? Different people have different theories. Here's ours.

The majority of these people are yet quite far off from seriously needing to ponder their deaths, after all. What they are grieving is their youth, their feeling of specialness (which they were brought up to believe in), and the dreams they have had since childhood. Whilst dreams take longer to achieve nowadays, their self belief and their youthfulness would have set them up for life, to last the duration of this prolonged ride. However, for a combination of reasons (which we will explore in this website and in our upcoming book), society is stealing these things away from them prematurely, however, and with it their confidence to continue to dream also comes to an end. Although physically they are not old yet, with this mindset they may as well be just going through the everyday motions of life whilst waiting out the rest of their days as old-hearted, dreamless people, for the rest of their lives. Although it will be quite a long time before they finally leave this Earth physically, spiritually they may as well already be living-dead people.


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Symptoms of a Quarter Life Crisis

The symptoms of a quarter life crisis can vary a lot. Symptoms often include a feeling that life isn't turning out right, a fear of the future because life doesn't seem right there either, a fear of one's mortality and failing in one's life (which usually sounds crazy to older adults), indecision about life choices, a general feeling that things aren't right, and sometimes a crisis in self identity and self esteem.

Broadly speaking, the following are all potential symptoms of a quarter life crisis:

Insecurity about one's life decisions
Envy of other's lives
Dissatisfaction with current life, job, relationship and/or friendships
A feeling of being a failure in life
A feeling that life isn't what it should be
Severe and recurrent nostalgia
Feeling lost
Feeling trapped
Severe indecisiveness about almost everything
A feeling that something isn't right in life, even though everything is right in theory
Budget management issues
Wanting to just escape it all and do some crazy things
Frequent changes in jobs, residence and/or relationships
Crises about religion and spirituality


Some Related Musical Inspiration:


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