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.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

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:

Related Posts:

So What is Causing The QLC Symptoms?

Your Dreams that 'Never Came True'


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?

Related Posts:

So What is Causing The QLC Symptoms?

Why they 'Need' to Kill the 'Special' Idea Off