The cute receptionist doesn’t love you, your dream job is years away while you’re toiling away making a few bucks above minimum wage, and your car is 15 years old and failing. If your life isn’t plated in gold in your mid-twenties, welcome to the club called life — this isn’t a crisis, it’s the fun part.
A quarter life what?
A “Quarter Life Crises?” At 25 years old life is supposed to be a crises; constantly! That’s part of the fun. It’s part of the fun too many college graduates are replacing with fear, doubt, anxiety and paralyzing inaction.
Here are some twenty-something scenarios:
- You matriculate only to find a highly competitive job market; it’s nearly impossible to find a suitable job in your chosen field at an acceptable salary level.
- Living expenses are forcing you to make undesirable lifestyle choices including taking roommates, living in lousy neighborhoods and eating Ramen noodles.
- You put out 20 resumes, get 2 calls for interviews and no jobs.
- You’re forced to work at dead-end part-time jobs that have nothing to do with your chosen vocation. These jobs are boring, demeaning and as far as relating to your ultimate career pursuits are a complete waste of time.
- You find yourself relying on help from family and friends, particularly parents. There are always conditions and strings attached.
- You have the greatest idea ever for a new entrepreneurial start-up; this is the next Microsoft. Nobody gets it but you!
- It’s hard to meet promising women when you can’t pick up a tab and you wouldn’t even bring a cheap hooker back to your crummy apartment.
Sound familiar? These examples are not the product of extensive research into the lives of young men in the midst of Quarter Life Crises in 2009.
This is the stuff I remember my friends and me going through in 1980! I’ve also heard similar stories from people who were 25 years old in 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1990 and 2000. I’ve heard the same stories from old guys who were 25 in 1920 and 1930!
What’s so different as we approach 2010? Peter Doocy, a twenty-something reporter for FOX News offered a moment of honesty and insight as he wrapped up his story on the Quarter Life Crises phenomenon, “My generation, I will admit, ever since I was younger I get a trophy whether I win or lose; just we think we are, as a whole, entitled.”
Yes; that’s it!
I do recognize a cultural shift. I didn’t get a trophy when I lost; I was taught to accept losing gracefully, that the winners got the trophy and that if I wanted one I better work harder. I was taught that there are no entitlements, only opportunities. I learned that failure is an inevitable and inseparable component of success.
It took some time to learn these lessons; I did not experience enlightenment in my twenties.
If you’re in your twenties right now; ask yourself this question: Do you honestly feel that you’re entitled, right now, to the job of your dreams? If you answered yes, you may be honest; you may also need to adjust your expectations.
A college degree is a means to success; it is not the end. Success is a lifelong process; it’s a journey of a thousand miles and graduating college is just the first step. Hopefully through your college experience you learned a little bit about how to perfect yourself. If you did, you’re going to need that skill. If not, you’d better take a side trip and learn about the process of self-perfection.
No matter what adjustments and compromises you make, this is all part of the continuing process of self-perfection that will ultimately lead to your success.
Part of the problem is that at twenty-something we’re all full of expectations and promises. Your parents and teachers have no doubt been telling you how much potential you have. Your commencement speaker no doubt delivered a stirring call to change the world and create a lasting legacy in which you’ll correct the mistakes of past generations and bring mankind ever closer to perfect justice and equality.
This bullshit has been going on for quite a while too!
I can remember having the same feelings of fear, anxiety, self-doubt and angst that many Quarter Lifers are feeling today. I can remember becoming complacent at times and wondering when I was going to get my due.
As I near Mid-Life, I’ve stopped wondering. Like the Energizer Bunny I just keep going, and going. My life as a martial artist taught me that the secret achievement is a continual dedication to the process of self-perfection. I learned to be a constant student and to preserve the wonder and curiosity of a beginner’s mind in every moment and to find the opportunity and lesson in every task; even if I’m flipping burgers or mopping floors!
I now know I will achieve what I set out to do. I also know that it takes time to achieve any worthwhile goal. I accept that the only thing I’m truly entitled to is opportunity; results are a product of my discipline, focus and dedication.
As the guy who teaches people to Think Like a Black Belt I should probably quote some ancient Chinese philosopher to support my point. Instead I’ll share a moment I experienced as a Quarter Lifer.
I was feeling under-appreciated, underpaid, overworked and discouraged. I can’t honestly say I overestimated my value; my problem was quite the opposite but I still faced the same feelings of anxiety, desperation and fear that Quarter Lifers face today. I don’t remember feeling exactly “entitled,” but I do remember feeling that I was owed something more than what I received at the time.
A co-worker and dear friend noticed my distress and after a few days walked into the office and dropped a battered, worn, highlighted and dog-eared copy of “Zorba the Greek” on my desk. He said, “Read this; it will change your life.” I did, it did, and I’m forever grateful to my friend Nat for sharing Zorba with me.
Now go out and get your own copy and read it!
Success is a process of facing challenges, testing and honing your talents, abilities and skills and developing the courage, fortitude, wisdom and perseverance to stay in the game through the fourth quarter. You can’t win this game in the first quarter. Let fear, anxiety and unfounded expectations get the better of you and you can, however, lose it in the first quarter!