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Inside a quarter life crisis - my thought process and solution
Like many of you, I have slowly come to the realization that the traditional path doesn't work for me. The thought of collecting a bi-weekly paycheck while sitting at a desk for 40 years is enough to give me cold sweats (I know, TMI. Deal with it, I'm venting).
As more millennials come to the workforce, the quarter life crisis has become an increasingly common phenomenon. A survey from LinkedIn (see chart below) indicated that 75% of 25-33 year olds have experienced a quarter life crisis. The feeling is described as a "crossroad in their career."
I've come to terms with my solution.
But first, some backstory.
I'm not lazy or insubordinate. I'm an achiever, a doer. I like to make things happen, not wait for them to happen.
My plan out of school was to pursue a high-paying (and high-intensity) career so that I could retire early, and do whatever I really wanted to do. Going into my first year on Wall Street, I underestimated the toll this approach would take.
I've always been pretty good at delaying gratification. I mean, I used to wait a whole week between episodes before Netflix came out. Seriously.
But I have reached the metaphorical crossroads.
How can I delay my whole life, giving away my healthiest years for a retirement nest egg I get to spend on weight loss programs, blood pressure medication, and hair transplants (from, you know, all the stress).
It doesn't make sense to me anymore.
It's like having the ability to fly, but choosing to take an airplane because you can take a nap instead. I mean, I guess that's...fine.
I've wanted to own a business for as long as I can remember.
My first real business idea (after the obvious lemonade and hot cocoa stands) was to open a sporting goods store that lets customers test out all of the equipment in-store. I still want to find that store. But I digress.
Of course, I didn't recognize at the time WHY I wanted to own a business. It turns out I had more figured out than I could have realized.
Business owners have autonomy, flexibility, purpose, and creative freedom. Name a traditional 9-5 career (or 7-8, in my case) that offers any of those.
My issues with the traditional corporate path
I want more time, flexibility, and autonomy.
Me: I worked really late last night, can I sleep in today?
Me: Oh. Ok.
I want to pursue a purpose that matters to me.
The number one way to demotivate me is to give me an easy task that doesn't matter.
Will this have a tangible impact on our financials? Awesome. Does it help us solve an issue for our customers? I'm on board.
But asking for manager approval to print color copies of the presentation books? I need another coffee for this.
I want to flex my creative muscles.
If there's one thing that corporate life takes out of you, it's your creativity.
Meetings about meetings are my absolute favorite. And the annoyingly convoluted processes required to make simple decisions.
Just...punch me in the face. That will be a better use of our time.
I want to build something that's mine. I want to be held accountable.
Most people spend their entire careers making someone else rich.
Why? It's a trade. Time (and often, misery) for stability.
What I have done to enable myself to succeed in these goals
Lived below my means
Yeah sure, I could have upgraded my apartment years ago. Or bought a fancy car.
But I value freedom and optionality so much more than those things.
Saved ~50% of my income through disciplined spending and detailed budgeting
I've managed to accumulate around 4x my annual living expenses in my mid-20s, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. If I were to move back to where I grew up, I could probably stretch this for over 10 years.
Not having a budget is like driving across the country without a GPS. Sure, you’ll probably still get there, but having a plan and guide will make the journey much more efficient.
And who remembers how to use a paper map anyway?
Surrounded myself with thinkers
I have daily conversations about life, business, and fulfillment with friends who think similarly about the traditional path.
It's easy to find doubters who tell you this is just the way it is. Put your head down and work until you've earned your red BMW and a fat belly. That's not good enough.
Laid the groundwork for alternative income streams
- Basics: savings/CDs, pay myself first, debt paydown
- Side hustles / alternative income
- New business ideas
Invested in myself
Over the years I have invested time and money into my own development.
- Reading new books
- Expanding my network
- Taking online courses to learn new skills
I'm going to fail. I'm going to pursue new business ideas that I believe in. I'm choosing to trust myself to figure it out.
I've always liked Demetri Martin's doodle from This Is A Book, but until recently I didn't have a true appreciation for what it meant to me.
What's your story?
Have you been faced with a career crossroads? Have you had to make a choice between the traditional path and following your gut?
How did you deal with it? Give me your advice!