I always thought of myself as a born optimist. Always finding the bright side of everything (Stolen bike from my cellar? That’s ok, it was clunky and I wanted a new one anyway).
My friend Michal used to say that I whatever fuc*up I did, I would always land on my feet anyway. I felt luck was always on my side and I could achieve whatever I wanted. But after some string of defeats, it started to get to me.
I started feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Stressed that things are not moving as fast as I wanted. That I can’t enterprise sell effectively to senior management made entirely of older white men (I’m refusing to blame gender inequality and always seek what I can do better) – it must be entirely my fault.
I was stressed that I am not doing enough and not achieving what I planned by date X. That I won’t make it to 30under30 (update: 2+ years into writing of this post, I’m 31 and no, I haven’t made it to the list) and that means I’m a loser surrounded by overwhelming London tech success stories. I felt I needed this social proof of labels, awards – not for the vanity reasons, but to verify if what I do creates a value. – the TechCrunch-Headline-Level Successful and if it doesn’t happen by the time I turn 30, the world is going to end.
I caught myself numerous times comparing my achievements to someone who did much more by my age.
Sure, I know they may have started from a different stage or they have just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But I let my irrational, doubting self take control over my mind.
Sometimes I was waking up in the middle of the night. Thoughts in my mind were running like crazy and I could not fall asleep for another 1-2 hours. I was analysing all the things that went wrong and all that’s still on my to-do list.
I tried Headspace, Calm and really wanted to learn how to be mindful with guided meditation. I knew all of that, but I still felt scared of confronting the world in the morning.
I know. A typical anxiety disorder.
Quarter-life crisis? You’re not alone. According to a LinkedIn research, 75% of 25-33 year olds have experienced a quarter-life crisis, often related to feeling like they are at a crossroad in their career. This is nearly equal across women and men (73% vs. 76%) – 85% of those in Arts & Culture have had a quarter-life crisis, followed closely by IT & Telecoms at 84%. The average age of quarter-life crisis is 27 years old. Globally, nearly 80% of those 25-33 have felt under pressure to succeed in relationships, career or finances before hitting 30. Finding a job or career that they’re passionate about is the top reason 25-33 year olds feel anxious (61%), even more so than finding a life partner (47%) or student debt (22%)
Source: Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn from October 31-November 3, 2017 among 6014 respondents aged 25-33 across US, UK, India and Australia.
The sad child of ambition
The problem wasn’t only letting my thoughts control my emotions. It was the result of this – the wrong choices I made and projects I have set myself to create.
I always aimed high and always wanted to challenge myself, but over time I understood (Kuba also helped me in this realisation) that I was setting myself for a failure. I was trying to grab far too complex projects without building solid foundations first. Rarely I could get to the stage where I had enough resources (be it the right connections or funding) and I was failing, trying to jump over the first stages, which needed to be taken. And it wasn’t helping that I was refusing to let go.
I learned that if there are too many factors to your project, the successful outcome depends on all these factors being present. The least number of factors, the better chances you have in succeeding and simply not giving up in trying.
Keep calm and go on
Edit on 19/01/20: I know now that all the above was ego driven and I’ve grown not to care about these things. I do not compare my journey to others because each of us is essentially different and there are too many types of success. I was wrongly comparing the only one layer which is – the size of the company and its financial strength. These days I am more careful with committing my time and attention to projects and people. I need my inner peace to create. I know now that building great things take time to built and the main point is to be consistent in creating bit by bit every day.
This is how you learn the new language. Or the new musical instrument. Or build a strong relationship.
This is the power of compound interest. Compounding relationships make life easier.
Buffett: People are going to want your time. That’s the only thing you can’t buy. I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time.
Rose: So to have time is the most precious thing you can have.
Buffett: It is. I better be careful with it. There’s no way I will be able to buy more time.
Cover photo: Fuck running – A hamster asleep in his running wheel