'There's Always a Reason to Be Scared': Using Fear to Achieve Your 'Quarter-Life Breakthrough'

'There's Always a Reason to Be Scared': Using Fear to Achieve Your 'Quarter-Life Breakthrough'
From Recruiter - October 5, 2016

As a 20-something myself, I can confirm that the quarter-life crisis is a very real phenomenon. It often starts with the nagging suspicion that your life isnt going the way you had plannedand sometimes it can end in total self-destruction.

Thankfully, that hasnt happened to meand it probably wont happen to you, either, if you pick up a copy of Adam Smiley PoswolskyThe Quarter-Life Breakthrough, a new career guide specifically for 20- and 30-somethings looking formore meaningful work, out this week from TarcherPerigee.

Smiley says the book was born from his own quarter-life crisis, which he underwent while working for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. To everyone else, Smiley seemed like the picture of successand yet, something was missing from his life.

If I wasnt happy at the Peace Corps, where the hell would I besatisfied working? he musesin the books introduction.

Eventually, Smiley quit his job and moved to San Franciscoto become a writerand you can see that worked out pretty well for him.

But thats not to say the advice contained in The Quarter-Life Breakthroughamounts to the same old follow your dreams! platitudes that plague other career guides. Instead, Smiley draws on his own experienceas well as the experiences of hundreds of other young people whom he interviewed over the yearsto craft a book that skips the vague slogans in favor of an actionable plan.

This is a guide for people figuring out what to do next with their livesan unconventional career guide to help you figure out what you want to do, how you can give back, and how you can make an impact in the world, Smiley says.

Last week, Smiley and I hopped on a phone call to discuss his book. Below is a transcript of our conversation, minimally edited for style and clarity: book is clearly targeted toward young people and their challenges. Aside from age, is there a difference between the quarter-life crisis and the mid-life crisis?

Adam Smiley Poswolsky:To be perfectly honest, I think the principles in the book of finding meaningful work apply to people of all generations. However, I didnt think it was appropriate necessarily as a 30-year-old to be giving advice to someone who is twice my age.

Its a matter of my voice and my resonance. I think my voice resonates more strongly with people who areat a similar stage in life.

I self-published a version of this book two years ago, and Ive had a lot of people who are dealing with mid-life crises or switching careers at the age of 48 or 54 say, Hey, this book really helped me. But I think that if I had just called it The Breakthroughor whatever, it would loseits direct resonance.

They always say you should write what you know, and this is what I know. I dont know what its like to have two kids and a mortgage.Ive never been married. Those things add another layer to how you build a meaningful life. Because I havent experienced those things, I didnt think it was appropriate to talk about them.

I definitely want to write The Mid-Life Breakthrough at some pointjust give it 10 or 15 years.

I also think, when youre at this stage in life, the stakes are lower. Well, in one way, the stakes are higher because youre setting yourself up for what you do in the future. But you can take more risks. You can leave a job thats not working, even if it might be a financial risk for six months. You dont have two kids to feed, and youre probably renting an apartment, so theres a little more leeway there in terms of inventing your own path. If you are 10, 15, or 20 years older, its still possible to do that but there are more things to consider.

RC:In the book, you talk about climbing the career ladder vs. jumping lily pads. Can you elaborate on what that means, exactly?

ASP:We have a career mindset that has not caught up with the current realities of the job market. This idea of the career ladder is an antiquated notion. It was applicable to the baby boomer generation, that idea of going to college, picking a major, getting a job out of college that reflects something you studied, and getting on that ladder at 20or 21and moving up the ladder throughout your career until retirement.

If you look at a lot of peoples career paths now, they dont follow this linear path, especially in the last ten years, with the recession, rapid changes in technology, an increasingly freelance- and flexible-job-oriented market, andshorterjob tenures. We need a mindset that embraces this instability and provides a more flexible and experimental notion of what a career can be.

I think people talk about this, and you read about it in places like Fast Company, but they dont tell college students about it. The career advisors dont say, Hey, you need to prepare for your next 15 jobs, not yourfirst job. You cant just focus on that first job.Even if its great, its probably only going to last for two or three years, statistically speaking.

I think the much more empowering way of looking at your career is the lily pad metaphor. If you think about lily pads, you can go in any direction. Theyre all connected the roots of the lily pads are connected by what is meaningful to you so while the surface of what youre doing might look different, you can move in all these directions to find work that means something to you.

Like for me, I wentfrom working at the Peace Corps in D.C. to moving to San Francisco and becoming a writer. It looks different, but I could make that jump because it was something meaningful and it excited me.


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