Ep #12: Post-Grads & The Quarter-Life Crisis

Today in Part 3 of the Education Series, I’ll be discussing the long-term effects of traditional education as they relate to post-college grads and how the term “quarter-life crisis” was born. If you’re struggling in your career and have no idea your direction in life, don’t miss this!

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Why college degrees don’t hold nearly as much weight as they used to
  • Why college grads are struggling in the workplace more than ever before!
  • When the “Quarter-Life Crisis” happens for most of us
  • The 4 reasons that twenty-somethings push aside their “crisis” (and why it doesn’t “HIT” them hard until their thirties)

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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome back everybody. Thanks so much for being here as always. Today I’m excited to dive into Part 3 of the Education Series.

If you missed Part 1 and/ or Part 2, I encourage you to rewind and listen in on those. In Part 1, I take a magnifying glass to traditional schooling and explore the negative effects it has on kids. And then in Part 2, I talk about the false stories around college and the role that parents can play in the misdirection of their child’s future.

And now today, I’ll be discussing the long-term effects of traditional education as they relate to post college grads and really how the term “quarter life crisis” has come to be. So let’s jump in, shall we?

Being a twenty-something today, is not easy. We thought that being a hormonal teenager with acne and the overwhelming pressures to go to college was hard, but woof, we had no idea what was around the corner for us. As high schoolers, we have this blind optimism that we’re going to land our dream job after college and live happily ever after.

We think and expect that this is the time when all of our hard work and all of our stress finally pays off. And we believe this because it’s what we’ve been told for years and years. The story that going to a “good” college and getting a degree will guarantee us happiness and success is how we’ve justified any stress or discontent we may have been feeling up until  this point.

So here we are 21, 22 years old, diploma in hand and ready to reap the fruits of our labor. Ready to conquer the world, feel valued, unleash our potential and make lots of money at the same time.

Yet, for so many of us, this is not the reality– not even close to it. So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about what’s really happening out there with twenty-somethings.

First, student loan debt. About 70% of grads leave college in– thousands, tens of thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. So with that burden alone, we’re off to a pretty rough start.

I can absolutely relate to this. I graduated back in 2008 with $80,000 in student loan debt, not to mention that was the year of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

But economic disaster or not, walking away from school and into adulthood with this much debt beneath us (or hanging over our heads) is daunting. We are at such a disadvantage right out of the gate. And one of the reasons this is so unfortunate, is because our desire to take entrepreneurial risks is best in our twenties (before settling down and starting families), but our debt stops most of us from taking those risks. Instead, we immediately enter the workforce in an attempt to pay off our debt. But we quickly realize that among other bills and daily responsibilities, it’s going to be years and years before we’re debt free.

So before we know it, we’re then getting married, starting families, still paying debt and any dreams of becoming an entrepreneur go out the window.

36% of post-grads move back home to live with their parents. This statistic means that more recent grads are living at home than ever before.

Because even a fresh faced 22 year old, hot off the college press, if lucky will be making $40,000, maybe $50,000 a year starting out. If lucky. I was making around $24,000 at my first job. And I think $40,000 at my second.

And remember, while we struggle financially, the administrators are having a field day with their earnings– really the future earnings of their students if you think about it.

But anyway, $40,000, maybe $50,000 a year if we’re lucky. Because remember everybody has a college degree…it doesn’t make us special. It doesn’t make us unique. It doesn’t make us stand out in a stack of a hundred applications.

In fact, in most companies now, our precious college degrees don’t hold any weight in their decision to hire new employees. It’s an oversight at this point by many employers and

the reason being is that their positions for hire are too complex and require internal training of some sort anyway– so why hire someone with a degree, right? Whether you hold a college diploma or a high school diploma, a GED, it doesn’t matter because a lot of new employees need to learn a whole new set of skills anyway that are unique to that company and its mission.

Companies are also waking up to the fact that recent grads have little to no critical thinking skills. As graduates we are looking to our employers to tell us exactly what to do. Because we don’t know how to think for ourselves. We lean on them…What should I say? What should I do? Is this right? Tell me how I can fix this?

That dependency on authority figures to tell us what to do and what the right answers are (everything I spoke about in Part 1) is spilling over to the workplace. Companies are like GEEZ. We are hiring children. They have these training wheels on, they’re so afraid to fail and when they do fail, they’re not sure how to pick themselves back up.

I was working with a client recently who when I first met her, she was at a job that she hated– and had been there for over 4 years. It was very routine, she was being micro-managed every day and it wasn’t challenging or fun. Her intuition was saying, “Get out. Your potential isn’t being met here.” While her ego mind was saying, “You can’t leave. You need this job. What will everybody think if you quit.”

She was experiencing that internal battle that all of us can relate to.

Anyway as we began to work together, she ended up leaving that job and starting a new job– where she’d be working with clients one on one as a personal therapeutic trainer of sorts.

Well she starts this new job, which she is highly qualified for and in the first week she does some shadowing, she’s told what’s expected of her and she’s given very basic instruction…and then she’s pretty much left on her own from there.

She was left to navigate her own way and get her own clients. It was kinda like running her own business under the umbrella of a bigger organization…which is exactly what she desired! She wanted that freedom and flexibility, like many of us do.

Well after her first week, we get back on the phone and she’s completely disheveled. She’s like, “I have so much freedom, I don’t know what to do with it. I feel like I’m not qualified for this. I don’t know everything.”

And I said, “Why do you need to know everything right now?”

And she says: I can’t feel confident until I know everything. I don’t want to blow it.

Guys, this is what traditional education has done to us.

My client is in a panic and feeling anxious, worried and uneasy (those are her words) about making a mistake and failing because there’s nobody there giving her the “right” answers. She’s so afraid to “blow it” and get scolded– the way we’d get into trouble for getting a bad test score. Right?

This is so incredibly unfortunate.

When we’re just given the answers, the solutions, a blueprint of what’s been done and what other people are doing, it takes away from actually learning and growing into our own potential.

If I just follow another coaches guidance step by step to building my business, that’s not me realizing my own, unique potential. Right?

Real learning is done by being curious, asking questions, engaging, thinking outside the box, and yes, even making mistakes along the way.

Now, is my client going to feel more confident once she knows everything? NO! Because first of all, we can never know everything right? There’s always more to learn, so it’s impossible to live up to that expectation. But secondly, in order to learn as much as we can we’ve gotta FIRST feel confident, not insecure.

Because when she’s feeling insecure, she’s sitting around twiddling her thumbs, waiting for instructions thrown her way. But when she shows up confident and feels confident FIRST, then she can take charge of this position: the confidence in herself first is what’s going to drive her to utilize her talents and knowledge, not be afraid to ask questions when needed, take advantage of the creative freedom she’s been given, not feel insecure about making mistakes and instead just learn from them, and ultimately give more value to her clients and the world.

She was buying into the story that, I can’t feel confident until I know everything. And that was a false story. And I asked her right there on the call, I said: give me 3 concrete, specific reasons why you are qualified! And without hesitation, she responded: I have a Master’s in Counseling. I’ve done therapy before. And I have the natural passion and talent for it.

Just like that she spit out those very real, true reasons why she is highly qualified for this job. There’s absolutely no reason for her not to show up and take on this opportunity like a girl boss right?

But because she didn’t have that external influence and external validation from her co-workers or boss, her confidence plummeted.  Because we are taught that our confidence and self-worth is dependent on doing things “right” according to other people.

Being a product myself of traditional education, I was 100% guilty of this too.

I remember one of my first jobs out of college. It was a sales job and there was an online training that you had to complete at your own pace prior to jumping into your new sales role. And I would sit there, day in and day out, taking elaborate notes and studying the information hard and trying to memorize everything. Because just like my client, I thought the more I know, the more I memorize, the more I follow the manual, the more confident I will be and the better job I’ll do.

One day, my boss called me into her office and said, I notice that you’re moving very slow through the training. I think it’s time you just jump in.

And I was terrified. It was a flashback to school. I would never dare go into a test unprepared, so why would I go into my first sales appointment when I don’t have all the answers yet. How could I possibly go into my first appointment not knowing exactly what to do in every single scenario? Not having the script memorized?

I didn’t trust myself or my own strengths. Instead, I wanted to follow the manual exactly so that I knew I was doing it “right” and then I wanted my boss to say “good job” afterwards.

But it doesn’t work like that guys. Life doesn’t work that way. Real learning and growing doesn’t work that way.

But this is what’s happening out there, because of how we were raised. Right?

OK so let’s go back to the big picture. Here we are, in debt competing for these low salary jobs. We get a job, we work day in and day out like robots (9-5, steady paycheck, full benefits, whatever) and then pretty quickly, we start to get the feeling that something is missing.

Many of us find ourselves in these post-grad jobs (that are sometimes related to our major, and other times not, realizing we didn’t need a degree at all) and we begin to realize that the work we’re doing doesn’t matter and in return, that we don’t matter.

Now we can find purpose in whatever job we’re at. Even if I worked in sanitation and I pick up garbage for a living, my purpose could be: I am keeping the streets clean for generations to come.

Even when I was working in customer service at a  call center in my early twenties, being screamed at all day by people whose accounts were overdrawn, I could find purpose in that. In fact, I had to find purpose, otherwise that hair-pulling job would’ve felt more unbearable than it already did. I told myself, OK, my purpose is educating more people on how to manage their money and in turn create less suffering in the world.

So we can find purpose in any job, even if we need to stretch a little, however our life’s calling is where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.  

In other words, in order to feel completely fulfilled and experience real, genuine joy, (which is always the goal) we must find our life’s greatest purpose– where our biggest passion and natural talents intersect. And from there, we create value…we become of service to something greater than ourselves. This is JOY. This is why we are here on this Earth, to find our thing and experience the joy that it brings to our life and to others.

For the majority of us in our twenties, we don’t travel down the path toward our life’s calling. For the majority of us, we travel in the complete opposite direction.

And that’s because the way to discover it, is by using our internal compass, our intuition. The way toward the Promiseland is to be true to ourselves and live authentically. But we’re so consumed with this linear path laid out for us, that we are missing the boat. We aren’t making the connection between who we really are and what we’re really meant to do…and that’s when we experience that internal VOID.

This is the quarter life crisis. That deep dissatisfaction (and emptiness) that we feel. The knowing that we aren’t doing the work we’re meant to do and instead wasting away our days doing meaningless work.

Now, a lot of us in our twenties push aside our angst…for a few different reasons.

  1. It’s easy to attempt to fill that void on the weekends with things such as alcohol, drugs, sex, entertainment and shopping. Ya know we’re still young and carefree, and still experimenting and haven’t quite settled down, so leisure and play can be a way to avoid dealing with the bigger problem at hand.
  2. A lot of us believe that our twenties are supposed to be hard so we use that belief to justify how we are feeling. Well everybody goes through this messy period in life, oh well. That’s just the way it is.
  3. We don’t know another way. We’ve been taught the same way for so long on how to go about our lives, how to make decisions. It’s the wrong way, but it’s the only way we know. We know no other way so how can we possibly change gear.
  4. We are accustomed to living for the future and neglecting our happiness in the moment. The same way we, as kids, we’re taught to live for the future…work hard and stress out and THEN you’ll be happy after graduation is the same way we live in our twenties. Living for that vacation. Living for that future promotion that may or may never come. Living for the weekend.

Guys the problem is, we aren’t waking up to NOW! What makes me happy now? What’s not working right now? What needs to change right now? What do I really want right now?

We’re not doing that. We’re still living for the future, believing that in time, we’ll step into our potential. In time, we’ll be happy, finally.

So we continue to work for nothing more than a paycheck. The same way we worked day in and day out in school for nothing more than a letter grade. This is us repeating the same cycle. Different environment, same faulty system.

Well news flash.

Extrinsic rewards do not equate to real joy. It is 100% impossible. Yet, that is what we’re taught to strive for. In school it’s grades, in work, it’s a paycheck.

We’re not taught to strive for what feels good to our souls, what makes us happy, what we’re passionate about. We are taught to seek jobs that pay well and offer some prestige. (Now I’m not saying that making money is bad or that we can’t make money doing something we love–in fact, you’ll make more money than you ever imagined doing work you’re obsessed with).

But when we are in our twenties money is appealing. We were just broke college students, now we have debt and we want this grand lifestyle that we were promised for doing the right things. So money becomes our driving force. Yet the problem with chasing money is that it can never fill that void. It’s impossible.

And if you’re listening, thinking “Well I can’t just quit my job because I need this paycheck to pay bills and to pay off my debt and whatever else. I can’t just quit to pursue a passion. I don’t even know what that looks like.”

I get it. I get the frustration. I was in your shoes. Remember that. It was totally frustrating to have to go back to babysitting with a degree, while doing self-discovery work to figure out who I was, what I was good at and what I wanted. It was totally frustrating to have to unlearn everything that I had been taught. Believe me, I get it.

But at the end of the day, knowing that the only way to actually thrive in this one life that we’re given is to live from the truest expression of ourselves, should be enough to do whatever it takes to do just that.

But so many of us are so far down the rabbit hole, so afraid to fail, so weighed down by the system that’s chewed us up and spit us out, we’re lazy in the sense that we don’t want to have to “start over” to figure it out…we just spent 12 years in school, plus another 4 or beyond in college so that we could be happy now. Yet ironically, we’ve never been so far from it in our entire lives.

So we’re exhausted. We’re done.

It’s a terrible space to be in. But at some point, something’s gotta give. Something in our minds has to shift to be like, “NO. I was a part of that charade, but life is too short. I’m going to take control of my life and do things a new way, my way.”

It’s not easy. It’s not easy to completely uproot the foundation we’ve built over the past 20 years in our schools to start over and lay a new foundation– one built on truth, unique identity, passion, purpose and love. But it is necessary. It is critical to achieve those long-awaited results.

College did a fantastic job sucking us in, making us believe that we had an identity. It was the wrong one, but they don’t care. Remember they’re feasting with our money.

The damage is done. Now, you have the choice. To either continue down the path of this false identity or finally find your true one and live that. Finally take the reins and carve your own path. You get to decide now.

Ya know, I’ve actually heard adults– parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, laugh out loud at the term “quarter life crisis.” Yet the truth is it’s not only a real thing and a very big problem, but the older generation who is laughing are actually the ones to blame here.

A part of me wants to say FU. Really. We listened to you and we did everything you told us to do to be happy.

Adults are so frustrated with the youth today. They don’t understand why we aren’t settling down in our 20’s and starting families. They can’t understand why we are continuously jumping from job to job. They think that we’re irresponsible, entitled and selfish. They’ll say things to us like, “You’re an adult now. You need to get your shit together?”

Well I’m sorry. Maybe, maybe it’s because I now need to spend the next years of my life undoing and unlearning everything you taught me, because it didn’t work and THEN try to find the answers myself.

We were never even given a fighting chance. And now as we fight for that chance, we’re being mocked and ridiculed and looked down upon by the people who are in a big way, responsible.

Last time I talked about the strain in the relationship between parent and child- and here it is again. Because parents are unwilling to take responsibility for their role, and then they’re putting more pressure on their kids to magically “figure it out” in our twenties without ever teaching us or allowing us to navigate our own lives in the first place.

Almost every one of my clients come to me terrified of what their parents are going to think or say if they don’t use their diploma, if they quit their job, if they take the time to soul-search. We are so afraid to remove those training wheels and peddle off on our own. Make our own decisions. Do what makes us happy.

And the 30% of post-grads who were “fortunate” (I say that loosely)to graduate without student loan debt, the percentage of students whose higher education was paid in full by their parents– sometimes these people find it even more difficult to go their own way and cut that umbilical cord. Because it’s like their parents have this lingering control over them, even well into their adult life.

They think: Well they paid for my school, so I gotta make them proud. I have to do something with that $100,000 degree, even if it costs me my happiness.

It’s like we attach love to the tuition. They love me and want the best for me so they paid for my school. And now, in turn, I must show them that I love them back and I’m grateful by continuing down this track.

I mean right. That’s a whole other level of strain. And it always leads to resentment, always.

It’s insane guys. How many adults are still being controlled by their parents, on a conscious or subconscious level. As children, we are sponges and we are taught to obey and we are helpless in a sense.

But now, as emotional adults, we are 100% responsible for ourselves and our decision-making. If we choose to allow their influence to steer the course of our life, that’s on us. No more pointing fingers. We must take full ownership. OK?

Millennials more than any other generation want to change the world. Well if we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves. And that means grabbing the steering wheel with both hands. It means driving our life in the direction we’re being called toward. Because that’s where we discover our gifts and do meaningful work and in turn add immense value to the world.

And that my friends is the end of the quarter life crisis.

That’s it for today guys. Thank you so much for listening as always. I’ll see you next time in Part 4.

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