Over the past few years, I have seen very brilliant, mercurial, energetic, talented people like you take mighty falls due to poor mental health and burnouts, and I am alarmed. Seeing Marvel fed “fresh” graduates with hopes of changing the world with their superpowers and their social feeds, unravel quickly and become helpless, sleep deprived and desperate and finally crash makes me sad, but also amused. Having lived a little longer, I can sympathise as I have seen and experienced all of this before. What is different with you is that you have the power of technology and YouTube and you seem to have run out of excuses, and the performance pressure on you is unimaginable. You feel morally responsible for everything that seems within touch. Many of you wake up everyday seeing “inspiring” posts and end up night empty and hurt by the time you finally exhaust yourself for the night. This happens with me too.
I realise that you live in an “accelerated” version of the world that I grew up in. As a generation X-er (born in ‘79), I grew up in a more slow paced world. I had to hunt for information, I had to wait for my favourite movies to show up on television, I had to read books that did not have notifications, I did not go on frequent vacations. In this new “fast paced” world with sky high expectations, I notice that you have stopped using certain words that can help you change this conversation. These words helped me a lot and I hope they help you too.
You are living in the most advanced civilization, in the safest time with the best tools and medical aids in all of known history since the creation of the universe. This is a miracle. Lives in the earlier generations used to be “nasty, brutish and short”. Most children did not live beyond the age of 5 and life was constantly upended by the vagaries of nature. This reflection should take you to generations that have taken pain before you and you have to empathise with their pain and sacrifice. When you do this, you will feel nothing but gratitude for them to have given you this opportunity and tell you how “small” we really are. Technology ends up inflating our egos and self worth, but when we reflect on the history of the world, we realise we are just a tiny part of the entire puzzle.
Humility is accepting your own limitations. Yes you have access to all the information and advice in the world but that means that bettering what exists, and getting heard is extremely hard. In the cacophony of the internet, you can scream as loud as you want, but people are already distracted with thousands of other things. Not only are you just a small link in a small chain, but there are billions of such chains, each powered with a Marvel sized ego and smart phone. Once you reflect on your own “smallness”, you will realise that maybe the smart thing to do in a room full of screaming people is to be quiet. This will calm you down and if you look around, you will find others who are like you and are living a life of gratitude and humility. This will give you more fortitude.
Nothing happens in a hurry. The click-baiter who screams they made a million dollars in a year from scratch is most likely lying. Good things take time to mature and be good — It probably took us tens of thousands of years to invent the humble hammer. It takes patience and care and craftsmanship to find things that don’t exist. Change doesn’t happen at a steady pace, it ebbs and spurts and often there are long phases where nothing seems to happen. The pauses are a blessing. They will help you realise what matters to you — what really makes you happy and what your purpose of life really is. It will also help you build quiet confidence in what you are doing yourself. And if what you did will end up succeeding, then you will get to cherish it.
Philosophers have said that humans spend too much time accumulating things and too little time cherishing them. You cherish every vacation you take, less than the last one. The thrill of discovery and adventure keeps falling. You can hoard neither assets nor experiences without a cost — the reduced meaning of each of them in your life. You will never know when life slips away and your parents become old and your children older. Cherishing requires conscious action. It requires you to understand that less is more and realise when more acquisitions start becoming less meaningful. Technology has accelerated the acquisition process for all of us and we are trapped in a “treadmill” where the more we acquire the less meaning this world seems to have. Once you start cherishing small things, you will quickly get off this treadmill.
It took me 40 years to understand some of these words and I hope it takes you a lot less. You have no idea you have so many things going for you. What you are experiencing is a culmination of your age and our age. But these are your challenges and the tools that you have to fight them are still the same. I genuinely hope these words will help you handle your problems and you forget ones you have been hearing too often like “burnouts”, “hustle”, “FOMO”.