On Success, Quarter-life Crisis, and The New Age Rockstars
“Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned…” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club
I was taking the final exam for a class called Psychology of Personality, and the bonus question was:
What’s The Fear of Success?
Months earlier, during the lectures, our professor briefly mentioned it and said pay attention to this one.
I’ve heard of the fear of failure, so my initial reaction was a bit of confusion.
Why would anyone be afraid of success?
It just doesn’t make any sense, I thought.
After the research, I found the answer.
I ended up being the only person to get it right, and because of it barely passing the exam.
Back then, I didn’t really comprehend the meaning of it, and I sure didn’t know it would play an even more significant role in my life down the line.
Six crazy months have passed since one of my articles went insanely viral, and it led me on a path where I bankrupted and got into debt — for the first time in my life.
In these six months, I’ve quit my job in Malaysia, moved back to Bosnia to stay with my parents for two months, so I could launch my product, and try to get out of this situation.
The month of May ended up being the most stressful month of my life.
Luckily, the product launch went well.
I decided to move to Belgrade (Serbia), and stay there while I build the foundation for my newly established business and figure out my next move.
For the first time in my life:
- I had my flat — no roommates.
- I had my business — no bosses.
- I had enough money — no worries about bills.
Things couldn’t have been better.
At least I thoughts so.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” — This was the exact thought I had when I realized that I have “successfully” entered the quarter-life crisis.
I vividly remember laughing out loud when my best friend turned 25 and told me that he might be in one — three years back.
It was an unknown and weird concept, and we brushed it off as a joke.
Then, it happened to me.
In short notes, here’s what happened.
When I moved to Belgrade, I was enthusiastic to start the new chapter of my life and see which direction I should take.
However, from June, until November, I spent 90% of the time in my new flat — alone, trying to establish essential habits and get myself to take action — without success.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one to make an elephant out of a fly.
My life is far from a fairy tale, where all is nice and dandy.
But this felt real.
And no matter what I tried, it seemed that I was continuously sabotaging myself.
I would start a habit of waking up early or eating healthy, and a week later, out of the blue, I just stopped.
Then a week later the same thing.
This kept happening for a few months.
On top of it all, for the first time in my life, I started getting anxiety attacks.
It felt like a cramp I couldn’t get rid of, deep in my stomach.
And no matter what I tried — running, going to the gym, meditation, it didn’t work.
Over the span of few months, this would repeat several times, and coupled with everything else that was going on in my head; I couldn’t pick myself up.
I would try to find the cause, deconstruct the situation, over and over again, but I would fail every single time.
I felt off.
Then, in early December, something changed.
I remembered the question that Sebastian Marshall, who wrote one of my favorite articles called The Million Dollar Question, raised (slightly paraphrased):
Why is it that people don’t take large opportunities in front of them?
His answer was:
“You won’t be understood once you step off into the abyss. The more you do it, the more people won’t understand.”
And then finally, I understood it.
This year has brought the biggest changes in my life, and it led me on a rollercoaster of emotions.
As someone who is naturally driven by pain, and avoiding it, reaching a point where I had no tangible pain — enough money, my flat, my company and full control over my time — this was supposed to be the answer to everything.
Well, it wasn’t.
Almost everyone I interacted from my former chapters in life couldn’t understand what I was doing, how I’ve changed and grown — and all of the successes I’ve stacked up over the last couple of years.
I spent months alone in that flat, as a recluse.
It was a weird notion because I knew that I’d reached the next level, but I was truly scared to go further.
For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid to succeed.
If at this point, the people close to me, who once understood me fully — couldn’t, what was going to happen moving forward?
I was in a limbo.
If I go on, I am consciously aware that I will have fewer people from the “old life” who understand me.
And if I don’t go on, I will feel at unease for the rest of my life.
Instead, for those few months, I did just the right amount to stay where I am.
Nothing too out there, to reach the point where almost no one gets me.
Just the bare minimum, not to feel like a bum who’s doing nothing with my time.
What a great strategy this was.
Down the path of mediocrity I went.
Late November, early December I started realizing something that deep down I already knew.
No matter how much I fight it, the only way for me is forward.
There is no way; I could live with myself for the rest of my life if I kept repeating this pattern, or even worse regress to the previous chapter of my life.
Progress is one of my core values. It’s who I am.
I have to go on, I have to do more, and try to see what I can do, and who I can become.
However, the question remains — why do we need to be understood?
The problem is that the society doesn’t accommodate to different people.
Even with the growing number of people on the planet, we have fewer people who are willing to stand out.
It all goes back to us, humans, as social creatures.
If we embrace what makes us different, unique, and go full force into action, we won’t be understood.
And we NEED to be understood and accepted.
Or better yet, we need not be outcasted, singled out from society, or smaller niches within, families, schools, friends, or work.
As a result, we do what’s natural, and what we’ve been taught to do ever since we were kids. We tone down our peronalities, and blend in.
This is the biggest reason why we have only few New Age “Rockstars.”
I used the term “Rockstar” to describe someone living their life with high intensity, in their unique way, as the old rockstars once did.
I’m sad to say that I don’t see this, these days.
People are just surviving, instead of living.
Which is something that doesn’t make sense to me.
Most people’s dreams and goals aren’t that big or grand.
It feels that majority of people are wasting their life away.
The ones who are courageous enough to embrace themselves and use it to evolve — end up doing something with their lives.
If not, at the end of the day, they know they are living their life authentically.
But, this makes them lonely.
The reality is, that is the price you have to pay — for becoming who you can eventually become.
Think about it.
If you’ve done more than your high-school friends, and moved ahead of them in any way, when you go back and talk to them, they don’t get you.
The more you move ahead, the fewer people around you can understand the person you’ve evolved into.
Since this is a lonely feeling, people make a choice to sacrifice who they are and who they can become, just so they wouldn’t feel it again, just to be understood and accepted.
Which is sad.
That’s why there are so many people in the world who have suppressed their identity and by default everything they could offer to this world — to all of us.
There’s something a lot of people misunderstand.
It’s never about the success itself.
It’s about what you had to do to achieve that success.
Who you had to become. What you had to learn. What you had to sacrifice.
All of this usually happens behind the scenes, and it’s not visible to the naked eye.
And the majority of people who are living on a stand-still simply don’t get this.
You aren’t better than them; you are just more developed.
The more things you accomplish in life, the more you evolve in the process, the more your perception of how the world works changes.
This makes even fewer people understand you. Which is the downside.
The upside, however, is that the few who do understand you — understand you better than anyone in life. That’s because they had to go through the same process themselves.
These relationships are far more developed and closer because they are so rare. They are founded on something so important for each individual — their life experience, and events that shaped them into a person they are today.
And trust me here, there is nothing more valuable than this.
I call it the greatest social luxury in the world.
Before you tell me that not everyone had a good starting point, or they were unlucky, know that you are reading this article from someone who spent his first 3–4 years of life, in an active war that was raging in Bosnia — and that was only the beginning of my journey.
There are genuinely no excuses.
Everyone has their harsh reality.
And that reality shouldn’t be your excuse for the things that didn’t work out.
Right, misfortune happens to everyone, but you still have a choice where to go from there, and what lessons you will draw.
Anyone who has ever achieved anything worth remembering, no matter what area you look at (art, music, entrepreneurship and so on), has done so by being their true self, despite the obstacles along the way.
They have persisted — no matter what.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you should fight mediocrity — because it leads to a life where you are merely surviving instead of living.
And deep down, I know that nobody wants that.
You deserve better.
You owe it to yourself to do better.
Don’t become a statistic.
I don’t know where in life you are right now, but if you were looking for a sign — consider this article to be exactly that.
I am telling you that you got what it takes.
You got something that can help me, your neighbor, or the girl sitting across the globe.
You have it. Inside you. Scared. Waiting, to be unleashed.
Sure it’s a lonely path, but hey you got what it takes.
Find your tribe — people that operate on your frequency.
People that will accept who you are and what you can offer without questioning it, without bringing you down, without trying to suppress it.
You need people who will stack you up and support you along the way.
We are here, waiting for each individual to unleash their authenticity in the world.
But remember — your uniqueness is worthless if you don’t find a way to express it.
You will feel trapped, unhappy, unfulfilled until you tell yourself and everyone around you that it’s time to take everything that shaped you, everything that you have experienced, both good and bad, and play with it, create the world in your image.
Make a move towards the world you want to live in.
With everything you have.
Put your dreams on a piece of paper and pick one that seems like it makes sense to be your next step in life.
What a lot of people get wrong is that you don’t change your life in a day, in a moment, in the shower, or on the toilet seat.
You do it day by day, for as long as it lasts.
But you have to become good at knowing who you are and spotting the pattern behind your story.
Go all in, and see where it will take you.
Each step gives new circumstances and a new reality.
So take small steps every day, towards that freedom that everyone often speaks about, but only a few know what it actually means.
Every time you do and create something, spread it.
Share it and showcase it to people around you, because someone might be just one step behind you, dying to learn how to get where you are right now.
Support the people that are doing the same thing.
Don’t judge. Accept their uniqueness. Just like you expect others to do it for you.
I am tired of using fluffy words.
Time will pass, and one thing that is guaranteed is that you will die.
Just because it’s cliche, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
As I was trying to close this article, which I’ve attempted to write more than 20 times in 2017, I had only one questions in my head:
Where do we go from here?
To be honest, I am not sure.
One thing I know is that the progress is inevitable.
It will happen, whether we like it or not.
The only question is, are we going to be the guiding force behind it, or do we stay at the mercy of everything that happens to us and around us?
For me, I know that I am great at spotting and utilizing underlying patterns in everything, especially business.
I’ll keep on doing that.
Thus far it has worked, makes sense to continue.
One thing is sure — it will be a lonely road.
But since it’s the only one for me, I am now not afraid to succeed.
I am willing to risk and sacrifice a lot of things in my life because I owe it to myself to see how far along I can go.
I think all of us do.
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” — Cecil Beaton
As Sebastian said: “I don’t get to have a normal life.”
And for the first time in my life, I can accept this.