Book review: Enough Already - how to beat the quarter-life crisis
Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms
by Mike Iamele
Forget about mid-life crises. Quarter-life crises are now the in thing because students graduate with no career opportunities in sight, according to wellness coach Mike Iamele in his snappily titled plea for sanity, Enough Already.
Worse, Iamele writes, now that precocious tech moguls Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker share superstar status with Beyoncé and LeBron James, it's clear that kids are being groomed to crave stellar success from the get-go - and feel like losers when they flop. So a generation of aspirants entering the workforce are burning out and falling ill, he reckons, familiar with the feeling despite stunning early success.
"I did everything right. I got the right grades. I got into the right schools. I joined the right clubs," he writes, adding he also landed the right internships, cultivated the right contacts and climbed the right ladders.
To the outside world, he had it made by his mid-20s: he had a well-paid job he loved, a cool apartment and a humming social life. Plus, he was doing worthwhile work - in health care reform, politics, cutting-edge technology and medical research.
But at 24, the dream died abruptly one summer morning after a night of drinking. Iamele vomited blood that kept coming. Rushed to hospital, he was found to be suffering from severe pancreatitis. Endearingly frank about his fall from grace, the former White House intern blames his workaholism stemming from his obsession with looking important. He wanted the cars, the girls, the whole fairy tale, he writes. His winning candour extends to his current career. "I mispronounce words. I stutter during talks. I make typos. I send in bad articles. I forget birthdays. I get lost while driving. I fail all the time," he writes.
But failing does not make him a failure, he continues. It makes him human and teaches him lessons on how to fix things and adapt. "I'll never make the same mistake twice. And when I do, then I'll learn not to make cheesy blanket statements," the "success whisperer" writes, amusingly dispelling any notion that he is a guru.
The thrust of his thinking is that you should ignore what you think society wants you to do, because "success has many currencies". Instead, design your life playfully, avoiding fixating on professionalism.
Add some sass to your demeanour, he suggests. "Spice up your sales pitch with a little humour. Show us that you're unique, you're human and you're unmistakable. You don't need professionalism to rock it. You can just be you."
The biggest jolt in his spunky confessional self-help guide comes when he reveals he quit dating women to commit to the man who nursed him back to health as his life partner.
The bisexual success coach ends each chapter of his tell-all with tips on how to raise your game without incurring stress. But he is most engrossing when addressing broad psychological themes, including public speaking anxiety: once you notice how you are performing, forget it - the rest is downhill.
"So you slink off the stage, hoping the memory of your talk is soon forgotten. But the crowd applauds in awe," he says.
They never noticed the sweaty palms, buckling knees or the quivering, stumbling voice.
"In fact, they thought you nailed it," he writes.
So drop the insecurity because nobody pays as much attention to you as you think. They're too busy in their own heads, worrying about their own flaws.
That said, Iamele may strike some readers as a bit unstable, even manic or hyperactive. Also, some of his suggestions, including "romantic self-dates", sound daft.
Another nitpick is his gung-ho view of risk. Business and life are gambles, he writes. If you buy into the fact we must humbly accept we have no real control, then fathoming what strategy will guarantee success is impossible, he writes, adding that taking a safe, moderate tack just leads to oblivion.
Too bad that the field of entrepreneurship is strewn with the bodies of go-getters who followed that advice.
However, his zeal and grit are invigorating - here's hoping he is right when he writes that money, power and recognition are no longer the only game in town.
"What about time?" he writes. "Or relaxation? Or corporate culture? Or making a meaningful contribution to the world?"