Young and Lost? You Are Not Alone.

by Alexander Heyne · 34 comments

” We are the lost generation.”

Lost GenerationI was struck by a business insider article the other day, called “This is what millions of young people in China and India REALLY think.”

A photographer, Adrian Fisk, traveled all over China and India interviewing youth wondering what they thought about life.

His project, iSpeak, started in China in 2008 and eventually moved into India as it gained momentum.

He simply asked each person he randomly chose to write what they thought about life, about their future, and about their purpose.

The responses are more than interesting, and are an incredible reminder that you probably aren’t alone in your thinking, no matter the age.

First, check out some of the images Adrian took:

Materialism

“I’m worrying something. Girls in China is becoming materialistic. Without house, my girlfriend would not marry me”

Destiny And Control

Lack of Control

Translation: After I watch TV I have a lot of thoughts and ideas, but have no way of achieving them.

Live Your Life

Rat Race

Happiness.

Illiterate.  What she said: “Like you, we need the same things in life.”

Pressure, expectations, and criticism.

There’s obviously a trend here, yeah?  Interview a bunch of young Americans and you’re very, very likely to get similar responses.

So what are the trends here?  What assumptions can we make about our own youth?

  1. There’s a lot of pressure for expected life routes, and for tangible, material achievement
  2. Lots of us feel powerless and in the grip of the hands of fate, rather than empowered
  3. Feelings of hopelessness – the general perception regarding dreams is that “they are impossible to achieve.” Impossible to escape the rat race.

But that, to me, raises a curious point.

If one assumes that we each are one of the images above, then we are probably feeling one of the following:

  • Powerlessness. I can’t control my future so I’m not going to plan for my future
  • Dispirited. I have a lots of thoughts, dreams, and ideas, but know I can never achieve them.
  • Boldness. Live your life, you may die tomorrow.
  • Jaded. Even if you win the rat race you’re still a rat.
  • Pressure, expectations, and criticism. I’m supposed to live a certain life path, and if I don’t, I am opening myself up to massive criticism

But something is missing here. I don’t see a single dreamer in that list.

I don’t see someone saying, “life is tough as hell right now, but I’m working on big things.  I’ve got this vision for the future, and I’m working towards it.”  The closest one I found was the girl saying “Live your life, you may die tomorrow.”

Boldness is crucial to success, no doubt about it.  But if the above youth are reflections, even tiny indicators, of the thought processes of today’s youth, we are in for a scary future.

My unfortunate take on this all is still this: the generation of dreamers is dead.

Today’s youth have become lifeless, lost, and purpose-less to a certain extent.

We no longer strive to live a conversation-worthy life.

We no longer want to work hard for things we love.

And we no longer believe we can realize the thoughts and visions in our head.

But this has to change, because the world was never changed without big dreams and bold action.

So if you are dis-spirited & broken,

If you are feeling hopeless, lost, and without a purpose, remember this:

You are not alone.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Abe October 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Unfortunately, we’ve been brought up in a generation taught not to dream. We’re taught that nothing’s our fault, that it’s always someone else’s responsibility. If one has no responsibility, who is responsible for doing our dreaming for us?

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afheyne October 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Exactly Abe. And it scares me honestly.

But I’m not a person to really go out and proselytize. If I meet someone and have the pleasure of having a real quality discussion, I’ll bring it up. I hope i can just live it though, so people at some point ask how.. and then a friendship is born.

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David Delp April 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

American’s are bread from dreamers, at least the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants. Other cultures don’t value it as much, so I think you have to ask, what makes them happy? Is it following a bold dream? Maybe. Maybe happiness to them is something else.

A lot of young people are just learning what it’s like to be out in the world without parents to support them. The disillusionment that parents are far from perfect is painful. Are any of these people deeply involved in anything? I think that’s a more common thread to a happy life than following a bold dream which takes a certain personality type. That, and one or two people who believe in you.

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Alexander Heyne April 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hey David —

Good points for sure. I think you hit it on the money when you ask if any of these people are deeply involved in anything. The past year or two has quickly taught me that one of the most important things in life (From a meaning/happiness perspective) is to have some kind of mission. Not necessarily a goal or bold dream (like I wrote here), but more of a mission or project you believe in that gives life meaning. Totally with you there.

Gotta find that flow mang!

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David Delp April 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Alex, also, I see dreams all over those statements. Don’t you? People dreaming about a life outside the norms, living for now, finding love and pleasure and people who believe in them. Those are big dreams!

Just sayin’ ;-)

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Alexander Heyne April 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Haha alright, I see people dreaming but not many doing ;)

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sakura July 24, 2013 at 1:46 am

I am a doctor and i am 28 yrs old. Right now, i work as a medical officer in a child health research project n earn about 30,000 a month. n just because im a doctor , people might think i am a very successful person . But I don’t feel like i have achieved anything yet. Every day I have this annoying feeling of restlessness, anxiety as if I’m missing out on something as if I am not living up to my potential. Most of my frens have already completed their masters degree n im still a medical officer. I have been working as a medical officer for the last 4 yrs. It is not that I feel inferior because I haven’t joined my masters’ but because I am not able to decide what do i want to specialize in and as a result i feel stuck. Most of the time, I think I want to become a pediatric surgeon and again at times i think i wanna become a forensics expert. arrghhh… this is so confusing. I think i have a brain of a 3 yr old.. Every1 comes to me with their daily life problems n i seem to have the easiest solution to it but then why can’t i figure out my own problem. Is there anyone who can help me figure it out. I think I really need help from some1else.

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Alexander Heyne July 26, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi sakura,

So in other words you aren’t really quite sure if you want to become a doctor or something otherwise?

Let me ask you this: what made you become a doctor in the first place?

– Alex

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sakura July 26, 2013 at 8:29 pm

yes, i didn’t plan on becoming a doctor. It was my dad’s idea but now i love it.. but i don’t wanna remain a medical officer for the rest of my life. and i can’t decide on which subject to specialize. I am afraid what if i choose the wrong subject and i don’t like it, then i’ll have to do that same work for the rest of my life.. Just the thought of this makes me freeze n instead of preparing for my entrance exams i end up watching movies n stuffs to take my mind away frm it. :(

Blue Crane September 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I’m glad to know that I’m not alone, because it really feels like it sometimes. It feels like everyone around me only thinks of the next homework assignment, the next test, the next day at work. No one questions anything.

But my problem is that I can’t dream, because I don’t love anything. I can’t think of a single thing I like doing enough to do it for the rest of my life. And every dream I can think of only leads to the next question: why bother doing it? Because life feels meaningless to me. I could help other people…but why? What is the point of anyone’s life?

I read a previous article on this site before I hit the jump to this one. I really appreciate all of the work that you do, and your insights. This website has come closer to what I feel than anyone I talk to (who just blow me off and tell me to stop asking questions) or any other website (which tend to be sketchy). Last year, in the midst of an existential crisis, I lost all faith that I used to have in my religion, decided life had no meaning, and resorted to not thinking about it. But my head always comes back to it sometimes, and sometimes I can’t let it go. I apologize for my rambling.

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Grouser October 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I felt lost, powerless, overwhelmed and alone in my 20s.

I know what it’s like.

Thing is, now nearly 40 I feel the same.

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Alexander Heyne October 23, 2013 at 12:12 am

Hi Grouser –

Did you try to change anything inbetween?

– Alex

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Richard November 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

I am a lost 20 something. In fact I’m 24. Although it was nice to hear that I’m not alone. How does that help in the discovery of my passion. Honestly, I don’t know my passion or what my skill set is. I’m lacking ambition and finding it overwhelming that I don’t have the slightest clue on what to do. I read your article on finding passion and have tried using “what color is your parachute”, but I couldn’t define myself. So that is where my troubles lie. I guess how can I even begin to find my passion if I can’t even define myself. I guess this isn’t really a comment and more of a frustration.

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Alexander Heyne December 5, 2013 at 11:51 am

Hi Richard,

Let me ask you this: What job would you absolutely HATE to be stuck in?

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jane99 December 12, 2013 at 5:31 am

Hi.
I’m sonewhat happy to know that I am not entirely alone.
Being in a typical Asian community, everyone does mainstream subjects or decide on mainstream careers. I mean for example, medicine, pharmacy and law, etc etc. And I am not sure of their motives, whether it is to earn money or it is their passion or its because their family asks them to do so. I dont understand how everybody just KNOWS what they want to do!! Sometimes I just wished my parents brainwashed me since young to do a certain career so I would not have to think about it.

For me I feel like I don’t have a particular interest in any area. I have things that I hate (Physics) and things that I like but not a particular burning interest in anyone of them. And when I think of possible careers, I feel like I always see the bad in them. For exaple, I was thinking of Psychology but I would hav to study till Masters(minimum) or PhD just to get a proper job. Another example, Speech Language Pathologist, I feel like I would have to communicate and interact with people who have difficulty in speaking and that it would be boring to do that on a daily basis. what is wrong with me? I have been doing reesearch these few days and I always find something wrong with my choice of careers. I have to pick a university to apply to by the end of this month and I really do not know what to do and I’m 19, close to 20 and lost.

Please help me. Some advice would be nice.

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Alexander Heyne December 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Hi Jane,

The easiest way to figure out what to do is go see what a “day in the life” is like of each of those professions. Go email a local speech pathologist and ask if you can shadow him or her. Go see what it’s like as a PhD for a day. Email them. Call them if they have time. Go on coffee dates. Don’t make any guesses. Go see what the job is really like.

TRust me – you don’t want your parents telling you what to do. I have many of these traditional asian friends that are essentially forced into becoming doctors – most of which end up miserable, or rich and really boring in unfulfilling lives. You think it would make life easier, but it really would only make your decision easier.

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jane99 January 5, 2014 at 7:11 am

Hi Alexander,

Thanks for your advice. Yeah, it’s true that it just makes the ‘decision’ easier. That’s what I’m currently doing. I have applied ‘undecided’ to some universities. But in the mean time, I’m collecting contacts and trying to see if I can shadow them or just talk to them. What do you think about taking a gap year?

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Anonymous January 29, 2014 at 10:11 am

Keep your dreams to yourself if you have found a way out of the rat race. The rats around you will not hesitate to eat you alive if they find out your up to something amazing. Know just enough to speak in their language to go undetected.

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molly December 20, 2014 at 7:28 pm

So ive been really depressed about my life I work 80 hrs in a dead end job I’m 22 I have gone to college. I went to an online college for medical billing and coding and I graduated may 2013 I really tried to get a job but I had to do a yr of volunteer work 40 hrs and I have to take 6 classes after college that are 3 months each in order to get my 6 certifications that are not close to cheap. I couldn’t find a job and in no way could I afford 4, 000 a yr to get my certifications so felt like college is a big waste of time especially when I have student loans knocking on my door that will follow me forever. So now I just focus on what’s going on now and not what I want so I have thought about it..I wanna be a pastry chef I love it though I have been out of practice. I want it but I’m not sure if I can be I mean it’s not exactly in demand. I haven’t really looked into it I just know it’s the happiest I’ve been about anything. I’m just afraid to loose control again like college. I don’t feel I’m ready to go to college again because they are so fucked up. I also thought of being a politician because I’m determined and commanding. I also thought of just pick a stereotype job and just get used it cuz everyone is doing. Please help with some guidance

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Selina Y December 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Hi, I just feel unfulfilled with life. I do what I have to do but not what I want to do. I graduated early because I hated high school and it was something i really wanted to do (temporary goal). After that I felt unfulfilled again so I left home and moved to Virginia. It was fun for a while then I left to Alabama. I just feel so unfulfilled with EVERYTHING. I don’t understand why I feel the way I feel. I dread going back home to go to college because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I have NO idea whats so ever and I don’t feel comfortable choosing a major at this moment that is going to rule what I do in the future. I dread my future how one would dread death. Due to the fact I graduated early my whole family expects great things from me and they expect me to go to college and become someone. what if I don’t ever become someone or just do something with my life just because I don’t know what to do! I feel like I’m walking through life like a zombie just doing what I should do because i am supposed to. I am just so tired of feeling this way its so boring and draining. I feel like my life is going to waste. If you could help me or give me advice I would be so grateful.

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AcientJoshy March 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm

I have a solution for each and everyone of you. Find someone you can love and depend on for the rest of your lives. And I dont mean just anyone. That one person. Maybe you haven’t found em yet.

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james May 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

New age bullshit

Some people have drive, some people don’t

These feel good sites and mantras all seem to amount to the same as pyramid selling schemes and people like Mike Chang the fitness guru…

… they provide lots of talk, lots of video or lots of text, but don’t really tell you anything

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asd September 13, 2015 at 7:16 am

I am 20,a civil engg graduate. I never wanted to opt for this course,but that doesn’t mean I hate this course. But now after completion of my degree I have no idea what to do with my life,like should I start working now or go for higher studies or pursue something not related to civil engg bcoz that was never my first priority while taking up the course. I don’t know what will make me happy..

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mercescee February 7, 2016 at 3:53 am

I’m just generally curious, From where I come from, one’s dreams are held in restraints because one can’t afford to disappoint those who’ve brought them so far. One can’t then be selfish and decide to live life as a street sweeper (no offence to anybody) if so much time and money has been invested in them. So how can you pursue your dreams without breaking others’ ? and are our dreams really ours if they’ve been imposed on us indirectly by the rules of society?

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Alexander Heyne February 9, 2016 at 10:41 am

Hi Mercescee,

It sounds like you’re dealing with familial pressure and expectations – yeah?

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ZeniGv February 12, 2016 at 1:34 pm

My wife and I have been very blessed in our lives. We have also lived thgoruh very tight times ( I. E., blood donations.) We have always felt the love if others. Many times, we picked up the bill for another at a resturant. Other times we paid for another’s groceries. Another time we put together a baby shower for a lady we never met who left an abusive home. Instead of money, we gave a man in the rain a sleeping bag, a coat, and accessories along with a gift card for a meal at Denny’s. When my wife ad I ran into financial issues, we were blessed by people who remained anonymous with a $500 gift card twice. We always asked why. We had a very hard time accepting. Why us? LovePay it forward It will come back when needed

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Cristina February 23, 2016 at 10:37 am

YES YES YES. THANK YOU

I’ve always been a dreamer… “always” meaning up until about, I don’t know 8 years ago as it slowly dwindled to a point where I, now 25 years old and almost 2 years out of college, CANNOT EVEN REMEMBER my passion. Not just, “I don’t know what I want to do” but worse, when asked, “well what do you like”… I genuinely am not even sure what I enjoy doing. Because I’ve been told for so long that “everybody hates their job.” Perhaps, but at age 25, really? Should I be feeling this way? Isn’t that why we go to college in the first place, to dream big?

I don’t have anything really meaningful to say in this comment I just found it refreshing to hear my thoughts verbatim, with regards to dreaming. Sadly, I don’t even know how to do this anymore and sort of feel….. soooo behind. I don’t even know where to start “experimenting” to help me in my path, that’s how lost! I’m very intelligent and think I’d “succeed” almost anywhere, which doesn’t help. But then again, I can’t actually know that. Until I get so far into something that I can’t really jump back out again. Now I’m totally veering off topic so I apologize…… but thanks for your website! I wish I had you as a personal life coach ha because I need some sort of, “adviser” if you will… who gets it. And can help me take a step, any step, forward- currently, I feel like a skydiver who wants to take the leap but just…. can’t! (Not to mention I don’t know what leap to take yet.. or, anymore.)

The key to all this is that, exactly: “”anymore” – because believe it or not, I once had a dream. But that feels like another realm entirely.

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Alexander Heyne February 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Hi Cristina,

Yeah, I totally understand. I have been there – and now, in my late 20s, i’m coming out of it, having found one of the things I want to do forever for the rest of my life.

My advice is pretty simple: just keep plugging along, you’ll get there. Stay hungry, work hard, and just keep going until you find what you want to keep doing every day.

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Alexander Heyne July 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Hi Sakura,

Why not find a way to “try out” the job or profession before you begin taking classes? Go visit professionals in the field of interest, shadow them for a day, see if you would like doing that. That way you can commit once you really know you’d like it.

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sakura July 29, 2013 at 12:41 am

u r right. gr8 idea. :D thanx.. silly me. such an easy solution n i was just breaking my head over nothing. :)

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