“I’m anxious about what’s next…”

“I don’t know what to do after this….”

To my dear confused friend, I suspect you might have a prevalent form of mental disorder.

It’s coded as “A-YR21-E21” or “approaching 21 years old in the early twenty-first century”.

Lame joke attempts aside. I am graduating as a student of art in just 2 months; oddly, I feel pretty calm. I’ve been through the same period of anxiousness where the future seemed uncertain and worried as I figure the next perfect move. I’ve heard the same worries during the conversation among friends recently, as we all graduate very soon.

Recently, I read a well written HBR article on millennials and workaholism. My current belief regarding the reason for such a phenomenon lies within the fact that information is incredibly easily accessible. We’ve never had such great and open access to every piece of data on the planet.

I’m implying the information such as knowledge (skills, courses, encyclopaedia, good news, bad news), stories (business, personal, success/failure stories, profiles, histories), ideas (old, new, mainstream, niche, disruptive, life-changing) and many more I’m sure you can think of.

It seems that we might be quite unlucky to live in a time where so many success stories, role models, grand ideas are served to us through the internet, machines, automation, smartphones, algorithms, etc. Consequently, we assume that great new things are popping up at an exponential rate. Our urge to keep up creates an immense level of pressure, causing anxiousness and uncertainties.

“Do you think in terms of volume, the year-to-year new information has truly increased exponentially?”

During a Theory of Knowledge class back in high school, I remember a lesson regarding the flaw in history records. If we were to plot the number of events happened per year, meaning all sorts of event with evidence (book, journal, diary, newspaper, word-of-mouth, scripts, wall painting, oil painting, sculpture, blog posts, tv recording, etc.), the chart would be a perfect exponential curve, wouldn’t it? However, do you think in the whole year of 1008, only these events happened? Probably not. Regarding the assumption of an exponential increase of events throughout history, the flaw lies within the lack or losses of historical record, which is the only means of evidence.

“Things happened. They just weren’t preserved well enough for us to know of it in the modern days”. Pictures weren’t drawn enough on the cave walls. Books did not survive the fire, word-of-mouth stories lost as the people who carry them pass away.

Indeed, we also can’t deny that new information has never increased. It certainly has and will continue to do so. Spikes of innovation and invention brought by the Industrial Revolution, Internet Boom, etc., are non-debatable.

Therefore, the confusions that many of us young ones face can only be blamed upon the lack of preparation to meet this sudden great whelm of information flooding and rushing against us.

You’ve heard another cliche saying “never enough money”. Similarly, we will never have enough knowledge. A new trend comes up, we want to do about it. New technology is invented, we want to talk about it. Ultimately, curiosity is deeply enrooted in our human nature. Yet, such a skill may still malfunction under a great wealth of input beyond what it can handle. Imagine setting up hundreds of kilograms of food and snack around a starving caged dog. Once it’s let out, it would take its time chewing one snack, would it? So instead, it would run around crazily devouring a bit of sausage and a bit of banana cake, as if it is a rabid dog.

Demotivation arises from disbelief in certain achievements. If I want to feel demotivated, I’d ogle over Elon Musk’s current possession. Weird, isn’t it? Why would I be demotivated when he a role model of mine. The problem lies in the dream of “wishing to be him “. The probability is inevitable that I will not become as great as he is. I didn’t finish reading all the library’s book back in primary school, and it’s too late to change that. Neither did I create a computer game with self learn coding skills when I was 10. I cannot roll time back.

“It’s too late. I’m already behind.”

“It’s too late. I should’ve done that.”

Now, all I have left is empty regrets infusing me with an unwanted sense of demotivation.

Without Elon Musk, I’d still have thousands more similar people that I can look up to on the World Wide Web. It is inescapable, successful people are out there. Yet, the temptation to become them oddly leads to the opposite of motivation.

I found it helpful to be realistic and start setting tasks for myself and make sure I push myself to complete them. Go through the set task quickly and elevate their level of difficulty one after another. Set realistic tasks or goals that are within your next of reach.

“What helped?”

Create value in any form. Write, sketch, talk, compose. Post a thought, share a goal. Write to a friend, talk about ideas. Create a mock-up website, curate a second Instagram portfolio.

I’ll end this with a metaphor, the process of starting a campfire. Every good campfire starts with good tinder. Tinder catches fire quickly but burns fast. Tinder burns fast, so you’ll need something with more substance to keep your flame going. You can’t move directly to big logs. You’ll just smother your little flame. That’s where kindling comes in. Finally, it is fuelwood that keeps your fire hot and burning. If you go too big, it will take a long time for the wood to catch fire. Start small, consistently increase the size, and you’ll eventually get to a spectacular grand fire.