A Desi MBA’s Quarter Life Crisis

For the purpose of this post, let me state a couple of assumptions first –

  1. Most MBAs in India graduate somewhere in the age band of 23-27, which is somewhat different from US and other developed countries. There is a very small proportion of people in the 27+ age group. 23- would be fewer.
  2. Let’s assume that all these jokers would work between 30-40 years after their MBA. Some stars would retire in the carribean much earlier, maybe. But only some. Most would continue to stay close to work.

And hence, the quarter life crisis I am talking about hits you around 8-10 years after your MBA. And in age terms, its closer to 30, but not very close to 40.

So, what are the signs of this quarter life crisis?

  • You are settled.
  • You are somewhat successful. You are not the CEO of a fortune 500 company. But you are/close to becoming a Partner in a consulting firm, BU head in a reasonable sized business, 200-500-100 people span of control depending on the industry/ function, healthy P&L of a few hundred crores, managing an account generating in excess of 5-10 million dollars every year for the firm, etc. In short, you have managed it well so far.
  • You are somewhat known as well. So, within your industry circles, some people have started knowing you and valuing your opinion or judgement. Some of you may even be in the Top 30 by 30 or Future CEO of India kind of futuristic categories
  • You are the equivalent of upper middle class. You are not necessarily a part of the middle management, but in more cases than not, you are not executive leadership as well. And if you are a part of the Executive leadership, you are the lower echelon guy. You have your days when you feel really important. And you have your days when you feel like you’re that tiny little thing in that big bowl of salad that has been chewed and spat away.

 

And one fine morning, shit hits the fan. There is four of you sitting in a room. And a discussion happens. And it could be the most profound discussion for an outsider. However, for you, its an annual, and then quarterly, and then monthly, gradually going on to becoming a daily profoundness that engulfs your life. The core question is – “what the hell are you doing with your life?”. Have you been asked the question? If yes, then you’re a part of the QLC gang. The QLC is about choices – there are two paths ahead of you. One of unsettlement, risks and possibilities and another of stability and boredom. At least that’s how people portray it. One which has some risks, and the other has such predictability that makes a masala bollywood movie seem like a classic murder mystery in comparison.

But I think QLC is when you doubt if what you’re doing is really worth your time and energy. It’s about the allocation of scarce resource against endless possibilities, under the broader construct of “little knowledge is dangerous”.

After going through several such QLC discussions, as some of you may remember, I decided to throw in my towel. For the time being. I said – unsettle. Break the rhythm. And see what comes out of it. As someone said – you need really giant cojones to do this. But I think you need one of two things – a moment of extreme clarity or a moment of extreme irrationality. Whichever it might have been, but I did. And since then, my profound discussions have changed. I have had numerous conversations with people who are on the other side of the line, are looking at the line intently, and debating furiously with themselves. In a very Tyler Durden way. It’s violent, yes. What’s surprising though is the common theme – my generation of MBAs is going through an MBA’s quarter-life crisis. Some nod their head and go back to boredom. Some keep debating. Some have rationalized. Some have actualized. Some have evaluated. Many have forgotten. And few are lucky. To be happy where they are. And a miniscular proportion have found a life so blissful that everything else is secondary. And some are on the precipice of making that leap. I am wishing them and myself some luck. May the crisis be over soon 😉

“Why do we fall Master Wayne? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” – Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins.

I wish that was one thing they taught you in school or college – the ability to take risks and fail. In fact, that’s one thing that they most definitely ask you not to do in our education system. Otherwise, someone would have encouraged the study of history along with mathematics in  XIth grade, even if the ultimate aim was to be an engineer!

Side note: I have been told that the QLC timelines are getting compressed. Since a lot of the new-gen folks want to retire sooner, the going in hypotheses is – everyone who MBAed after 2002 is going through a QLC. And B.Techs too.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

6 Responses to A Desi MBA’s Quarter Life Crisis

  1. welcome to the unsettled life 🙂 its not as much a crisis as reconciling beliefs with reality.

  2. Anonymous says:

    By Gaurav Arora

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well said! I keep telling my friends/colleagues….a large part of this QLC creeps in with our inability to be ‘happy’ with the success we all have made of our lives/careers….we prefer making ourselves miserable by constant comparisons with the ‘better ofs’ in the garb of ‘being ambitious’….

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