Have you ever gotten just what you wanted only to realize it was absolutely wrong for you? When something seemingly perfect turns out to be anything but, it can be confusing and disheartening. But disappointment doesn’t have to be the end of the story. When daring millennial leader, Adam Poswolsky, found himself in a situation like this he chose not to settle for “perfect” and sought something meaningful instead.
At 28 years old, Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky’s career seemed to be right on track. Working in D.C. as a program specialist for the Peace Corps, his job appeared ideal. He was making great money, working for an organization doing important work and he had an impressive answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” The only problem was, he was miserable. He woke up each morning in intense pain. The pain developed into shingles and he began to worry if he couldn’t be happy working for the Peace Corps, where could he be happy?
Poswolsky was knee deep in a quarter-life crisis. But rather than stay there, he took a leap.
In his new book The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, he distinguishes between mediocre work (a job that pays the bills) and meaningful work stating, “Meaningful work provides personal meaning, reflecting who you are and what your interests are, allows you to share your gifts to help others, and is financially viable given your desired lifestyle.” Meaningful work pays the bills and lights you up inside. It pushes you to be the best version of yourself and gives you freedom to grow. But be warned, what is meaningful to you now might be very different from what is meaningful to you in ten years. Because of this, Poswolsky believes the traditional idea of a career ladder is incredibly limiting for most people.
When we spoke he explained, “For a variety of reasons (a career ladder mindset) is no longer relevant, the major reason being the current state of the economy and the job market. Those clear paths are just no longer available to folks.” But the stressed job market isn’t the only reason a career ladder mindset doesn’t work. When we consider how quickly technology is re-shaping the job market it isn’t a stretch to believe that in 10 years there will be jobs that we can’t even envision today. Poswolsky admits there are clear exceptions; medicine and law for instance require very specialized training and a singular path. But on the whole, he believes the current job market tends to reward those who experiment and try different things to broaden their skill set. He argues that adopting a career ladder mindset suggests that we must choose one thing, and for so many that just isn’t the case.
Instead he suggests that we’re much better served with a breakthrough career mindset. Using the imagery of career strategist Nathaniel Koloc, Poswolsky proposes thinking of a career path as a series of lily pads. Forget about up and down or backward and forward. Consider each leap a new opportunity to find purpose and develop new skills. Poswolsky writes, “Motivated and purpose-driven people make frequent career jumps based on their changing interests and desires in order to maximize their impact.” Each leap prepares you for the next, often in unexpected ways. He believes that despite the shingles, the Peace Corps might have been the most meaningful job he’s ever had. His time there pushed him closer to realizing who he is and what he wants.
Those of us fortunate enough to decide what we do should think deeply about what we care about, how we want to use the time we have, and how we can each leave this world a little better than we found it.
Poswolsky’s latest leap landed him in the Bay Area where he wrote and is now promoting The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. He is also serving as the director of The Bold Academy. Certainly leaving the security of what some would consider the perfect job had to be a scary decision. But he felt confident that it was the right one for him. He writes, “I knew it was a right fit for me because I could share my gifts to inspire others and show up every day as my positive, creative self.” Now he is prioritizing a work-life balance while relishing the chance to support young entrepreneurs.
Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky
to Give You Momentum
Life is more than “What you Do”
Accept that there probably isn’t only One Answer & Explore Multiple Answers
Be okay with being a Beginner
He’s also making time to write for a number of notable publications including Forbes, Huffington Post and Thought Catalog. When asked what he’s learned about the freelance world he offered, “Don’t wait for someone to certify you as a ‘real writer.’ If you’re writing, you’re a writer. You’re a writer if you’re pitching people. You’re as good as your last piece and you’re as good as what you’re pitching. To be bold and take risks is huge.”
There is no question that Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky is bold. His daring leap in search of meaningful work not only improved his own quality of life, it provided material for The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. His book is an entertaining read but more importantly it’s a little dangerous. Watch out, it might equip and inspire you to make a daring leap of your own.
Join the Conversation
Daring Millennial Leader: Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky
Inspiring! Thank you for sharing Molly and Jon!
Adam, Thanks so much for spending the time with us. Your story is an important one, and Molly captured it well.
I wish I had your book when I was 20-something. Our quarter-life is an important milestone. It is a milestone in which we can make thoughtful changes in what we are doing. We place too much emphasis on our half-life transitions and need to spend more time focus on our quarter-life.
In reading through the above story, the thing that really sticks with me is to ditch the career ladder mindset. Just as fixed mindsets are dangerous, career ladder ones can be too. If all we focus on is how to move up, we miss where the ladder is leading us. We need to focus on purpose-filled direction rather than just up.
Grateful for your work and insights. Thank you! Jon
Awesome. We should all have a quarter life crisis and be bold enough to leap. Why wait till mid-life to create a life of meaning? Taking a step back from the career ladder can be exceptionally freeing – especially for someone willing to do the inner work and move forward… or sideways… or some other way that adds depth and meaning. Thanks for profiling Adam and his book!
Thanks Alli! Exactly, you can move in any direction as long as it reflects your purpose…