I Feel Like A Failure

I'm 40. When I was growing up, I was the whiz kid in school, all A's, very advanced in math. I went to Harvard, then to another Harvard grad school. I always had great grades and I got an awesome job out of grad school - something that many coveted. I worked, worked, worked all the time.

I wanted to be rich. I still want to be rich. Not just well-off in the comfortable 5-bedroom-house-nice-car-and-private-school-for-kids kind of way, but in the $100 million net worth kind of way.

So I jumped from the very prestigious track I was on. Then I found myself stuck in middle management, unable to move up because of politics. So I switched careers and clawed my way close to the top ... only to get laid off last year when the economy tanked.

Now I look at so many of my peers who are doing so well -- several entrepreneurs, at least 3 who run their own hedge funds, partners at top-notch i-banks/law-firms/consulting-firms, published authors, White House appointees, CNN appearances, etc. This, after all, is the HARVARD alumni network, not State U. I'm sorry to sound snobbish, but it's a fact - Harvard alumni do better on average, and many have fantastically successful careers (like the guy in the white house currently).

And where am I? 40 years old and getting unemployment benefits.

I am so ashamed - I don't want to go to any class reunions. I feel as if the universe is mocking me - I've worked so hard all my life and I seem to be getting further and further behind my peers.

I'm now trying to start a business which I think may take me to where I want to go - but it's been a long struggle and I'm not sure it will succeed. If it doesn't, I seriously don't know what to do.

Please don't get me wrong - I'm not hurting; I have some net worth; I can probably get a six-figure job without too much effort. I'm married and I have a healthy happy kid. My wife's a doctor and we have nannies to do child care so I can focus on my business. So I know my situation does not cry out like so many others, and I know at one level that I'm being a total crybaby for whining like this.

But that's not what I want. It's not what I studied and worked so hard for. It's not the reason I've kept a running list of business ideas and why I've started at least 5 different ventures. It's not the reason I've sacrificed my vacations and spent virtually every waking moment of my life working.


raymeo raymeo
36-40, M
17 Responses Dec 27, 2009

Are you kidding? Look at all of the advantages you've been given, e.g., the ability to attend Harvard. I got into the University of Penn, but I couldn't afford to go. I grew up in an abusive, alcoholic family. I practically raised my four younger siblings: I did not have a childhood. Get a grip…you are so much more fortunate than most. I hope this doesn't sound rude, but I feel you need a wake-up call.

I understand but please don't feel sorrow.
God made this universe and made you also with some great reason. I strongly believe that He also controlling every moment of our life with His logical wish.
Please don't feel sorrow and keep on moving till the last breath , on the base of unconditional faith on almighty, every thing is very very right in His creature.

I can completely relate - even this is an older post.

Some of these people on here really are condescending, smug butt holes. I am so sorry that you are feeling like this. I want to become a teacher at now age 29 almost and I will be 30 going on 31 when the course ends. that, to me , is old. I am not happy about it at all. Wish I had done it all at 24 or some ridiculously young age!! But I made alot of mistakes in my 20s and in my teens I was too busy being a kid. Growing up is hard. Getting old is not for sissies, and I am dreading thirty. However, we are alive!!! :) Good luck in your life I hope you will one day finally get what you want.

I understand where you are coming from. Some people are blessed, and at the same time cursed with being overacheivers. I took a different path than you, while I didn't go to Harvard, I went to USC and took a "leave of absence" to start my own business. Now at 30 I have a succesful import/export business but long for a distinguished pedigree. The parents of all my son's friends are surgeons, PhD professors and architects. My friends from college have graduated and went to law school, med school and here I am with no degree. I feel left in the dust, when many people would love my life. I have no boss, travel all the time and have the freedom to do what I want, when I want-but I am miserable. I think it all boils down to the grass being greener on the other side. I'd love to tell you to be thankful for what you have accomplished, but I know it's not that easy. I wish you the best. One wonderful thing is that your children are only little once, and not working affords you the time to really spend quality time with them, because once the time passes you can never get it back. The one complaint from busy professionals is that they miss out on these moments.


What's kind of humorous in a condescending way is how you have lived for everyone else and not yourself. You press upon all of us the laundry list of your sacrifices and accomplishments yet take no joy in them.. because every movement and decision that you have made has been to say to no one who matters at all "look at me, look how good i am" when the truth is, you are quite insecure. In fact, I would wager that you are in fact so insecure, you doubt your own accolades and thus your reality is playing out before your eyes. You are not successful, because deep down you don't view yourself as successful.

You cover it up with a great story about your awesome harvard degree, your awesome ability to make a measly six figure income, but deep down... you must feel like quite a big fraud. You worked tooth and nail for what....? I know millionaires who graduated with a poli-sci degree from state university.

The difference between them and you? You feel the need to constantly prove to yourself and everyone else you are better than them, and they just did.
Like a wise man named Jay Z (worth over 100 million) once said "far from a harvard student, just had the balls to do it"..
I wonder if you can even find you balls at this point. Good luck man with everything but you need to grow up by your age.

To feel like a failure is a common feeling if one had an idea of where one wanted to be and how one wanted life to be. It is very hard to accept where one IS. So where ever on is on the spectrum of 'success' if one does not feel one is where one should be depression and shame can be common response. But it is part of life, to accept change. to let go of the 'idea' of what life is and deal with what it really is. You are 40 . a young man. and people can start anything they want whenever they want. It is not a race. this illusion is so hard to drop but it is just an illusion. be where you are. youve done very well. goodluck.

You are a failure. Not because you haven`t become super rich & so on but because you covet these things and are comsumed with megalomania, pride and selfishness. This god forsaken capitalist society has instilled such a twisted mindset in so many people about what makes a successful human being. I`ve just turned 40 & if i told you my life story you wouldn`t feel nearly as bad about yourself.

Your a ******* crybaby......<br />
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I could probably get a six-figure job if I HAD to.<br />
**** YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<br />
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99% of the world would like to be in your shoes.<br />
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Once again.<br />
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**** YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You must have a ******* vagina you self entitled *****.

Get a grip, you selfish dumbass! So many people have worked harder than you, and are left with nothing at all due to natural disasters, tanked economy, severe illness, etc. Why are you so selfish and ungrateful?

you are probably disillusioned, we have all been there...when life does not go according to "plan", like it never does :) <br />
i have since stopped regreting and stopped denying, because life is what it is -right now, it is all we have and all we need at this moment.

I am 52, mother of four, one who is a special needs child, been married for 30 years, and have been a professional for 30 years as well. I am from a wealthy, accomplished family and know what you mean and have felt what you feel. I have lived in a shadow that is so big I feel like I am being swallowed up by it, and it's useless to try to stop it. . Like so many of us , I am a person who has experienced many challenges, disappointments, set-backs and embarrassments along the way. Please hear me, if you will. There IS a way to be a victor over this. Life is precious and you need to learn how to live it WELL. Not succeed well, but live well. Happiness is NOT found in achievements, although they may be byproducts of how you are living and offer you moments of pride and elation, but it WILL NOT produce true, permanent peace and happiness in your life. It wounldn't get the monkey off your back. . You have to do these following steps for a while before the feelings follow . Number one, find a way to reach out and serve others. Serve honorable people who are really in total need -- refugees without even enough food in the houseto stay full is a great place to start.. If you live in a city, it wouldn't be hard to find them. Look around until you see a niche and then do it at LEAST twice a week. The joy from this is immeasurable. The spiritual value of it is incredible, for you more than for those you help. Number two, get a job as quickly as possible. Just work at something you feel uses your GIFTS in ways you find meaningful. Pay is not important, prestige is not important, using your mind, heart, and body in a meaningful way is what's important. Number three, spend at least thirty minutes a day sitting down and talking to your child, if he or she is still at home. Not doing anything but talking. Number four, and finally, forget about the class reunion right now if you it will serve to depress and upset you. It's not worth it. JUST SKIP IT. If there is a fellow classmate you hate to miss BECAUSE you care for that person, find a way to reach out to them and visit one on one. The rest of it is not worth it right now, but plan to go the next time you can. Work these suggestions and they will bring you a clarity, peace, joy. Blessings to you. .

The clarity on achievement and true peace is spot on. Consumerism has taken away the power and joy of simple living

The clarity on achievement and true peace is spot on. Consumerism has taken away the power and joy of simple living

I can completely relate also. I don't have the prestigious degrees that you do, but I did get a four year degree that I don't even use now. I feel like just about every thing that I have done I've failed at. But, I wanted you to know that even if life is not what we planned, there is still a plan. Life can take a different track, but God is still in control, and only when you seek His will are you going to truly happy. He promises good to those who love Him. He made sure that through His Son we'd be secure for all eternity, so He has a good plan for us even beyond this life. Life, and the things that we pursue here are only temporary. God's affirmation and rewards are the only thing that is eternal. He loves you. He made you who you are. You are perfectly, fearfully, and wonderfully made. You are His very own image. He has you where you are right now according to a bigger plan. Even if you never use your degrees, you were there at that time in your life for a reason. Take hope, and seek Him. He's the only One/thing that can fulfill what we so desperately long for and desire. May He comfort you and give you strength

All I gotta say is that SUCKS! I mean Harvard? All of that and now what? Unemployment? <br />
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You ever hear the saying "A loser is a loser?" Just face facts, move on... Not to be rude, some people just need that mental slap.<br />
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Thank the Lord your wife is a Dr. (Or soon to be X-wife!)<br />
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Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, never wanted what you wanted and look where they are. Sorry pal..

Thank you all for your comments.<br />
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Yes, yes, yes, I completely understand what you all are saying - intellectually. Trust me, I've had years of therapy to address this. But understanding intellectually how to fr<x>ame the issue does not mean I can simply detach my sense of self-worth from external validation (ie, money as the measure). I am just telling you how I feel. Sad, but true - knowing the keys to happiness doesn't mean you can become happy.<br />
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I don't know how much is biological vs nurturing. My mother raised me to strive for all A's and had a pretty utilitarian view of others; she glorified wealth and fame and had a haughty and dismissive attitude towards most people.<br />
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I'm not sure I can ever break my addiction to validation, but I plan to raise my child to be happy and confident in himself. I will encourage him to pursue his interests and try to instill an ethic of hard work, but rooted, always, in a bedrock of self-acceptance and self-validation. I hope to break the cycle with him.

I think you responded really well to some of the thoughtless and rude things some people have replied to you. I'm glad you've sought out help and are planning to make things better for your child. I would just say, don't blame it all on your childhood, even though it does play a major part in your attitude now. I'm sure your mother didn't know she would affect you in this way. But the fact that you are bringing up your child differently is excellent.

Raymeo,<br />
Have you ever really dug deeply into this desire you have to be rich. What could you buy if you were really rich that you don’t have already? What do you really want? Is it Self love, better health, better sex, more creativity or just being a more loving person? You’re wanting to be rich sounds like an obsession. One that makes you unhappy. You do want to be happy don’t you? I always wanted to have a bigger penis but I haven’t let that get in the way of my love of sex and being a lover. Some days I wake up and feel like **** emotionally and think I am worthless. These are just thoughts. They have nothing to do with reality. Life is about love and adventure, relationships with others. Your thoughts about wealth jobs and 6 figures are making you very unhappy. Money is an exchange for what you contribute. Focusing on the money and not what you contribute is getting things backwards. There has to be something that you love doing and get satisfaction in doing it.<br />
I have never wanted to be rich but I can remember a time when I was working as an engineering manager in medical product development and felt pretty lost. I started making wheel thrown pottery and selling it . A person working for me asked me “ Why are you doing this when you have a masters in engineering?” My answer was that it felt good when I sold a piece of my pottery and I could see that the person buying it was pleased. I am an engineer but I am also a potter. I have made pottery for most of my life. It’s funny but people never ask me about my inventions but rather they ask me about my pottery. <br />
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There are people in jail or on a drug binge at your age, they did not expect to be there either. Our lived are all planned for us, you are there because you are ment to be there.What ever step you take next is what you are suppose to do. Be happy where you are. <br />
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Your purpose in life is to help others, great kids and a wonderful wife who is a doctor.<br />
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Well done