Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Success Stress

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 21, 2014

Ollie, twenty, just sold his company for many millions of dollar. He is an overnight sensation resulting in insomnia, massive amounts of attention and problems in his relationship. He is happy and confused and deep down, he says, he wants it all to “stop”. “What is the “it”? I ask, not sure what he means, but understanding that he is feeling flooded and I am suspecting that he wishes he could modulate the massive amounts of emails he is receiving. “I sorta want to go back to my old life where I did my thing and no one bothered me,” Ollie says, seeming to appreciate the privacy of our relationship and the ability to confess that although everyone assumes he is ecstatic, in point of fact, he is stressed. “It is hard for people to feel sorry for me right now,” he says, with humor and truth. “I bet your mom gets it,” I say, knowing that his mom expressed to him concern over his meteoric rise. “Yea, but what am I going to do, cry on my mom’s shoulder right now. I am trying to keep a brave face for her, as I dropped out of college and she was really frightened for me. I want her to think that I have arrived, even though I am not sure how happy I am with my new role of managing a lot of both wanted and unwanted attention.” I begin to ponder the change from technological wizard to business person, at the tender age of twenty, with no college education, but a hope to make a product that someone cared about. I know this is a common story these days, as our world is heavily rewarding technology, meaning that technically savvy young people can soar, whereas those without technological skills are often scrambling to get by. This divide has created a youth culture, it seems to me, where there is what I would call the “youth gap,” the divide between those young people with more money than their parents, versus the young people who struggle and often have to move back with their parents. Both groups have emotional struggles, but for different reasons. “It seems to me, that you are forced to switch from nerdy mode to business mode, and that transition is very challenging for you right now.” I say, thinking that Ollie is so young to be thrust into a world of the “bottom line”. “Yes,” Ollie says enthusiastically. “I want to go back to being a nerd.” Oh, the world has changed, I think to myself, and yet the emotional struggles of transition are the same. All transitions are difficult, even those which seem, to many, to be a dream come true.

2 Responses to “Success Stress”

  1. Shelly said

    I understand this blog and Ollie’s feelings and wanting to go back to the “before.” I wonder if Ollie knows that sometimes his mom wishes that she too would want to go back to being that safe, sheltered child, where someone else could make the decisions too? He sure is lucky to be able to make a great living in technology! Who knew? I bet Ollie’s mother is relieved and thrilled that her son is a sensation, and able to have a fantastic profession in something that he is passionate about. It would be wonderful if Ollie and his mom could have a frank discussion about the pressure of fame at such a young age. If not, there is always you.

    • You made me laugh. Yes, Ollie is in a good place, on the one hand, and in a stressful place, on the other. Both are true. Embracing the complexity of success is his challenge. We can all agree that these are “good problems” but they are problems, nevertheless.

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