Millennials. We grew up in a different generation — a different millennium, even. We can have anything we want any time we want it: Access to friends across the world in mere seconds, an endless supply of movies via Netflix, and real-time updates about the happenings of our favorite celebrities. We live on technology and demand life to be just as lightning-fast.
We’re a privileged bunch, an educated group. We went to college in droves, far more than any other generation before. Then maybe even graduate school. For many of us, we’re the most educated members of our families.
We were supposed to be it — that generation that was going to change the world. We have every advantage. So how’d we end up the 20-somethings living in our parents’ basements, jealously stalking the Facebook feeds of our more impressive peers? How’d we become the generation deemed “lazy,” “self-righteous” and “ungrateful”?
Why have we failed at success?
It’s an interesting word to us — success. It means something very different than it did to our parents. Every kid in the class got a gold star. If you were middle or upper class, nearly everyone you knew went to college. It seemed a given — natural, even — that we’d be successful. We watched 20-something billionaires rise up. We saw Justin Bieber YouTube his way into international stardom. We even watched rich heiresses become overnight celebrities from leaked sex tapes.
Juxtapose that with our reality. The Great Recession knocked the wind out of the economy. Student loan debt is escalating at an alarming speed. Apartment rental prices are continuing to rise. And the few decent-paying jobs left can’t afford us the fabulous lives we’re watching someone else live on Instagram.
We bought the fairy tale. We grew up with more pressure and more advantage than ever before. We watched how easy it looked for the rest of the world. And there’s only one thing to say about that…
Enough, already. Enough.
Enough complaining. We’re the generation that has more opportunities at our fingertips, and yet we victimize ourselves. We moan about the bad economy and our dead-end jobs. We sit on Facebook all day and get jealous of what the rest of the world is doing.
Enough waiting. So many of us hope that one day we’re just going to be given that million-dollar check. We assume that somehow the perfect job is just going to pop up for us. We wait around for permission from somebody else — our parents or our friends or an investor — to create the type of success we know we’re capable of creating.
Enough already. We doubt ourselves. We don’t think we can do it. We don’t think we’re smart enough or old enough or educated enough or whatever’s the latest insecurity du jour. Because, in our hyper-connected world, we see what everyone else is doing. Those people who are more talented or smarter or prettier. And we doubt that we’re good enough already to go out and achieve it.
If we want to create success for ourselves, then we’re going to have to do it on our own terms. There’s no model to follow anymore. There’s no amazing job that you lock into at 22 and stay there until you retire. We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to take the initiative. We’ve got to figure out what success means to us and then go and blow it out of the water.
Sure, conventional opportunities for success have slowed. Sure, there’s more debt, less work, and, well, forget about job security. But our generation has access to unconventional opportunities for success like never before. For the first time ever, anyone, anywhere can create success. People are turning free online blogs into major book deals. Others are translating passionate dreams into fully-fledged companies. With just a laptop and some social media promotion, anything is possible today.
The idea of a job is falling by the wayside. Long-term résumé-building careers are increasingly obsolete. The motivated are picking up side gigs to fund their passions. They’re traveling the world and taking odd jobs along the way. They’re working all day in an office and at night volunteering at a non-profit. They’re freelancing and mish-mashing revenue streams and bartending on the side. Basically, they’re doing things on their own terms.
If you’re unsuccessful, and you weren’t born into debilitating poverty, you only have yourself to blame. There is nobody out there who is making you unsuccessful. There’s nobody out there who is forcing you to stay unemployed or live in your parents’ basement or stick around that dead-end job. You have every tool you need today to create the life you want. And maybe it won’t be as easy as it seems on E!. Maybe you’ll have to put a little more elbow grease into it. More than the generations before us had to. Perhaps that will be our legacy.
But you are ultimately the only person who can create success for yourself. You are ultimately the only one who can define and create it on your own terms.
You’ve just got to decide when you’ve had enough already.
Mike Iamele is author of Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms, a survival guide for millennials who are struggling to create the successful lives they desire.