The Two Biggest Problems of My Generation
Each generation faces its challenges. My great-grandparents went through WWII.
My grandparents survived in USSR and went through a significant personal transformation once the regime collapsed in the 1990s. They had to re-learn how to make money, work, and live.
In turn, my parents had struggles of their own: the Internet came along, the global markets appeared, they had to figure out how to build a life in this new world of technology.
If you analyze what the previous generations had to deal with, you’ll see that most of these struggles were external — local wars, one cold war, several economic crises, societal transformations, and so on. They were caused by governments, markets, societal trends, and were dealt with on a collective level.
But when I look at my generation (millennials) — and not just in my home country, but globally — I see that we’re the first people to have a different class of challenges.
They are internal struggles: mental, psychological, emotional.
We’re a generation born into a world of abundance, social media, internet commerce, cheap gadgets, freedom of speech, Google, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and very (very) high-quality porn.
And this technological innovation created a severe problem.
It made us fucked up.
What’s Wrong With Millenials
In a viral moment on Impact Theory, the bestselling author and international coach Simon Sinek said,
“Millenials are accused of being entitled and narcissistic. Impatient. Self-interested. Unfocused. Lazy. … So leaders are asking them, what do you want? And millennials say they want purpose, make an impact (whatever that means), and free food and bean bags. Somebody articulates some sort of purpose; there’s free food, bean bags — yet, the millennials are still not happy. Why?”
Sinek then goes on to break this problem of constant millennial dissatisfaction into four categories:
I will not reiterate the ideas that Simon Sinek described in that video (instead, I will kindly ask you to watch it after reading this article — it’s amazing).
I’ll just say that we’re not to blame.
“Participation medals” and other factors are what influenced us and made us who we are today. (Along with poor parenting, too much technology, impatience, instant gratification, and a poor environment.)
However, obsessing over these “factors” is ironically just another symptom of the problem: our immaturity as a generation and a natural inclination to blame everyone else for our problems.
We want to have “passion” and “purpose,” but we want somebody else to tell us how to do it (hence all the self-help genre) — and, ideally, do the work for us too.
We want to be successful and unforgettable — and have better Instagram pics than Kim.
We want to be “the best version of ourselves,” but we can’t even work in one place long enough to show the results.
But I am going to be blunt here because somebody has to.
If we want to make positive changes — it’s time to grow the fuck up.
It’s time to take responsibility for our actions, have some perspective, and stop killing ourselves with useless worry and anxiety.
And the best place to start is by solving the two biggest problems of our generation: entitlement and impatience.
Ask any millennial about their career goals, and they’ll tell you a version of, “My goal is to be the best version of myself, become a millionaire by 35, give TED talks, write books, leave a legacy and make the world a better place.”
Never in the history of humanity was there ever a time when everybody wanted to be special. Never!
First of all, it doesn’t even make sense. If everybody is special — then nobody is. (We can’t all be millionaires, right?)
Second, the real problem is not ambition — that’s a good thing.
The real problem is that we assume that we’ll become successful one way or the other.
As my father always jokes, “Your generation forgot that the Declaration of Independence said ‘right for the pursuit of happiness’ not just ‘happiness.’”
We forget that the only place where “success” comes before “work” is in the dictionary.
And this creates micro problems underneath.
Forget about the fact that this creates a toxic world of egomaniacs. Think about how hard it is to live this way!
Too many expectations cause us to constantly seek approval from peers, and a range of mental problems from depression or anxiety to narcissism. We waste our best decade — that is, our twenties — on the pursuit of money for its own sake.
And why? Because Gary said, “Hustle!” and we listened.
But what few people understand is that Gary didn’t say “hustle!” because he wants to turn the world into a brutal dog-eat-dog competition where everybody sells shit on garage sales. No.
He couldn’t care less about what you do.
He says “hustle” when millennials call him crying that they’re not yet successful.
Several decades ago, 22-year-olds wasted time, traveled across the country, took boys and girls on dates, watched movies all night, played soccer, kissed, danced, laughed, cried.
“I am stuck; I am in a rut. I am not yet successful. I am not yet a millionaire.”
We’re fucking insane.
Everything in our world has been commoditized. Think about it.
Want to get laid? Swipe right.
Porn? You got it.
Want to watch or listen to anything the world has ever produced? Only $7.99 per month!
Want to open a magic box and receive anything you like? Amazon Prime will deliver it right to your door in 24 hours. (And if you apply for their credit program, it won’t even cost you a dime! Satisfaction guaranteed. Terms apply.)
Everything — from entertainment to sex to information to physical products — has been commoditized, accelerated, and made cheap (or free)…
…everything, except for two things:
- Deep, meaningful relationships.
- Career satisfaction.
These things still take time.
And they always will, even in the “brave new world” that we’re living in today.
We might even know this rationally.
What we forget is that we have one brain.
If we spend 80% of our time accelerating it through social media feeds, porn, UberEats, Amazon Prime, and so on — more than that: if we were brought up with this technology — it’s virtually impossible to stay long-term focused the other 20% of the time.
We use the same brain to build our businesses or relationships and binge-watch a whole season of Scrubs.
Cross this with entitlement, and you get a scary picture: a twenty-something who assumes they’ll be a Hollywood star in a year does nothing about it yet keeps on complaining.
But the future will always belong to those who can win the marshmallow contest. Now, more than ever.
Let’s talk about how we can do that.
‘Just Stop It’
One day, Seth Godin woke up, brushed his teeth, and noticed a weird sound coming from his jaw. He made an appointment to visit the doctor that same day.
“What’s bothering you?” the doc asked.
“There’s this weird sound coming from my jaw whenever I do this,” said Seth, moving his jaw left and right.
The doc looked at Seth suspiciously and said, “I see. How about this: just don’t do it.”
Seth never had a problem with his jaw again.
As a generation, we’re doing something similar: we consume content and services that makes us entitled and impatient — and then we complain. The solution is straightforward: just stop it. Don’t do it.
As Matthew McConaughey said in his famous commencement speech, “If something is disturbing you, just don’t go there!”
The only way to stop toxic behavior is to go the other direction.
As they say, “simplicity is true wisdom.”
- Change your attitude. You don’t need to be remarkable. Being ordinary is just fine.
- Simplify your life. Get rid of so many commitments. Close the laptop at 6–7 PM. Of course, it’s exciting to be a world-beater and top-achiever, but perhaps an even better achievement is to just be sane and kind.
- Focus on the small things. Unlike most things in our hectic life, the true valuables — career and relationship satisfaction — take time. They evolve by a compounding of small things: small acts of kindness, one good article, one good insight, one compliment, so on. Lower your zoom. As the Alcoholics Anonymous groups say, “We’re taking it one day at a time.”
- Rewire your brain. Focus on the long-term in everything. Remember: you have one mind. Listen to Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked at Facebook now and feels guilty about making people so addicted to it. Quit social media, porn, fast food, quit anything fast — focus on the slow and hard. Your brain needs that delayed gratification as much as your muscles need exercise.
- Work deep. Not shallow. 3–4 hours of deep, concentrated work per day is all you need to become successful. It’s so rare, hence the reward that comes with it. The future belongs to those who can manage their attention as well as time.
- Want a better life? Build one. But don’t hustle. People who hustle are impatient and want to compress their whole life into a decade. (I don’t know why, perhaps, they are afraid of dying early.) Learn to enjoy the daily grind — because that’s all there is. Remember: the satisfaction of a reward someday in the future is an illusion created by your brain to keep you going today.
Discounting a few blips here and there, most of us can agree that the world we’re living in is a safe and stable world.
(I can already hear someone liberal scream, “You think this world is safe?!?!?! What about XYZ and Donald Trump??!!” — to which I can only reply that you should be grateful you’re not living in the Soviet Russia of the 1930s.)
There are no global wars. And most of the problems of the western world are the same as that of spoiled children: “Not enough fun, can’t find my purpose, not enough cream in my $5-coffee from Starbucks.”
Let’s realize the problems the world created for ourselves — but let’s not blame ourselves too much. Let’s be grateful for what we’ve got.
Only from this point is there any hope for improvement.