I just read this great article on Gen Y and their delusions of grandeur in regards to life and job prospects. Read it if you get a chance, really good stuff here.
“Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better —
A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn.
… Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.” He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.”
I’m Gen X, so my parents were in the earlier part of the Baby Boomers. They provided, did ok but not great for themselves, and instilled values such as hard work and living debt free into me and my brothers. We never had any sense of entitlement and privileged and I was self-sufficient both financially and socially almost immediately after high-school. I was part of the generation that still reveled in the satisfaction of a job well done and before things got too touchy feely in schools. We got to hurt ourselves on the playground, play “smear the queer”, rode in the” suicide” seat (that rear-facing seat in wagons) and without seat belts, and laughed at the kid who couldn’t do pullups. Gen Y parents started the wave of everyone’s a winner and the political correct bullshit that is so rampant today.
My interactions with Gen Y have been a few newer hires in our STEM field, people from our gym, and people in various classes and activities we partake in. My experiences have been mixed. The weeding out process of STEM seem to limit the level of bullshit in anyone who makes it through, and I haven’t seen that much entitlement or ‘rules don’t apply to me’ attitude there. In the Crossfit gym we go to, people generally are working to get better, but I see much more weakness in mental fortitude than strength. A lot of narcissism when things look good and a lot of excuses when things get hard or they encounter adversity. Meanwhile, those that are older tend to have more mental perseverance to overcome the pain zone and don’t make as many excuses when things suck ass.
Two of the bullets at the bottom of the article are ones that I am trying to instill in my own kids in appropriate manner and doses:
- Stop thinking you’re “special”
- Don’t worry about other people
This guy gets it:
So does this guy:
Now some people may disagree, but I’d like them to learn early on that their value as person is not some ingrained thing, and that hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity is worth more than natural talent and smarts. We don’t praise good test scores or whatever with “you’re so smart” but instead with “it must feel good to accomplish that A grade after you worked so hard”. We enroll them in sports where you know where you stand (swimming – you can’t ignore a stop-watch in a meet) instead of ones where they’ve stopped keeping score. On the second point, both kids (as is their nature) compare themselves and what they have with other people. “Well Birdsnest got to have two pieces of candy and I only got one” is what we hear nearly every day. LoudBoy (6 years old) is especially bad about concerning himself with other people’s business. We are really trying to get him to focus more on being satisfied with what he has. When the reality of adulthood and even college set in, this more pragmatic approach will likely contribute to expectations matching reality to a much higher degree, leading to less disappointment than when you realize you aren’t a special snowflake.
The one thing that didn’t get mentioned in the article is one that Captain Capitalism harps on a lot – actually going to post secondary education with the express purpose of learning a vocation. Not to study sociology or women’s studies or major in English, but to actually obtain knowledge that will lead to gainful employment. The “you can be anything you want” and “follow your dreams” speeches parents give their kids is doing them a disservice for their future. While I don’t think all 18 year old kids know what they want to do, going to school with the understanding that the groundwork you lay now is what leads to the life you’ll build. If the groundwork is science and math (hard) you’ll likely have a solid foundation for that structure you’re raising. If it’s gender studies, sociology and poetry, your foundation is going to be soft and the structure you’ll eventually raise from that will be tenuous.
Our kids are way too young to worry about this yet, but we can lay the breadcrumbs for them to make baby steps towards that end point. Actuarial science, STEM, CPA, even a skilled laborer are all solid careers (mostly) with a fair amount of stability with regards to education put in. As much as I love my children, I’d like for my kids to eventually move out, and the way to do that is guide them in the directions that are likely best for their long-term prosperity, and sometimes that will require telling them things that are against the grain of the “you are such a special unicorn, you’ll be the exception to the rule of finding a job with your creative writing major” and actually tell them the truth. Many Baby Boomers did not do that, and the results are coming home to roost (literally and figuratively). Let’s learn from others and not repeat these same mistakes.