“Millennials care more about internet fame than their company!”
“Millennials expect to be in the C-suite after their first week!”
“Millennials are coddled babies who’ve never had to work for anything in their lives!”
People—the Baby Boomer generation especially—love criticizing Millennials. If you sift through the morass of anti-Millennial articles that have been published, you’ll notice that almost every critique boils down to the same point:
Millennials are entitled.
People who say this kind of stuff usually have a litany of stats to back up their claim, things like:
Millennials change careers four times before turning 30.
Over 30% percent of Millennials live with their parents at 30.
Over 35% still receive financial help from their parents.
But do these stats really point to entitlement? Are Millennials entitled because of an anemic job market and student loan debt?
I don’t think so. The truth is, people criticize Millennials because they exhibit something most people are completely unfamiliar with, something critics mislabel as “entitlement”:
Millennials are about ownership.
Millennials Own Their Lives—And Boomers Hate Them For It
The Baby Boomer generation—the people who raised Millennials—defined success by three things:
1. Status: Boomers want to end their careers with authority over other people.
2. Prestige: Boomers want a title and position people respect and admire.
3. Financial Security: Boomers want a life with financial guarantees.
Anyone who defines success as status, prestige, and security is seeing life through the lens of scarcity.
Status is about power over others. Prestige is a title. Financial security is an entitlement. Boomers want external rewards that justify their decision to buy into a bankrupt system.
Millennials see this broken system for what it is. They see how miserable their Baby Boomers parents are, working jobs that don’t matter, for companies they hate. They see how meaningless their lives are, and how they try to use the markers of status and prestige to pretend otherwise.
And then they saw their parents lose “safe” jobs in 2008. The security was an illusion.
Millennials have straight up rejected this system. They won’t give their lives away just to “win” an unwinnable race. Instead of the illusion of financial security, and the scarcity of status and prestige, Millennials have two primary ways they measure success:
Millennials want to be a part of something they find meaningful. Their work needs to matter, both to them and to the world.
Millennials want to build deep, authentic connections with people. They want real relationships.
Notice that neither of these goals can be awarded to you, they are goals you have to own and achieve for yourself. That’s exactly what Millennials are doing.
In 2011 alone, almost 30% of entrepreneurs were Millennials. They launched 160,000 startups a month. Millennials build companies they find meaningful, and are only fulfilled when they believe they’re adding value to the world, not just making the rich richer.
The question is, why do Baby Boomers (and other people) see this as a bad thing?
Why Boomers Misinterpret Ownership As Entitlement
Here’s the life-blueprint Boomers bought:
Study something you don’t care about in college, because it looks good on a resume.
Apply for a safe job with a career path that is clear and structured.
Give away your twenties, thirties, and forties grinding yourself into oblivion for your company.
Hope that you end up at the top of grist mill.
See the problem here? They don’t own anything! Nothing they do matters! It’s only about winning a game that sucks!
Their success is 100% contingent upon how valuable they make themselves to their employer, and how much crap they accumulate. Boomers see success as zero-sum. Your title comes at the expense of someone else. They believe that young people should be queuing up for these soul crushing admin positions, because they WANT people beneath them. People at the top of the system requires new entrants to prop it up.
However, Millennials have no interest in that kind of life. Millennials are succeeding precisely BECAUSE they are rejecting the system that Boomers built their lives around.
For Millennials, getting in on the bottom of the ladder in the hopes of someone else rewarding you is the opposite of taking ownership. Boomers, on the other hand, can’t imagine a version of success that isn’t given to you by someone else.
When Millennials say they aren’t interested in the pointless grind Boomers put themselves through, Boomers see that as entitlement. Succeeding without sacrificing your 20’s is, in a Boomer’s world, cutting in line.
How The Millennial Mindset Started My Company
Let me give you an example of how this concept of Millennial ownership plays out in real life.
My company Book in a Box offers a process for getting ideas out of any person’s mind and into a book. When my Millennial co-founder, Zach Obront, and I first launched, I was trying to solve one problem:
How do I make it easy for non-writers to write books?
I’ve written three #1 New York Times bestsellers and have started and run different publishing companies over the years. I know the publishing industry inside and out. I should have known how valuable our system was immediately, but I didn’t.
My 24-year-old co-founder did. In Zach’s words, we were “unlocking the world’s wisdom.”
Every insight, the collective intellect of humanity, could be recorded and preserved easily by our system, and Zach (along with another Millennial on our team) was the first person to recognize that. He saw value and meaning in our mission, and he became obsessed with it.
Zach didn’t believe he was entitled to success. He took ownership of our company’s mission.
2 years, 300+ books, and several million in revenue later, Zach is still working hard (probably harder than me), obsessing over a vision for our company and what it could mean to the world.
Zach wasn’t happy with a company that didn’t provide real value to people. He took ownership of that and founded a company that did, and now he runs it with a work ethic that would make any Boomer blush.