Confessions of a (reformed) entitled millennial

entitled

I challenge you to find me a millennial who’s never had to defend themselves — or their entire generation — against accusations of entitlement.

I bet you can’t find one.

For a long time, I vehemently defended my generation against being labeled that way. I didn’t think it was fair or remotely accurate.

But the older I get (this is a relative term, since being in your late 20s doesn’t exactly mean “ancient”), the more I realize that I was kind of entitled.

In my teens and early twenties, I didn’t want life to be hard. I didn’t want to have to spend any time doing a job I hated. And I didn’t particularly see “the point” of having to struggle.

What can I say? It’s not that my parents didn’t try … they tried hard, but like most young people, I was epically good at resisting their attempts to humble me and teach me the meaning of “hard work.”

Thankfully, starting a business cured me of my entitlement pretty quickly. There’s something about not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from that’s very effective at getting you to grow up.

And now that I’ve got a different perspective on entitlement, I think it’s high time I set the record straight on what has become a very touchy subject.

LET’S GET A FEW THINGS STRAIGHT

I get why millennials have borne the brunt of accusation when it comes to entitlement. Compared to earlier generations, we have had it a bit cushier, so far. On a personal level, my dad didn’t get to be entitled when he was drafted into the military as a teenager. My grandparents didn’t get to grow up with an entitled attitude when their parents had struggled to survive through the Great Depression.

We’re a generation that’s been a product of profound opportunity — we’ve had more options and possibilities and choices than anyone who came before us, and that’s a good thing.

But it also means that people assume often very mistakenly that because we’ve had more choices and fewer hardships, as a generation, that we aren’t willing to work hard.

Which is complete B.S.

Most millennials I know and coach, regardless of their race or socioeconomic upbringing or any other demographic, are more than willing to work hard.

The vast majority of us are ready and eager to sweat, sacrifice, and put in long hours … with one major caveat:

We want to work hard for something that we actually care about.

And to call an entire of generation of people entitled because they want to spend their lives doing something meaningful, something that makes an impact on other human beings … that’s a huge misunderstanding of who we really are.

twitter-bird It’s not entitled to want to deeply care about your work. 

LET’S BE HONEST … WE’RE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT MILLENNIALS

I’ve had the benefit of a front row seat to many people’s innermost thoughts and desires. Kristen and I have worked with people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and ages – from teenagers to people in their mid-60’s.

And they all have one thing in common: They want to spend their life doing something that matters.

The desire to work hard for something you care about is not a millennial thing. It’s a human thing. Millennials just happen to be the loudest and proudest champions of this cause, and the ones who are most willing (and often, most able) to do something about it.

Most people, certainly not just millennials, don’t want to work in an environment that encourages them to keep their heads down, not to ask questions, and to work hard without being offered any sort of mutual respect or deeper fulfillment.

Mindless drudgery the kind of work that’s often void of higher purpose, basic respect, and compassion (and unfortunately, these work environments still abound) goes against our very nature, as humans.

None of us, millennials or otherwise, should be expected to accept the status quo without asking questions or daring to desire more.

BUT …

If that — the “outrageous” desire to not spend your life drudging for something you don’t care about — isn’t what entitlement means … then what is entitlement actually about?

In my opinion …

ENTITLEMENT IS WHEN YOU EXPECT LIFE TO NEVER HAVE TO BE DIFFICULT FOR YOU

It’s when you’ve never had to really struggle, and you mistakenly believe that you shouldn’t ever have to.

It’s when you’d rather complain about your circumstances than actually take action.

It’s when you’re unwilling to take risks or potentially fail because you’re used to succeeding and don’t want to stumble or fall.

It’s when you avoid vulnerability because you don’t want to experience any heartache.

It’s when you’d rather have short-term payoffs, instead of long-term gains.

It’s when you expect more of other people than you expect of yourself.

It’s when you won’t take action before you have a “guarantee” of success.

It’s when you’d rather avoid the tough parts of life, so that you only experience the easy stuff.

In a way, the traditional definition of entitlement is still completely accurate – it’s when you want something for nothing.

I KNOW PLENTY OF ENTITLED PEOPLE, OF ALL AGES

The least entitled people I know have been through some difficult life experiences. They’ve tried, struggled, and failed. Life has toughened them up in such a way that they have a tolerance for suffering; they understand that life can’t always be easy, and they actually wouldn’t want it to be (at least not all the time), because they have an appreciation for how much you grow during times of struggle.

The most entitled people I know have never really had to struggle. Often, the hardest thing they’ve done is earned the gold stars and the straight A’s in high school and college (I was very guilty of this, once upon a time).

The most entitled people are constantly trying to find a work-around when it comes to their existential angst. They want the instant gratification of “magically” figuring out their purpose, instead of being willing to do the work it takes to get there.

In their constant quest for a shortcut, they end up stealing their own ability to learn, grow, and become a wiser person.

NO ONE IS GOING TO DELIVER FULFILLMENT TO YOUR DOOR

Sure, there are shortcuts and escape routes. There are plenty of short-term band aids you can slap on. And tons of people have written books about how to “life hack” your way through your problems in five easy steps.

The un-entitled people are never surprised when this stuff doesn’t work. The entitled people always are.

Ultimately, it comes down to one big question:

Are you willing to do the work?

If you’d rather life be easy than interesting, you’re not willing to do the work.

If you’d rather someone else give you the answers, you’re not willing to do the work.

If you’d rather stay put than risk failing, you’re not willing to do the work.

twitter-bird If you’re not willing to do the work … don’t expect anything to change.

IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO THE WORK …

Then there’s literally nothing that can stop you from being happy and fulfilled. The people who are willing to struggle (occasionally — no one expects you to drudge 24/7) for what they care about are inevitably successful. Their ability to adapt, evolve, and constantly better themselves means you can’t keep them down for long.

{And if that’s you, by the way, consider joining us for the next round of the Passion Plan Virtual Experience. It’s a 4-week online course where we guide you through finding your passion and taking action. Enrollment is open in mid-September. Join our VIP list for early bird enrollment surprises! If you’re an un-entitled person willing to do the work, then you’re the exact kind of person we’re thrilled to invite to this program}.

So … what do you think about my re-defining of entitlement? I’d love to hear your take, in the comments.

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Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

10 Comments // ADD COMMENT

10 comments

  • Sarah

    Well said 🙂

  • A

    Really interesting read. I never would have thought of entitlement with respect to relationships and not willing to vulnerable. How can tell when you are being entitled and just whether you are not ready e.g. due to apprehension over impact on studies/career goals.

    • Rachel East

      I think entitlement and lack of readiness feel very differently. I’d think back to times in the past when you’ve felt both of those things, and compare to how you might feel right now about what you’re dealing with in the present. Ultimately, if you want something badly enough, then you will eventually go through with it, even if you’re not ready at the moment. And if you don’t really want to do the work, you’ll probably find excuse after excuse to not go through with it. If you really want it, you’ll probably run out of excuses to not do it!

  • Stefanie Naden

    I’ve recently been saying: “We’re not entitled, we’re empowered.” Previous generations weren’t told they could be anything they wanted to be on repeat. Somehow, those same people who told us that are now surprised when we aren’t satisfied with a job that is less than our dream. Thankfully you’ve just exposed the one piece that was missing in that advice though… you can be anything you want ONLY IF you’re willing to work really hard and fail along the way.

  • Shareena

    Great read. I have two true millenial teens (Mr 18 and Mr 16) at the moment, one of which (Mr 16) is utterly disgusted to have a mother who charges her son $20 per week for board and lodgings and $10 per week for using the internet. How dare I charge him money from his $300 per week part time job that he spends on himself to smoke and drink alcohol. How dare I cut him off from my bank account and spend my salary on myself to buy $10 shoes and the bills and the rent and the food instead of paying the fines he made worth $700? What kind of single, full time mother am I? Lol…. Im actually in the middle of an experiment to cut both of them off the internet and paid tv (locks and pins applied), boarding leases to sign and board expected to be paid with a bond amount and pretty strict eviction clauses (I deal with commercial leases all day). All the while trying to study to complete my massage qualification and start my own business so I can leave the corporate job I attend over an hour away from home.
    No more my friends. no more.

    • Rachel East

      Good for you, Shareena! I imagine one of the hardest things about being a parent is how your tough love goes unappreciated and unacknowledged. I’m sure you’re doing the right thing for both of them in the long run, and they’ll have you to thank when they learn real life lessons that their peers aren’t having to learn. I hope one day you get thanked for your tough love, but you might need to give it a decade or so! 😉

  • Jimq

    That’s a great take on the mindset of Millennials. As someone who has supervised Millenials in the past, the really hard part for me was trying to get them motivated about a job that they (obviously) didn’t care much about.

    • Rachel East

      Agreed, Jim! It’s really difficult to motivate Millennials to do something if they just don’t care. I find that it helps if they can be given a sense of ownership and autonomy over their role or responsibility. Even if they still don’t love the job, getting to make it their own often makes it way more tolerable for most people.