One Millennial View of Us — the Baby Boomers

Tucker Max has a business: it’s about helping people write books. And he writes himself, in the case, an essay, and it’s about helping baby boomers understand what Millennials think about baby boomers. You might not like the title, let alone the content — we’re not sure we do either — but it’s interesting reading, and maybe an attitude we need to understand: “Millennials Aren’t Entitled —They’re Just Better Than You”

“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!”

Sound familiar?

credit: Grace Chung

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 percent 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 percent 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?

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 percent 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.

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.

Typical Millennial.

Used with permission of Tucker Max.

13 Comments

  1. Not true! Boomers did create jobs they love! I just retired after 11 years of the most rewarding career ever! Before that I worked to perfect my chosen career. This article S one example of how the m’s do not value people.

  2. I don’t even know where to start – perhaps arrogance on the part of the writer would be a good place. The sacrifices made by the Boomer generation and the ones before so that Millenials could “own” their lives might be a consideration. And claiming that the startups they formed such as Facebook are meaningful makes me laugh and shudder. They have created a narcissistic society and view of themselves and shy away from personal interactions unless it by their devices. I could go on and on but I will leave it there. I hope that one day they can embrace “adulting.”

  3. This article seems meanspirited. If the millenials get to live at home, it’s because their parents worked hard to provide that security, often doing jobs they weren’t so thrilled about – to feed the family.

    We would have LOVED to be taken care of and allowed to be entitled; our parents, the Greatest Generation, had lived through war, and wanted peace and security for us.

    Besides, most entrepreneurs FAIL – and take out all their debtors and venture capitalists with them.

    You can’t live at home and take money from your parents – if they don’t have a home and money they saved which they are willing to share with the children they love.

    Besides, we Boomers had the 70s and hippies and love-ins – it’s not as if we didn’t try the same things the Millenials think they invented.

  4. I’m surprised at the comments. Perhaps these are Baby Boomers who don’t know millennials? I can tell you, for a fact, that the millennials I know (and I know many, I work with them) do not feel “entitled”. I definitely recognize Tucker Max’s depiction of both boomers and millennials, and it is absolutely true that they seek value in their lives, that they are far more socially-conscious than their parents.

    Indeed, older generations don’t show that ethic streak (already those in their 40’s don’t!) or they have simply forgotten the ideals of their youth and given up – and that’s true for most people. Not for every baby boomer, of course, and I know I haven’t, I believe that having a job with a social meaning is far preferable to being caught in the “rat race” – incidentally, that is how me and my friends back in the 1960’s used to call a job in a corporation: the rat race. Yes, we used to disdain that kind of money-making career…But then, at the time, we were young too, full of hope and ideals.

    It is also true that millennials are having a much harder time finding jobs than was the case for us boomers when we graduated. My boomer friends, you need to recognize that the world has changed, it has grown far more unequal since the 1980s (with the onset of deregulation and tax breaks for the ultra rich). Today, the jobs that were out there for the middle classes are no longer available. Most millennials simply need to launch their own start-up if they’re going to have a job at all.

  5. When I was complaining about the Millennials I worked with, my friend Lori, a human resources manager, gave me a fascinating article: “From the Typewriter to Texting: How Can Four Generations Work Together?” Apparently Boomers and Millennials don’t have the, as it were, market cornered on criticizing each other. There are the Traditionalists prior to 1945, there’s us, and there are two more generations all jockeying for position in the workplace. And in the parking lot, the supermarket, the…. You get the idea.

    1. I agree with you, Robin. None of us should look at the world in black and white, us vs them, Red vs Blue, me vs you perspectives. Divisiveness seems to be the new norm (anyone catch that recent presidential campaign?) That’s a shame.

      Yes, the world is very different from generation to generation and will probably continue to be so at an accelerated pace. My parent’s worked their tails off at jobs they didn’t necessarily like all the time, including our family business which employed over 30 people in a town of 250 people. My generation, at the time, referred to this as The Establishment and we weren’t enthusiastic entrants. But it wasn’t Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out either. Somehow, we did what we had to do, as the Greatest Generation did before us and Millennials will after us. Hell, I wasn’t a big fan of perpetuating the morals of the Eisenhower Era once I saw the Day-Glo culture of the 60s, but I’m glad the 60s are history.

      I have two (Millennial) kids who just graduated college with solid degrees (MBA and physics). They worked through high school and college in restaurants and have never moved back after leaving for college (although I almost wish they would – for a little while). I know many of their friends. None of them seem to me to act “entitled.” If anything, they are using their understanding of modern technology and their personal energy to create a future that gives them purpose.

      Let’s face it, the “traditional” middle-class, blue collar jobs aren’t there as they used to be. Who wants to work on an assembly line anyway? Let’s give them a chance. Someday they may be taking care of us. And, yes, the tone of this article is a little demeaning and paints with a wide brush in it’s depiction of those of us who went before. I’m not excusing this attitude. It may be a necessary attitude to achieve the change needed to create the working world this generation will populate. It also reminds me of me, a bit, oh so long ago…

  6. This article is full of stereotypes and, quite frankly, rather condescending. Yes, my wife and I worked hard in our 20s so that she could be a “stay at home” mother to our kids in our 30s. We worked hard so we could pay off college tuition bills (yes we had them too!) along with a family loan for the down payment on a house. I traveled and earned the chance to start a company that grew to enable over 100 people to earn a decent living which still exists today. My wife volunteered and contributes time to this day. I believe we made a contribution to society while enjoying ourselves all the while. And now I continue to work because I enjoy it and want to leave my grandkids something as well. The attitude shown in the article reinforces the negative stereotype of the millennials – however, most of the ones I know, are really good kids who want to make a difference, sounds familiar.

  7. For every millennial who feels “entitled” you can point to someone who doesn’t feel that way. For every boomer who hates his or her job, you can point to someone who loves his or her job. Big woop. The millennial author sounds like he thinks he invented inter-generational comparisons. Meh.

  8. The author raises some very good points. The problem is he paints Boomers as a monolith just as he blames them for doing the same with Millennials.

    Young people today have much broader knowledge of both the job market and the diversity of employment that’s available. They have the internet, social networking, and other electronic tools that have made it easier to research, create and market ideas. The models they grew up with are open systems and collaboration. That’s not what Boomers experienced.

    Our Greatest Generation parents grew up in the Depression. They valued stability, hard work, and loyalty. No wonder we looked to jobs that promised those things. Not all of us were interested in status and money. Plenty of us wanted meaningful work, a workplace that rewarded creativity and accomplishment, and simple recognition for our contribution. That’s not the snarky blueprint the author outlines.

    In the 60’s and 70’s it wasn’t easy to change jobs–unless you were lucky enough to work for a company that had a myriad of businesses and liberal movement policies like AT&T. A prospective employer was put off by someone who traded through a variety of companies. Most corporations promoted from within, so if you wanted to move up–and it wasn’t always for power over people, but often for influence over new ideas–you had to stick around.

    I recall in the 90’s, when I was in my late 40’s, encouraging young people to stay with our company (by then Verizon, with much less opportunity for career diversity) for no more than five years. To gather the skills and knowledge our company had to offer and then move on to where they could collect a different set. I saw this as the way to transition into a new way of working. One where skills and competency were valued over longevity and loyalty.

    I wish that kind of mobility had been open to us Boomers. But like so many cultural changes, we lived through the evolution of work. From labor-heavy organizations to the “self-sufficient manager” who was expected to use that new computer terminal, or PC to type her own letters and do all the things her secretary or admin assistant did before in addition to her own job, then two or three other people’s as well. Technology was not our friend in the beginning. It was kluggy, laborious, and unforgiving.

    I worked with people who were creative and extremely hard working. People who developed new ideas and products and fought to bring them to fruition. Most of them were Boomers.

    As an entrepreneur I coached small business people in how to utilize emerging technologies to do things differently and grow their revenues. (By the way, Tucker, not unlike what you did in publishing.) These were people who had taken the risk to start a company or non-profit, employ others, and often, to make a difference. Most of them were Boomers.

    Today I see plenty of Boomers reinventing themselves to carve out a new career, or a different lifestyle. Creativity and enthusiasm isn’t limited to the young.

    It saddens me that so many young people cannot find work today. That so many have huge college loan debt. And yet, thousands of high-skill, high-paying technical jobs, engineering jobs, science-related jobs, go unfilled. Not all unemployment is the result of a weak job market.

    Work is evolving again. Now it’s about becoming a “self-sufficient earner,” and young people—with different world views and without the restraints of family obligations—are best positioned to capitalize on it. Whether designing a new app, starting a service business or driving an Uber they embrace self-reliance and lifestyle choice.

    I applaud their desire to collect experiences rather than things, to keep their lives free of “stuff” and open to the new. That’s something many of us Boomers are anxious to do as well.

    I think the potential offered young people in this country to use their creativity to create things, services, and yes, money, is limitless. But you need to have smarts, and initiative, and perseverance to succeed. Just like Boomers did when they started Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Starbucks, Amazon, Whole Foods, Netflix, CarMax, eBay, salesforce.com, Forever 21 and the hundreds of thousands of small companies that provide 80% of America’s jobs.

    The author credits his partner, Zack with much of the success of his business. It think Zack was simply able to see the potential in the business idea in a different light and how to leverage it for success. That’s what bright marketers are able to do. It’s great that he’s a Millennial. But he doesn’t have a corner on the capability.

  9. As I graduated from high school in 1981, I knew that the US was intent on two things – 1)create white collar jobs which means to be a service nation and 2)eliminate blue collar jobs to enable second-third-fourth world countries the opportunity to grow into a first world country. Unfortunately, what became economic globalization was easy for the US to embrace and it allowed us to achieve these two intentions without a comprehensive global plan or internal plan. Simultaneously, we refused to re-invest and change our educational system to train the employees of that future. Technology and environmentalism defined the type of service industries the Millennial needed to prepare for and we failed (i know, we did change the name of the school library to a media center). Since the US was not the only nation not willing to embrace the new world, terrorism flourished and our attention was diverted-repeatedly. (Another parens – simplified statement for this point, only.)
    I am the Jones generation which is the tail end of the baby boomer and not quite a fit into the Gen X’ers. We had/have the responsibility to be the Beta testers of ‘all things new’. I am afraid the Jones’ weakness, not sticking to a decision , has helped the confused state we are in (Blue Ray recording, nuclear power implementation, bring back the album and 3D home TVs are some of of my favorite examples).
    Entitled behavior of people is in every generation and the only offensive entitled person is the one who is capable of helping themselves but chooses to take from you instead. I know Baby Boomers/Jonesers and Gen X’ers that do NOT want their children to leave, they want to pay for their child’s healthcare that their child does not need, and most importantly, they still want to BE NEEDED by their children. Why shouldn’t the child or grandchild continue to live ‘at home’. Why isn’t a multi-generational home a good thing anymore?
    The Millennials are who we Baby Boomer/Gen X’ers created – albeit not very intentionally. Going back to the 1980’s intentions -Millennials do not want to work in a coal mine, but Boomers want to keep them open. Millennials want electricity for their internet, but do not understand why Boomers didn’t deliver a cleaner way to get it. Millennials want to work from their vacation home, but Boomers want to see them actually performing tasks and not focus only on the results they submit.
    Maybe Millennials are finally achieving what we started. The intentions of the 80’s were noble, just executed incompletely. The Millennials may be on to something I recognize…more power to them.

    1. Needs correction- Entitled behavior in people is in every generation and the only offensive entitled person is the one who is capable of helping herself but chooses to take from you instead.

  10. I was born right in the middle of the so-called Boomer generation, but as I read this article, I realised that I’ve been a Millenial my whole life. What’s more, I’m pretty sure my father and mother were Millenials too. Not because we felt entitled – we arrived in Australia in 1957 with nothing but the clothes on our backs – but because we always wanted that something ‘more’.
    I hesitate to call it ‘personal development’. That label has very unpleasant connotations, at least to me. Maybe personal fulfilment is more accurate. Whatever you call that driving force, it’s hardwired into humanity. Maybe it’s time we stopped pigeon-holing ourselves and everyone else. I’m 64 and I’m unique. We all are.

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