By Paul Peixoto
Today’s twentysomethings seem to be living in a dichotomy; they possess a “master of the universe” mentality while they are unable to get on with their lives. Because of this twentysomethings are boomeranging back home to live with parents in large numbers. Once safe in the cocoon they often have a tough time figuring out how to regain their independence and pursue their dreams.
One of the culprits helping to create this trend is the strong philosophy of entitlement that many twentysomethings have. A philosophy of entitlement is one that leads you to believe that you have the right to something; in this case a job or a lifestyle. This philosophy creates certain attitudes and behaviors.
It should be of no surprise to us of the baby boom generation that we have played a part in helping them develop this entitlement mindset. We are the “me generation”– the ones who invented entitlement! Add to that the fact that we wanted to see our kids grow up with every possible advantage, so we piled them on: the best schools, best equipment, after-school lessons, every technical gadget, and more. They lacked for nothing in most cases and grew up with all the benefits that a lifestyle of abundance brings. But, although they’ve been raised with complete access to the benefits of a successful life, they have not been shown with equal passion how to earn those benefits for themselves.
As they head out into the world after high school or college many of them confront real life for the first time and find that they don’t possess the skills necessary to tackle all that life throws at them. “It all looked so easy for my parents.” “How come it’s taking me so long to succeed at anything?” “What’s gone wrong?” These are often the thoughts of a pre-boomerang kid.
Now, there are times when boomeranging is appropriate. Times are tough for this generation. Starting out on your own seems to get harder and harder with each passing year. Financing an apartment these days is a tremendous task, and many feel they need to acquire a master’s degree just to stay competitive; but let’s not put out the welcome mat so fast. If we are going to be any kind of help we’ve got to think through the situation ourselves, analyze what’s going on, and make changes appropriate for each person.
Take, for example, some external elements at work in this process. Some of those are: the speed of life, the desire for instant gratification, and the mass media. All three have robbed twentysomethings of any sense that it will take some effort to achieve success.
This generation has grown up with the Internet. It’s not “technology,” to them. The speed with which they get answers to their questions is virtually the speed of light. You and I had to make a trip to the library, search through a few card catalogues, find two or three books that may answer our question, and then do some research. Today, we Google it!
Another element that has contributed to their entitlement attitude is the desire for instant gratification. We as parents, and the Internet, have played a part in this. This generation has simply not learned patience or perseverance. They don’t know how to wait. We’ve told them throughout their childhood that they can be anything they want to be, without telling them that it’s going to take some effort to get there.
The media have also played a part in contributing to the desire for instant gratification. Twentysomethings are constantly bombarded with the idea that they can make it, and make it fast, without all the hassle of persevering and struggling to succeed. Look at the current Number One TV show: American Idol. The message here is that you no longer need years of working your way up the ladder of success to be a star. You can be one within a TV season. From unknown to superstar in a matter of weeks! It’s no surprise that when our twentysomethings spend a few months on a job without any advancement they give up easily and look for something else; they are seeking that same instant success. They’ll never know if that was the job for them simply because they didn’t give it enough time. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” How often have we seen our kids give up, wondering if they would have succeeded had they just persevered a bit longer.
Even with all this working against us, getting this generation up and on their feet is doable. The key is to teach them perseverance and focus; perseverance through the tough times and focus on the goal. New patterns of thinking need to replace old entitlement ideas. A de-tuning of the media and a focus on their unique passions and skills will bring clarity and purpose. Most of all, being the mentors we were meant to be and not their saviors will encourage them to fulfill their dreams and visions.