The line between feeling like you deserve something and feeling entitled to something is a fine one. I’ve been walking that line throughout my life, especially my albeit brief professional one, because there’s one word that describes that very line: impatience.
If you’re as impatient as I am, every time you got a promotion, you felt like it was a long time coming. I think that goes to explain why I’ve never gotten a promotion…I never stick around long enough. This is an admission of two things on my part, the first being impatience, the latter being a knack for doing things my way.
What I mean by that second part is this: I’m not going to wait around for you – “you’ being a boss/employer/white-haired person – to say that I’m good enough to do more than I’m doing. Instead, I’ll just find something that I’m more passionate about and do that. Case in point, I just left my previous employer and later this week I’ll be helping announce a start-up firm that is going to be pretty badass, if I do say so myself.
I write all this as sort-of an introduction to a
conversation I had with a friend of mine that led to a discussion about what I
just said (and did) will mean for younger generations…
So, over lunch with my friend and trusted adviser for all things higher ed, Brian, at Red House on Thursday, we got into a discussion about generations, more specifically sub-generation, consisting of today’s high school and college students. These are the people old enough to know why this election is important (sorry third-graders) yet not old enough to have voted before Obama.
Brian agreed with my assertion that my sub-generation –
people born between 1976 and 1986 (people who came of age during the Clinton
and Bush presidencies) – have the opportunity to become the greatest generation
not because we are the best and the brightest, but because we have some of the
biggest problems in our country’s history matched with some of the biggest
technological advances to do solve them, namely the Internet.
We talked at length about a sense of responsibility, larger than one’s self, in the past and how my generational colleagues seem to share this knack for public service. I shared what I’ve been harping on for months, if not years now, which is that talent and ambition alone won’t be enough for my generation…I have too many friends who received top-notch educations and have first-rate mental capacity, but lack the savvyness and patience to stick through a good idea until it is a good business or organization or cause.
My generation has far too many people who volunteered for
the Obama campaign or went to grad school and believe they have already earned
their seat at the Cabinet table or the board room. I don’t excuse myself from
this lot either.
However, what I’ve tried to do over the years – namely with my blog and my book, Real Role Models – is find something I’m passionate about, writing, and stick with it without waiting for someone else to pluck me out and say, “Joah, you are special,” and anoint me the next great mind of America. I’m paving my own way, one blog posting at a time.
Basically what I’m talking about is entitlement. All of us
have a certain amount of it and all of us can only reach our potential if we
work doubly hard to overcome it. And it’s not just me who thinks this, our
parents and bosses and professors all look at us and wonder why we’re so
spoiled and live in an era where we’re so used to getting for giving.
Which leads me to something very poignant Brian said. He said the current crop of high school and college kids are “the generation of entitlement.”
That scared the shit out of me. Imagine this: if my
generation is struggling with impatience of inspiration (“I’m not really sure
what I want my life’s work to be”) and course-of-life capriciousness (“I’m
interested in a lot of things, but not sure which direction to go”), I have no
clue how the younger bunch will ever last longer than four months in a
full-time gig or a year in any city post-college.
It occurred to me that maybe my generation, my friends and I, are paving the way for a level of entitlement never before seen in this country. Think about it, if the apathy of the ‘70s led to the excess of the ‘80s, maybe the abundance of ambition of my sub-generation is opening the window to an abundance of entitlement amongst our younger peers. If we convince ourselves that we are better than we are…that we deserve both Boardwalk and Park Place, the next group of college grads will expect to advance straight to Go and collect their $200 before so much as an interview.
This may be way too philosophical or whatever, but it needs
to be said…voting for Obama didn’t mean shit. Not if we’re not willing to make
tough decisions (hell, at least make A decision), work harder than we did in
college (when we think we proved how smart we are), and join together to do
something bigger than ourselves.
The world, this country, may reward individualism, but the collective is what rewards the country. The first step is picking a passion. Maybe it’s a person you want to follow, a city you want to live in, a field you want to work in or a story you want to tell/share. Regardless, you can’t meander through life perusing every aisle of ambition and promise thinking you’re going to win this game.
This game of Monopoly is different than the one we grew up
with and it’s our job to tell our younger Americans that you aren’t going to
get two $500s, two $100s,
two $50s, six $20s, and five $10s, $5s, and $1s just for showing up.
Or else, they’ll be shouting “show me the money” like Jerry McGuire…to deaf ears.