Generation Y Doesn’t Have an Attitude Problem, They Have a Career Script Problem

Generation Y Doesn’t Have an Attitude Problem, They Have a Career Script Problem post image

“The blessing in life is when you find the torture you are comfortable with.” – Jerry Seinfeld 

There’s been a lot of talk about generation Y around the web– their laziness, the absurdity of the job situation they face, their indebtedness. And I can relate. For most of my 20’s, I was pretty bummed by my career prospects.

The script handed down to me by my teachers and bosses not only seemed boring, but those who were following it didn’t seem to be getting what they were promised (the reasons for this are framed up in the opening pages of Linchpin.)

The benefits of the classic “get good grades / get good job” trajectory are eroding. Many I know who are in their 50’s and 60’s are still in debt. The money they were supposed to be saving and putting in mutual funds was handled irresponsibly by banks. They are getting less, while being asked to work more. In the first decade of the 21st century, most information workers have lost hope of work life balance.

I’ve noticed that the generation Yers in our community don’t have the bad attitudes we hear about in the media. They’ve equipped themselves with the entrepreneurial script– one that’s now available to most anyone with a laptop and the willingness to be an autodidact.

If you’d like to read the story of why this script is emerging, you can find it in books like The 4th Economy and Linchpin.

I noticed some key elements of this script in a recent “ask me anything” that Mark Cuban recently did on Reddit.

The perspectives of this billionaire are the same ones I’m seeing being implemented by hopeful and hard-working 20 somethings– tapping away at their MacBooks, and building their first 6-figure cash flows.

Here’s 6 elements of the script that jumped out at me:

 1. Don’t go into debt, even for you education.

Mark Cuban: Pick a school you can afford to go to. Don’t take on debt. Debt is the anchor you don’t want when you graduate. It will force you to do things that may not be in your best long term interests. I would be online taking as many of those MIT/Stanford classes that I could… I would find an inexpensive university close by and work with them to have them help me create a program that leveraged those online classes …to get the best education at the best price.

2. You will be judged by the results you can create (i.e., your resume doesn’t matter).

Q: Two questions. 1) My biggest fear isn’t the professional challenge [of starting a company], it’s the mental toll the stress might take. How do you prepare for it? 2) I’ve seen some entrepreneurs with some bad ideas, but everyone has had to believe in themselves to succeed. How do you know when to push and when to pivot? 

MC: 1) You don’t. If you are always stressed out now, it will be worse. 2) By the results you are getting.

3. Getting investors isn’t a positive thing.

MC: If it’s a good business, it will find funding. That said, you should do everything you can to not take anyone’s money. Funding is not a positive, it makes you an indentured servant to someone like me :)

4. An MBA is a waste of your time.

MC: an MBA is an absolute waste of money. If you have a hole in your knowledge base, there are a ton of online courses you can take. I don’t give any advantage to someone in hiring because they have an MBA.

5. Hungry entrepreneurs shouldn’t be worried about mutual funds or stocks.

MC: I keep a lot of cash available for investments. Most people throw their money at investments trying to beat inflation or the market. I wait until somebody does something stupid and try to pounce. That is where the best deals are made.

5. Great entrepreneurs should excel in their employment.

MC: There is no such thing as the right job. Whatever job you take, you are getting paid to learn. You will learn more from a bad company that you did in school. I always recommend taking the job and learning as much as you can from it, and you can learn from any job, and then using that knowledge to help you get to the next job.

Also, get an apprenticeship.

 6.You won’t fail due to lack of capital, you’ll fail due to lack of effort.

“Effort” here is a complex thing. In LinchpinGodin goes into depth what that might mean (hint: it’s not what we learned in school).

Here’s some further reading for those interested:




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Published on 09.21.13
  • The exact same things were said about my generation. In the early 90s the grunge era was going and my peers were headed to careers as part time baristas and bike messengers. The media portrayed us as lazy with no plans for our futures.

    We had a script problem too. The 80s was a decade of fast growing corporate wealth while laying off hundreds of thousands of our parents. We knew there wasn’t security in working for the “Man,” but we didn’t have a much of an outlet other than to just rebel through our 20s.

    Then the Internet boom hit and instead of trying to control our destinies we all thought we could get rich working for Internet corporations. Some of my generation sought to create their own where they could love to work and also get Gordon Gecko rich.

    Unfortunately most of Gen X just went back to the old script after the Dotcom bust.

    I’m envious of the freedom that Gen Y can obtain if they write their own script. The tools are all there and the tools are super cheap. Also there are a huge number of “support groups” of other Gen Y writing their scripts.

    It’s a great time to be alive no matter what generation you’re from as any of us can become our own script writer at any time.

  • Dan

    I’m glad you pointed that out, and it’s so interesting to see how we can mold historical narratives to fit the kind of story we want to tell… in particular what I’ve seen in the tech press is almost as if generation Yers are the first ones to ever have a chip on their should about the opportunities in front of them.

    “It’s a great time to be alive” no question!!!

  • It’s interesting how the answers from a rich person are as obvious as from a normal guy. Nothing mind-blowing – and it’s OK. People expect golden phrases after asking “when do you push and when to pivot?” but everyone actually knows the answer, they just need a pat on their back.

    I don’t agree with one thing though: saying that an MBA or any other type of education is worth nothing. Of course, in terms of knowledge and experience it IS worth nothing (and that comes from someone who has the best overall grade at the best university in his country). But you have to see the commitment and patience required to get a degree. It takes YEARS and one should understand that a degree means one thing: that the person in question gets what he wants and nothing’s gonna stop him. He’s willing to put up with anything and will succeed. You might want to have that kind of person in your company.

  • It’s funny that anyone bitches about the generation after them. Everyone does it and then thinks themselves suffering a unique problem.

    One generation hated the flappers. The flappers grew up and hated the beatniks. The beatniks grew up and hated the hippies. The hippies grew up and hated the slackers. Now the slackers have grown up and and are hating on Gen Y. (I’m not sure of the slur for Gen Y. Anyone know?)

    What we are seeing is a growth in both seeking experiential freedom and cultural equality as the world keeps getting smaller. After WWII, the world got a whole lot smaller and it keeps shrinking with cheaper communications and cheap flights. It’s hard to hate another culture when you’ve lived with them for awhile.

    Some people bemoan this as a homogenization of culture (McCulture), but I see it bringing us closer to seeing ourselves as truly one species.

    Stopping here as I could seriously go on for a long time pontificating.

  • Dan

    haha, i people are apt to listen but our category of normal is moving quick! part of it is a lot of advice that gets categorized as “lifestyle design” or “lifestyle business” is being echoed by a billionaire– a guy how clearly understands markets and trends and who is conventionally successful, so i’m trying to make a case that our movement isn’t just about fun and flexibility but also it’s pragmatic

    i agree that university educations aren’t worthless, although they do seem to be overpriced at the moment! (in USA).

    many kids getting “communications” degrees from state universities for the price of 100K or more. UGH

  • Dan

    “millenial whingers” or similar :)

    i love when you talk like this Tim, it’s a real strength to bring these perspectives to people right on the ground when they are making life choices… there’s something there…

    most people read history in a “historical” mindset, but its interesting to bring it up at the moment when we are deciding to do x or y venture, when we are deciding to go to college or not, etc. why not!? :)

  • Yeah, when someone is THAT stubborn and probably stupid, you’ve gotta give SOME props for it :)

  • For me the script really hit home after college when I began to see friends get married and settle down into fairly boring/regular lives. I just couldn’t do it. So I moved to California to try my luck.

    It worked out (at least initially), but what it really taught me is there are others ways to go in life that can be more fulfilling if you’re willing to take on a little risk. Perhaps I don’t make as much money as someone who worked as an engineer for 15 years, but at least I’m not tied to a cubicle.

  • Dan

    I also find it interesting how quickly we are willing to recognize something as “normal” the rate of change is fast and things like “marrying your soulmate and going to college” are relatively new things the way I understand them.

    anyway, not being in a cubicle is worth a ton to me!!! :) I suspect that very thing will help us make more money in the long run too, however that’s difficult to predict.

  • Dan

    Sometimes a dash of both is what it takes! :)

  • Agreed. I have this theory that every business will succeed if you commit (waste) enough time.
    You can see proof everywhere – businesses that are run horribly and flawed from the idea to implementation are working just because someone is stubborn and stupid enough and won’t quit.

  • Now that’s the best insanity wolf I’ve seen yet!

    Thanks for taking out the key points to Cuban’s script on Reddit. I was planning on checking it out, but you pulled the important take-a-ways

  • Dan

    haha thanks David :) My pleasure.

  • Erich Stauffer

    Generation Y certainly has a different perspective than generations before them – and as Tim Conley pointed out – this will continue. But attitudes are also cyclical. Have you heard Roy H. Williams’ theory called “Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future”. The basic summary is that every 80 years culture repeats itself. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening, but I thought it was worth adding.

    Dan, love listening to you and Ian’s podcast. This is my first time visiting your blog.

  • Dan

    huh that’s an interesting idea, never heard that…. will check it out.

    thanks for visiting!!! (and listening) :)

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