I like to make fun of Gen Y as much as the next older person, but I do, in fact, feel bad for them. I don’t need to tell you that by some estimates, the current economic climate they’re being hit with straight out of college is worse than the Great Depression, and in many states, unemployment rates hover near 10 percent. But the advice they’re often given to improve their lot is condescending and does little more than reinforce entitlement stereotypes about them. To wit: In a short, arrogant article for Elite Daily, a “by Gen Y, for Gen Y” site, braggy young entrepreneur Vincent Peters offers trite advice for his brethren on achieving success in the “New America.” How, in this Age of Unemployment, aka The New America? In short, live with your parents and only hang out with the rich.
Going backwards, Peters’ third piece of advice is to shed loserly friends who don’t have money. This is the kind of advice you’ll hear from assholes like this:
“Rich people are different. After you’ve made it why would you ever want to go and hang out with losers who are jealous of you? Average people cannot hide their envy and jealousy. I have seen this look in their eyes, up close and personal, it is the most pathetic look I have ever seen and the most hateful look I have ever seen. They made the poor decision to go and waste their life at a job and now you’re demon because you are free and have money…It has often been noted that you end up exactly like the people you hang out with, so say goodbye to the losers, be elitist and hang out with the winners.”
Peters’ basis for this advice isn’t to avoid pathetically envious looks, it’s that how much money you make directly correlates to the incomes of your friends, according to scientific evidence I can’t find anywhere on the Internet. Peters’ version: “My mentors told me you only make as much money as the three people you spend the most time with. If your three best friends are broke, there is a 110 percent chance that you are broke!”
I guess this advice is supposed to be for people who have already made money, because if everyone adhered to it, logic holds that no rich people would hang out with you. I’m not sure where these mysterious formulas came from, but I found similar ones floating around online, such as: “For a moment, think about your 5 closet friends. Take each of their salaries and add them up. Now divide that figure by 5. That final number is going to be roughly how much money you’ll make each year.”
So how many friends does it take to hinder your chances for success, three, five?? I don’t know, I didn’t go to business school.
This site offers an anecdotal success story about someone identified only as “a man.”: “He quickly noticed that all of the other friends he had hated hard work and had no desire to improve themselves. So he sought out new friends, he went around to conventions and seminars to connect with people who had made something of themselves. After he had completely replaced the people in his network, he decided to make a list. This list was simple. It had a column for people who would improve his life, and a column for people who would drag him down.”
Pretty good advice, generally, sure. But then he gets into specifics that are kind of bizarre:
“If someone could improve his life, he spent as much time around them as possible. If someone could drag him down, he never spent more than five minutes around them. After following his ‘make or break’ list, the man was able to become a millionaire within three years.”
Three years?! Wow! I guess you should keep a timer on your phone because six-minute conversations with poor people might derail all your goals.
No. 2 on the list is the Gen Y stereotype of living with your parents (well) into your 20s. Free or reduced rent living with Mom and Dad will not only give you the chance to save money, pay off your student loans and have very little privacy, it will enable you to “get out of the cycle of mediocrity,” Peters says.
Sixteen percent of 25 to 34 year olds do live with their parents, up from 13.8 percent in 2007. But although these statistics are often cited as evidence of Gen Y’s laziness and sense of entitlement, the number of them mooching off their parents is not quite as high as many people think. In a blog for MarketWatch, Matthew Heimer points out, “The Census Bureau data set on which Pew bases its analysis considers college students who live in dormitories to be living with their parents, in addition to counting students who are living at home while matriculating. College enrollment has steadily increased among 18-to-24 year olds since 2007, from around 35 percent to 39 percent, and Pew cites that fact as a major contributor to the stay-at-home spike.”
Although many obviously feel they don’t have a choice due to financial reasons, it doesn’t sound like those are the people Peters is addressing. He’s advising his peers to hoard their money while taking advantage of their parents. But unless you’re shameless, it can be embarrassing telling people you moved back home, or never left. Being dependent on your parents can also negatively affect your self-esteem, emotional development and strain your relationships (both romantic and with your parents).
Perhaps least helpful is the first part of his three-pronged plan: the meaningless “follow your passion” tripe that is perhaps ruining 20-somethings’ chances for success more than hanging out with friends who don’t make a lot of money. Peters defines his passion very broadly as “helping people,” but even if readers can come up with something less vague, the advice is specious. In a blog for the Harvard Business Review, Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, explains why:
“The early stages of a fantastic career might not feel fantastic at all, a reality that clashes with the fantasy world implied by the advice to ‘follow your passion’ — an alternate universe where there’s a perfect job waiting for you, one that you’ll love right away once you discover it. It shouldn’t be surprising that members of Generation Y demand a lot from their working life right away and are frequently disappointed about what they experience instead…This dogma would tell you that work that is not immediately enjoyable is therefore not your passion.”
Instead, he says, “We need a deeper way to discuss the value of this early period in a long working life. We don’t need slogans, we need information — concrete, evidence-based observations about how people really end up loving what they do.”