This is a pretty great rant — but also a pep talk — by a Millennial to his own generation. It’s full of great passages; it’s hard to know which parts to quote. I hope you’ll read the whole thing before commenting. Here’s a sampling.
Until recently I didn’t understand the definition of entrepreneur. Building businesses and making money on my own was always just something that I did when I was forced to, I didn’t think of it as a job or a career. Until recently I didn’t understand the idea that being an entrepreneur permanently wasn’t something that should be looked down upon.
The story of why it took me 25 years to figure this out says a lot about my generation, the pain and disappointment many of them are feeling right now, and why they need to start thinking differently.
I was raised in a town about 45 minutes north of New York City. The Chappaqua public school system is often ranked top 10 in the nation, if you didn’t get into an ivy league school, a top northeast liberal arts college, or Michigan, well, you just didn’t. 33 of my graduating class of 320 went to Cornell. I grew up in what will eventually be seen as the epitome of everything that went wrong regarding the way upper middle class parents raised my generation, and how many Millennials see the world today.
They didn’t keep score in my little league baseball games until I was 13, lesson, everyone’s winner, no one is better than anyone else.
In school they never posted grades for the whole class, everything was private, lesson, school is not a competition and everyone is “smart in their own way”.
I once found out what another student in my class received on an 11th grade social studies paper, I read the paper, then went to the professor and confronted him over our grades. The answer I received floored me, he said that the other student deserved a higher grade not because his paper was of better quality, it wasn’t in any way, but because that student had “worked hard” and deserved recognition for his perseverance. I asked him if a college we were both applying to would take our respective grading curves into account, he told me to get out of his face.
We were indoctrinated into being good team members, to work well in groups, to collaborate. Leadership was shunned for fear that it would promote certain students and lower the self esteem of others.
On sports teams everyone was given equal playing time, because once again, we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Our parents and teachers attempted to build bubbles of fairness, equality, and an “effort is what counts the most” environment.
And most important, we were taught to follow the rules, to work within the system. Our lives were scheduled with activities back to back to back. School, homework, 5 different clubs, 3 varsity sports, 2 community service commitments, not a minute was left free.
The system was meant to lead us towards one thing, getting into a great college.
I don’t blame my parents, teachers, and coaches for having this view. Many of them were the first in their families to go to college, and that was a major accomplishment back then when a college degree meant a lot. I don’t blame them for coddling us from the real world, for trying to institute a sense of fairness, for teaching us to work with each other. It’s not their fault.
But it really screwed us.
(Via, where else, The Browser.)