A topic that is flooding news sites at the moment is how hard it is to be a member of the Millennials, or Generation Y. Putting the inflammatory comments about entitlement from the Boomers aside, the general victim mentality of the Y’s towards those who came before is bewildering.
As a member of the younger generation, here is my assessment of how to make it in the new world.
The basic grievance from Millennials is that the Boomers have bought up all of the property, and with the way that house prices are rising, we will be rent slaves to our parents generation until we die. Which is fundamentally flawed, since their generation will presumably die before ours, and they can’t collect rent from beyond the grave.
Having said that, Millennials do (sort of) have a case. Our generation is not going to get ahead by selling 40 of our time hours per week to pay a mortgage, in an age where house prices are rising faster than salaries. It’s a losing battle – we are playing a game where we are competing with the generation that defined the rules, and they have a 30-year head-start in terms of capital, experience and writing legislation.
It’s the intellectual equivalent of taking a knife to a gunfight.
Sure, there are those who do believe that they are entitled to a bigger house in a leafier suburb than their parents straight out of university, but I don’t think it is fair to say that they represent the majority. The main concern is that the price of just a 1 bedroom unit in an average suburb is unattainable for most in my part of the world. That is a problem that needs to be addressed.
But it isn’t up to our parents to solve it. They figured out the rules to the game that they were left by our grandparents’ generation and they found a way to “win”.
So the thing that has to happen, and it has begun already, is the rules need to change.
I’m not talking about property laws, or capitals gains tax (although that would be helpful). I mean the rules by which we play the game of Life.
Having a stable job, a flashy car and a mortgage to pay were the measuring sticks of success under the old paradigm, and the rules were that you worked for a boss to pay for it all. But as we are seeing, it just doesn’t work so well anymore.
Let’s say we have a time machine. If we could time-warp a great tennis player from a few generations ago, like John McEnroe at his peak, into the present day and make him play a match against a great current player like Roger Federer, it would be a systematic dismantling in favour of the Fed.
That’s not to say that John McEnroe wasn’t a great player, he was. But the game has moved on a lot since the 70’s. Aside from the obvious advantage of better tools that the modern player would have at their disposal in the form of racquets and better training regimens, the game just isn’t played the same way anymore. McEnroe, as he was then, would have no idea how to deal with the top-spin and pace that the modern player puts on the ball.
So why would you try to play the game of life the same way that your parents and grandparents did? You have better resources at your disposal than they did, so to play with an old, wooden racquet in the modern world is just asinine.
So the way to get ahead is to look at the technologies that we have at our disposal and use them to solve problems for others.
Let me use my blog as an example. Not even 20 years ago, if I wanted to share my ideas with others by writing articles, I would have had to impress a book publisher, or become a journalist, or started a newsletter.
Those all have gatekeepers – either people who determine whether your ideas and skills are worthy of the mighty printing press, or substantial outlay costs such as paper, ink and postage.
These days, you can create a blog for free.
Better than that, do you know how long it would have taken to get feedback under the old system? I might have had a PO box where people sent feedback, or received letters to the editor. But those would have been received days after it was distributed.
These days, it’s instantaneous. When I publish this post, I will see how many people have viewed it immediately. And if someone does want to provide feedback, I receive it instantly, either via email or Twitter.
As I have said before, we live in an idea-driven economy. That is the other fundamental rule change that has happened, and it is descended from the same wonderful resource that makes humans more connected than ever before – the Internet.
If I have an idea for something that I want to create, I can put it out there immediately to get feedback. I could start a Kickstarter or Patreon page, and total strangers will tell me if the idea is something that they would be interested in seeing come to fruition. If they like it enough, they can even pledge money to make it happen.
That’s right – we have access to the global economy. And not just those who can offer financial support – we have access to the global talent market as well. I could take that idea to a freelancing website and find someone on the other side of the world who is able to code the app, build the business, or design a funky logo to be engraved on it.
The world has never before been in such a favourable state for those who want to give something of value to society. And in turn, society has so many new channels for giving back.
Our parents’ generation didn’t have any of those luxuries. Would you rather own a couple of rental properties, or have the global economy at your doorstep – a hurricane of money that is waiting to reward those creative and industrious enough to make society better somehow?
Add value, solve pain points, and you won’t have to worry about renting forever.
The way forward is to be a creator.
What a time to be alive.