SUCCESS, what on earth does that look like these days? I have heard this phrases more and more over the last couple of years and I’ve often wondered what it looks like now Since more and more millennials are entering the workforce and the “real world” we can no longer measure success based on the principles set out decades ago.
In my parent’s generation, The Baby Boomers, success was defined as, graduating from high school, possibly graduating from a postsecondary institution, entering the workforce, getting married, buying a forever house, and starting a family. A successful life was measured by the life stages you were able to complete on your own or with your spouse. The measure of success was rather standard as not many people broke the mold. There was a clear expectation for everyone to get a job, get married and have kids; if you didn’t follow this predetermined path you were consider eccentric.
In my brother’s generation, Generation X, success was typically measured by graduating high school, generally graduating from a postsecondary institution, landing a forever job, working hard at that job, getting married, buying a starter home and starting a family. As a generation these individuals are hard workers, pragmatic, independent and resourceful. I would say that my brother is all of these things and more. He had to make hard choices at the beginning of his career, but ultimately it has paid off for him. Success to a Gen X’er is often associated with having your life under control and being able to support yourself without your parent’s help. Breaking the predetermined mold as a Gen X’er was and is more widely accepted as society becomes more and more inclusive.
In my generation, The Millennial generation, success is a varying term because as a generation we don’t generally enjoy being placed in boxes. Most millennials have graduated from high school, graduated from a postsecondary institution (maybe 2-3 in some cases), maybe working 1 great paying job (most likely working 2-3 part time jobs), living in a rental or a starter home, possibly married or living with a partner or living alone or still living with their parents, starting a family or have decided not to have kids. The idea of having a big house, a well paying job, 2 kids and a pet is just not a thing that every millennial wants or has.
Millennials have also gotten the reputation that they want everything and they want it right now. They feel entitled to certain things in life; avocado toast anyone? I would say that this is very true but also there are millenials that are not like this.
I would argue that as a millenial myself I can not define SUCCESS the way my parents or my brother did. I would say that I have already obtained a level of success. I do not own a home, I only have a small portion of permanent employment, I do not have a husband nor do I have kids. My measure of success is the following: I have a nice apartment that I rent on my own and have for 7 years, I have a steady job although it is not fully permanent my contract gets renewed every year, I have a meaningful relationship with someone I love and maybe one day in the future I will get married and have a kid. I have done all of these things on my own, with limited support from my mother. I was taught from a very early age to be as independent as I could be and to always ask for guidance when I felt I needed it. I have never ever asked to be bailed out of a poor choice, I have always preserved to work it out on my own.
I have every reason in the world to curl up and not want to be a successful member of society, but I chose a long time ago that wasn’t what I wanted. I have always wanted to give back to the community that helped me through many difficult situations. For a long time after my dad passed away I was told that I could take the easy road and always state that I lost him young; people would feel sorry for me and go out of their way to help me get whatever I wanted. I refuse to do that. Why should I be treated any different just because a horrible thing happen to me when I was 16 years old. I have been told that my resiliency is a rarity at my age. The simple fact that as a millennial, I have picked up traits that my parents’ generation cherished and thus breaking out of the millennial stereotype.
So when it comes to measuring SUCCESS it should always be individualized. It should be measured using obtainable factors in that person’s life. It is not about comparing and it is certainly not about shaming someone about what they cannot have. What do you think SUCCESS is? What parameters would you use to measure your own SUCCESS? Would you fall into comparing yourself to someone else? Would your parents judge you for your decisions? Would you change them to conform or make life easier? These are all hard questions to ask and even harder to answer.
Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
— Winston S. Churchill