Much has been prescribed to the generation of Millennials I work with.  They find they’re often labeled “The Entitled” generation, and there’s a lot to be said about why.  They find themselves in a spiraling downturn of depression feeling like they’re not going to amount too much in life.  They’ve found their first job opportunity isn’t exactly what they set out to achieve.  They want to be good.  They desire to change the world.  But there’s something missing.

I’ve started logging the number of calls I get from families with Sons ages 20-24 asking for help.
They call and express their son’s lack of motivation, lack of useful job skills, and soaring numbers of depression.
I love helping to mentor families through this problem, because I work with students like this nearly every day of my life.

So I thought I’d write a few thoughts down and help encourage those of you with 12-18 year olds in an effort to lock arms and work on a trending Entitled Generation.

1.  Not Every Millennial Student is Entitled

Somehow we’ve allowed the word entitlement to leak into our public debate concerning work ethic.  Those who have “made it on their own” are elevated to a higher status than those who have “inherited” what they own.  The simple fact is, everyone has someone helping them to get to where they are today.  NOBODY “makes it on their own.”  It might feel like you suffered through hard times to be successful, but don’t forget all those teachers, coaches, mentors, and friends in your network that helped you get to where you are now.

Somewhere, Entitlement became a curse word, and any graduating University Senior who aspires to make a living wage is looked down on as an entitled spoiled brat.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve run into more than my fair share of those who think they deserve to be making $100K out of College just because they finished studying at some college somewhere, but that’s not who I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the students who are young, ambitious, and have been trained to value their time and talents in the marketplace.  It may come off like entitled but the true difference in entitlement and ambition is a great divide.   So we need to define what students we’re talking about.

2.  The Trophy Generation

Something crazy started happening on the elementary soccer fields about twenty years ago.  After every soccer season, the team would throw a party and every single kid got a trophy.  They were little trophies, but they were trophies nonetheless.  The psychology of the “everyone gets a trophy” mechanism started as a self-worth exercise.  We wanted to make sure we kids had enough ‘good’ experiences in their growing up years to give them the confidence to go out and be who they could be.  The thinking was, if we can elevate the road blocks from our kids life of good old fashion hard work, we might see late bloomers rise to the surface.

Nobody in their wildest imaginations thought every kid was going to be a soccer star.  But if we could make sure every kid walked away with a ribbon, a trophy, a plaque, or some kind of recognition, it would prove useful when they ran into problems in their lives.


The trophy generation only trained a group of kids that if you try hard enough, you’ll be successful.  And so, when high school students showed up for the test and ‘tried their best,’ and failed; it was a true offense to the students and their parents.  “How could a teacher fail my son.  He worked so hard!” I don’t have to tell you how crazy that sounds, do I?  I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to drive across a bridge where an engineer just “tried” hard enough.  I want to make sure THAT Engineer earned his A.

But somehow that didn’t apply to “our kids.”
We don’t want our kids to be sad.
In fact, we want to provide just the opposite for our kids, a happy, healthy, fun-filled childhood experience.
But in doing so, we removed all the parts of growing up that include suffering and persistence.

The trophy was a good idea, but the consequences have led to a massive amount of men who are sitting in the basement of their mom’s house wondering when the next trophy/award’s ceremony will call them out of the blue for doing absolutely nothing.

3.  Change the World

Look, you’d be hard pressed to line up the Millennial generation against any other in modern history and say they’re not interested in things that matter.  Look at the invention of socially conscious business.  TOMS shoes, the RED campaign, and Socially conscious investing are just a few of the new ideas we’ve seen emerge in the last two decades.  They want to be involved in Changing the world.  They’ve been told they have the ability to change the world.  They’ve even received trophies for their dedication to step out of the box and raise awareness in the arena of Global Slavery, Hunger and Starvation, and Orphan care to name a few.


But they don’t know how.

They’ve never had to struggle.
They’ve never had to work hard to prove something.
When they get knocked down, a lot of entitled students have someone in the wings waiting to pick them up.  (that doesn’t mean we don’t help them when they’re down.  it means HELP is the operative word, not DO)
It’s a lot easier if you have the means and resources to simply erase problems from your kid’s lives.
But when you want them to grow, you have to live inside the consequences of poor decisions with them.

Don’t mistake a lack of ambition is equal to a lack of wanting to do something big.  They simply need the tools to begin building.

4.  The Celebrity Culture

I wrestled with putting this final section in here, but I think it’s applicable.  WE HAVE TO STOP THIS OBSESSION WITH CELEBRITY LIFE.  It’s absolutely crazy.

When students see musicians, actors, and athletes who have 5M followers on twitter or whatever; they think they have the same right to be that.

I’m not sure I have any good ways to push back on this cultural phenomenon because I feel like it’s likened to pushing a boulder up a mountain, but if you want your kids to be successful in life, they have to start learning what success really means.

Just because someone is in a movie doesn’t mean they’re a good person.
Just because someone scored a big athletic contract doesn’t mean they know anything.
Just because someone can put together beats and melodies doesn’t make them any more likely to be anything other than a figurehead.

Why in the world is the most talked about news story of the week a sister who assaults a brother-in-law in the elevator?

Because it’s JAY-Z, that’s why.

Somehow we have to start teaching our kids the silliness of putting any more energy into holding someone to a higher plane of humanity because they have money, power, or whatever the reason they don the front page of people magazine.

Entitlement is, well Jay-Z can do it, so the world owes it to me to be him too.
And that’s just not the reality of living in a world where you have to work hard for the opportunity of success, and then work harder to stay there.

1 Comment

  1. Great quote: As the humorist P.J. O’Rourke once wrote: “Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to do the dishes.”
    Andy, thanks for helping mom’s and dad’s learn about the value of GRIT, a little used word these days, which research has found is the greatest indicator of whether a child will be successful. Persistent determination to keep getting back up when life “knocks them down.” A college president once told a group of nail-biting parents, who had just dropped their student off, “To struggle is good. Let them.” Helped me tremendously.

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