Friday, 20 September 2013

Expectations, disappointment and Gen Y

This article should provide some food for thought for all the Gen Y readers of this blog (myself included).  I read this great article recently on 'why Gen Y Yuppies are unhappy'.  It was posted on the the Wait but Why blog and I found it a fascinating read.

Let me preface this blog by saying that although I don't believe that all of Gen Y are like this, I'm sure if you are a member of Gen Y you know more than a few people who fall into the category described in the link above.

Happiness and fulfilment in our career is a function of our expectations and our perceived outcome

This is not a particularly profound statement - if something is better than we expect then we are happy and if it is worse than we expect then we are unhappy or disappointed.  Also perceived outcomes are more important than actual outcomes.

Let me give you an example from my investment banking days.  For my first full bonus I had an idea of what I was expecting as a bonus and it was a rather high number. I ranked in the middle of my year level and my bonus number was slightly lower than what I was expecting.  I was neither happy nor unhappy about this outcome but when I found out what the top performers got paid (significantly more than me) my perception of my outcome was significantly diminished and so I became unhappy.

Gen Y are programmed to believe the world is their oyster and that they are SPECIAL

The blog I linked to above posits that this is because our parents instilled in us a belief that we could do anything that we wanted and that we were truly special and stood out from the pack.  We grew up in this weird system where everyone was a winner and there were no losers.

While this is definitely a function of how much of our generation was raised I think it is more than this - we are raised in a culture of instant results and instant gratification.  We are given our own platforms (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) which give us the illusion of importance and relevance.  Further the prevalence of the self help industry which profits by
pushing this exceptionalism agenda has fuelled this (almost delusional) self belief that Gen Y holds.

Before you go off at me about how this is how our generation is viewed and it is not actually reality...don't assess yourself - just think whether you know people like this.  I don't know whether I fall into this mentality - perhaps my blog and my financial goals are an indicator of this - however I can definitely see it in my friends.  Those who expect to do well without putting in the work...those who complain that housing is unaffordable and it was so much easier for our parents generation...those who complain that the job market has never been worse than this and the more senior generation has ruined it for us.  We all know people like this - although it may be a generalisation, the fact is that there is a significant part of our generation who have been raised like this and who hold these beliefs.

Unfortunately reality catches up with Gen Y (us!) and disappointment ensues

Life never quite pans out how we expect it to.  All of us who have been in the workforce for more than 2 or 3 years know how hard it can be, that life isn't fair and that it is a slog.  That we do crap tasks without recognition in the hope of building our experience and the fact that we are not recognised for what we can actually do (or believe we can do) but rather are expected to do our time and work our way up.

Further we never see the struggles that other are going through - everyone always talks about how well they are doing and Facebook and other social sites only have life's victories so we perceive others as doing well and us as doing worse.

Naturally we get disappointed because life is not what we expected, the world is not our oyster, life is tough and sacrifices have to be made.

Reset your expectations, ignore others and forge your own path

This does not need to be a story of doom and gloom however.  If you have felt disappointed by what life has thrown at you or have not lived up to where you wanted to be (I wanted to make my first million by 25) then you need to reset your expectations, your time frames and how hard you are willing to work to get where you want to be.

There are no shortcuts and I think those who are willing to push that bit harder, to not get depressed and to focus on themselves and not how well they are doing relative to others will be at a big advantage in our generation.

If you disagree with me or have any views on this topic I'd love to hear from you so please post below

You May Be Interested In
Conversations about money should NOT be taboo
Why I dropped out of the CFA
Watch out for those golden handcuffs
5 tips to make you a better networker


  1. This is a great post, very insightful. I had a similar experience happen to me while I was in commercial banking. There will always be someone with more and those tend to be the only folks you benchmark your performance against.

    1. Agreed!

      A more senior banker (who was also a friend) told me that it took him a really long time to realise that your career is not a competition...I wish it were so easy to ignore others and focus on our own objectives!

  2. Great post 90 Million blogger, I agree that we (generation Y/Millenials) to a degree are perceived as expecting things to go our way, that we are special etc.. I've found this was even my attitude a few years ago after leaving university, I had a very high opinion of my abilities and to a degree still do. Having said that I've realised that similar to what you described it is important to do your own thing, understand that there is much that can be learned from others and there are plenty of smart and intelligent people out there.

    I feel that by doing this you are realising that while it is important to have your own expectations, if these are not achieved understand why they weren't and tweak the way you completed the task to receive a different result the next time around..

    Happy to discuss further, how's the blog going by the way? Did you find it difficult to start your own blog? Am considering starting one in 2014 myself

    1. Hi JM!

      I confess that I originally read the article and thought of people I knew that were like that...and then I realised that I was not very different which was a little embarrassing. But I figure that if I know it then I can work on it!

      The blog is going well - I really enjoy posting on it and also thinking about what others may want to hear or talk about.

      It was actually remarkably easy to start a blog (although I think this was my 3rd or 4th go at one). The main thing is to keep your expectations low and focus on writing good content rather than on trying to drive traffic...I'll send you an email with more details.

      If anyone else would like details let me know and I can do a larger post on what it takes.