Our generation’s future is headed on a one-way trip down the toilet — that is, unless we do something fast.
Rising debts. Recessions. Mass layoffs. Two million recent college graduates jobless. Nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have been either unemployed or underemployed since 2008. And, perhaps the biggest kick in the teeth, members of Gen Y have been bestowed with the title “boomerangs”: a generation so poor, jobless, and in debt that we’ve been forced to moved back into our parents’ homes after college in record numbers.
So much for following the “work hard, get good grades, and go to college” mantra to the letter. That worked out real well for us, didn’t it?
The fact is, our “traditional” options are shrinking by the day, and they aren’t coming back anytime soon. Was this the way we were told it was supposed to be for us? No, of course not. But like it or not, this is our reality. We can either deal with the cards we’ve been dealt and thrive in spite of the harsh actualities or nosedive in the face of hardship and adversity.
I say we choose the former.
It’s time for a new game plan: an age of Gen Y realism where we take on the roles of “real” entrepreneurs. Not simply by touting undeserved, inflated titles as fact or pursuing “going-for-millions” fantasies that will never come to fruition, but rather by becoming self-sufficiency experts well versed in turning hard work into cash flow and transforming passion into supportive livelihoods.
However, simply stating Gen Y needs to “get entrepreneurial” is but a first step. Let’s face it: it’s no big secret that the vast majority of us have had it too good for too long, and this coddled upbringing has made us lazy, spoiled entitlement junkies who believe the world owes us something simply for showing up.
Nothing could be a bigger load of crap.
Truth be told, the only way we’ll unseat archaic captains of industry and take our rightful place as the most entrepreneurial generation in history is to get real about the task at hand and get our heads out of our asses. To that end, if we are to become a truly successful entrepreneurial generation capable of attaining the goal of self-sufficiency, we must adhere to these 10 principles of Gen Y realism:
1. Stop sending resumes or doing stuff you hate! Congratulations to the class of [insert your recent graduation year here]. No one wants to hire you. That is, unless you’re lucky enough to get an unpaid internship or get hired as a roofer even though you studied to be an electrical engineer. Deal with it and reallocate your efforts toward something productive and proactive. This economy is not a job market, it’s an opportunity market. It’s a time when big companies cut back and smaller ones are able to steal precious market share. Rather than wasting time, money, and resources on sending out resumes or working dead-end part-time gigs to make ends meet, refocus your energies on attaining financial independence.
2. Don’t listen to old people! Love your parents and mentors, yes. Listen to them about following the “real” job mantra? Absolutely not. The world as they knew is long gone. Job security, gone. Retirement with a gold watch, adios. High percentage of job placement out of college, that’s a funny joke. No, they don’t know what they are talking about anymore — they don’t get it. Worry about your actual reality, not the extinct one of those before you. Don’t be pressured into following a dead-end career path because your parents believe you need to validate your diploma. You’ll only be hurting yourself. Work hard to make your own living instead of begging others to give you one.
3. Drop the fame and fortune crap. If you’re on a quest to be famous or a millionaire by 30, allow me to offer you some free advice: you’re a hopeless dreamer who won’t have any shot in the real world unless you get your act together. A business doesn’t need to be “sexy” to make money; the vast majority of successful cash-flow-positive businesses aren’t. Stop living in a fantasy world. No one will care about you unless you make them care. You need only concentrate on two things: putting all of your efforts into creating a business with immediate revenue-generating capabilities and keeping your head deflated with your feet on the ground. Letting this millionaire fantasy get to your head will destroy your decision-making abilities and put you in the poor house faster than you can say, “Do you want fries with that?”
4. Stop with the excuses. What do “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have enough money to start a business,” and “I’ll start tomorrow” all have in common? They are all bull$h@t. You either do something or you don’t. That’s it — there’s no grey area here. Get started right now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Right now. Think of it this way: the longer you wait, the more potential income you are losing. Be proactive, start small, and figure out how to move your career forward yourself with the means you have at your disposal. There is ALWAYS a way to get things done. Our generation is already full of big talkers, so I suggest you not add to the noise.
5. Get focused fast. Worry about one real business. You heard me. Not an idea, one business! And not five companies simultaneously — ONE! You can’t be a serial entrepreneur until you actually have one successful business to your credit. Instead of spreading yourself thin, put everything you’ve got into one thing and stick to it. Dedicate your full mind, body, and spirit to the cause.
6. Be unoriginal. Stop right now if you have plans to revolutionize the wheel. You don’t need to. Keep your offering simple and easy for customers to understand. Don’t feel like you have to disrupt an entire industry or reinvent the wheel to be successful. The vast majority of businesses in the world produce products and services that are cheaper, faster, or better than some other guy. Don’t kill yourself trying to change the world or creating the next Twitter. You won’t, nor will you make any income trying. Provide a simple service to a targeted niche and expand over time. Remember: unoriginal works, unoriginal can be profitable.
7. Make REAL Money. Put your delusions of Google acquisitions to bed. Hypothetical buyouts, going public, big Web advertising dollars, and other similar nonsensical business models will not enable you to generate immediate revenue and help you sustain yourself. Your business must be able to sell X service or product to Y customer for Z profit … and repeat. If it doesn’t do that, don’t expect to quit your job as a Wal-Mart greeter anytime soon.
8. Accept that no one will invest in your idea! This should be self-explanatory, but allow me to reiterate since I KNOW most people seem to believe they are the exception to this rule! No one will give your startup money. You need to create a business that isn’t dependent on big investments or unattainable traction. Starting with nothing is not an automatic disadvantage. Often it will make you stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable to change than well-entrenched competitors. Figure out what you can produce with your own two hands, not with someone else’s imaginary wallet.
9. (Actually) work hard. I know: if watching cat videos on YouTube or Tweeting about our breakfast were careers, many of us would be six figure executives on easy street. Well, guess what. In the real world, time-wasting results in only three things: loss of productivity, a shrinking bottom line, and a likely chance of going bankrupt. Business takes a lot of real work. It’s not a mystery why most businesses fail within five years. Without constant, unyielding execution, you’re dead. Yes, entrepreneurship is the most rewarding career experience you’ll ever have, but you get out what you put in. No one will do it for you. If you think you’re entitled to anything because you’ve got some brilliant idea or life changing widget, think again. The only thing you’ll be guaranteed is failure.
10. Realize everything isn’t microwaveable. If you grew up with a microwave, then the concept of having to wait for anything has become absurd to you. Hungry? 30 seconds until you chow down. Want to watch a movie? It’s on demand! Your car is dirty. Drive that sucker through the 5-minute car wash and, BOOM, effortlessly clean. But guess what? Everything in your life will not happen in 30 seconds or less. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you think your business will be, you’re in for a rude awakening and a trip to the soup kitchen. Success and traction take time, steadfast determination, and a strong work ethic. Don’t try to run a sprint when the race is really a marathon, or you’ll find yourself dying of an asthma attack before you hit the quarter mark. Be in it for the long haul with the right reasons in mind — a living and a career, not fancy cars and private yachts.
Scott Gerber is a syndicated small business columnist, founder of GerberEnterprises.com and Managing Partner of SizzleIt.com. Find out about his upcoming book Never Get a “Real” Job: How To Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke at AskGerber.com.