Recently, I’ve had conversations with and about four youngish adults (all in their early thirties) and one fortyish adult who are not working. They are male and female. All grew up in stable, solidly middle-class homes. Some were reared by two parents, some were reared by single mothers, and all had extended family. All but one of the parents has a college degree and the one without a college degree owns a successful business. All of the parents own homes and have for most of their children’s lives.
None of these children have attained the success of their parents, despite having gone to good, and in some cases, exceptional schools throughout high school. Some barely made it out of high school. Only one of them has graduated from college. They are all either living with their parents (even those who don’t live in expensive East Coast cities) or their parents are subsidizing their living arrangements.
Listening to two of these young people talk recently, I was struck by how many good ideas they had and yet how nonchalant they seemed by not having anything steady in their lives. They also seemed naive and confused about life. None of the five have held down a job for more than 1 year. This has less to do with the tenuous employment situation and more to do with their lack of discipline.
Having parents who are hard-working doesn’t seem to have been enough to catapult these grown-ups into adulthood. It is easy not to be disciplined when you know you have parents who will rescue you and become comfortable with being rescued. (Being rescued is different from getting assistance from time-to-time.) I believe my two children have kept jobs because they knew there was no safety net for them.
I love the dreams of these dreamers. All of the dreams they shared were plausible, but there is a difference between dreaming and achieving. These youngish adults clearly don’t know how to stick to a job or a project, even when an opportunity has been delivered to them that they say they want.
So, here is some solid advice for how to stick with a job or project or dream.
- First – make a decision that you are going to stick with something.
- Second – set a time-goal. For example: I am going to do this for 3 months, a year, until my birthday on — and then do it.
- Third – do it.
Do not take a sick day in the first 3 months, even if you are sick. If you are sick, come to work and let them send you home if they don’t want you infecting the office. (I once had to go a full year without a sick day because of the rules at the job I was in.)
Do not come to work late in the first 3 months unless the train breaks down or there’s a traffic jam and then make sure you call from the broken-down train. (I’ve found that if you leave ½ hour earlier than you need to – most of the time you won’t have unforeseen delays.)
(Interestingly, all of these youngish adults have cell phones even when though they’re not working…and not the cheap ones either.)
It is easier to stick to something when you know it isn’t forever. Sometimes, you reach the goal-date and keep going. Having a steady paycheck is a great incentive. Cause money talks and bullshit walks. Money helps you do things.
To get good at something, to achieve mastery, you’ve got to do it repeatedly. The more you get up and go to work, the easier it is to do. Having consistency is a good habit and it will build your resume and your credibility, to say nothing of a sense of satisfaction and self-worth.
You can still pursue your dreams while working – set a goal to do 1 hour of drawing/painting/writing/singing/rapping/composing/designing/sewing/dancing each day. Can’t do it daily? Set a goal of giving one half of your Saturday to your art. And do it. You will build your inventory and your mastery. You will be living your vision. Making money from your art is a next step if you want to.
Work builds character, revenue, independence, and can drive you to get the additional training/credentialing or start the business you need so that you don’t have to do work you don’t like for the rest of your life. But the constant quitting, complaining, fantasizing and sponging off parents (even though they’re willing) means that you will never be grown and your parents can’t achieve many of the goals they delayed while rearing you.
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