The Great Recession changed our view of money and success
The biggest difference between us and the yuppie professionals of the 90s is that we lost the mentality of Working Girl. Not only did we no longer aspire to have a high paying corporate job in a skyscraper, we had little chance of it. When we were coming out of school the market was flooded by boomers desperate for high paying positions, who had just got laid of. We were excited just to get a job at a coffee shop, or as an intern in our desired field. We were the ninja generation. No incoming No Job, No assets. What we did have was a voice.
I graduated in June 2008 from the UW. I was hired by a man called Darren Burg. He was launching a new company to do transportation between Seattle and Portland. I had to wear slacks and a tie. The office was immaculate, and the entire penthouse office suite on 4th avenue was meant to impress investors. Darren was oppressive, he was mean, he was the ultimate result of the greed of Gen X. He was the Seattle based, real life version of Gordon Gecko. I hated it. He is now in prison.
I was lucky enough to spend a few short months working in a tech startup right after that. The “old guard” of Seattle 2.0 tech startup were only 40. They were used to showing up at an event, meet a venture capitalist, and get funded that day with nothing but a great idea, and technical expertise. In those days ideas were being funded with seed money left and right.
In 2006, I went to a Seattle 2.0 event which was packed with more great startup ideas than I had ever seen before. We millennials hadn’t even had a chance to show up in mass. Those that were were technical geniuses. The nerds. And being a nerd was cool. Those of us lucky enough to be on the screen have great success now.
In September 2008, we would gather around Kelly’s computer and watch the stock market fall. It was almost like watching a horse race, hoping that it wouldn’t fall below below a certain number. If it only fell by 300 points as opposed to 350, it was a lucky day. Entire investment firms would be gone overnight, and hundreds of millions of dollars would be lost. We all watched our parents lose their jobs, their houses, their retirements. Student loans would be piling up. But to a certain degree, what did we care?
We didn’t have a house–thank god. We didn’t investments, thank god. So we had nothing to loose, so the recession, our college spending habits. What’s wrong with working for a coffee shop for five more years? We still made enough money for rent, our student loans and to hang out with friends.
Suddenly the american dream changed. The house, the family, and the golden retriever sounded boring anyway. Besides, we watched desperate housewives, those bitches be crazy. When the slate gets wiped clean, and we’re given to tools of instant communication, there was a massive growth of ideas, art, creativity. It wasn’t long before most of us discovered how to monetize it.
First Ebay, and craigslist, then Etsy, then Airbnb, the Uber. Suddenly anyone can be an entrepreneur. If you have a voice, and can contribute some good. The internet lets that voice be heard, and people can pay you for it. Suddenly being an individual meant actually contributing to the culture.
How we view authority
- We believe it will not protect us: Corporate America is out for themselves, Social Security is dead. Let’s be pragmatic, were on our own. if we can wore ourselves out to the corporate world to make a living, we’re going to milk it for all we’ve got for as long as we’ve got it. If we’re going to rely on the government dime, changes are we are going to find every grant, every line, and every cent we can take, for as long as it’s there. We’re not opportunists because we’re lazy, we’re opportunists because we know that governments are corporations are opportunists themselves. We use and abuse each other. if we had any preference at all, we’d rather be the masters of our own fates. That’s why when surveyed over half of all millennials wanted to start their own business or be self employed. Some of us are better at this than others, but there is no doubt, that our generation simply wants to march to their own drum, and pave their own path. That is as much an act of self preservation as it is an act of self expression.
- We do not trust corporate America: While the crash of 2001 can be attributed to getting the cart before the horse with regard to investment in “.coms” We understand enough of the Great Recession to know that it was more than just a bubble that was going to burst, it was the result of an entire economic system built on borrowing from the future in a way that is unsustainable. The general mentality can be summed up in the closing paragraph published in the huffington Post by Phu Nguyen on December 19th, 2014. “In ruthless defense of my generation, I’d like to say: eat shit. Eat your own shit that you left for us. We have arguably been the most versatile of all generations. We have proven to be one of the most tenacious. We are the ones who worked hard because we were told that it led to good fortune and prosperity. When we realized that what we were told wasn’t so black and white we found different ways to get to it. Throughout the entirety of the process, we fought wars waged by other generations and we did it willingly. After all, Gen Y has never had a mandated military draft. We have trudged through the feces of economic downfall, a recession that became devastatingly close to mimicking The Great Depression, and environmental, manmade and social catastrophes that we scientifically could not have been responsible for. We’ve rolled with many punches, refusing a TKO of our generation and ourselves. And we did all of this with people calling us whiny, entitled and enabled. Yet, despite it all, we strive to be better and we strive to set up a system that cares for the generations before and after us.”
- We believe experiences are worth more than things: We’ve seen first hand how the “American Dream” can be taken away from us. Our parents had more foreclosures than any time in history. Few of us believe there is a point to buying anything that we don’t really need. We’ve learned there are things that a repo man cannot take away, namely experiences. Hell, that half of what we’re documenting and preserving on social media. We want to have more fun and experience more people and places than our parents before us. Perhaps it’s part of our minds being opened up to other places, people and cultures, or maybe it’s travel envy. Whatever the case, we want to be enriched from what we buy. As part of this, we believe that work SHOULD be one of the great experiences. In fact we are willing to get paid less to do something we love. What this means is that service will boom. We’re not thrifty, we’re choosy. We don’t like buying things just to show off, we like buying things to have fun with our friends. That create an entirely different view of marketing. Having and showing off your amazing experience is the new consumerism, the more creative and different the better. Millennials are not brand followers, they’re brand makers, they want to be a part of the story of a brand if anything.
- We are all entrepreneurs: Literally out of the French, the word means “one who undertakes.” That could be the mantra of the entire generation. We are not, by nature, freeloaders or observers; we all want to start something, and be part of an exciting new venture. We’ve had an entire generation of forebears who have paved the way, and now the great mission we all want to do is undertake a challenge, and build something great. We’ve been enable with every tool to do so. In the ‘80s the cool thing might have been to start a band.