Every good story needs a villain & every Gen Y professional benefits from a swift kick in the shorts

Lately I’ve observed an increase in my Gen Y peers rebelling vehemently against the idea of working in a large corporation.

That sentiment is mostly shared from the middle 70% I refer to as the mediocre masses, who are too lazy to reach the top 15% where the brightest young Gen Y entrepreneurs reside, and conversely too parentally-helicoptered to drop to the bottom 15%.

They are the ones throwing stones at the idea of Corporate America without knowing even a paragraph’s worth reason behind why. While I certainly don’t believe the path I’ve chosen is the “best” or “correct” one for everyone, I know the least qualified individuals to count out a corporate career are the youngest, most inexperienced Y’ers with little to base their decision on.

Newsflash, new grads: While you’re busy raging against the corporate machine via Occupy, you should also know there’s absolutely nothing sexy about working for an over-funded, underperforming startup. 

Not even close to every startup achieves the success of Zynga, or can make it look as easy & fluid as Hipmunk. And those that will won’t be hiring anything other than the most talented few among us.

Despite the natural glamour that lures many into startup shantytown where every day is a SXSW afterparty, the % of those who will succeed is in the low single digits. And your early years spent seeking “fun” at a sub-par company versus substance could damage whatever opportunity could have been in your thirties.

Suffice it to say, my generation is missing a piece of their puzzle. We’re making decisions based on whimsy & ego versus logic & humility.

Thus, from the “evil, dark corporate abyss” I’m writing this post to offer my thoughts on the 2 things I believe will help fill that void.

1) A chance sooner than later in their careers to be humbled 


2) My renewed commitment to ensure the enemy of Gen Y’s mediocre masses, large corporations & all they stand for, will thrive, remain profitable and, most importantly, be as despise-able as ever to fuel the anti-establishment fire.

Why? Every good story needs a villain. 

Every ill-founded movement needs something to blindly oppose. Corporations give them that. But as of late, the youngest of my generation are starting to live up to negative stereotypes we’ve battled against for years and their competitive spirit has morphed into misplaced arrogance.

So, despite my birth year falling squarely into Y territory, I’ve temporarily lost that Gen Y loving feelin.

I can’t help the fact that I’m disappointed.

And today I’m ready for us to stop making excuses. I’m ready for us to reach our full potential.

We should be emphatically, as a generation, knocking it out of the park. Instead, we’re barely making contact with the ball & some days we even forget to bring the bat.

Personally, I define “knocking it out of the park” in a different way than those holding signs & camping out in major cities protesting in front of buildings they will one day likely walk into and apply for a job.

I define it as DOING something. Proudly kicking our own asses, burning midnight oil as a regular practice and collectively yanking our economy up from the doldrums.

Most of us don’t have families yet.

That’s why NOW is the time to get a head start. TODAY is when we have the blessing & opportunity that time presents, not tomorrow.

Doing more by sucking it up after college and opting to send a check to a landlord even when it’s hard versus BestBuy for that new flat screen TV or Starbucks for overpriced coffee habits all while skating by on free rent under our parents’ roofs.

While every other generation moved out of their parents’ homes at 18, our generation has decided instead to selfishly act like the leeches we were prophesied to become on the US economy.

20 somethings living with parents well past college are taking lower paying jobs because without rent, they can. And thus their contribution to the economy vs. previous generations is abysmal. They make less, spend less & thus are suffocating our economy into a slow, depressing, ambition-starved death.

We’ve been lazy & our parents have enabled it. Shame on us both.

It’s time to be something more.

Be better, smarter, more humble and more grateful than ever before.

But can we…

The immature & borderline laughable career expectations of my generation are now paired with an over-inflated sense of self, leaving nothing but an overwhelming gap where questions should be asked… where learning should happen.

We think we should get a promotion after 6 months of mediocre work as if owed something, while we have yet to be proven capable of executing our way out of our high school bedroom, much less executing on greater responsibilities at work.

It’s sad, really. I used to defend us against all of these criticisms, but our recklessness has finally broken me.

We’re embarrassing ourselves.

And out of this cycle has come the perfect storm of lazy douchebag-tastic talent pools from which companies are forced to choose, causing most to naturally lose interest along with any desire to increase bench strength with talented Gen Yers.

We’re killing our future opportunities where we sit today.

Swift Kick in the Shorts = A Gift

I believe part of this Gen Y crisis could have been averted with early-on swift kicks in Gen Ys professional shorts.

The majority of my gold star generation has never been humiliated due to oceans of protective parental praise and “you can do anything, be anything, demand anything, and you deserve everything” mantras ingrained into their millions of US households.

What’s missing today is the balance needed by pairing that confidence with humility & hard work.

Everyone needs to experience once the sinking feeling of screwing up royally. If this generation already has, then they weren’t given the gift of honest feedback.

Their actions are crying out for someone to tell them “Hey, that sucks.You half-assed it. Do it again, and do it significantly better than before.”

The helicopter parents deprived this generation of complete self-awareness and perpetuated their attitudes today manifested into a waste of potential.

That has left most ill-prepared to work in a collaborative corporate environment with those who have been, & thus why the corporate path I’ve chosen isn’t crowded.

We all remember the days in each of our own careers when these kick in the shorts-moments happened. You never shake the memory of the feeling you had when you first screwed up on the job. And how you could have corrected it played out in your mind, and continues to do so throughout your career as it has been one of many great experiential teacher

So, why have we selfishly deprived this generation of that feeling we each remember from our own mistakes, and that has helped us become who we are today?

The most important future need for today’s middle 70%

If we can figure out a way to give them today what their personal career development has been deprived of,to-date, that’s only half the battle.

They then should start praying even harder that I and others with similar interests are actually able to turn this boat around with those they’ve jaded on the hiring side of the equation.

I believe the most critical need the middle chunk of the Gen Y masses won’t be the villification of Corporate America… instead, a company, any company, in 2020 willing to hire lackluster talent.

Corporate America needs more mediocre talent just about
as much as the American diet needs more sodium.

So… yeah… good luck with that. But I truly will be rooting for you… from a safe distance in my cube, of course.

In all seriousness, to the youngest in my generation, I hope to see us all blossom into our full potential one day soon. Because the moment the Boomers finally start retiring, our generation will have no choice other than to rise to the corporate occasion.

It’s time to get to work.

As for me, I’d like to think I’m living proof that a few “swift kicks in the shorts” early on can teach Gen Y’ers lessons critical to their future… and that a future when my peers will seek out corporate careers involving large-scale complexity just might be possible after all. 

It’s time for my generation to pull up its big girl britches, sinch them tight, and for the love of all that is evil, good and holy, go toe-to-toe with your potential.

All my love,



2 thoughts on “Every good story needs a villain & every Gen Y professional benefits from a swift kick in the shorts

  1. Kevin Schumacher says:

    From one individual who has learned more humility than praise, thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree more with your assertion, and am happy to learn from it.

  2. Sarah Kennedy Ellis says:

    Thanks Kevin! I feel the same way – still remember the first few times I screwed up in ways that were ‘a huge deal’ to me in my little world and learned more/changed more about how I work ever since that made me better at what I do. I cringe when I think about how those moments felt, but boy are mistakes good teachers. :)Hope everything is going well with you these days – miss you around here!

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