Millennials Are Redefining Success


My senior year of high school, I had the genius idea of taking AP Physics, AP Calculus, and AP Statistics, all at the same time.

I pushed myself so hard that year all because I wanted to earn college credits and therefore graduate from college in less than four years.

I did that.

I started working a full-time job at the age of 19 and earned my bachelor’s degree in two and a half years.

I figured that if I got my degree early and had some experience under my belt, I’d be ahead of the game career-wise and would be taking steps towards my journey up the quote-on-quote career ladder. If I did this, I would be a few steps closer to becoming the VP of some great company where my work would consume all of my energy every day.

That’s what success looked like most of my life.

I was taught, growing up, that in order to be a successful woman I’d have to work really hard so that I could one day break through these ceilings that were said to be made of glass. And if I did manage to achieve this, well,  I’d become the much-respected senior executive of some company where I would spend 40+ hours every week.

That’s what I was supposed to want.

That’s what I’ve always been capable of doing.

To not reach that goal, I was told, would be a waste of my potential. It would be a waste of my intellect. I would be a failure.

So all my life, this is the goal that I’ve worked towards.

In doing so, however, I’ve allowed others to determine what success looks like in my life.

A few years later, having been in the workforce, I look at the senior executives of many great organizations and I think to myself…really? This is what I want? This is what I’ve worked so hard for all these years?

To work 60 hours a week? To not have time to do the things that I love to do? To have better relationships with the strangers I go to meetings with once a month than with the people I’ve known all my life?

Something’s wrong here.

I know, in my heart, that I DON’T want that.

But I’m supposed to, right?

I’m smart, I’m ambitious, I have big dreams….OBVIOUSLY that’s what success looks like, right?


You see, success can’t be defined so narrowly. Success, also, shouldn’t be defined for you by anyone else. Success is very personal and it varies.

My definition of success can be very different from your definition.

Likewise, my definition of success at 22 can be very different from my definition of success at 40.

That’s okay.

The point is that today I look back on the past few years of my life and although I don’t regret the way my life has played out, I wish that I had allowed myself to form my own definition of success.

Without the influence of society.

Without the influence of my friends.

Without the influence of my parents.

Success should have been between me and me alone.

Today, when I think of success, I don’t think about working for some multi-million dollar corporation managing all of the best accounts, swiftly climbing the corporate ladder.

Instead, I think about being happy. I think about finding a career that I love, one that challenges me. I think about a career that allows me to help others, that allows me to give back in some way. I think about having time to travel and hang out with my friends. I think about making sure that I have enough time to devote to a relationship and building a family one day. Success, to me, means being inspired and having interesting work to do. Success, therefore, is not being bored.

That doesn’t make me any less ambitious.

That doesn’t make me any less determined.

It just means that I’m working towards something different.

And I’ll never apologize for that.

I think that Generation Y wants to succeed, we want to be successful. But at the same time, our picture of success is very different from that of generations before us. The idea of working 80 hours a week behind a desk with no time to pursue our other interests is not really all that appealing.

That’s why we’re asking for flex time.

That’s why there no longer exists a corporate ladder.

That’s why we’re seen as so demanding.

We want more to life than just work.

And for that… I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.

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364 thoughts on “Millennials Are Redefining Success

  1. Tammy Davis says:

    Bravo, Kayla. I’m amazed that you came to this realization at 22 rather than 42–before you’ve locked yourself into a lifestyle or financial obligations that make it more difficult to make changes. More importantly, realizing this before you start a family (if you do) is HUGE. I grew up with the same outlook you had: work hard, prove yourself, you can do it all. No one ever tells you about the compromises you have to make along the way–your happiness, your free time, your hobbies, your family. Life is too short to save the things that make you happy for later. Work toward being happy, being fulfilled, toward your own measure of success. In the end, that’s all that really counts. Great post–and not just for Gen Y!

  2. Erin McNaughton says:

    I agree with, Brian – I think this is your best post to date!

    “I think that Generation Y wants to succeed, we want to be successful. But at the same time, our picture of success is very different from that of generations before us.” YES! We want to find success, but it’s a bit jarring because what we want is different from what past generations wanted. We want to define our own lives and have the freedom to be our best on our own terms. Keep doing what you’re doing – you’re well on your way to TRUE success. 🙂

  3. stephenedwards425 says:

    Reblogged this on LifeRevelation and commented:
    Kayla consistently writes well thought out, balanced blogs that never fail to inform, challenge, and make me laugh hard enough to snort (okay not always the last one, but you get the point that I REALLY like what she writes).

    I hope you enjoy it also.

    Be encouraged!

  4. Margarita says:

    Great post. As a representative of another generation, I’m taking the liberty to point out that my generation’s desires for success were/are not so different from your generation’s. What is different are the paths we see/perceive to reach our goals. I applaud you for opening your eyes to what is available to you, and for not buying into the “conventional wisdom” model. Brava! I’ve supported my daughter through her decisions and choices, understanding that her life is in no way a re-run or reflection of my life, and that my life as her parent is to help her clarify HER path. So very many tiles in this mosaic we call humanity…and it’s great to see you value and define your contribution for yourself! All the very best! xoM

  5. Laurie Barkman says:

    And that is why I love Gen Y and Gen X. Redefining and creating, instead of following the well-trod path. Success is not about titles, cars, houses or baubles. It’s not wrong to want and work for those things, but not at the expense of relationships and experiences. Great post. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  6. Linda Vernon says:

    Ah yes. It’s too bad so much pressure is put on us to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives when we have absolutely now idea who we are or what we want. This is a great post!

  7. Lisa Holden Rovers says:

    Kayla, I can relate to your post. … and I am a Cusper! I am between Gen X and Baby Boomers. I have a passion for supporting women with their professional goals, and I am finding many women (and some men) are making a mind-shift to defining success for themselves. I am a case in point.

    A gift I planned to give myself when I turned 40 was to start my own business. I am loving it, for many of the reasons you have described. I may still be challenged with work/life balance, but I so enjoy what I do, that it is hard to distinguish between work and play. I now believe in work/life integration. Being able to fully be you at work and play!

  8. victorschueller400550589 says:

    Hey Kayla,

    I have been following your posts by email for a while now, and I just wanted to let you know I enjoy reading your work. Even though I am a member of Gen X, I can relate to the issues you talk about, and I can relate and identify with some of the frustrations too. Keep up the great work!


  9. In-House Counsel says:

    Wonderful writing and thinking! I was on a similar path – Harvard Law School, job in largest law firm in world, climbing up…then jumping off that ladder and climbing a web in several different directions at different times. Now, 25 years later, I have never regretted broadening my definition of success and don’t think you will either. Keep writing as you give voice to what many think but they believe they are alone.

    • lindseypalardy says:

      This post it true in so many ways. I’m 20 and I feel like I’m going through exactly what you went through. I’ve been pushed my entire life to go to a great college and graduate on dean’s list to make myself a successful person with a better life. That is what society expects you to do, work your ass off to be better than everyone around you even if it doesn’t make you happy.

      Love your outlook on success!

  10. becca3416 says:

    Well now I understand why you are so ahead of the curve! Degree in two and a half years?! Impressive. But, seriously good for you for realizing this.

  11. Jill says:

    Well said. When I was 22, I was sure my life’s goal was to make partner at my accounting firm by age 30. Thank goodness real life got in the way and made me realize that my goal was more about proving to other people how talented I was (and then what???) Life is too short to strive towards anyone else’s goal but your own.

  12. btg5885 says:

    Amen sister!! Outstanding post. This is not restricted to generations by the way. As an Old Fart, success is redefined based on changing desires and circumstances. If you have ever had a sick child, success is totally defined by having him or her healthy as possible to have a chance at reasonable life. I define success as having a wonderful family, doing meaningful volunteer work, and doing a job I enjoy. I left a job where the less enjoyable parts outweighed the enjoyable parts. My new job focuses on the parts of my old job that I like. Life is short and you only get one chance. Carpe diem.

  13. AlwaysARedhead says:

    Goals are a wonderful thing but what some students need to realize is that they can be altered/changed and there is nothing wrong with that because sometimes goals can put an unreasonable amount of pressure on you.

  14. sportsattitudes says:

    I think regardless of the “generation” we reside within many of us have now wised up and are pursuing a quality of life that includes work…but is not all or all about work. The pursuit for a quality to one’s life has become front and center for a lot of folks…of all ages…especially in light of the “loyalty” corporations and our very own government have shown workers in recent years. Great post.

  15. s1ngal says:

    been there, doing that… i think this is what it’s like to be the GenYer & i really feel proud to have made my own norms when it comes to success & how I live my life.

  16. rdopping says:

    Kayla, I see it like this. You are a Gen Y girl being schooled by Boomers or Gen X. There’s a lot of them in leadership positions. Maybe you shouldn’t listen to them.

    I think you have that down.

    Great post. Cheers!

  17. the curtain raiser says:

    Wonderful post, I too was one of the slow ones who only learned this in my 40’s. Interestingly, most people of my generation resent Gen Y in the workplace just because of the prinsiples you outline in your post. Me, I applaud you guys and think you got it oh so right! Nice to meet you.

  18. Michelle says:

    Always follow your heart Kayla and success, in many forms will follow you. It may not be in the form of the picture you painted at 19 but it will come! I always think that those who truly know themselves and follow their heart will always live happier, “successful” lives…no matter what their age or generation. Love your words and love the Maya Angelou quote too!

  19. Josh says:

    Great post, I think you’ve inspired me to blog about my own experiences too now. I’m 25 and had the same background as you and had the same epiphany that you described when I was 24 and acted on it. Never been so happy. Love the blog. Josh.

  20. smallivy says:

    You’ve got it. A successful career is one that fulfills you. For me, it is doing something meaningful while I’m working that I can point to. I also don’t want to miss seeing my ids grow up because I’m answering emails all evening because I’ve had meetings all day.

    Getting it though doesn’t require being demanding. No one in management needs to give you a balanced career. It is all within your reach – just reach for it.

  21. Alexandra says:

    YES! I just realized this earlier this year, and I’m looking for something that will truly fulfill me. It’s up to ME to be successful, and not up to any manager.

  22. unrelatedtolife says:

    I so much agree with what you said! Success is about you and how you want to do it and how you will enjoy it. For me it is not about finding one career, but the flexibility of just doing what I like independently if it is perceived as a “career” or not. Great post!

  23. originaltitle says:

    I’m so there right now. I’m right there with you in the Gen Y phenomenon of redefining success and I’d say I’m on the sixth loopy scribble of the illustration on the right about now. I was supposed to be a lawyer, then a senator, president or a supreme court judge. I went to a great college, got a great degree, did internships at the state capital, wrote an amazing thesis, worked as hard as I could with Teach for America and then realized: this is not success for me. Great post!! I’m so glad our generation is making success ours instead of letting previous generations tell us what it means.

  24. ashoklaughswithlife says:

    Indeed, it’s one of the most-beautiful blog posts that i’ve come across in the last one year. A message for those who still think success is all about working in a million dollar MNC, and working 70-80 hours behind the desk.

  25. broadsideblog says:

    It’s tough to step off the hamster wheel unless you have terrific skills, some savings and confidence, and I think a lot of people don’t think it through clearly.

    You can also live (as I do) in a smaller home (apartment) and spend one-fifth every single month of what it costs for a Big Fancy House — and still enjoy your life. That freedom from a huge mortgage payment (which makes you look so successful) is much more interesting to me than trying to impress others with my conventional and limiting choices. We drive a 12 yr old paid off vehicle for the same reason. I want the most possible freedom in my life. That means a lower income but a lot more time to enjoy it…

  26. Jennifer Barricklow says:

    Amen, sister. Many a life has been deformed by the tyranny of “potential” and “talent.” I just attended my 25th college reunion and tried to make a case to deans and department heads that they need to present a less narrow vision of success to their students. Alumni panels and talks, especially those that occur during Homecoming, would be a great place to start. I would even argue that the cartoon panel illustrating what success really looks like doesn’t have to show the arrow ending up on its original trajectory: sometimes success takes you in a completely different direction from the one in which you started.

  27. Jean says:

    Keep in mind that those in their 40’s, 50’s, well seasoned career folks want the same –a balanced life, some flex hours but there is the hard reality that some pay for their children’s university education, some have adult children living in their home, etc. Yes, go forward with your career, for some generation Y folks, remember who helped you get there..

    Note: I don’t have children, just a proud aunt of some nieces and nephews, of which the eldest niece after university had a job offer. She started doing business trips world-wide at 23 yrs. She couldn’t even rent a car for business in the U.S. because of her age.

    Best wishes for the future. It’s a long interesting journey ahead.

  28. lsurrett2 says:

    You have discovered what many who have gone before you figure out around 30, so you are ahead of the game (or whatever that means). I, too, pushed myself hard academically so that I could graduate early. Now, I’m not sure why–to finish first? Somehow that made sense when I was 20. Fifteen years, two degrees, and a layoff later–I’m not doing what I set out to do. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not in it alone.

  29. Patsy says:

    This is so true. I’m 24, and I just took a pay cut (albeit a small one) to move into a field I find more interesting and to be near the guy I love. My parents told me that what I was doing was stupid and that if I worked really hard at my current company (which I find boring and unchallenging) I could be an executive and a program manager eventually. I almost listened to them and almost turned the interesting job down, but I closed myself in a bubble and decide “What do I want? Do I want to put my relationship on hold again for my career?” Answer: NO! I’m moving. Just because their definition of success isn’t my definition, doesn’t mean mine is wrong!

  30. Erin's DC Kitchen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’m glad to hear someone else echo the internal conversations I’ve had with myself; the journey of getting to be ‘ok’ with a new definition of success was a long and hard one for me. Now that I’ve sorted it out (for now) I’m so much happier! Maya was onto something there 😉

  31. cartoonmick says:

    There’s a common saying I’ve heard over the last decade or so = “youth is wasted on the young”.

    But, I don’t think it applies to you. I think you have a great life ahead of you, so get out there and enjoy it.



  32. midnitechef says:

    I have commented before that it’s hard to get a work-life balance, however my employer has been very flexible when it’s been appropriate (I got an extended leave after my 1st child was born, days off for my grandmother’s funeral out of country, ect) I’ve heard of other companies being very rigid with their workers, I for one would not work somewhere that did not recognize that life and children need more of me at times. Agile is the new buzz word around here 🙂

  33. Lloyd Lofthouse says:

    “I think that Generation Y wants to succeed, we want to be successful. But at the same time, our picture of success is very different from that of generations before us. The idea of working 80 hours a week behind a desk with no time to pursue our other interests is not really all that appealing.”

    The truth may be that each individual decides his or her path in life. Each individual decides how to balance his or her time and where to focus that time. The only way a heartless corporation gains the cooperation from its workers is because the workers agree to keep working or face losing his or her job.

    As for corporate culture:

    Profits decides how corporations operate and what is expected of its workers, and corporations that ignore that math equation may quickly cease to exist.

    I’m sure many of us have heard how great it is to work for companies such as Google but without profits how long will corporations such as Google and Facebook survive?

    The truth is, sad to say, if Generation Y does feel as you say, then that may explain why these profit driven corporations are working so hard to develop computers that will be equal to the human brain and then those computers will work 24/7 three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year without any rest making the decisions humans once made and then what happens to the rest of us? Meanwhile, the few humans that hold the majority of stock in those computer driven corporations will have the freedom that wealth brings to live wherever and however they want in a style dreamed of by the rest of humanity.

    Meanwhile, if one does not have inherited wealth, how does one survive without an income. The answer may be found on the streets of most cities. All we need do is ask a homeless person.

    The other choice is to work at a low paying job such as mowing lawns, washing cars, working at McDonald’s, etc.

    I know people that work those types of jobs and most of them have to work two or more jobs to earn enough to pay rent and eat (usually this type of diet is not healthy). When a forty hour a week job pays minimum wage and rent is about $1,000 a month (that’s just the rent), then those same people must find other jobs often working seven days a week.

    Then those people working two or more low paying jobs are still working 60 to 100 hours a week for less than that person slaving away in a corporation at much higher pay that pays for a better house, nicer cars, better quality clothes, eating out, taking expensive vacations, etc.

    I just read that the basic Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour (for example Arkansas and most states only pay at this level). In California, minimum wage is $8.00 an hour–in San Francisco it is $10.24 an hour. This means even working 100 hour weeks only results in $800 gross pay before taxes at $8.00 an hour. In Washington state the minimum wage is $9.04 an hour.

  34. Lavender Blume says:

    This post literally made me smile. I’m glad to see other people questioning mainstream myths surrounding the ideals of success. Good for you for articulating that it’s not about being whiny, entitled brats either! At age of 33, having established a good career as an anti-money laundering investigator, I looked around and thought, ‘Where am I going to be in 5 or even 10 years?’. The possibilities didn’t fit with my values and goals. Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer. At some point I gave up on that dream and this is where that landed me. I’m applying to law school with the goal of practicing environmental law because I don’t think I should be doing anything other than championing the causes I care so much about in my professional life as well as my personal life. If I’m successful, I may work 60 hours a week and I may not be my own boss for a long time, but at least I’m giving myself the chance to do what matters to me. We can’t know success on our own terms unless we give ourselves permission to define what it means.

  35. courtneyhensleekresha says:

    This a wonderful and insightful look into how we operate today. We are still “behind” other countries in the things that we want for ourselves and our families. My partner works for a company where her boss is in the UK. Her boss scoffs and crosses her eyes when she hears how few days off Danny gets and the company policies on sick leave, etc.

    Some of my blog time is certainly spent questioning the psychology of society about where I SHOULD be right now and what I SHOULD be doing.

    But I have myself to answer to these days.

    Owner of EffOff Bodycare

  36. hopeforheather says:

    I’m 40 and just resigned my job due to massive health issues and am now volunteering and doing something I love. It doesn’t pay all the bills and I struggle but I feel successful in my own way. 🙂 Congrats on FP, btw!

  37. Samantha says:

    Wow. I am floored by this post. I wrote something similar about our generation, and my blog is devoted to what personal success means…but you said it so well and I’m just floored. You deserve a round of applause for all of us, for explaining exactly what that burning determination is in each of us. We’re the future, and the world is going to have to change around us, not the other way around. Pressing the follow button…and congrats on Freshly Pressed!! 🙂

  38. conserving quirky says:

    I know exactly what you say here,and so so agree with it.Just a year after my graduation in architecture,I quit my job and started freelancing,because i needed all those things that you mention in your blog.My mother doesn’t get it,and is disappointed.I guess,it’s just the ‘generation’ gap.
    Great post.Can completely relate to it.Cheers!

  39. Daniella says:

    I could not agree more – thank you for writing this. We all deserve the right to find happiness, and not let society or anyone else dictate what should make us happy.

    Great read!

  40. Matt_S_Law says:

    Kayla, you are wise and insightful beyond your years. If you want to pursue success, find someone that has the life that you want, and seek out their advice, knowledge and mentorship. That will rarely come from school and almost never come from people above you in the corporate hierarchy (because you are a threat to them). But they are out there and they are more often than not willing to teach and train young minds.

  41. zachbissett says:

    Getting through college in 2.5 years is impressive and beneficial, but at the same time you miss out on 1.5 years of college! Just reinforces the idea that “success” is defined as “the sacrifice of personal pleasure.”

  42. catcristy says:

    Hello fellow Gen-Y’er! I am on the older scale of this general but in several ways I can totally relate to you. You see, I took forever to finish college in my 20’s… I definitely explored my options and lived life, but now I feel as though I must catch up with those in my age group (darn you “corporate latter”). Long story short, at least you figured out your priority and you will have plenty of time to find your right fit of job/career, that’s great! For me, I have other worries – getting married, having children, my eggs are dying each and every day, yada, yada, yaha… I’ll see what I have to say about my 30’s once I am in my 40’s. However, looking back at my life I don’t regret the decision I’ve made and I have my own journey. We all have our own journey, good luck on yours and do what makes you happy. Ultimately, I am after the same – happiness.
    Great post!

  43. Lily in the Nova says:

    This is amazing. I’ve been feeling the exact same way for the past few months. I even felt guilty for thinking this way. It’s nice to know it wasn’t wrong of me to think like that. Your post sums it all up perfectly.

    Great post, thank you 🙂

  44. The Smile Scavenger says:

    This is exactly what I’m going through right now. I gave my notice last Friday at my corporate-ladder job. I’m pursuing real happiness. I wish you so much luck finding yours!

  45. pezcita says:

    You make some really good points here. As a member of gen Y, I’ve given up to the extent that “success” is defined as being debt free and having my name in the paper, and it’s a long way off at that. Still, our generation is the most educated America has ever seen, and because of economic instability, we’re fast becoming the most flexible workers out there too. On top of all that, our parents’ generation will soon retire. Success is slow in coming, but it is coming.

  46. colorfulwordz says:

    Hi there, I started this new project helping market a remodeling company in the los angeles area. I dont believe success comes the way most adults think it comes from. I went to school and got no where with the degree i received.(business degree). now i am marketing but it had nothing to do with the degree. focus on success at a level that can help you get to your short term goals.

    self taught web designer and marketing expert

  47. kevin meyers photography says:

    Good for you for figuring some of this stuff out at such a young age! As other commenters have posted, too many people don’t figure it out until much later, or even too late in life. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my adult life. I want to make a good living, and I want to have a job I can feel proud of, but I have little interest in killing myself under a crushing load of work. Unfortunately earning a good living requires some personal sacrifice.

    Just remember that there has to be a balance of a different kind. Work-life balance is a beautiful thing (I’m constantly pushing to keep my balance!), but sometimes it means sacrificing other things. You want 6 weeks off to travel? Well, don’t expect most employer to celebrate that wish. You don’t want to work 40+ hours/week? That may limit career growth. You don’t want to put in the time learning good skills in lower-level positions? Good luck with that. You want a job that is fun & interesting? That’s fantastic – but that career may not pay the bills.

    I’m not saying that’s what YOU are asking for – but it is what I hear all the time from your generation. Not that my generation (“X”) was much better!

    Great post. I love what you wrote and how you wrote it. I’m not trying to pick on you, so I hope it didn’t seem that way!

  48. housewifedownunder says:

    Great post! I wish more people, especially young women, would realise that success is not defined by working long hours in a job you hate so you can get “ahead” to impress people you don’t like. As another commenter said, success is about finding happiness. I had people tell me that if I didn’t go after a big career, I’d be a failure. I pursued law school for a time and then changed my mind (best decision ever!), which disappointed a lot of people… except myself. The day I realised I didn’t even want a career at all was sort of a shocker for me, but I know I wouldn’t be happy in the corporate world. I really enjoyed running my own small business for a time, which a lot of people thought was pathetic, and now I enjoy just being a wife to my husband, which a lot of people think is even more pathetic. I’ve gotten the “But why did you even bother to go to university, if you’re just going to waste it?” line. I get that a lot from older people who still think success means having a high powered career and nothing else, though I’ve yet to hear it from another Gen-Y-er. I think Gen-Y-ers do, on the whole, have a more open-minded way of looking at success and are more willing to accept that success is something we define for ourselves, not something that society defines for us.

  49. My Camera, My Friend says:

    I like your point that success should mean different things for different people. I’m currently trying to find my way to my idea of success: a job I’m passionate about that pays enough for me to live comfortably in an apartment in a safe neighborhood and have a kitty. Since the world needs people to fulfill so many different functions, different ideas of success are good for us as a whole. Someone has to be the overachiever executive, and someone has to be the content worker making enough to enjoy the time they have off with their loved ones.

  50. cruelladekill says:

    Somehow, in a brilliant yet simple storm of statements, you have summed up my life. Isn’t it fantastic when you realize that you’re finally comfortable in your own skin, and what that can do for you the rest of your life?

  51. says:

    Loved every.single.word of this post! As a fellow 20-something who every day criticizes herself for not being “where I thought i would be/want to be right now,” I agree with what you’re saying. I think something also to add is that, as long as we get to where we wanna be in the end, we shouldn’t chide ourselves on “slowly” getting there!

  52. lillianccc says:

    You tell ’em, girl! A lot of times, us Gen Y-ers are seen to be a pack of spoiled and sheltered brats who think life should always go their way. You make an articulate, informed response to those preconceived notions and I’m glad you also realized the greater value in defining happiness and success for yourself and not by others’ standards. A great, well thought out post!

  53. optimisticgladness says:

    Love this piece. This makes me think! Success is never achieved alone. It requires others to help you. For example, if a person graduates college with a professional degree, they did not do that alone. It required the teachers that invested their time, the parents that helped pay for their child to go to school, the extra job that mom may have had to pick up to help off set the additional cost of sending her child to school.
    A successful life is based on successive failures. I am a pediatric physical therapist and work with children with disabilities. For a child to meet a goal that I have set for them, they will need to practice and fail over and over. The huge part is, encouraging them in their failures….to not quit, to try again and again and again until success is achieved. It’s a balance. If the child remains supine on the floor, it is deemed failure to mee the goal, if the child runs around non- stop, unable to focus, and is a threat to himself or others, it is failure in a different respect.
    Like you post implies, success is about balance (40 hours a week verses 80 hours per week. Time for a social life and doing what you want to do). Thank you for challenging my thoughts.

  54. Morgan Ross says:

    You speak with a whole lot of self assurance for a 22-year-old. More than I had at 22 (and I didn’t have any), and more than I have now at 29. What is your secret? Espresso? Ginseng? Zoloft?

  55. parliamentaryowl says:

    Gen Y really has had so many advantages handed it to it by the preceding generations who laid the foundations of democracy, technology, medicine, education, and intellectual freedom. etc. Previous generations never had the option of saying “we want more from life than work”. They had to work. They did it for you.

  56. robertsitalia says:

    Truly the best motivation comes from whatever is inside of you. Thank you so much for your thoughts! Keep up the good work.

  57. Cassye says:

    Kayla, you are so fortunate to be an old soul. I wasn’t nearly ambitious as you’ve been academically, but I felt the same pressures, and defined success by society’s standards. I finally figured out in my early 30s what you’ve already discovered. I am committed to helping my daughter understand that she has options in this life, and she needs to find her own success on her terms.

  58. shudderingwords says:

    I can say that I am just starting to realize this. I’m 19 and a Freshman in College who dreams of becoming a published and well liked author some day. I agree with what you say about how everyone has a different definition of success. You said yours was through the corporate ladder, my parents always told me that it was what God was calling me to do, and that I would be happy. I still believe that, and I have never been more excited or happy pursuing what I am interested in. I think that you are doing a great thing by realizing that there is more to happiness than just a nice paycheck. Because money is nice, power is nice, and we all would love to have that, but once it becomes all that we have, we start missing everything else that life has to offer.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse says:

      Shuddering Words said, “I’m 19 and a Freshman in College who dreams of becoming a published and well liked author some day.”

      Good luck. May you be a dreamer that achieves your dream sooner than later.

      Have you heard of Amanda Hocking? She’s in her late twenties now, and it took her NINE YEARS after writing her first novel to go viral and earn big money as an author. Before that, she lived at home with her mother barely surviving financially. Today, she is one of the rare and few “A” list authors earning millions. In her ninth year before her breakthrough, she was earning less than $3,000 annually. She says in interviews that she often fought with her mother over getting a better paying job. Her mother was getting sick and tired of supporting her dream. To a parent, nine years to support an adult child living at home is a long time. Specially when the parent has to get up and go to work everyday and the adult child doesn’t.

      Amanda Hocking was one of the fortunate few. It took me much longer to achieve my dream and I am not an “A” list author. My wife is, but I’m not.

      Forty-four years ago, when I was a freshman in College, I had the same dream. After nine years of college earning an AS Degree in Community College, a BA in journalism in 1973, followed by seven years of writing workshops out of UCLA’s extension program, then an MFA in writing from another university in addition to several literary agents and an endless stream of rejections slips, some saying they liked the book (I wrote more than a dozen during those years) but there was no market for that book at the time, I finally achieved the dream in December 2007.

      To pay for college, I had the GI Bill (served several years in the US Marines and fought in Vietnam—about six and half percent of the total population of the US serves in the military and fights its country’s wars. The US fights in many wars!), worked part time jobs (the GI Bill wasn’t enough to cover everything), took out student’s loans, etc. My parents did not have the money to pay for my college so I paid for it and after the Marines I did not want to live at home again. The student’s loans were paid off in 1983 (because I worked two jobs days, nights and weekends) a decade after I graduated with the BA.

      Now, as a published author with daily sales for the last three years, according to the sales numbers, I’m what is called an internationally published, award winning midlist author. But achieving that title did not happen by magic because I wanted it.

      I found out the hard way over the decades that the average book sells only a few hundred copies in its lifespan meaning below average books do not do well, which is why most authors have to have regular jobs and many teach and that’s what I did. To pay for my dream, between 1968 and 2007 I had to eat and earn enough to pay the mortgage, the car payment, fill the car’s gas tank, make the credit card bills, etc.

      Both of my parents were dead long before my first book was published so I suspect that it was a good thing that I wanted to support myself all those years and not live off my parents.

      To do that I had to find a job, and I ended up in the classroom as a teacher for thirty years working 60 to 100 hours a week teaching (and correcting the work the students turned in) English literature and grammar, journalism and reading. I went into teaching because I thought, wrongly, that it would give me the time and freedom to write. After all, teachers are only in class with students about 35 to 40 hours a week, have a week off around Easter, two weeks off at Christmas/New Year, and ten weeks off in the summer.

      But I learned quickly that most teachers take work home and correct papers, plan lessons often until they fall asleep late at night still sitting at the dining room table with stacks of student work waiting to be corrected.

      The only time I had to write for my dream was at 3 AM in the morning and I left for the school where I taught at about 6 AM and sometimes earlier. There were days when I was teaching journalism, a very demanding course to teach and I did not get home until midnight after an eighteen hour day at school, then I was up at five to reach school by six the next morning.

      In addition, teachers are often not paid during that so-called summer vacation so many of us have to work part time summer jobs to earn enough to buy food, pay the mortgage, the electric bill, the water bill, the gas bill, the phone bill, the property tax, etc.

      I knew teachers that, during summers, taught summer school (that’s what I did most summers) cleaned pools, mowed lawns, worked at Disneyland, Home Depot, etc. Summers that I did not teach, I did landscaping installing sprinkler systems sixteen hours a day six and seven days a week.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if dreams grew on trees like ripe fruit and we could just pick the one we wanted and make that dream true with the first bite?

  59. serre says:

    Nice, nice and nice. Sometimes things cross your path just in the right moment (dramatic line to say “I’m glad I read this post just while I’m reconsidering my working life” :))

  60. Garth Beyer says:

    This is BY FAR, the best post for Gen Y’rs like us when it comes to success. I am going through the exact same situation right now. Worked hard, got an associates at age 18, working full-time job, living on my own, writing, working, working and yea, working more.

    I’m with you. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry that directions have changed.

  61. bettermebetterhumanity says:

    It’s very interesting that you wrote this because I feel the same way. I was raised with the idea that more money = more success. Once I graduated high school my philosophy changed to more happiness = more success. I realized that money doesn’t really mean a whole lot to the spectrum of happiness and success. Great post, I’m happy to see it on FP!

  62. Alyssa says:

    Awesome! I’ve experienced the same things in my life. So glad we’re diving into this now rather than when we’re older with more responsibilities, obligations, etc. Keep it up!

  63. growinginafrica says:

    Amazing post, as a twenty-something year old who has generally followed my heart- it’s tough sometimes being not-so-much the norm. When the whole world is flocking for a job that pays enough for the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids – its hard to be someone who picks up and does something different. Great post !

  64. merryblake says:

    Reading this was well-timed on my part. I’ve recently come to the realisation that earning a degree does not make you a better or more successful person. I did a year and a half of study before I decided to leave. And not because I couldn’t hack it—’cause I could. I was good at it, getting good grades. But the motivation wasn’t there. So I dropped out (indefinitely) and I’m now writing my first book. I research, read, and write every day and I couldn’t properly tell you how right this feels to me.

    So thank you for posting something like this. I think it’s important that young people see this too.

  65. tocontributeaverse says:

    Hm, if I didn’t know any better, we were twins separated at birth. I also took 3 AP classes my senior year (6 total in high school) and entered college as a sophomore. I graduated in 3 years because I double majored and then started my career a couple weeks after turning 22. I, too, had to hit a wall where I realized that success isn’t about straight As, lots of $$, and an image…what a great post. And I think I’m generation Y…I’m 28, born in 1984. Is that Gen Y?

  66. chantae says:

    I’ve recently realized this as well (and I’m almost 22!) I completely agree! It’s hard for people like us who have had our sights set on the “typical ideal of success” to abandon that for something unique to us (and we don’t really know what we want!) but it’s a great thing to do.

  67. mikeballenger2011 says:

    This is really nice post and very well written! Your post reminds me of a Springsteen line from the song Better Days:
    Now a life of leisure and a pirate’s treasure
    Don’t make much for tragedy
    But it’s a sad man my friend who’s livin’ in his own skin
    And can’t stand the company
    Every fool’s got a reason for feelin’ sorry for himself
    And turning his heart to stone
    Tonight this fool’s halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
    And I feel like I’m comin’ home

  68. clubwhore says:

    I feel like I found a kindred soul here. I came to the exact same realization when I got to college and realized that I would rather work on my blogs and devote time, energy, money, and effort to that rather than a degree that probably won’t put me ahead anyway. You are so right. I’m excited about what our generation will contribute to the world as time goes on because we are constantly pushing the limits and not taking “no” for an answer.

    You are a great writer and I really appreciate this post especially 🙂

  69. laurabroad says:

    I’m really glad I read this post today and think you are completely right. So much of what you said is going through my head at the moment. I’m about to graduate uni after squeezing 2 degrees into 4 years while working and trying decide what to do next is not an easy decision! I think it’s very hard to create our own definitions of success though, because there is so much noise from everyone else it’s hard to understand what we actually want and what we’ve been taught to want. I hope you find you version of success, and I’d like to find mine too.

  70. John Hayden says:

    Excellent post! Marsha Sinetar wrote the book on life’s work, success, happiness. I recommend her book, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.”

  71. Loujain says:

    Great Post! it is hard to come to this realization after you’ve spent so many years not living in the moment in order to one day “get there”. You just wish people tell you when you are younger that you CAN live the way you want and that success isn’t about a job and a paycheck.

  72. Healthy Artists says:

    Great post, very clear and eloquently worded. I’m struggling to explain my definition of ‘success’ to my family because it just doesn’t fit with what society tells me to want.
    Thanks for your post 🙂

  73. chocoandvanella says:

    Reblogged this on choco and vanella and commented:
    Yes. As a 15- year old teen I have imagined myself, as the head of a big company, meeting different kinds of people, working with them, and talk about business and how we would make loads of money. The way I was brought up, that is the picture of success I have in my mind. Success is when you earn lots of money to satisfy all your pleasures, luxuries and desires. Travelling all over the world, meeting different kinds of people, eating in fine dining restaurants and “shop until I drop” is my vision of success. That’s why I’m studying hard for that goal. Because yes, this blog is true. Not being able to reach that goal, would be a waste of my potential, my intellect. But is that really the case at all? Is that what success is all about. Working 60+ hours a week, on the desk, in front of the computer, with your secretary constantly reminding, ‘Ma’am, you have a meeting this 2 pm.’ Or ‘Ma’am, potential investors are here to talk with you’. It sounds cool. It sounds tempting. Who wouldn’t want to be the senior executive of a large company? But the question is that, is that what I really want? Deep down I ask myself, is that the kind of life I want to live in? Is their definition of success, my definition of success? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. Not now. BUT, what this blog made me realize is that success varies. And what I know now is that I want to be happy. I want to be inspired. I want to surround myself with people who love me. And of course, I want to help my family and earn enough money for me to be capable of having my own. And, I hope, I will find the meaning of success. I hope, I’ll find the meaning of success without influence of others, or my parents. I hope and I pray that the success I have defined for myself, I will attain.

  74. susannairn says:

    Wow…..I must say I was very impressed by your thoughts and your writing. I work with many Generation Y’s and they are not nearly as focused, earnest and articulate. This was a pleasure to read and I will be following from now on!

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  78. Anne Kelly says:

    This is exactly what my company is struggling with. They all worked like crazy to succeed and we’re not doing that in the same way, so they don’t know how to treat us. Your post reminds me of something I wrote recently about the different generations. The baby boomers were shaped by the depression and times of World War, when resources were limited. So they are driven to achieve to not repeat that situation. We are shaped by a childhood of carefree excess. So it’s deeper meaning we seek as adults.

  79. you're just a dumb ass says:

    Very honest assessment of how the market & society is shifting! Instability has marked our generation. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  80. bradleymccoy says:

    Well said. I was in a little different situation when I came to the same realization. I actually did exactly none of what most people says leads to “success”. I got married in High School (in 2006 not 1906 when this was the thing to do). I was working 60+ hrs a week my senior year. Everyone said I was ruining my chances at success. We went on to have our first child at 18 a year later. Then our second at 21 and around the time that my son was born I realized just working harder, putting in more hours wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to do something that mattered not just take whatever the company decided to give me. I wanted to help people and be in control of my own future, so we started our own business at 23. Then we worked our asses of to get where we are now. 2 1/2 years later about to open our second business and on track to make 4x as much in 2013 as the guys who said we wouldn’t make it because we didn’t follow the steps. I Agree completely with you on this. Define success for yourself. Then find a need and fill it. Don’t wait for someone else to pick you, pick yourself! Your an inspiration to many. Keep it coming. Thanks! (Sorry for the short rant.)

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  82. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    Going your own way is surely dangerous. But tethering to st you hate all your life is a sure death. Dead while you’re alive! 😀

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  84. Jess says:

    Amen, sister! I was just like this, too, and have only recently begun to realize that what I thought was success (being at the top of the corporate ladder) doesn’t sound so appealing anymore. Thank you for this!

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  89. Reiss says:

    I am really excited when my generation – Gen Y – are the leaders of organisations and departments. Flexible working will be the norm and there will be more of an emphasis on working smarter not just harder.

  90. Todd says:

    For the most part I agree with you, success comes from within. However, I’m seeing the younger generations not even caring about the job/jobs they have, if they even have one. The youth I’m seeing today thinks its ok to live off of Social Security, food stamps, etc. The youth where I work would rather smart off than do the job the correct way. Maybe I think they are lazy or maybe they just are lazy. If they don’t do the job then how can they be really successful?

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  93. belovedtoday says:

    This is fantastic! It’s so easy to think success is something that is the only way to happiness, or that it is something set in stone that many of us will never achieve but I think that if you are doing something you are passionate about and you pursue what you love, then in your passion you are successful.
    Thanks for the insight!

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  124. Kathleen says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’ve been struggling a lot the past few months with finding my own path. I’ve come to realize my success and happiness has nothing to do with anything or anyone else but me. Thanks for this post!

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