I am NOT your slave – Kevin, Kevin and Perry, circa 2000AD
Parents are funny creatures. A constant source of embarrassment for some, the lights of their life for others; the best people you know or just plain weird – everyone’s are slightly different but all have the same objective – to make their offspring as successful as they can be. That’s why most will help their children get ahead by any means they can. The generation before us dutty Millennials, the Baby Boomers, often came from a cut-and-paste, insular type of family – the father being the principle breadwinner, the mother being a secondary breadwinner and nurturer of the family and the children taught the importance of knowing their place (lest we forget, beating children was not the same faux pas in 1956 as it is in 2016). Our grandparents knew best, told their children as such, and rebellion was frowned upon. The result was an expectance that their children would follow in their footsteps and mirror their parents’ path to success. Uniform careers, uniform happiness, uniform life.
Then the 60s happened – young people started to grow their hair long, smoke pot, wear clothes that looked like a unicorn had vomited on them and, ultimately, become more empowered and liberal. This was the start of a long journey to where we are today, which also saw immense technological advances be a catalyst for progression. Of course, the new liberal movement drew scorn from many traditionalists, and my theory is that every set of parents today is somewhere on the scale between New Age, Nudist Spiritualists and Right Wing Chartered Accountants (generalisations are just so useful for writers). I believe their attitudes towards their children to be excellent reflections upon their beliefs – some simply do believe in you putting in a 9-5 shift until your retirement and being able to provide for your children like they provided for you. If this is the case for you, and if you also know that saying to your parents that you want to venture into the unknown will go down like a dog sausage in a swimming pool, how do you broach the question and, more importantly, win them over?
We, as a generation in the affluent West, are reaping the benefits of their successes with technology and social progression, with a better, fairer and more socially-conscious society, albeit one with much work yet to be done. Our parents’ careers largely benefited the technological boom, as corporations grew and developed means of becoming more powerful and affluent – everyone had a role to play. Today, we see competition for the top jobs at its fiercest in history and those roles that help technology to push on are becoming vastly more complex and specialised, leaving only the very best to get them. Now, I am all for meritocracy, but as a young chap rocking a 2:2 in Politics I have many doors shut off to me, limiting my chances in the standard 9-5 world, assuming that I want to excel as quickly as possible. As a young chap being compared to my parents, however, I am way more experienced in social media and its impact, I have a wider understanding of the cultural zeitgeists of our generation and the future (try saying that without sounding like a w*nker) and I feel more empowered to have a crack at what I want to do. The presence of Crowdfunding, an abundance of information being drip-fed to me constantly by various technologies and a natural ease with technology itself that my father balked at all mean that I am at an advantage to the previous generation when it comes to carving my own path – it’s all about making the best use of the tools available to you.
So, you’ve got the opportunity to go and do your own thing, but your darling parents are just so thrilled to see you working at one of the Big Four that even if you wanted to go and do something different it would break their hearts to hear you say it. After all, they helped you get to this point, isn’t it only fair that they want to see returns on two decades’ worth of investment in both time and money? Yes, of course it is, but in order to win them over you will need to already have what you will need to be a success on your own – conviction. Without conviction and dedication to your own path you simply will not be able to succeed where others have – starting a business, writing a book, starting a restaurant, or whatever it is you need to do, you have to know that you will not be an overnight success. Becoming a success takes time, long hours and a strong will to succeed, regardless of which path you’re on – if you can’t commit any of those things to your idea, it simply won’t work. It is this wisdom that your parents impart onto you, in a roundabout way. They gently (or not-so-gently) encourage you to go and do something steady to build up your confidence in business, to earn your keep and become independent – to turn around to them with delusional feelings of success without being able to justify them will be met by deaf ears. If you can fully rationalise, justify and promote your idea to yourself, you will be able to in front of them too.
Doubt is rampant in society at the moment – for all of the societal progress I mentioned, we are not anywhere close to keeping up with our ultra-connected, globalised system. Social media and globalisation are pretty much responsible for Brexit and Trump, with those who feel left behind by social media’s predominantly enlightened, liberal stance also becoming empowered by it (often, sadly, by being falsely educated by it or having confirmation bias battered into them by click-bait). In uncertain times, even though you’re uncertain with your own lot, the easy route is to stick to the 9-5, and most parents would agree with that. It takes serious cojones to reject the easy path to set off on your own, but if you can swing those cojones hard enough to convince yourself and others that you can succeed, your parents will back you. Even if they don’t, then you at least have that conviction yourself. Either way, if you know what you want to do and need to tell them, fill up two wine glasses, walk into the room they’re watching Strictly in, give them the wine and blow their minds that their child could have this idea of their own accord. At the very least, they’ll be impressed.