storytelling, mythologies, and Fox News
I think you’ve really put your finger on the real issue here - Gen Z is anything but lazy, they’re disillusioned.
As a millennial, I am sufficiently old to have entered the work force at a time when it was still possible to grasp the notion that there was a time when white-collar work was far more enjoyable than it is today. When work, in fact, did mean working on real stuff with real people for real people. When work, in fact, had some sense of dignity and humanity to it, even if it in many cases was something as simple as your own personal office, daily hour long lunches with colleagues chatting about anything but work, and it didn't revolve around the activity of obsessively staring into a set of screens from early morning to late at night. It might have been soul-crushing, but it did allow for the fact that employees were human, and thus treated as such to a much greater degree than is the case today. If you were let go of, for instance, that was a conversation face-to-face, not the dystopian scenario today, where all employees are commanded to work-at-home so that management need not deal with these situations in person and people realize they've been fired because their login credentials has ceased working.
Gen Zs has entered work where all the little things of pleasure have been snuffed out, rationalized and eradicated, and where there is nothing less than the drudgery of hammering away on your keyboard and logging into energy-sapping Zoom calls.
Work can be different, and once was. Gen Zs may be too young to realize this is the case, but once you do, you will not tolerate the current sordid state of work any longer. And by "not tolerating," I mean going beyond merely "quiet quitting."
You’re such a talented writer! Gotta restack this.
This was good to read--I’m a boomer and very interested in the upcoming generations.
We’ve left you some good, but terrified at the bad, the very bad, too.
I recall in my twenties having the exact same night-time fears.
I’m trying to understand the heart of this beautiful writing of yours, as well as the 20s me vs. the 60s me.
So everything I say, please know it’s in a spirit of trying to understand.
I was raised by Depression-era parents who didn’t have the luxury to dislike the lack of soul work in their jobs. Food and shelter ruled.
I’m two generations removed from the kind of ingenuity required to survive.
These are powerful words you write. But the thought comes to mind, in regards to the software engineer. What if he’s learning the tools needed to create that animal and children app one day down the road?
Speaking from my 20-year-old self and my experiences, I realize there was a point where I had to give up self gratification and entitlement. From my 60th decade perspective, I realize how much those jobs that were not fulfilling really pushed me forward to where I needed and wanted to be.
This was my experience, and truly that of past generations.
I appreciate your writing, and content. Thanks for doing so.
Loved this essay. So many ball peen strikes directly on the head of the nail by a phenomenal word and thought carpenter! Disillusionment crosses many boundaries. I am closing in on 50 years as a physician and much of that has morphed from the art and science of healing to how many relative value units can I average and accumulate per hour. Thanks Kyla for your efforts to convey the wonders of your beautiful mind.
Loved the quote from Bill McKibbon. What I found most interesting was your thoughts on creating new stories on inflation. For us, it’s cat food. You can tell yourself no, you can tell your kids no, but you can’t tell your cats no when something is expensive. All of the other price changes I can live with.
I believe Gen Z is generally less accepting of things they don't like, or at least more vocal about them.
And while having unrealistic expectations of reality might be a common cause of dissatisfaction, having realistic expectations of reality doesn't necessarily mean you'll be satisfied either.
If you know you're about to walk into a wall, you're less likely to be surprised when you do.
Still gonna hurt though.
Your writing has caused me to reflect on moments of my work life that brought satisfaction. The things I enjoyed the most were all related to mostly physical blue collar work. Most young men and women are really not going to be happy without some form of production realization. The greater the physical effort relates to the degree of satisfaction one feels with work especially when people are allowed to see the completed outcome to its end. When there is no realization of production or of labor to completion value your job feels useless. Many young men and women should lean toward trades, trades are really the only jobs that can give you a deep sense of work satisfaction. For me putting up the last wall, or seeing the house you built, full of life is very rewarding. There is a golden zone in employment and that’s when you have just the right amount of physical and mental demands to keep you focused and physically engaged with out taking over your life.
I think large portions of younger generations have lost values and traditions that provide more happiness and purpose, such as being married and having kids. Statistics show those are all being pushed off until later or never happening. I would argue older generations also did not find self-actualization working on a manufacturing line or in most jobs they did. They found their purpose in raising their family and being a supportive spouse and parent. They found it in their community, or for some, a church. Work allowed them to support a family. I can see why people are disillusioned with life or work if they are working all day and then watching Netflix at night. You rinse and repeat each day. That is an oversimplification, but my point is working, buying things, watching streaming shows, or hanging out on social media don't provide lasting satisfaction. Statistics show that is what people spend the majority of their waking hours doing. They provide short-term dopamine rushes. I got married and had a kid later in life. It has been night and day in terms of how I view work and life. I think too many people push off forming families because they feel like they are barely surviving in the current system. What they will realize is that they will have more motivation at work when it means they can make their family and kids better off.
Oh gosh...the peter pan generation growing out of its coocoon.
The generation that grew up looking at screens is now disillusioned staring a screens. How ironic. The. generation that grew up where their self esteem was paramount and everybody gets a trophy is now disillusioned because now adult work doesn't pander to their sensibilities. Blame the boomers for that dirty trick. Guess what - working is work. There is nothing in its base definition that will provide the individual with gratification without their having to "work" for it. Gratification requires action by the individual to seek self actualization out, plan for it and make it happen. Poor work choices leads to poor outcomes. The best advice I got about work/career: Do what you love, then you don't have to go to "work". That requires ingenuity and risk taking by the individual. And work is just one part of the whole of your life. Self actualization in other parts will make the journey much more enjoyable. Lastly adjust your expectations. Keeping expectations low during the journey of achieving your realistic goals avoids unnecessary disappointment.
I lucked into a fulfilling job in public service after multiple private sector jobs (transportation engineering & PM). Still I have trouble staying motivated even though I feel like I get to actually improve peoples lives occasionally. I’ve been rolling around a marble in my brain about how we don’t have dreams for our world anymore. I feel like we spend all our energy fighting the bad dreams of people we don’t agree with. I really want a better world where people don’t have to grind to survive. I keep trying to think about a better world before I go to bed but it just slips through my fingers like water.
This is quite lazy advice Kyla -- ". . . a software engineer who works on an app for children and animals, maybe". You already critiqued this line of thought in a previous post. "People not actually pursuing their real dreams & ambitions, but simply deciding to be adjacent to such dreams & ambitions as a proxy". I'm paraphrasing what you wrote -- but you know which one I'm referencing. You know quite well what she meant was that she wanted to physically interact and work with children & animals, not sit behind a screen, write to a code-base, that might involve children & animals as the final end-user, which would associate her tangentially. Common, let's be honest here.
Awesome piece! As someone who feels very lost regarding what to prioritize in a career/work, removing the need to have the daily grind contribute to self-actualization is a huge weight off.
While I agree whole heartedly with this article, it’s not just a Gen Z thing. Every generation that gets to its late 20s starts to realise they’re just be exploited while being cynically sold the idea that it’s empowerment ‘you can do antlything’
Another great article Kyla. With all that's going on these days I'm getting an increasing sense of dread for the world my kids are about to enter into as adults and the steaming pile of s**t that their generation will eventually inherit. The question is when does this disillusionment that the younger generations are feeling become so great that society demands a change? The tension in that rubberband seems to be growing and the Boomer population will not be around forever to hold them back. What happens when they're out of the picture?