msandford on “It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave”:

Younger people (say 30ish and under, so me included) have been told their entire (or close to it) lives that they’re precious snowflakes and that they’re going to change the world and they can be or do anything they want to.

If you’re a highly motivated, hardworking person or you already know what your passion is, this is great news to hear. The sky’s the limit! If you’re not so highly motivated or you aren’t passionate about anything (that you know of) this kind of message is debilitating. The flip side of “you are talented and special” is that if you’re not doing what you’re passionate about and you’re not changing the world and whatever, that the only person you have to blame is yourself. If the world isn’t placing any constraints upon you to keep you from succeeding then the only thing that stands between you and success is you.

I realize that in truth we tend to limit ourselves more than others put those constrains upon us. But what that cheery, the-world-is-your-oyster message fails to communicate is that life can be difficult and that for a great many people just keeping themselves alive SOMEHOW is really about all that they can do. And that for the entire history of the world minus about 50 years that could be considered Success(tm). It might be a job that they’re not passionate about but are good at. Or it might be that circumstances out of their control took a substantial portion of their energy (sick parents for example). Or maybe they just found someone and got married and had kids before they figured their work-passions out and now they have whole other people counting on them for support. But when you could be Doing Anything (!!) just getting doesn’t necessarily feel like success.

The “you can do anything” SEEMS really amazing and that you really should impress it upon all kids from an early age. It SOUNDS great, I mean who doesn’t want to encourage kids to succeed? Ultimately though it may have been a bit self-defeating. When faced with too many choices many people fail to take any action at all.