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I started reading the book last night and couldn’t put it down. Murray is unapologetic in his assessment of the millennial generation and dishes out some tough love with compassion and humor.
First, he reminds them that, when it comes to moving up in the world, most of the time they’ll be working for curmudgeons like him—people who are “inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture, make quick pitiless judgments about your behavior in the workplace, and don’t hesitate to act on those judgments in deciding who gets promoted and who gets fired.”
His advice is simple and straightforward. Here are a few examples:
- Don’t suck up. If you have talent and work hard, you won’t need to flatter others to get ahead—which doesn’t work anyway.
- Don’t use first names with people considerably older than you until asked, and sometimes not even then.
- Excise the word like from your spoken English.
- Get rid of the body art. “If you have visible tattoos, piercings, or hair of a color not found in nature, curmudgeons will not hire you except for positions where they don’t have to see you, and perhaps not even those.”
- Dress to impress.
- Learn to write well, and be respectful in emails.
- Have good manners—but more than that, learn to be gracious.
Not surprising advice coming from a self-professed curmudgeon, but where Murray’s book gets really good is when he confronts Millennials on some of the harder truths—like their sense of entitlement, lack of resilience, and inability to engage in “rigor.”
Many curmudgeons believe that a malady afflicts many of today’s twenty-somethings: their sense of entitlement. It is their impression that too many of you think doing routine office tasks is beneath you, and your supervisors are insufficiently sensitive to your needs. Curmudgeons are also likely to think that you have a higher opinion of your abilities than your performance warrants.
Curmudgeons are also irritated by the complaints they hear about today’s job market, as if in the olden days every college graduate went directly to a meaningful job with a career ladder. When the curmudgeons in your life were twenty-two, most of them found that getting started in the job market was characterized by low pay, boring entry-level work, little job security, and promotions that had to be hard-earned. They don’t see why you should feel like you are being subjected to some unprecedentedly harsh entry-level environment.
Here’s a secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could. The few who do have it made.
Murray emphasizes the need for kids to leave home, so listen up Pajama Boy:
Don’t argue that you can’t find a job that pays enough to support yourself. You can. You just can’t find a job that will support you in the style to which you have been accustomed. So accustom yourself to a new style. Learn to get by on little—prove to yourself how resourceful you can be. Move out. No matter what. And don’t let your parents support you. . . . Many of you have parents who, for the most loving reasons, are willing to prolong your adolescence if you let them. Don’t let them.
Murray’s book is filled with insight, as he encourages young people to take advantage of the freedom of their twenties and not fall for the myth that they have to be successful before the age of 30 or they never will be. Most people are at their best in their 40s, after they’ve gained some practical wisdom—some life experience—and young people should do all they can to get that experience and learn to be resilient.
Most young people today have had excessively easy childhoods, Murray says. They haven’t been pushed beyond their limits, broken down, or forced to overcome obstacles and learn to adapt. As a result, they aren’t resilient (he finds this particularly true among graduates of elite colleges). Murray encourages Millennials to find the courage to put themselves in challenging, difficult situations so they can grow from the experience and become stronger individuals.
If I could get Murray’s book into the hands of every Millennial, I would. It’s sage advice for a generation that greatly needs it. Murray is encouraging in a grandfatherly kind of way as he urges young people to discover what they enjoy most in life and find a vocation that fulfills those desires.
This generation is terrified that it won’t be successful, and they’re running from college to grad school, then back home, then back to college again in a frenzy. Murray tells them to take a step back and relax. He assures them that they don’t need to rush. Take your time, he advises. When you’re in your twenties and single, you have time. You have the freedom to explore life, to take jobs that will introduce you to people you might not have ever met before, and to go on journeys that will help you become a fully actualized person.
Live a humble, judicious life, Murray says, in which you think less of yourself and more of others, work hard, and be good. If you do that, you will find the satisfaction and happiness you seek.
For those of you thinking of graduation presents, this is the perfect gift. I know my children will be getting a copy. It’s a short, easy, fun read, but it’s rich and powerful. A much-needed message to a lost and fearful generation that has so much potential.Published in