In a sunny afternoon in the outskirts of London I found myself in the beautiful Ashridge Estate listening to Riaz Shah – Global Partner of EY – talk to a bunch of sweaty and tired kids in the steps of this monumental residence the meaning of success. I reached out for my notebook and opened up a blank page – only to realize there was a bucket of beers in the table on my right. I put the notebook down and took a Corona feeling a little homesick of Mexico. The beers ran out around 5 minutes in – Riaz was barely setting up.
He took out a black marker and divided the board into two columns as he asked the crowd; “How would you define success?”. The answers included ‘being able to buy stuff’, ‘having money’, ‘being recognized’ and a quirky ‘achieving your life goals’. These were all given by 20-year-olds that had spent the last 5 hours in their offices working on their startup pitches, finances, partnerships, and brand. Riaz laughed, “Ok, let’s ask around the other generation here”, addressing the older crowd ranging from 35-50 years old. Somewhat, they seemed shyer to share their thoughts than the eager millennials. The answers were ‘having health’, ‘happiness’, ‘support from friends and family’, ‘peace of mind’, and ‘the ability to relax’.
I thought to myself the meaning of success for me, what did being successful meant? I would love to be on that empowering position in my professional career where I would have to do little – but achieve a lot, I would like a family and support from them emotionally, but I also pictured myself in a killer house with multiple properties in my favorite cities around the world. A combination of both sides of the equation I thought.
One of the things that was clear to me was how driven the new generations are around materialism and consumeristic behaviour. It is a rule of thumb to have the latest gadgets, clothes, trends, etc. in order to fit into society today – especially for the younger generations that are longing for connection in any way possible due to the way that we stride away every-time more from actual human connectivity to technological applications of it. Success cannot be defined in general, it is a term that applies differently individually. Just as art, seeing a painting can evoke rage in one person and serenity on the next – it is subjective.