2 Major Problems Facing 20 Somethings

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

There is a serious growing problem in world today.
You could say it is the stock market, housing market, dating market :) All of these are of great concern, but a problem that seems to be lying under the surface of all problems is the disconnect of generations. Is that a stretch to say that the lack of mentoring is the cause of failed economy, failed marriages, and even war? Yes, I think so. (you can read more on that here and here)

You might think this problem is all one sided. And in some cases it has been. But I think 20 somethings have 2 major problems that are facing them. If we continue to sweep these under the rug nothing will change.

Here are 2 major problems facing 20 somethings:

1. The Traditional Way is Not Working

A better way of looking at this is what has happened to the job market. When I was a kid (which was not that long ago) the way to get a job was to go to college, get a degree then get into the workplace. It seemed so easy. I had everything in front of me. I would go to bible college, get a youth ministry degree, intern at a church and then find a youth ministry job that I could work at for 10 years then move into a teaching pastor role. It sounded great. But the ugly truth behind that plan was thousands thought the same thing. To get a job these days you have to have way more then a college degree, more like a masters degree in a specific subject with years of experience and great references. The traditional way of getting a job is failing 20 somethings.

The problem with this is that 20 somethings are content to put blame on the system rather then to adapt to the system. Instead of figuring out ways to work around this, make it better, or for that matter work harder, 20 somethings sit at home looking for jobs and hoping to strike gold. Here is an excerpt from a story entitled “What is it about 20 somethings” from the New York Times:

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch.

Read the rest of the article here

As convicting as those stats are, 20 somethings tend to let it be enough for them to not do anything. I was one of those people. Constantly complaining that no one took interest in my talents, no one seemed to want to give me a break, and that people were more interested in how I could help them then how they could help me. It took me a year or two of frustration to finally say “I do not care anymore, I am doing this by myself”. Yes, that is probably not the best way to do things, but each generation of leaders has come to that conclusion. That could be the major reason why the system is broke. Because no generation has chosen to be about others rather then themselves. And I do not see that changing anytime soon (remember we are called the me generation).

Let’s get real here, the old way is not working.

Stop expecting handouts
Start giving things away

Stop thinking you are the greatest
Start figuring out who is greater then you and learn from them

Stop sitting at home
Start serving others

Stop thinking you have things figured out
Start asking questions

Stop complaining
Start listening

We live in one of the greatest times ever known to man. There is more opportunity, freedom, and possibilites then ever before. It is time to flip everything on its head and Zuckerberg some stuff. What is that you ask? Zuckerberging means that we don’t ask permission we start creating and let the chips fall where they fall.

And here is the thing, 20 somethings are showing that they have no faith. That is right, we are one of the most faithless groups of individuals. No it is not because we do not go to church. It is because we lack the faith to believe that God will be the one guiding us. The faith that believes that we can walk on water. The faith that says that God has given us talents and abilities and wants to use them. Instead of sit back and believe that we can do great things but fail to act.

2. Motivation

Motivation is a funny thing. We are often judged by it and usually struggle to find it. The opposite of fear is motivation. But it seems that fear is gripping an entire generation from doing anything. Motivation can be a very powerful tool when used properly. How do we use it properly? In ways to make things better, to bring change, to promote others, to do things that we cannot accomplish on our own.

You see the keyword in all of this is to. Motivation is about action. I would say motivation is much more of a verb then a noun. But the very thing that we need the most is the very thing we lack.

They say that when you are doing something you love hours are like minutes. I think motivation has something to do with that. When we find something we are motivated by it gives us the courage to press on, to go after something, to have a meaning for what we are doing. Motivation is the thing that keeps us up at night, the thing that gives us courage to ask questions, the thing that give sus hope, motivation is the lifeblood of innovation. When we have motivation it propels us forward. The problem is we never really learned about motivation. The only motivation we know about is the kind that promotes us to get the attention of others. Motivation to do well on a test for the grades, the kind that helps us get more dates, the kind that helps pay for things. That kind of motivation is all about external experience and reward. But it is not true motivation.

Part of the reason 20 somethings struggle to find jobs out of college is because we have no more motivation left. At least not the motivation we need. Sure we want a place to live, a career of our own, a wife or husband, a future. But we have no clue how to get it. And that little small bit of motivation we have been using our whole life to make other people happy is not enough to pull us out of bed. It is not the motivation that moves us to do radical things. And it is not the motivation that helps us conquer fear.

Motivation is the very thing that is gripping 20 somethings, or should I say lack of motivation is the very thing that is gripping 20 somethings. But the good news is that once you find motivation nothing can get in your way. The trick is finding out how to keep motivation and have follow through. I think this goes back to point number 1, the old way of doing things is not working.

It is time we start thinking differently and find motivation to change things.

What problem is facing your today?


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Stacey

    I agree so much on both of your points, Kyle! When I graduated I had a huge ‘now what’ question. I felt unprepared to get a job despite my degree and work experience. The old way doesn’t work. I remember my dad asking me in college why I took an unpaid internship because he never had one. I just looked at him and said times are different. I think we are an egocentric, entitled, and insecure generation. This is why I believe so much in mentors, asking questions, and like you said serving others!

    Great insight!

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      thanks stacey. It is nice to know that you are not alone in this struggle. I have asked myself that question (almost daily) what’s next. And what I have seen is that God has said trust me, I got it.

  • http://www.cartoonrebellion.net Jenny

    It’s funny you posted on this, this morning of all mornings. I am house sitting for my older sister and i was telling my mom on the phone this morning “Man, does amanda (my sister) have a comfy guest bed. I could totally be her live in nanny.” I was kind of kidding…. but kind of not. My mother then responded with a “Jenny, though it may seem like you will be a nanny forever you won’t. I believe God has big plans for you.”

    Yeah she’s right. Though her definition of God’s big plans, and my definition are totally different, she’s right in some ways. I don’t need to hide in fear. Or be scared to lose my lifestyle (). I just need to do what God’s created me to do. I just need to love others.

    God’s taken care of my twenty something self. Yeah im broke. (Right now i think i have less than $100 in my bank account) Yeah im single (21 yrs single… wooo hoo) and Yeah, im about to graduate with a bogus degree. (I have an assignment due on zombies next week… ZOMBIES)

    But why complain? God has a big plan. And He’s put me amongst the true poor, single moms, and people who can’t even read (Who can care about singleness, ramen, and crappy education then?) And im also around some incredible leaders who im able to watch. And my motivation? It’s to see a changed world. Life as a 20 something isn’t that sucky.It’s actually pretty exciting once we get off the couch and look outside ourselves. Im not perfect at that btw, i kind of like my couch and im pretty good at pity parties, but you get my drift…

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      totally, been there, still am there and will be there again.

      Those conversations are tough, but I think that parents do a good job of seeing the big picture.

      the coach is very comfortable. Its a safe place that we know, but it is the very place that does not demand anything from us. It lets us take and take and take.

      But I think you realize that and are constantly striving to learn and make a difference. To care for the needy and the ones that might be overlooked. That is by far the greatest thing any human can do.

      Keep after it.

  • http://gbrenna.com Graham

    Well said man. We gotta Zuckerberg some stuff. I’m working on building a freelance portfolio for websites. I’m hoping this will maybe lead to something other than what I’m doing at some point.

    It gets better.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      true, it does.

      And I would encourage you to think beyond hoping and to knowing that it will.
      You have done a great job already of networking and creating a presence online. I think you can find work, the biggest thing is following through on the work. that took me a long time to have confidence to say “yes I can do this and I am going to do this”

      Zuckerberg it Graham

      • http://gbrenna.com Graham

        True. Follow through is important. I know I want a change… Jpi just don’t know exactly what I want to go into right now. So yes, I have confidence that things will change and get better. Just need to find that next step.

        Us 20 something’s have to stick together! Glad to know you Kyle.

  • Lindsey A.


    I definitely agree with what you are saying but I would say things a lot less nicely :-) I still believe the traditional way of doing things works- work hard, be a person of integrity, show up, do the work, commit to the hustle. The more things change, the more things stay the same from what I can tell. I think that what has really changed in 20-somethings is expectation. We have lived in an era of relative peace and prosperity that hasn’t required a great deal of sacrifice or sweat equity. If times have changed, they have reverted back to times past when people did not expect to graduate, get their dream job, own a home, marry the perfect person, and be a millionaire all by 30. I think generations past were willing to work their way up from the bottom a bit more because they did not have the false expectation that life and success would come with ease.

    With regard to fear, there is infinite opportunity out there for twenty-somethings. The only limitation is one’s own creativity and commitment. For some reason being able to do anything has crippled this generation a bit. In past generations, the limitations were naturally built in by the market. People did not have resources like the internet at their disposal. My dad is a machinist- he did what he had to do so that I can do what I want to do. However, the issue is that we are crippled by trying to figure out what we want to do. The solution in my opinion is prayerfully pick something…and then wholeheartedly go for it. Maybe in fully committing to something you are not sure about, you will discover what you are really passionate about.

    I am deeply encouraged and hopeful by what I see in this generation. There are some amazing twenty-somethings who are making their own way, who are starting companies, inventing things, changing politics, etc. If more would harness their talent and passion and combine them with all of the resources at their disposal than maybe this generation will be seen as the Greatest Generation, as opposed to those who lived 50 years ago and fought in world wars.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      you nailed it on the head, expectations.
      We all have them, a usually they are pretty big. I think some fo that comes because we have been told that if you do A then B will happen.

      And yes, you are correct. We need to go after something, do it with great vigor and if it does not work then find something else and do that.

  • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

    I’m a few years older than you (I’m in my 30s now) but my generation is pretty much the same. So many of us grew up as latch-key kids, and we don’t want that to happen to our own kids. We’ve seen our parents follow the traditional path and get burned so many times. Like a lot of other people my age, I am willing to sacrifice a steady income at a crappy job so I can actually get to know my children. Seeing my son for 5 minutes a day was taking its toll on me and my family.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed


      What I am curious about is if your generation (30 somethings) grew up much the same where is the disconnect with 20 somethings? Meaning, why is it hard to get 30 somethings to pass on what they have learned to those following them?

      • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

        I don’t think there’s a disconnect. I think we’re in the same boat. Personally I am somewhere between Generation X and Y (or Millennials, or whatever today’s popular term is for that generation). I think the truth is nobody ever figures it out. If someone says they have it all figured out, they are a flat-out liar.

        I think a lot of the problem is that those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s grew up in relative prosperity in comparison with prior decades, and our parents told us to get a degree because that would get you a job for life. Because that’s the story they bought (but it hasn’t worked for them, either. When my mom was in college in the 70s, they really thought 2011 would look like this: http://grainedit.com/2011/03/29/2011-living-in-the-future/)

        When I graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design in 2001, they told us “Good luck finding a job, because it’s bad out there.” Then 9/11 happened, and the economy never really got back to where it was, and traditional ways of making a living for creatives like myself just aren’t cutting it. I’m talking about advertising, marketing, that sort of thing, even web design — those markets are so glutted. Plus just about everyone I know changes jobs at least every 3 years, if not entire careers.

        So I guess the answer is to be creative and break from the norm, because the norm isn’t cutting it anymore. _Linchpin_ really struck home with me for that reason. I think we are definitely moving toward more of a “freelance” structure rather than the factory system that’s been with us the past 150 years.

        It’s not really an answer, but it’s a start. To reiterate, we’re in the same boat. The only difference between 20 and 30 is that you have a different set of experiences and more problems and responsibilities (mortgage, dead-end-job, your own family, etc.)

        • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

          Sorry, didn’t mean to write a blog post on top of your blog post. :-P

        • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

          interesting. I agree.

          One thing I will say though, and this is where i see the disconnect, is in the mentoring side of things.
          I know you all are in the same boat, but it seems that mentoring, at least fully mentoring someone, is not high on the list. Not talking about you personally, just as a whole.

          • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

            Speaking for myself, it’s never really occurred to me to mentor 20somethings as I feel like I’ve spent the past decade trying to figure things out and haven’t made a tremendous amount of headway. It almost seems presumptuous to try to mentor someone else as most 30somethings (especially in their early 30s) haven’t even gotten into any sort of leadership position unless they are exceptional at something, in which case you’re looking at the Zuckerbergs, etc. of the world. Which is funny because Jesus’ entire ministry was in his early 30s…

            I guess what I’m getting at is some of us don’t have the confidence or the life experience to do that sort of thing at this point; we’re too busy fighting our own battles. That said, it would do everyone a lot of good.

            • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

              I can understand that…but I also think that is what makes you the best to mentor 20 somethings…because you have been there and are still there. Having someone who can understand what you are going through is a huge plus in trying to navigate life.

              • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

                OK, I’ll bite. What do you want to know? ;-)

                • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

                  haha, sucked you in.

                  I think the thing I and others would be interested in is your experience as a designer and having your won business. The struggles, joys, and words of advice to those that are starting up.

        • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

          I agree. It’s the same generation.

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler Braun

    20 somethings today are definitely in a tough way. The job market isn’t conducive to getting a degree and moving into that field. I know for most of my friends, it didn’t happen unless they were in the medical field.

    That said, I think one important thing is to not let the pendulum swing the total other direction. College degrees still matter, taking your lumps in dead end internships still matter. There are parts of what worked “yesterday” that work today and will work tomorrow. People still value those who show the diligence to put 4 years or more into an education.

    Your premise of creating something on your own instead of waiting for the system to pay you back is really solid.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      and it is very freeing as well.
      No more waiting around and no more excuses.

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Powerful stuff! Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m a 20-something who’s trying to buck the system and do stuff. I read Poke the Box by Seth Godin recently and I want to be an initiator/starter.

    Thank you for the encouragement and call to challenge the old way of doing stuff.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      I think Seth is the master motivator. Every time I read his stuff I want to go and tackle something.
      I think the biggest thing is following through with the inspiration.

  • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

    “Stop complaining, start listening.” – Love that. Amen, Kyle. You’re stumbling on some pretty enlightening truths that will change the way you live if you apply them. Thanks for sharing this.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      thanks for the encouragement jeff. glad we are able to have a great relationship.

  • shellie (baylormum)

    I guess I’ve been reading your posts for a year (or a little longer). Several times, I have talked about the parallel your life is like my 20-something daughter. It’s almost eerie!!
    Watching you grow over this past year has been amazing. You struggled so much with where you wanted to be vs. where you were. A young man. In his parent’s basement. Somewhat sad that this is not where you envisioned you would be after college. And now?? You made a huge move. With faith & a better vision of you, as that 20-something.
    I see a happier young man. I see a more motivated young man. You see great things for your life & you have a better blueprint for achieving those goals. But, with that 20-something mindset.
    Again, the parallel. My daughter is making a lot of changes, too. It’s still not where she wants to be, but making that 1st brave step toward those goals is what I am loving. Makes a mom proud. And a little teary-eyed.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      thank you

      and yes you are exactly right. It has been a journey over the past year. I often reflect back to where I was a year ago and am reminded of what has transpired.

      It is awesome to hear that others (your daughter) are making moves as well. It is not easy and will always be challenging but worth very second of it.

  • http://Twitter.com/clscholes Conor Scholes

    I know I am a little late to the convo, but I love what you have to say, Kyle…as a 30 something (31), it is amazing to see the difference in motivation between my generation and the upcoming one…There is a sense of entitlement (“that job isn’t good enough for me”) that I guess I missed growing up…I used the “dirty jobs” as a way to learn and grow. The lack of mentoring has contributed to this, I believe. Ifi am not constantly gaining wisdom from those around me, and helping others coming after me on their journey, I am failing to use the community God has given me to grow and see Kingdom growth…and I have found that I learn more through both sides of the mentoring process than almost any other way…off my rant now :)

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      dude, great rant. You are spot on with everything you are saying.

      Entitlement is a dirty thing.

  • http://thegetalifeproject.wordpress.com allison

    it’s sort of a catch-22, isn’t it? we don’t have the motivation to do something new and exciting. we have nothing new and exciting to get us motivated.

    i agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said. but how do we get ourselves out of the downward spiral to begin with?

    • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

      Y’know, that almost sounds like why Don Miller wrote A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In a nutshell, realized he hadn’t done much worth writing about, so he went and got himself a life and did something amazing. (I haven’t read it yet, but here’s one I have read that is worth sharing: Cold Beer and Crocodiles, in which a guy quits his job to ride a bike around Australia.)

      • http://thegetalifeproject.wordpress.com allison

        oh yes! it’s an excellent book. but he even states in it that it takes an external inciting experience to push someone out of this type of cycle. that opens up a whole new set of questions such as, do we have to wait for something to happen to us to push us out of the metaphorical nest, or can we do something ourselves?

        anyway, i highly recommend it…it was very encouraging to me. and i’ll definitely have to check out cold beer and crocodiles! biking around australia sounds like an fabulous plan :)

        • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

          I will jump in on this one as well (and I kind of talked about this in my comment below) but i think we have to make something happen. I know i waited around for a bit and got really frustrated because I was hoping someone would come along side me and bring me along. But it never happened.

          Only when I started to move forward and do stuff did others reach out to me.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      it is a catch 22, you are right.
      But I think if we rely on things to get us going then it will never come.
      In some ways we have to be self starters.

      I had a conversation with a guy the other day that was in his 50’s.
      He told me that he looks for someone who is a self starter. He used the example that most 20 somethings are at a 1 but the ones that have drive and passion are at a 5. He will take the ones that are at a 5 because they have done as much as they can on their own.

      Unfortunately the people that are at a 1 are the people that get left out. But in some ways they can only blame themselves. I mean I know tons of 20 somethings who have ampel amount of time to be doing things, but instead they waste their time by not doing anything at all.

      The greatest way to gain momentum is to accomplish something. Whether that be big or small, just accomplish something.

      • http://thegetalifeproject.wordpress.com allison

        aha, but there it is again…the best way to gain momentum is to accomplish something–definitely yes. but where do we get the momentum to accomplish something to gain momentum to accomplish something? it’s so tricky.

        i’m also interested to know how someone determines whether someone else is a 1 or a 5. that seems like a fair amount of assumption going on. it also doesn’t do much to explain WHY someone is a 1 or a 5. maybe someone was a 5 and, after years of being overlooked, became disillusioned and fell into being a 1. granted, that probably isn’t usually the case, but it happens.

        i agree with you, though. the minute we stop working toward something bigger than ourselves is the moment we give up on our god-given talents. it’s just exhausting sometimes.

        • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

          but see if they stop they never were a 5 in the first place.

          Because inside of you there has to be a drive. No one can give you that. There has to be something that sparks a reaction, a need that you see, something that does not sit right with you. That is the very thing that should push you forward into getting something done.

          I think the biggest thing that holds anyone back is fear. That little voice that plays in your head that you cannot do it as good as someone else or it has already been done so don’t waste your time. That voice is the very thing that keeps people from getting anything done.

          • http://thegetalifeproject.wordpress.com allison

            what was it that sparked a reaction for you? was it an external experience or something you managed to muster internally?

            i think someone can be a 5 and then get so beaten down by the world it nearly kicks to death whatever made them a 5 to begin with. not permanently necessarily, but we all have low points.

            is the opposite of motivation laziness? or is the opposite of motivation fear?

            • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

              The opposite of motivation is laziness, because fear should be the very thing that pushes us forward and lets us know we are alive.

              But inside of that laziness is nerves, lack of desire, and the idea of playing it safe.

              For me it was all about pushing forward because I was tired of sitting on the sidelines. Tired of complaining that everyone else seemed to be living life except for me. I was tired of what was taking place and I realized that I had to do something.

              I do wonder though (and do not get me wrong I have been beaten down so many times that was ready to throw in the towel and go home so I understand that) if we cannot pull ourselves up today what happens when we get our “opportunity” and someone beats us down how will we respond?

          • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

            I think it’s a bit mercy-less to say that if someone goes from being a 5 to a 1 they never were a 5 in the first place. It can be easy for many of us, regardless of age, to become full of doubt and not live up to our potential. Fear is a pretty powerful thing. So is disappointment. Not to mention feelings of failure, which can convince you to not bother.

            Whatever it is, it’s the Lizard Brain talking us out of putting ourselves out there. It can be hard to convince yourself to do otherwise.

  • http://jessicacstewart.wordpress.com Jessica

    Hey Kyle, I found your site through your comments on MPT’s website! This post is spot on. As a fellow 20-something, I was in the exact same boat. I think the economy especially is requiring us to make our own path rather than wait for one to drop in our laps. I like the point that you made about God guiding us. People tend to sit around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for God to act, when I think that’s the time we should be proactive, doing SOMETHING…ANYTHING. Even if you you’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll guide you back… something I’ve learned that from experience. :)

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      yes, great thought.

      Have to be doing something. I have noticed that when you start to do something, anything, people will notice.