What does success look like to a young man?

Friday August 16 2019

Sometimes the internet can give millennials a false impression of what success is. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Insta-life is what many a young man wants, but mostly it's a mirage not worth chasing.

No one is where they want to be, at least not anyone I currently know. We all feel like we're way behind our targets and everyone else is ahead of us.

Which is funny because we all get that pressure to succeed. So, who is this person at this success point that we think we want to get to?

One of my first internships right out of university paid me Sh200 a day. Just enough money to buy petrol and matchsticks and light that degree certificate on fire.

I had to do side jobs over the weekend, parking cars for events and menial jobs just to be able to afford my day job because I needed experience. I hated it.

I remember being in the kitchen helping my mum cook and lamenting about my salary and job and she joked that I would make more money as a manual labourer at a construction site. I laughed.



It was hurtful but true. She did, after the jokes, tell me to trust the process but I scoffed at it because I was supposed to get a degree, get a job and be successful, right? It was written right there in the 8-4-4 syllabus!

It didn't help that I was struggling, while people I had gone to school with had already got their first jobs.

And from their lifestyles, it looked like they were well-paying ones. What were they doing that I wasn't?

I didn't have a car, a job or anything going on for me. I was constantly online, and I felt worse as I browsed through my friends' photos and posts.

I feel like there should be an Instagram and Facebook option for broke people so that you can both look at photos and maintain your mental health.

Case in point a former high school mate, who we'll call Batman. Mostly because he's from old money but lives in a house that looks like a cave.


But also because Batman travels the world living the Insta-life. He hit 15 countries last year when my passport was deep in my cupboard keeping clear of my bank account balance.

Everyone's life seemed well put together. I would scroll on and on and end up on Twitter because there are no photos there. But alas, 280 characters was still enough to remind me that I'm a failure!

My lifelong friend Baha and I were seated in his bedsitter (studio mwitu) chatting last year, and it hit us how we were nowhere close to where we thought we will be.

He has a master's degree and so he's more paper qualified than I am but still feels that he's falling behind.

"What exactly are we doing wrong, bro? Its years since we graduated and we're still job-hunting. Hii financial stability watu wanaongelea, hukuja after miaka ngapi?" I had no answer.

"Maybe when we hit 30," I said, but even I didn't believe myself.


We went back to cooking on the memo and opened the window because we were burning the ugali. There was no need to be miserable and hungry at the same time!

That reminds me of something that put all this into perspective. I was watching YouTube, and in between videos of how to talk to hippos and how porcupines have sex, I came across this interesting video on millennials.

In all, the typical millennial's net worth is 40 per cent lower than that of Gen Xers and 20 per cent lower than boomers in 1989, studies say.

It seems that young people all over the world are going through the same thing.

Why do we feel like we need to be successful right here, right now? Maybe it's because there are only awards for successful young people and so that's what we think it is?

Maybe it is because the online world present's carefully curated lives as representations of their lives without showing their day to day struggles.

Maybe it's because you're made to feel like you're out of time and that if you don't succeed now then you never will?


You know when you are 30 and you feel like you are a 30- struggling years old? At least, this is how my cousin feels.

She's chosen the consulting path as I have and she's felt like quitting several times this year. "I used to think 30 was the age. So, why am I still wondering where rent for next month will come from? But I'm happy. There's nowhere else I'd rather be," she tells me.

Things do look up eventually.

Things start to ease up a bit after the 5-year mark. That's when you have gained enough experience and when you've started to create your brand.

That's when people start to call you for work and it starts to feel like the process is starting to take shape.

You have to keep going and celebrating the small wins because there's always going to be pressure and things won't be perfect.

Maybe you need to slow down, give yourself a break and rethink. You do have all the time in the world.