Entrepreneurship, particularly of late, is being fetishized and mythologized more than ever before. From figuring out keys to success with books that claim to make you rich with minimal hours, to endless lists and articles about what successful people do before sunrise. (You can read my quick rebuttal to that right here.) The key to much of this is clicks and links and page-views, however, it's something deeper. It's plays on feelings of inadequacy while also dangling the grandeur of working for yourself in front of and in the hands of everyone reading. None of this is more dangerous than the consistent interviewing and showcasing of young millionaires.
I am certainly not one. Though beyond social change and company good and my own desire to help women leaders break through in national conversations with FinePoint's teaching "bragging" and self-promotion, the key now is--get rich quick. It has always existed in the American ethos, but it is more visible than ever. Why? Especially in technology, there is an absurd amount of money floating around. Funding announcements make ten million seem like an everyday occurrence. And article after article glamorizes the young, particularly Under 30 millionaire.
This is damaging, not only to those trying to start their own businesses, but also for our fundamental understanding of capital and what to do with it. There are many examples throughout history of the "haves and have nots," but the haves, particularly in startup-land, are starting to stick out even more. When you're in a world where a handful of brilliant young people now have so much money, what message does that send to younger generations, and what message does it send to the workforce in general?
The age old question of money, a particular joy and nuisance and cause for anxiety for everyone and anyone, has gotten extreme. In startupland, money seems to flow in and out, valuations in the billions, and with VCs tossing around millions every day. So what does this money even mean anymore, to the have-nots? To the layperson?
I spoke to a few college students recently about entrepreneurship, and particularly their interest in technology. When assessing their goals, it was clear that because of persistent media and celebration of the young rich person, that was what they wanted. Because it seems more available than ever before. It's an illusion. InSilicon Valley, which I find so on point that it's more documentary / mockumentary than satire--a character tosses ten million, in theory, to the protagonist, out of longstanding rivalry, and little else. That has absolutely happened before.
What's harder to decode--is who is lying about money, who has money, who doesn't. And that's what's scary about the new "flush" economy when millions are treated like pocket change--it can all go away in a second. As fast as the money can flow in, the money can burst in your face. With the tip of a scale or the introduction of a competitor or a glitch or any number of uncontrollable factors, the bank account can go straight to zero.
In a callout for personal finance tips, I realized that there isn't enough conversation about how we manage the money we do have, big or small.
There isn't enough messaging about what savings mean. It's not sexy, it's not a young millionaire, billionaire, sometime soon, beyond that. And it's damaging not only a generation of workers, from dreams of gigantic payouts from an app to an abandoned office space months later, but also completely unrealistic. In addition to it being unrealistic--the odds of these successes are far, far smaller than realized. But that's our premise--admire the Haves, but not realize what to do in the case that you can't have it all.