Kids Today

The Young and the Lazy

November 18, 2011

Multiple Pages
The Young and the Lazy

Though the Bible says that rich people getting into heaven is as likely as squeezing a 1500-pound mammal through a tiny hole, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of billionaires made their fortunes from scratch. It’s also worth noting how unbelievably lazy today’s kids can be. I’ve been hiring twenty-somethings for about twenty years now, and though they are getting more tech-savvy, their productivity keeps plummeting. I believe this is due to their snowballing sense of entitlement. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned after watching kids in their early twenties acting hyper-entitled:


I recently had a twenty-three-year old girl email a writing submission for my idiotic site Street Boners and TV Carnage. There was a grammatical mistake in the first sentence, so I stopped reading right there and emailed her that she needs to go back to the drawing board before submitting a post. Her next email said, “I’m showing you two more stories I’ve written, and if you’re still thinking about giving me a chance, read them. I’ve also make a reluctant decision to attach 2 photos of my tits and ass.” Attached were two naked photos. Practice makes perfect, but why bother when you have perfect tits?


I had a black female intern at my previous job, and as with all interns, I started her out doing the crap work. She was asked to take out the garbage and organize receipts. I had her stack boxes and even restock the toilet paper. That’s what we did when we started the company. Startups don’t come with a maid or even an accountant. You only get to delegate after you have a reasonable profit, and that usually takes about two years. That was the lesson I was trying to impart.

Unfortunately, she took it all as racism. After she quit, I found a crumpled-up note on her desk that read, “Why are they giving me all these stupid jobs? Certainly 400 years of history has taught them I’m capable of more.” Apparently, if you don’t give an intern CEO responsibilities from day one, you’re a plantation boss.

“They complain about the lack of jobs but every time I give them an easy chore, they spend hours trying to figure it out.”


My friend Syd Butler owns a record label called Frenchkiss Records. He set up an interview with a job candidate who was gay, 23, and had a business degree. He was also in a band and eager to learn more about the music business—perfect. Syd explained what the average day would be like, but when he said, “And if you join me at meetings, you’ll be expected to take notes,” the kid stopped the interview. “Whoa,” he said in that snarky gay way they think is cute, “I ain’t nobody’s bitch.” All Syd could hear was white noise after that. He politely asked the candidate to get out of there.


I recently co-founded a company that does funny commercials. We’re four pals who hustle all day to keep checks coming in. We’re barely six months old but are doing pretty well because like the Lord, New York helps those who help themselves.

We recently shot a series of sketches to promote the new top-level “.xxx” domain, which will be to the adult world what “.tv” is to the online video world and “.gov” is to the government.  We cobbled together a crew in a few days and began a brutal four-day shoot that would beget 20 separate ads. It was an insane schedule, so during breaks we would try to figure out how to best organize the next shots so we could all get home before midnight. During one of these discussions I overheard a young key grip mumble to his friend, “I don’t give a shit what the next shot is. I’m having lunch. Know what I’m sayin’?” I found out later this same guy had threatened to sue us because we were late on a previous job’s $200 payment—even though our client had yet to pay us.

In this genius’s mind, there is no difference between a startup trying to generate business and a multinational corporation fattening itself on slave labor.

I’ve never seen money as incentive. I like running startups because it’s exhilarating and risky. For every successful venture I’ve undertaken, at least a dozen are sitting in the failure pile. Generating revenue, creating jobs, and simply making stuff is what gets me out of bed in the morning. To hear some putz gripe about the money I’m supposed to be earning for him makes the whole thing feel like a waste of time. 


About twenty years ago I was courting Absolut vodka for print ads. Their marketing division is so coveted, they don’t bother sitting through pitches; they randomly choose artists at whim. An insider told me the best way to get their attention would be to make the ad ourselves and see if they appreciated our gumption enough to throw us a bone.

I spoke to our graphic designer about some ideas, one of which was to cover a bottle in black leather and studs. We’d make the bottle in real life but refine it in Photoshop. “How much does it pay?” he asked. I told him it doesn’t pay anything, but if we get the gig he’d be rewarded a handsome commission. I also explained that a huge client like that would do a lot for our mutual job security. Then he said something that blows my mind to this day: “That’s not ethical.”


I recently had an intern working for me who would occasionally ride his bike around taking photos of girls in cute outfits for a street fashion column. Due to his own negligence, his bike was stolen, which made it much harder for him to perform this task. His solution? I should buy him a new bike. He said he used his bike to intern for me, ergo it’s my problem. I was left with the unfortunate task of telling him the difference between someone’s “boss” and their “mommy.”


Some rich kids in Westchester decided they wanted to start a website that incorporates some of my site and some of a similar site called Creep Street. Rather than work on their site, they decided to simply hijack my content verbatim and make it theirs. They didn’t say, “Here’s a funny article I read elsewhere.” They claimed all the content as their own.

They showed a total lack of self-awareness when caught. They don’t comprehend that not doing their own work is a bad thing. When called on it they merely replied, “Wastechester is an electronic music blog. Street carnages [sic] articles are something we personally enjoyed reading and reposted, because we figured our readers would enjoy too.” 


The few times Generation Why actually gets off their ass, they become consumed with getting credit for it. Photographers are the worst at this, which is ironic since their job involves little more than pushing a button. I’ve had countless photographers bitching at me about getting credit for a contributor’s photo. I try telling them nobody builds a career on half-inch-by-half-inch passport photos and they always respond by saying, “I do this for a living” as if it’s the heaviest thing that’s ever been said.

I published a book of jokes in 2002. One picture in the book featured a magazine cover that a young painter had done. He wasn’t credited because it’s a magazine cover in the background of a photo, for chrissakes. He got a lawyer and demanded $10,000 (about twenty times what he was paid for the original painting). Luckily, the book was published by Time Warner, whose lawyers explained to him that he’s looking at more like a couple hundred bucks. He insisted on going to court, to which they responded, “By all means.” So he dropped the case.

The real icing on this particular cake was when he came up to me on the street many years later and said, “Hey, buddy. Just thought I’d say hi.” I was flabbergasted and turned into an apoplectic Larry David, screaming, “You are everything that’s wrong with America.” He said I had anger issues and walked away shaking his head. 


They complain about the lack of jobs but every time I give them an easy chore, they spend hours trying to figure it out. A few days after starting my website, I got sick of writing our company’s return address on envelopes. So I asked a 23-year-old female intern to have a rubber stamp made of the address. FOUR HOURS LATER she was still wandering around Google like a lost puppy.

In a rage, I hit “Start” on my iPhone’s stopwatch and grabbed her computer. “There!” I barked. “Let’s see how long this takes a normal human being to do this.” Googling “stamps” brought “rubber stamps” up as the third sponsored link. Before the stopwatch hit 13 minutes, I had a rubber stamp on its way to my door.


In Saranac Lake, NY, a group of residents got sick of the whole “Should we allow a Walmart in our town?” debate and decided to create their own instead of complaining. The townspeople own the new store together as a collective, and it carries everything they need, from underwear to locally crafted bric-a-brac.

“It drives me crazy when people criticize how our system works, but they don’t actually go out and try anything,” said co-owner Ed Pitts. “This is more authentic capitalism.” These people created jobs, avoided debt, and revitalized the town.

For all the complaining about capitalism I’ve seen from the kids today, I don’t see that many entrepreneurs. In the free market, the amount of NOs you get for each YES can be a grueling slog, and I don’t see many young people willing to take it in the chin that many times in a row.

Still, I like working with young people. One in ten has unbridled passion and a boundless work ethic. When you watch them learn something about business, it makes you feel like you’re here for a reason. When they eventually snatch the pebble from your hand and start doing better than you, it’s a rush that makes all the other dross seem irrelevant. The money is just frills.

So before the lynch mob at OWS blindly attacks everyone who generates income as “greedy,” they should consider that a lot of these rich bastards aren’t in it for the money. A lot of them are in it for you.

Daily updates with TM’s latest