Millennials. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. Even by the people who hate the term as a generic catch-all. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on them. If there is one thing we can agree on, it’s likely that millennials might be the most polarizing generation we’ve seen. Certain people are captivated by the millennial generations pursuit of fulfillment and others, while others disparaged this generations entitlement.
Are millennials really that fickle? No, the reality is, that there are two very different and very prevalent buckets of millennials. Those that fulfill our most negative millennial stereotypes including lazy, entitled, noncommittal, and unfocused. Then there are those who are reaching unprecedented levels of success, in every industry, by the age of 30. In some cases, even by the age of 20.
What separates the two? Is it luck?
These are questions relevant for anyone interested in success, of any generation. Yet these extremes seem to be more pronounced in the millennial generation than prior generations. This may be partially attributed to our unprecedented connectivity and visibility into each other lives, but the fact remains that there are a number of millennials who have reached incredible highs faster than their predecessors
That’s exactly what Jared Kleinert saw when he published his first book: 2 Billion Under 20. Today he releases his second book, titled: 3 Billion Under 30. 3 Billion Under 30 brings together the stories of 75 millennials who have attained exceptional levels of success. These individuals have dominated and transformed industries from technology to finance, health, medicine, social media, sports, and more.
Jared explains part of his impetus for writing the novel:
"All of them have achieved exponential success, given the fact that they are all only in their 20s and early 30s, I think that makes them outliers worth studying."
So lets go back to our original question. What separates these two buckets of millennials? (Ignoring everyone in the middle for now) Historically, we’ve been able to attribute a lot of success to luck. Being born into the right family, the right time, or with the “right” identity. Can we still do that?
Jared discusses some of the surprising stories he’s heard: "Yes, they all seem like Avengers-esque superheroes, but in these pages are the stories of cancer, rape, and even civil war survivors.”
When delving into some of the more specific stories, it’s clear, these people weren’t just lucky. Jared continues:
“You have another contributor like Aziz Dyab, who is currently a Syrian War refugee in Germany and had to leave his family behind in order to get out of Aleppo. Or Rene Silva, who is the founder of Voz Da Comunidade, a community newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. As a kid, he started the newspaper to cover stories from inside the favelas and is one of the most prominent and important youth figures in Brazil when it comes to recreating the country. During the editing process, Rene was actually arrested in his community for reporting news.”
Most people have heard the frequently prescribed quote:
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity"
If there is any group of people who embody this, it is this group of millennial ‘movers and shakers’. From reading their stories it’s clear that there is a reason for their success beyond pure luck. They found ways to maximize their chance at success, fulfillment, and even happiness. That means it is replicable. It can be deconstructed, demystified, and applied your own life..
That’s not to say everyone has an even playing field. They don’t. There will always be barriers to success, and certainly for some more than others. But personally, I subscribe to Booker T. Washington's philosophy on overcoming obstacles being a truer measure of success than just where you end up.
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." - Booker T. Washington
If you look at high-performers in 3 Billion Under 30, it’s clear from their stories that no obstacle is going to stand in their way. The ability to optimize for success irregardless of circumstance is truly worth studying as Jared points out:
"I spend most of my time identifying who I think will lead various industries, companies, and communities in the next 5 or 10 years (if they aren't at the top of their game already), befriending them, and then working side-by-side with these smart, high-integrity, and generous people to share interesting stories that can help others make more money, improve their lifestyles, and contribute more to society."
If there is a common thread among these top performers, it is that they did not leave things to chance. Attributing success to luck is easy. It means it's not in your control and therefore not your responsibility. You're just the victim of your own fate. Yes, luck does play a role in success, and even something as simple as finding the right opportunities. But, if your mindset is to correlate everything to luck or unluckiness, you are setting yourself up to miss your goals. You’re ignoring all the specific practices, hard work, and sacrifices these individuals made, to have a shot at being lucky.
Instead, take ownership of your circumstances, current opportunities, and whatever the future holds. I find the people who achieve successful and fulfillment are those who hold themselves the most accountable for it.
A huge thank you to Jared Kleinert for taking the time to speak with me and sending over a pre-launch copy of 3 Billion Under 30. Jared and I connected a while back, when I came across his first book. When I saw his upcoming new release, I immediately wanted to cover it, and Jared was kind of enough to discuss his book, personal philosophies, goals, writing tactics, and key learnings. Check out the full interview excerpt below:
SG: You do a lot of different things… How do you describe what you do?
JK: There's the professional-sounding bio, something along the lines of, "entrepreneur, TED and keynote speaker, author”, but really I just bring people together.
I spend most of my time identifying who I think will lead various industries, companies, and communities in the next 5 or 10 years (if they aren't at the top of their game already), befriending them, and then working side-by-side with these smart, high-integrity, and generous people to share interesting stories that can help others make more money, improve their lifestyles, and contribute more to society.
SG: This isn't the first time you've published, what have you taken away from 2 Billion Under 20 That's Shaped your approach to 3 Billion Under 30?
JK: My mission is two-fold. I want to get as many people as possible to act on their passions in life, and then unite us in solving the world’s most pressing problems. To continue this mission, I’ve enlisted seventy-five entrepreneurs, professional athletes, entertainers, writers, philanthropists, social media influencers, and others to share their "tell all" stories and practical knowledge in 3 Billion Under 30.
My first book book, 2 Billion Under 20, had a similar mission, but because we went with a traditional publisher, all financial incentive to share the stories in our first book disappeared after the first few weeks of publication. The publishers owned the content, made all the money with each copy sold after we received our advance, and didn’t care about our mission like we did. Their job is to sell books: across hundreds, if not thousands, of titles each year, and so their big mission is to generate sales regardless of the author whose books sell the most.
By professionally self-publishing 3 Billion Under 30, I align purpose with profit, which gives me better chances at accomplishing both. Without going into too much detail about the marketing and business development decisions this allows me to make that other authors can't, the biggest difference is that every time I sell a book, I make money. Therefore I’ll be indefinitely incentivized to share the stories of individuals who have invested their time and energy into helping me carry out my mission, unlike most traditionally published authors who stop promoting their books as full-time work after their first couple weeks of release. This holds true even in the case of a mega bestseller like Tools of Titans from Tim Ferriss.
SG: You've talked to over 75 of the most high-performing, interesting, and passionate members of the 3 billion under 30 -- Did you see any common threads or habits?
JK: All of them have achieved "exponential" success, and given the fact that they are all only in their 20s and early 30s, I think that makes them outliers worth studying. Yes, they all seem like Avengers-esque superheroes, but in these pages are the stories of cancer, rape, and even civil war survivors. The fact that these individuals have made millions of dollars, started companies valued at over $1b,have hundreds of thousands or millions of online followers, raised millions of dollars for charity, help the disenfranchised every day, and lead new industries that didn't exist previously is really interesting.
SG: Whats surprised you the most? Any particular stories or themes you just didn't expect?
JK: Eric Toczko, founder of ShineOn.com, wrote about how he "rebooted" his brain, and essentially reset his dopamine levels in order to regain his happiness and focus in every day life. Another contributor, Sarah Anne Stewart, shared intimate details about how he father had cancer, and overcame it, while she was younger and how that led to her current work as a holistic health practitioner and thought leader in her space. She's a good friend, but before I edited her story for the book, I never knew about the difficult and yet ultimately uplifting experiences she has gone through. Throughout the book, everyone's unique experiences really jump out from the page and hits you in both your heart and in your head.
SG: Whats your vision for 3BU30 moving forward?
JK: Part of selling this book directly through the 3 Billion Under 30 website is the ability to build a long-term relationship with our readers and to create a platform to continue sharing updates, ideas, and tools from our contributors. It is a win-win-win. Not only are readers getting 376 pages of curated content, but now I'll be able to email them weekly with in-depth blog posts and links to helpful software or books, similar to how highly respected bloggers grow their followings through providing valuable content over years of time. This direct communication channel will allow us, as a company, to learn what our generation really needs in order to excel at work, improve their health, and more. We can use as inspiration for finding solutions.
SG: Biggest challenge OR most rewarding moment?
JK: The biggest challenge was also the basis for the most rewarding moments. I got really emotional while editing some of these stories. You have contributors in 3 Billion Under 30 like Jimmy Gavin, who lost his brother in a tragic car accident and had Crohn's Disease as a kid. Jimmy still fought back after playing zero high school basketball by working his way through the collegiate system and onto a professional team in Europe with hopes of one day making the NBA. Then, you have another contributor like Aziz Dyab, who is currently a Syrian War refugee in Germany and had to leave his family behind in order to get out of Aleppo. Or Rene Silva, who is the founder of Voz Da Comunidade (a community newspaper in Rio de Janeiro). As a kid, he started the newspaper to cover stories from inside the favelas and is one of the most prominent and important youth figures in Brazil when it comes to recreating the country. During the editing process, Rene was actually arrested in his community for reporting news, which is a clear infringement of his press freedoms. Although he was shortly released, being able to see 3 Billion Under 30 contributors actually cause change in the real world every day is perhaps the most rewarding. To know that I get a chance to share their stories with a wider population is truly humbling.
SG: What is a trend people should be paying more attention too but aren't?
JK: More companies and individuals should become their own "media machines". You've seen the "media" get blamed for our political divide, economic inequalities, or celebrity fanfare, and yet few people are working to establish their own "distribution networks" (i.e. email lists, social media followings, blogs, etc) where they can speak directly to the issues they care about and the people who buy into their opinions and research. With authors, many are too reliant on Amazon or traditional publishers to sell their books when they can be doing what we are and increasing their own media assets and following over time. This both reinforces the messages you are trying to share by becoming less reliant on others to share your stories, and actually gives you more leverage to collaborate with other media outlets, thought leaders, and online influencers over time.
SG: What is something you've learned from this experience or someone you've interviewed that you've implemented or will implement into your life?
JK: Brent Underwood, partner at Brass Check whose clients include authors of over 30 New York Times bestselling books, popular music artists, and some of the most influential tech companies in Silicon Valley, wrote about the negative side effects of "playing business" rather than actually building a business. While there are certainly some marketing campaigns or things I've over-invested in during the prep for the release of 3 Billion Under 30, there are other things like planning a launch party, asking for book blurbs, and planning unpaid speaking engagements that I didn't do which would not have contributed to selling lots of books, but may have given me an ego boost or the public appearance of releasing a "bestselling" book. Brent's piece talks about how to actually get things done, and stop pretending as though you are if you're doing things that feel good, but don't drive actual business results.
Really, I get a daily "inside scoop" to all types of industries. Some people in the book like Nim de Swardt (Bacardi's "Global Millennials Manager") give me insight into the challenges and advancements regarding employee engagement among Millennials in massive corporations. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "don't tell anyone" when getting updates from various people in the book about their soon-to-be announcement revelations in music, or venture capital, or virtual reality. I get to learn at an exponential pace every day because I'm studying these top-performers. The best part is that you can get 98% of this simply by following them online as well.
SG: Finally, for a fun one, I read you take on average 75 flights a year - whats been the most interesting place you've visited.
JK: A lot of times I get to travel for work, and as a keynote speaker I've been to Oslo, South Africa, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, and other countries over the years. In the US, I just visited New Orleans for the first time to speak at a conference, and thanks to a big pre-order of books from Bacardi, I'm about to go to Bermuda in a couple weeks to speak to their leading Millennials from all over the world. However, I try to make the most out of wherever I am. There's so much beauty in each place, and lots of history or culture to take in regardless of where you travel, and so I'm fine with being almost anywhere as long it is safe and I can get decent WiFi.