I always know that something is afoot in the universe when the subject of a conversation I have with a friend is echoed in a conversation I have at work the very next day. Last night I had dinner with my friend, Courtney, and we talked a lot about “arriving”, both in a professional and work sense. I met Courtney through my yoga teacher training and as new teachers we’re both trying to find our way through the complicated maze of the wellness industry. She and I are both contemplating full-time career moves as well.
We talked about relationships and living in New York City, a city whose residents strive to arrive in every aspect of our lives and yet are also always reaching for that next rung up. After all, most of us moved here to prove we could make it here, and therefore make it anywhere. (Thank you, Frank, for writing that succinct, poetic line to describe our complicated, collective goal.) Because we live in this delicate balance of thriving and striving, it’s hard to know when we’ve actually made it.
I work full-time as a product developer for a premium financial institution. Like many luxury brands, our brand halo has always had the understanding that once you carry our brand in your portfolio, you’ve made it big time. It’s a sentiment that’s served us well except for one tiny, recent glitch: many young people (young Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials) don’t feel like they’ve made it yet and therefore don’t have a sense of belonging with our brand as they do with many others. It’s a tough nut for us to crack since we’ve spent over 100 years touting ourselves as aspirational and a recent market study showed that young people today are choosing to grow up later in life than previous generations. The real risk for us is that if we don’t grow loyalty among the youth segment now, we actually won’t be relevant to them once they do feel like they’ve made it.
I’m a cusp Gen X / Gen Y so I understand this mentality. In truth, I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived and a large part of me doesn’t want to feel that way. I live in New York City because I actually love striving, pushing my limits, and the feeling I get from growing, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally, every day. Honestly, if you’re not interested in growth and change, I would recommend living someplace else. New York City is just too difficult a place to make your home unless you love to push yourself every day. I love New York City – I’m probably a lifer – but it is not for everyone and I understand why people choose to move. There’s no shame in that at all; it’s just a matter of priorities.
When I think about the youth dilemma facing my company, I think we’ve got one clear choice: Do you want to be a brand that rewards people once they feel like they’ve arrived at some idealized financial state or do you want to help people strive, accomplish, and push their boundaries no matter where they are on the “arrival spectrum”. That’s a very different kind of brand attitude that requires a new overarching brand strategy and quite a shake-up at my company. It’s a question worth pondering and acting upon – living in a state of limbo and identity crisis doesn’t help anyone, and in actuality it’s a sure-fire way to become irrelevant. Eventually, you’ve got to say “this is who I am” and be with the people who support that.