Accumulate or celebrate? Rethinking success

November 06, 2016 - 09:00

It is a fact that young adults are thinking differently about life values and what constitutes happiness.

Viet Nam News

By An Vũ

It is a fact that young adults are thinking differently about life values and what constitutes happiness.

This is borne out by the animated discussion that has ensued for more than a month on social networks after young writer Lương Hồng Phúc posted an essay on “Is having it all what successful people are pursuing?”

While the older generation defines success as owning big house, a fancy car, and “visible properties” of significant monetary value, those born between 1980 and 2000, the first generation of a digital society, “rarely think so”, she writes.

She notes that these young people do not regard houses, cars, etc. as their life goals anymore. Those under 35 are no longer focused on buying houses or cars, but are renting them instead.

Phúc reasons that this shift has happened because the younger generation has seen several economic crises, and are afraid of prolonged indebtedness. More importantly, young people have better things to pursue than their parents did in their time. 

Trần Trọng Hiếu, just out of the Foreign Trade University, told the Việt Nam News that for youngsters, success is investing everything one has in travel, dangerous sports or start-up projects.

“The point is we do not need to settle down. We are not attached to a comfortable life with a fixed schedule. Instead, we want financial independence, and above all, to be able to see the world as much as we can,” he said.    

Hiếu believes generation Y, another word for the millennials, is no longer tempted by the idea of material wealth.

“Why do we have to buy cars while we can travel by taxi? It’s cheap and does not require petrol, maintenance or repair expenses, a driving licence and other things. Why spend a bunch of money on a big house some place elsewhere that you only pass by once or twice? I’d rather sign up to Airbnb (a peer-to-peer online marketplace and homestay network), pick a nice house anywhere in the world, rent for a few days. Look at just how much we can save!

“And if you switch your job in a couple of years, you will be the one who benefits if you just rent a house.”

Nguyễn Huyền Trân, a junior at the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology, is on the same page.

“I read an essay by a columnist who says people are curious about things they do not know. I also think it is your life and travel experience that makes people wish to know, feel and learn more about you. Clearly, in comparison with the number of houses you own, people find your wild days in places no one has ever explored before much more tempting," she said.

Phúc’s essay notes that the older generation has not had as many chances to travel as the current one, so it is difficult for them to know the joy of being in a completely new place. As a result, they spend everything they have on cars, land, and other material wealth to secure their children’s future.

She wrote: “But we do not. We all know those material things will devalue in time. We also know what we must invest in, what always brings profit, but does not get lost after several years or decades: life experience.”

I spoke to many young adults on this issue, and found there were those who disagreed with the non-material approach.

Nguyễn Minh Trang, who’d just landed a job after graduation, said the idea of having no house, car and only wandering around is out of the question.

“I cannot deny the value of materialism in this society today, although having a lot of experiences does help us broaden our horizons and strengthen social relations. But when we get older and want to settle down, where will we stay? Absolutely a tiny pretty house we built with savings from the time we were younger," Trang said.

Phúc asks why should we buy cars when we can hire a taxi. What happens if, on a rainy day, we cannot get a taxi and we have an important meeting? Can we stay at home and miss it? If we have our own car, it would be much better. In general, I do not feel this essay is for me at all.

“For me, the most important thing is to have something for oneself first. You cannot have any travel experience unless you already have financial stability. I want to own a house, a car, and an account in the bank, and a certain guarantee for the future, rather than wandering to have such ’life experiences’,” Trang added.

Speaking for myself, and for a lot of others I spoke to, a middle path works best.

Marketing manager Trần Ý Chi put it well: “Young people don’t just play and have fun all the time. We all know, no pain no gain. If you find having properties makes you happy, go ahead and do it.

Life experiences are something much more valuable, I feel each one pursues different life goals. I think Phúc’s essay is awesome and motivates me to look for true meaning in this life.”  VNS