Success In The Eyes Of Teens Today

I'm intrigued by how media are transforming today's teens to be tomorrow's innovators and revolutionaries. What will fuel them to do great things as they enter adulthood? How will brands, causes and celebrities inspire their dreams and help make them reality?

But first, let's take a quick flash back to a decade ago. Jackass gave hope to class clowns across the country and Napster founder Sean Fanning was giving the record industry the proverbial middle finger. It was cool to be a badass. Today, it has become cool to do good.

How today's teens are different:

  • They will defy conformity and reshape the vision of success and career
  • They will rethink how companies are built and how they profit
  • They believe they can change the world (and ultimately will)
  • Their idea of success isn't a 9-5 with a six-figure salary

A great pop culture nugget that shows just how much teens have transformed: "The Buried Life," an MTV show following the epic cross-country journey of four friends as they accomplish 100 dreams before they die. From paying off their parents' mortgage to playing ball with President Obama, their adventures undoubtedly provide a new perspective on what it means to achieve.



What am I getting at here? Teens see the real world through a different lens. The cast members of "The Buried Life" believe they can do anything, from going into space to delivering a baby. What's more, they're actually giving back to communities. From the small (giving a random person $100) to the huge (buying computers for an L.A. school), they tie every crazy dream they accomplish back to helping total strangers.

Assuming they stay on course (and remain entertaining), these guys will become role models for teens and reshape how they view success. For many of today's teens, becoming a millionaire will become less important over the years. Money is still important, but today's teens will see role models like Blake from Toms Shoes and Charity Water founder Scott Harrison achieve success through cause and community. They will also be inspired by how entrepreneurs are using their voices and influence to spotlight key causes.

Recently, Twitter co-founders Ev & Biz leveraged their rock-star social-media status to start up a new wine venture, Fledgling, designed to fund literacy programs. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure there are millions of teens who aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but the next kid to step out and become an Internet legend/ accidental billionaire will probably build something with a strong give-back component.

I'm excited to think of how far today's teens will take us in 10 years. I imagine a world where they will create products with a purpose. Imagine creating a granola brand and using profits to end a war in Africa, or building the next Facebook platform to donate 20% of their advertising revenue to crisis relief? Now that's a dream to cross off my own bucket list.

4 comments about "Success In The Eyes Of Teens Today ".
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  1. Carol Phillips from BrandAmplitude, LLC, February 4, 2010 at 10:31 a.m.

    Doug: We are seeing a similar shift in the definition of what is cool and hip for young adults. The new influencers are the 'doers'. They are influential by actually doing things. Here's a similar post from our blog:
    FYI, this was our most read post of January 2010, it was even translated into Portugese. Thanks for providing confirmation.

    Carol Phillips

  2. Doug Akin, February 4, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    Agreed. My friends at are a perfect example of empowering teens to become 'doers' . Cool has definetly gone thru a transformation. My homey Jeff Rosenthal, lead Ninja for Summit Series has a great article around Products w/ Purpose via Huff Post you should read. Talks abt how teens perception of what brands to wear on their chest or what gear to carry as a symbol has changed.

  3. Rachel Conine, February 6, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.

    Doug: Just want to say "Thanks!" for the reference to the Buried Life guys (Ben, Dave, Duncan & Jonnie) in this article. The article was passed on to me by their business manager because I have been a stalwart supporter of theirs for several years now. I believe that there are teens (although TBL are past teenage years now) out there who see the future and it is good and want to be part of it. And, no I am not a star-struck little teenage girl . . . I've passed the century mark. I just truly believe that those who are on the right track (the shift is there) need to be supported if any of us is to survive. Rachel

  4. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students, February 7, 2010 at 4 p.m.

    I absolutely agree. That is why so many of the messages adults are bringing into the classroom are falling on deaf ears. Students want to 'do good' AND consume/have cool stuff. They DO NOT JUST WANT TO BE SOLD.

    If a company reaches students with relevant messages that are benificial to them and helps students make a positive impact, I think those companies will be very popular and receive long term benifits.

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