Living at home after the age of 18 used to be an unthinkable shame. Guys jumped into manufacturing jobs straight out of highschool, women married young and parents were left at home to go about their lives.

Thankfully, times have changed. Domestic norms have relaxed, and assembly jobs are competing with the Dodo for the most boring thing in non-existence.

Today, if you’re under 30, and out of the nest, you’ve got it going on.

But regardless of all the benefits of incubating a bit longer – more time to discover yourself, less pressure to marry, etc. – solopreneur millennials are lacking one trait that will make or break our success:


Discipline is harder to come by now than ever.

Discipline used to be a product of survival. You either got disciplined and ate, or you got eaten. But today our mothers (or Uncle Sam) continue stocking the fridge; there isn’t any mortal motivation to succeed. So in lieu of fearing starvation, we need a different approach:

We need to fall in love with success

Unfortunately, society has a pathetic definition of success, and millennials are too smart to not be jaded. We’ve been told that success is limited to the confines of academia, desk jobs, corporate ladders and marriages that we’d gladly trade for alcoholism and loneliness.

—We basically have to work our asses off all day in a cubicle so we can sleep next to spouses we don’t really have time to know, and surrounded by the luxury we never get to use. Where do we sign up?!

Along with losing our hunger for food, we’ve also lost our taste for success. And we’ve fallen back into the nest. Who could blame us! We see our parents locked in jobs they hate – bad marriages too – and we’re told to be successful like them?

“No thank you,” thinks the intelligent millennial, “I’ll take my basement.”

But what if success were different?

What if success were doing the thing you loved most, on your own time – married or single – while making a difference to people who appreciate and need your unique talent? What if it weren’t a formula laid down by the starch-necks that came before us, but rather something of your own design? Would millennials then find the discipline it takes to succeed?

I think so. That’s what happened to me anyway.

I redefined success, and I discovered discipline

I was the paragon millennial male: stuck at home after I dropped out of college, desultory and dependent. I knew the standard of success and refused to take part because I actually wanted to be happy. But I wasn’t happy living at home doing nothing.

After several failures to launch, I was 24, glued to my parents’ couch and feeling totally impotent. I didn’t want conventional success, but I couldn’t let my wings atrophy at home either – that was too painful.

Out of necessity, I created my own version of success.

I decided that success was making a living and a difference doing what I loved most–writing–while determining my own hours. Since finding my passion for writing, I learned how good it felt to do what I loved, and I wanted to help others find their own success through it.

After carving out a more suitable definition of success, for me – one that didn’t necessarily involve more college or office jobs – I found myself at the starting line all by myself. My path to success was distinctly my own. No one had ever done it before me so no one could show me how to do it.

I had to trust that doing what I loved would be enough if I did it every day – if I stayed disciplined.

You have to stick with it

Since I had a burning passion to write, all I had to do was schedule time (physically writing it down in a planner) every day to make it happen, and eliminate the low-value activities (like social media and constant email checking) that prevented me from focusing.

It didn’t matter that I’d been fired from or quit every job I’d started, or that I’d been branded as unreliable and irresponsible in my previous life, because I loved writing—nothing could keep me from doing it. But more than simply loving it, I needed to make a difference through it. And that’s what kept me going when times got really tough.

With my new formula of success, discipline came naturally.

One week of daily writing became two, then weeks became months, and months became years filled with thank you letters and paychecks for my work. In small increments, my character changed along with my habits and my entire life.

Discipline over time works miracles.

Staying disciplined with writing summoned all of my demons to the surface – my insecurity, my little-me complex, my arrogance and my fear of the unknown. But because I was hungry for success, and because my version of success was worth fighting for, I stayed consistent, I got over these limitations, and I shed my small skin.

I didn’t get many paid opportunities at first and I had to get familiar with rejection. But because I had committed to writing each day – to writing better and to improving others lives through writing – I learned to cope with failure. And I got better.

My writing got published on bigger and bigger sites. Companies eventually came to me with job offers, and I landed work with local businesses I scouted out. I made enough money to move out and support myself for the first time.

I’m learning more now than I ever had in my years in college. I read about syntax, style and grammar just to geek out. I study writing for several hours a day, which is as much as I practice. And as I stay disciplined, my opportunities – and pay – keep climbing. It’ll work out the exact same way for you.

What’s your definition of success?

I’m sharing my story because I’m a lot like you. As solopreneurs, or anybody trying to succeed in the new economy, we both have our own unique path to success that only we can walk. We both have a desire to make a difference in other people’s lives through our passions. And we both need to stay disciplined in order to find success and feel happy.

If you’ve rejected the modern definition of success, good for you, but that’s only part of it. You need to come up with a unique version of success that no one else can touch. It needs to be centered on doing what you love and on helping other people through your talents.

And if you want to realize your vision of success, you must be disciplined.

So figure out what you love, then do it every day. Learn as much as you can about your career, pursue it with vigor, and eliminate the distractions that keep you from working. If you’re developing a bona fide passion, discipline will come naturally. No amount of suffering will keep you from sticking with what you love.


I left the nest after a year of committing to disciplined writing. And now that I’m on my own, I’m hungrier for success than I’ve ever been. I’m achieving more than I ever thought possible. Discipline has given me freedom and the ability to improve others’ lives, which I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

And if I can do all this, starting from the embarrassingly low point that I did, then you can do a-n-y thing. You just need to put in the work. 

Originally published at


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist,, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!