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10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials

Scott Trench
12 min read
10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials
As a generation, Millennials (myself included) have had more access to opportunity than any other generation in human history. There is an unlimited amount of productive ways toward which we can direct our intelligence, passion, and attentiveness—and an equally unlimited amount of distractions pulling us away from those things that actually matter.
This article will list out ten everyday problems that most Millennials encounter and how they hold them back from success, both in business and the pursuit of their passions.
Keep in mind that almost all of us, myself included, indulge in the behaviors on this list at least periodically. There is absolutely nothing wrong with partaking in these activities on occasion.
The problem is in habitually doing these activities, every day, as part of your routine.
With that, here are the ten barriers to success that many Millennials allow as distractions every single day.

10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials

1. TV/Netflix

Unless you are a better person than me, you’ve gotten home from work and plopped yourself in front of the TV or computer to watch a few hours of Netflix, TV, or movies. I was actually so good at denial once that I even managed to convince myself that this was productive. I’d think that whatever I was watching was ok because it was some documentary or series that expanded my mind or put me more in tune with the shows that “everybody should watch.”
Literally thousands of hours of my life have been wasted on this. My goals do not include being the top contributor to a conversation surrounding Friends or The Big Bang Theory. Netflix has almost nothing to contribute to my day, and the off chance that some of the content could actually benefit me is just that—pure chance.
No thanks.
Netflix and 99.9 percent of television programming have absolutely nothing to offer me in terms of furthering me towards the things I really want in life. They are a distraction, a waste of time, and worst of all, an opportunity cost. I could be doing something better with almost every second. This is especially true in selecting a TV show or movie to watch. I have in the past been known to spend up to an hour just trying to pick one non-productive movie or TV show over another!
I care about my goals, and while I still watch a very minimal amount of television from time to time, it is no longer a part of my day to day life. I believe that I am way more productive, happy, and progress towards my goals more rapidly with this change.
TV and Netflix have no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

2. Sports Entertainment

Professional, college, and amateur sports are a distraction. You could be doing something better with that time in almost every situation.
Now, the trap that most people fall into is the mindset that sports don’t hurt us. Unlike other activities on this list, watching sports isn’t actively taking us farther from our goals, especially when we deceive ourselves into believing that they periodically produce connections and conversations with others. However, when we factor in opportunity cost, sports become a huge and obvious anchor, slowing our progress toward our goals.
This is not to say that you should cut sports out of your life entirely, but it does mean that being a rabid fan of the local NFL team or watching every game in the NCAA tournament is costing you. Big time. For an example from my personal life, we can look back to the year the Phillies won the world series (2008). I remember skipping class; missing social events; getting happy, angry, or sad about things well outside of my control; spending money on merchandise; and ignoring most of the other things that were important to me at the time.

Related: 3 Negatively Cashflowing “Assets” That Devastate 20-Somethings’ Finances

After that year, I decided to let sports go as a part of my everyday life, and I’m amazed at how I ever cared so much. Don’t get me wrong; I still like sports and don’t mind going to a game every now and then, especially when I can get free tickets. But at the end of the day, making the Phillies a big part of your day to day life will make you… a great Phillies fan.
Is that really who you want to be?
Sports entertainment has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

3. A Luxury Residence Far From Work

This is a fun one that many folks can’t seem to wrap their heads around. The luxury residence (read: house in the suburbs or apartment in the happening part of town) can be a massive detractor from most Americans’ wealth, health, and happiness.
It bleeds them dry in the form of rent/mortgage payments that preclude them from building wealth, force them to spend large amounts of unproductive time commuting to and from work, and incentivize them to stay at home—often alone, bored, or at best, tired from a long day or week working and commuting.
Luxury living is often expensive to maintain and furnish and encourages other behaviors that further detract from goals. Many folks who choose such living situations also purchase an expensive automobile to compensate for their long commute, divert significant resources in the form of time and money into decorating and maintaining their household, and worst yet, feel compelled to spend time “enjoying” (read: lazing around in or watching #1 Netflix or #2 Sports) their home.
Many folks who feel stuck and frustrated with their lives compound that frustration daily on the way to and from work in their luxury car (which is stuck in traffic because of their poor choice in the location of their residence). They are also forced to allocate time to maintaining their home, which they fail to see is a distraction to their higher objectives, misguidedly believing that their home is an “asset” to their social status or in the case of the suburban homeowners, a “wealth building” investment.
“Sacrificing” your luxury residence (at least in the short-term) for a downgrade closer to work might just be the single most powerful thing you can do in the pursuit of your dreams, both in freeing up your time AND your money.
A luxury apartment and a long commute have no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

4. Eating Out

There are occasions during which meeting someone for lunch can be extremely productive. Catching up with a friend or family member, potential business associate, or coworker over lunch or a beer can be extremely productive. Using reasonable restaurants in the way I describe here is not a bad use of time.
But habitually eating out as a default option in your day-to-day life is killing your dreams.
Eating out regularly has the following drawbacks:
  • Eating out is expensive. I know folks who buy lunch almost every single day, and god knows how much they order for dinner. I even know people who order breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a typical workday. That’s $30 most workdays, if we’re feeling very conservative.
  • Eating out is time consuming. You are wasting time in line, at the register, commuting to and from the restaurant, and in the usual lazing around after the meal.
  • Eating out is unhealthy. Sure, there are a few places where you can get a healthy meal out, but let’s be honest—that’s not the norm.
Eating out is acceptable when you are invited to an event or when it’s the best way to meet critical people—people who can help you get where you want to be. This situation is far more rare than we like to admit, unless we deliberately attempt to meet new key people as often as possible (if that’s you, then keep up the good work!). Far too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that a lunch was “productive,” when it was really a net loss to our wallets, productivity, and health. Don’t fall into that trap. Make your own food, and default to a healthy, efficient, delicious, and self-prepared meal.
Eating out has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

5. Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever else we are using these days are now part of everyday business vernacular. It’s actually totally acceptable, even mandatory in some cases, for many of us to be on these networks as a normal part of our jobs—and there is a merit behind them. They help us reach more people, share our content, achievements, and milestones with others, and create business.
The problem with these tools is that they are designed to distract us. They are designed to keep our attention for as long as possible and to suck us back in as frequently as possible. That’s their job. That’s how they make money—HUGE money. And they are very, very good at it.
If you are serious about success and achieving some big goals, then social media is not something that you spend all day on. Social media is something that you use efficiently, effectively, and succinctly to share, access, and collaborate on those issues that are relevant to your goals.
If you want to see how your friends are doing and keep up with their lives, check in once per week with the feeds of just those you care about. That hot girl from history class back in middle school? Her job in Seattle doesn’t matter. Her stuff shouldn’t appear in any of your feeds and shouldn’t command one second of your time. It’s preventing you from focusing on something better. If something cool happens with that guy who always smelled funky in math class, you’ll hear about it through the grapevine either way, and you don’t benefit from being first out the gate with that information.
Aimlessly trolling social media feeds has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

6. Music

Ah, I can hear the shouts of disapproval already as I write this.
Music in and of itself is a wonderful thing and has many proven health benefits when applied appropriately. If you need a few minutes of your favorite song in the morning or like classical music while you work or need a few amped up songs to get pumped for your workout, obviously it would be a mistake to cut that out.
But let’s be real—we are NOT routinely using music to reduce pain, relieve depression, or to compete more intensely at the gym. The best excuse that I can come up with to defend my old music listening habits is that it helps me to “elevate mood.”
Give me a break.
Music is NOT helping you achieve your goals when you are listening to your favorite rap, country, rock, pop, or typically popular music. That country station on the way to work can and should be swapped out for a book on tape or podcast on real estate, business, personal development, or something similarly productive.
Music distracts you. Period. This has been scientifically provenwith the possible exception of listening to music within a narrow band of acceptable listening.
Free time and mindless, repetitive chores can be put to far more productive use when you listen to content that helps you grow in business, personal life, or develop new skills. If you are listening to your favorite music artist, you must acknowledge that you are at that point prioritizing the recreational pursuit of listening to that song over your career, personal development, or other life goals. You could be doing better.
Unlike some of the other things on this list, music doesn’t directly take away from your ability to do other things, but it could be replaced with something that will actually help move you towards your goals and it is a distraction. Over a long time period, such as a year, the person who forgoes music for self-education and development audio will have a massive advantage over the music listener.
Typically popular music has no place in the workplace, commute, or mindless activity of an ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

Related: Not Too Late: A 20-Something’s Plea to Generation Yers for Financial Change

7. Nightlife

I’ll be the umpteenth person to cite this ridiculous article from Elite Daily as a guide for rapid self-destruction, mediocrity, and financial dependence. To quote one particularly hilarious brain fart:
“$200 a month [in savings] isn’t going to make the dent that a $60,000 pay raise will after spending all those nights out networking.”
If you believe in this approach, you are full of it. I wish you well, and hope that one day you will be my opposition in a struggle for something that I really want. I will beat you 100 percent of the time and by exponentially increasing margins with every passing day (or night?). Good luck to you.
I’m not going to say that I haven’t enjoyed my share of nightlife, but I also don’t kid myself that this was productive to my higher goals. They were fun, plain and simple. But the people that I’ve met out on the town, at the bar, are not likely to help me proceed towards my goals. Like the rest of these distractions, indulging occasionally is not going to devastate your progress, but it is going to slow you down. Recognize that, and temper yourself appropriately.
Nightlife has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

8. Shopping

There are some items in your life that can make a serious difference in your productivity, and there are some items that will last much longer than others. For example, I might spend a large amount of time selecting a new mattress, property, computer, or insurance policy, as that might significantly improve my quality of life, my ability to produce effectively on a day to day basis, my peace of mind, and my financial position.
On the other hand, I and many of my peers have been known to spend far too much time comparing options between things that really don’t matter. Examples of this include the Netflix movie selection process described earlier, wandering around stores at the mall, or browsing the internet lackadaisically. I truly don’t understand this concept. Like many others on this list, it’s a waste of time and money, for items that are obviously not of benefit for more than a brief snapshot in time.
Shopping should only take as long as it takes to understand what you need and the tradeoffs between price and quality. Decisions only need to be brooded over when the stakes are high.
Shopping has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s day to day life.

9. The Snooze Button

The snooze button is the ambitious person’s greatest ally. It keeps the competition in bed, where they can’t compete! Better yet, it makes them groggy, unproductive, and way worse off than if they had just gotten out of bed in the first place.
When that snooze button goes off and you have to awaken to hit it, that’s it. It’s over. You aren’t going to get any more productive rest, you aren’t going to be better off in 15 minutes, 30, minutes, or an hour while your alarm keeps going off every 10 minutes. In fact, you are actually making yourself way worse off than if you just got out of bed the first time the alarm goes off—at least from the standpoint of benefitting from sleep.
The snooze button is costing you more than the few extra minutes of time that you spend unproductively in bed. It’s costing you the next several hours of productivity, mental sharpness, and production.
Waking up is a mindset. When that alarm goes off, get up quickly and be grateful for whatever sleep you did get. Snoozing for more won’t help you.
The snooze button has no place in the ambitious Millennial’s mornings.

10. The “I Want to Try and Do EVERYTHING” Mentality

Millennials have been widely documented as valuing “experiences” over pretty much everything else. I too value awesome experiences more highly than possessions and also hope to see as much of the world as possible. However, I feel that many of my peers and those in our generation take this mindset to an extreme where they arrive at this inevitable outcome:
They have a ton of shallow experiences in a large number of areas, thus becoming fairly lousy at a lot of different things. This can come at the expense of becoming excellent in just a few areas that they truly enjoy.
If the desire to experience new cities, lifestyles, and experiences is too strong, then it holds you back from self-development and mastery of any of these locations, hobbies, or passions. You can’t commit to any projects or visions that will help you make an impact on the world or that lead to success if you are too preoccupied with experiencing everything the world has to offer.
Millennials seem to prioritize having as wide as possible a breadth of life experiences, but fail to prioritize having a deep level of expertise or passion about hobbies in a more narrow range.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have hobbies, passions, or pursuits that you genuinely love. It’s to say that instead of trying to do everything, pick a few that you truly love and develop an intimate level of expertise and knowledge in those areas, instead of trying to overextend into too many new areas of life.
By all means, develop new interests outside your comfort zone. Just don’t forget that the bulk of your focus should be on your core strengths and those weaknesses that you need to overcome to achieve what you truly want.
Being a “jack of all trades and a master of none” has no merits for the ambitious Millennial.


I make some pretty bold claims here and criticize behavior that I observe as being both widespread and detracting from peers’ success. I believe that the activities listed above do little to impact day to day happiness and in many cases are simply bad habits that take away from more meaningfulness in our lives.
We can attempt to deny this list and argue that there actually are some merits to each of these habits (well, except for the snooze button). But if we are honest with ourselves, these things aren’t helping us to grow in our personal lives, with our finances, or with our passions. They need to go.
I also fully understand that many of us indulge in these behaviors at least some of the time. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in moderation, these activities can be fun and enjoyable. Just recognize when too much becomes too much and when it’s time to cut back and get truly serious about whatever it is that you want to do with your life.
It’s then that you’ll see that these things have no place in your day to day life, and with that understanding, they’ll gradually start to fade out of your life.
[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]
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Millennials (and non-Millennials!): Do you agree or disagree with this list? What would you add?
Let me know with a comment!

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.