One of the millennial stereotypes we address most often is that millennials are lazy. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to show we aren’t lazy, and how we can do a better job overcoming that perception. Usually, I look back at actions to demonstrate ambition.

But recently I realized: at some point, it became cool to act like everything comes easy to us – regardless of how much effort it actually took.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • They say: “Your hair looks pretty today”
  • I say: “Thanks, I just love beachy waves. So effortlessly chic!”
  • Reality: I bought a special styling tool and 2 types of hair product plus watched a YouTube tutorial.
  • They say: “That was a great presentation you put together”
  • I say: “Thanks, it’s easy to talk about stuff I work on every day”
  • Reality: I was up until 2am the night before triple checking data and refining the content
  • They say: You wrote a book, that’s so cool!
  • I say: “Yeah, all the content was in our head so it was really just a matter of getting it out and organized.”
  • Reality: I sacrificed a lot of fun nights and weekends for 10 months

Instead of accepting complements on the results of our hard work, we default to acting like it was “effortless.” It’s almost like we feel guilty about working harder than other people. Or are afraid of being judged for spending time on the “wrong things”.

So what if we just stopped acting like everything we did was effortless?

How? Let’s rewrite the narrative above.

  • They say: “Your hair looks pretty today”
  • I say: “Thanks, I’m trying out a new style and am glad you noticed”
  • They say: “That was a great presentation you put together”
  • I say: “Thanks, I spent some extra time on it to ensure our work was represented in the best way possible.”
  • They say: You wrote a book, that’s so cool!
  • I say: “Yeah, it took almost a year of focused work and a lot of sacrifices, but it feels good to have accomplished my goal.”

Do you feel the difference? The “person” in the second narrative seems much more intentional and committed – not by changing their actions themselves, just by changing the way they talk about those actions.