On quitting, risk, and (the lack of) safety nets

I just came across this post about a podcast, Quit!, that helps people leave unfulfilling jobs and try new things.

The author of the post, J. Eddie Smith, IV, notes that:

A lot of people who call into the show are 18 to 25, and they sound trapped. Truly trapped. These are people with no kids. They aren’t married. They really have no responsibility to anyone but themselves—and they have the voice of a burned-out 45-year-old with four kids, a resetting mortgage on an upside-down home, two car payments, and a deck of maxed-out credit cards.

Why are these people, barely out of childhood, already so afraid of change and so unable to take any kind of risk?

He argues that it’s because schools and the media push traditional career paths, and therefore kids grow up without entrepreneurial role models.

That may be true, but I doubt it’s the real reason that so many young people feel trapped.

You know why we’re afraid to take risks?

Because we need health insurance. We need to pay off our student loans. We graduated into an incredibly uncertain economy, with a historic amount of debt, and we’re just trying to stay afloat.

It’s hard to take risks when there aren’t enough jobs to go around, and leaving one means you might not be able to get another.

It’s hard to take risks when you’re exhausted from just trying to get by.

I agree that entrepreneurship is a good thing, that it has the potential to create the jobs we so desperately need. I agree that we, as a society, need to encourage new ideas and non-traditional paths.

But I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that so many young people are afraid to leap when we have no safety net.