Youth feels like a superpower. But in lots of ways, it’s a detriment

Anisah Osman Britton MBE
6 min readMar 9, 2023

I woke up on Tuesday morning to this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 being announced. Some of my exceptional friends were on it and I celebrated them on Twitter and IG — but I have a problem with youth being a marker of success.

Often, success comes at a young age because you don’t have responsibilities or dependents, you’re naive enough to not know what failure can look like or can mean and you haven’t got a reputation to protect or a lifestyle to maintain. I’m not saying you don’t work hard (you do!) but you’re also happy living on bare minimum, your body can take a lot — shit food, late nights, endless screen time and social overload with countless meetings and events. Your mind can also take on so much more — learnings, risks, new people... Youth feels like a superpower. But in lots of ways, it’s a detriment — habits we create and the style of work we’ve been practising are neither sustainable or practical in the long run. It’s a hard one to understand in the moment because our youth is invincible. And maturity? Well, that’s just hindsight. Here’s what I’m currently seeing:

My peer group started being successful in our early twenties (however you define that is up to you — many of us are founders and creators) and burnt out by our late twenties/early thirties.

We feel tired, angry, and resentful towards our bodies.
We may have had health scares because of the stress we have put ourselves under.
We may now have dependents, whether that be children, a partner, or elders.
We may have realised that what we fundamentally want in life has changed. For example, we may not have been motivated by money in the early days of our careers. Now, we maybe are because of what it has enabled us to have and to do for ourselves and our loved ones.
We may want a change of pace. A breakfast event, a whole day of work, gym, three evening events and somehow finding food to shovel in along the way may not cut it anymore.
We may be done with the city — the places that started our careers, opened doors, put us in close proximity of our mentors, sponsors, investors and the amazing people we worked alongside.
We may have realised we need a bigger support system — a cleaner, a food delivery service, PAs and VAs, childminders, dog walkers — if we want to keep on.
We may be done with doing it all and “hustle culture”.
We may want some luxury, a bit of a soft life.

But all of these changing wants and needs are a lot, if not impossible, to process while we’re in the middle of it all. We haven’t recalibrated to our internal changing compass and we don’t understand why we begin to feel demotivated.

So we step down from our roles, close our companies, take a sabbatical to figure out who we are and what we want — and we realise we need to recuperate.

In that break, we have an identity crisis. Who we are has always been attached to the work we do. Now we’re not doing that work, who the hell are we? We try new hobbies, new jobs, new courses, maybe we jump around a bit to explore what’s out there…Our confidence crashes as we go from knowing to being a newbie. We ask, “did we ever really have skills or did we get to where we are because of luck, support, privilege and good timing?”

In this time, we may spend an excess of time on social media to “make sure we keep up with what’s going on in the industry.” We watch as the next generation — our younger siblings and cousins and their friends — begin to enter and excel in the workforce. They seem to be killing it and making a lot more money than we were when we started out. They understand the content game and are using it to their advantage. They seem to have figured out how to be a little less earnest than we were in the beginning. They seem to have not given everything to one company and are working on worthwhile things on the side. We watch in awe. We admire their energy — it’s contagious. Maybe, in the secrecy of solitude, we wonder if we could work for them? After years of doing our own thing could actually working for them be a really good thing? Could we learn from them? Could our ego take it?

But while we feel all the feels of a work identity crisis — often (let’s call a spade a spade) with the privilege of knowing we can make money on the side through consultancy, side gigs ,speaking, etc — life is happening.

In the stillness of our careers, we find love — with a partner, a sport, with a pen and paper.

In that stillness, we observe what success meant we missed: Our parents ageing, siblings going through it, friends settling in situations that make us wonder if we’d called more or gone over more, would it have been different?

In that stillness our inner children find their voices again and remind us of our childhood dreams — to write, to act, to be pilots, to change the world.

Maybe in that stillness, we hear our inner adult wanting a partner or alone time; a child or to be child free; to live by the sea or move to the mountains.

In that stillness, we hear that the journey we’ve been on is one that has come to an end for us. It’s time to embark on a new one that maybe we can’t even see the starting point, let alone the destination of…yet.

So after this stillness that followed the chaos of youth, how do we ever find that success again that we were once beholden to? Maybe the answer is we don’t and we forge a new definition of success.

Some of us will build again, realising it is the only real job we feel we want to do — not just because we think that’s the only thing we can do. But how we build will look different. We will treat our time almost reverentially. That 12.30pm slot in the calendar on Friday can’t be moved, sorry, I’m going to the mosque. That 9.30am slot on Monday can’t be cancelled, unfortunately…it’s scheduled for therapy. Those two weeks, you ask? Actually we’ll be device free on our family holiday.

And we’ll watch as our decisions don’t cause everything to fall apart.

We’ll see we can do the work sustainably, effectively and for the long term without betraying our wants and needs.

There’s a privilege to all of this — a privilege I am hyper aware of — that has enabled me to have this time to be still. It is sometimes the awareness of this privilege that stops us from saying how we feel. We’ve been celebrated, handed accolades, made money, how can we consider throwing it away? How can we consider saying it isn’t making us happy? How can we say we want something…else? It does not come from a place of ingratitude, but a place of saying “I want to understand how best to use this privilege”. To use it for happiness. To seek good for ourselves, for others around us, and for the people we impact with our work. And maybe those coming up behind us will see that they can do things differently. Or not. At the end of the day, youth will always be young.

23 Code Street, the company I founded at 23, was magic and pain.

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Anisah Osman Britton MBE

Figuring out ✨ what's next ✨ after a decade of love and heartbreak in tech