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Can't Even summary

Anne Helen Petersen

How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

4.3 (181 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen explores how burnout has become the new normal for millennials, impacting every aspect of their lives, from work to relationships. It provides an insightful analysis of the systemic issues that have contributed to this phenomenon and offers potential solutions.

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    Can't Even
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    Micromanaged childhoods laid the foundations for millennial burnout.

    When you think back on your childhood, what kind of atmosphere do you remember? The answer to this question says a lot about when you were born.

    For example, do you remember a permissive environment – one where you were free to roam around and entertain yourself? Or were you on a tighter leash, with an adult keeping an eye on you and watching out for any signs of trouble?

    For millennials – that is, people born between 1981 and 1996 – a childhood of the more supervised and restricted variety was much more common. 

    That seemingly insignificant fact can tell us a lot about millennials’ troubles today.

    The key message here is: Micromanaged childhoods laid the foundations for millennial burnout.

    One reason that millennials’ childhoods were so tightly controlled was money. That’s because rising income inequality in the last decades of the twentieth century had a knock-on effect on parenting styles.

    In a financially uncertain world, many parents grew anxious about their children’s future career prospects and began to conceive of childhood in a new way. No longer a carefree period of fun, play, and basic education, the childhood years began to be seen as serious preparation for adult life. 

    So instead of throwing a ball around a vacant lot, millennial children were enrolled in high-stakes group sports. Instead of discovering the arts on their own, kids were shuttled from piano practice to dance class. The focus shifted from enjoyment to accomplishment, and fun took second place to personal improvement.

    But it wasn’t just a question of high expectations and jam-packed schedules. There was also a change in the amount of freedom that children were given in their daily lives. The cause? Fear. 

    In the early 1980s, the mainstream media began to give child abductions unprecedented prominence in news reporting – and parents reacted with alarm. Never mind that there was no actual spike in crimes against children; the attention that child abductions received led to the age of “stranger danger” – and convinced parents that their kids had to be kept on a very short leash.

    So what happens when a generation of micromanaged children reach adulthood? Well, you get millennials. Their single-minded focus on productivity and self-improvement originated in hectic and ambitious childhood schedules – and their struggles with “adulting” reflect the hypervigilant parenting that stifled their self-reliance as kids.

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    What is Can't Even about?

    Can’t Even (2020) is an attempt to explain and defend the generation that became the world’s punching bag: the millennials. Arguing against accusations of laziness and entitlement, it suggests that millennial exhaustion is a natural response to the messed-up world they inherited.

    Can't Even Review

    Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen (2020) explores the reasons behind our collective burnout and the rise of the "burnout generation." Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It presents a compelling analysis of how societal and cultural factors have contributed to our chronic exhaustion and feelings of overwhelm.
    • Through personal stories, interviews, and rigorous research, the book offers insights into the complexities of burnout and provides potential solutions for navigating through it.
    • The author's thought-provoking perspective and ability to capture the essence of the burnout experience make the book not only insightful but also engaging and relatable.

    Who should read Can't Even?

    • Millennials dealing with burnout and exhaustion
    • Friends and relatives of this troubled generation
    • Anyone interested in the problems of modern work

    About the Author

    Anne Helen Petersen is an American writer and journalist living in Missoula, Montana. She is a former senior culture writer for Buzzfeed and is the author of Scandals of Classic Hollywood and Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman.

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    Can't Even FAQs 

    What is the main message of Can’t Even?

    The main message of Can't Even is the burnout generation and the challenges they face in achieving success and fulfillment in their lives.

    How long does it take to read Can't Even?

    The reading time for Can't Even can vary depending on your reading speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Can't Even a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Can't Even is worth reading as it provides a thought-provoking look at the modern burnout phenomenon and offers insights into how we can address it.

    Who is the author of Can't Even?

    The author of Can't Even is Anne Helen Petersen.

    What to read after Can't Even?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Can't Even, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • I'm So Effing Tired by Amy Shah
    • The Energy Paradox by Steven R. Gundry
    • Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun
    • Dangerously Sleepy by Alan Derickson
    • How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
    • Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport
    • The Energy Plan by James Collins
    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl