This Shit Isn’t Helpful

Yet Another Story About a GenX-er Succeeding In the Face of Adversity

Fellow millenials, do you ever read articles and think, “What am I doing wrong?” Do you spend your life feeling like a failure, because you haven’t bought a house and made your first million yet? Do you read just one of the myriad of success stories regularly published and think, “If only could get such a lucky break!”

Do you?

Cos I fucking do, and every time I read these articles, it chips away at my sanity a little bit more. And every time I think, “What’s the magic formula? How does this happen for other people? Why can’t I make it happen for me?”

I’m here to tell you why I’m not going to read another article or “success story” ever again, unless it’s entitled “I Make £22,000 A Year, And Can Barely Afford To Rent A House, And I Have No Savings, And A Postgrad Degree, But I Can Make Really Nice Food And I’ve Got Lots of Friends And That Makes Me One Of Life’s Winners.”

So, pull up a beanbag, grab a slice of avocado toast and a freshly-ground espresso, and settle down to hear why This Shit Isn’t Helpful™.

Now, if you’re following along, you’ll notice that at the top of this article there’s a link to a story from the BBC News website. This article caught my eye today whilst I was browsing said website – in between articles about white supremacy and Brexit, this nugget caught my eye.

It enraged me. (Are we surprised? No. I’m essentially fuelled by caffeine, stress and rage, so ‘angry’ is sort of situation normal for me.) But I was still pissed off by this article, and I’d like to tell you why.

Firstly, this article is entitled “The A-Level failure who became a multi-millionaire” – and technically the article title is completely accurate. The article is about a man who failed his A-levels and ultimately became a multi-millionaire.


The aforementioned man is 52 years old, so the A-level failure happened a good 34 years ago. Thirty years ago, you didn’t need A-Levels to find a job. You didn’t need A-Levels to get started. On the job training was more prevalent. You try failing your A-levels today. It isn’t nearly so easy.

Secondly, he allegedly walked into an estate agent’s and asked for a job, offering nothing more than promising to be good at selling houses. Again, this was the Eighties. In today’s legislative society, I have to show a passport before I’m allowed to attend an interview. It seems highly unlikely that I could walk in to somewhere offering employment and simply ‘promise’ to do a good job. Also – and I freely admit to making a horribly classist judgement here – I’d bet pennies to pounds his parents knew the estate agent. (#familyfriend #totallymeritbased #nobodyphonedanybody #parttimesaturdayjob?)

And yet here is the BBC, three days before A-Level results are released (yes, it’s that time of year again, and it’s happening on Thursday), publishing an article that suggested failing your A-levels is merely a tiny pebble on the otherwise unlittered path to wealth and riches. As though the heavy pressure on teenagers during their A-Levels these days doesn’t have any mental health consequences, as though life today still operates on promises, and not on fifteen page-job applications where you have to prove not only that you’re here legally and able to work legally, but also that you meet every point on a forty-point person specification to demonstrate how and why you could do that job – even when that job is stacking shelves on a supermarket night shift and literally the only questions to be asked are “Will you turn up on time”? and “Can you lift a fucking box?”

Thirdly, and this is possibly the thing that is most fucking galling about the BBC’s ridiculous article offering false hope at a time of deep stress for students and parents alike, the man mentioned in the article didn’t really achieve his millions on his own having failed his A-Levels.

No, really. Go read it again.

He actually made his millions with a company jointly owned with his sister, and which was originally started by their mother. It’s right there: “Niki had taken over the running of her mother’s business, City Executive Centres, and Mr Fuchs joined her in the early 2000s, before the business was ultimately sold in 2005.“¹

Sure, their new business might have been started together, but they only started a serviced offices business because they’d both had experience in their mother’s company in that field previously.

But guys, guys, the man made his millions, all on his own, despite failing his A-Levels, and piggybacking on his sister’s and his mother’s work. And now he’s in charge of “strategy” whilst his sister does the “day to day, operational stuff”. Hmmm. What a success story.

So anyway, in conclusion, this article is badly written and full of bullshitty patriarchal reinforcement, and if you’re about to get A-Level results, yes, they matter now. In the long run, not so much, but right now, they’re the doorway to success and you’ll definitely trip over your own feet if you’re not careful. So take a few deep breaths, try not to panic and just remember: maybe one day you too can get your sister to help you make your first million.



[1] I literally can’t even begin to contemplate the patriarchal bullshit that is calling the female partner “Niki” and the male partner “Mr Fuchs”. One offers instant respect, the other is about to be followed by the sentence, “Fetch me a coffee, there’s a good girl.” He is addressed by title and surname throughout the article, giving him a sense of authority, when in actual fact, the main body of work seems to have been done by ‘Niki’ – or Boss Bitch as she should be bloody well called. #everydaysexism #don’tgetmefuckingstarted


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