It has become increasingly difficult for young Zambians to construct youth-to-adult transitions that meet the normative expectations of coherent life trajectories towards being successful. We explore 60 young Zambians' experiences through qualitative life history interviews focusing on processes of economic (dis)empowerment. We focus closely on what these Zambian youth aspire to, their ‘models’ for life course achievement and how they position their own progress towards and prospects for ‘success’ in relation to their peers. In doing so, we contribute to understanding the importance of youth wellbeing in times of increasing uncertainty. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.