May you live in interesting times. –Chinese Curse
It feels like I only go backwards baby, Every part of me says, “go ahead.”, I got my hopes up again, oh no… not again. Feels like we only go backwards darling. –Tame Impala
By 2014, Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) will make up 50% of the workforce. The challenges they face are enormous: growing economic problems, entrenched class division, environmental degradation, warring life philosophies, emerging technologies, the impacts of globalism, and decreasing mental and physical health across populations. As an adjunct professor for the Daniels College of Business, I spend almost every day with Millennials building their internal resources and innate talents around leadership and I’ve come to deeply appreciate their gifts and see their flaws.
Here is what stands out for me about this generation:
1. Millennials are clearly less hung up on racial and sexual differences. Millennials seem to accept people for who they are and that’s a huge win for us a society. It’s a step in the right direction towards a true meritocracy.
2. They are less contentious than Boomers. Boomers like to fight about everything. Seriously. They are still fighting about Vietnam and Nixon as if it mattered. The Millennials however are focused on solutions. Maybe the “trophies for all” has a dark side, but the upside is that they are always looking for the end product.
3. They can team/partner like nobody’s business. Boomers are contentious and endlessly pick sides, while Xers tend to be solitary, the Millennials work together.
4. There’s a positivity about the future in Millennials that was frankly always missing in GenX and that the Boomers had beat out of them.
5. They are technologically savvy. You have no idea what’s about to come online in terms of robotics, biomedical, computing, and communications but it will change the world as we know it currently.
6. They are Global in nature. I’ve not seen a study, but anecdotally I believe that this generation has traveled to more parts of the globe than any generation previously. And technology allows them to stay connected with those they meet along their various sojourns.
1. Because they are so solution focused and technologically savvy, they have a tendency to think the ends justify the means. They will cheat to win. With Xers it was uncool to cheat, and I think with Boomers too, but Millennials unabashedly cheat their asses off or draft off of other’s efforts without any sense that they’re doing wrong. Breaking bad is cool and rules are for suckers.
2. They are terrified of conflict and tend to compromise their values for the sake of team/group harmony. Because I teach in the business college, I run a lot of team exercises and almost never see someone stick their neck out and go against their team. And these are really creative, bright students who get sucked into bullshit projects just because they’re afraid of making waves. In other words, group think runs rampant.
3. They trust systems to a fault. The thing about Xers is that the systems were broken… School’s were failing, priests were molesting, parents were absent and there were no summer camps. For Millennials, it’s just the opposite. Everything has worked for them and they can’t begin to envision a world where the system is not your friend. It’s not just that independence is lost, it’s more that they can’t see the forest through the trees.
4. They have gotten trapped in the “endless nostalgia” of Boomers and Xers. If you’re under 30, you should not be talking about Neil Young. At all. Seriously, go find or make your own amazing music. I was at a bar a few months ago and witnessed a 90’s Tribute Band. That seemed to sum up perfectly how nostalgia is an inherited disease. (I kid my students about their awful taste in music all the time, but good bands are out there… yes Grimes, I’m looking at you.)
1, Porn and Sexual Liberation. I’m not a “Creepy Christian” nor a Right-Wing nut job and I’m all for mutuality and interdependency, but I’m also a hopeless romantic and I seriously worry about the death of love and romance in this generation. If it’s the expectation to have sex casually and early in a relationship, it takes away the art of seduction and the power of emotions that come from a higher chakra.
2.A Lost Generation of Men. Women are naturals for the corporate life, as collaboration and communication rule the day, but these traits aren’t in the typical male psyche. I’m speaking now in gender stereotypes, but I wonder what a generation of men raised on video games and paintball wars will accomplish in the non-virtual world where conversation is the coin of the realm.
3. This generation, more than any other, has had very little connection to nature. They know the earth hangs in the balance, feel deeply about the loss of rainforest in the Amazon or the plastic islands building in the Pacific, but they haven’t actually had much connection with the nature that’s right outside their door and when they are outdoors they tend to be goal oriented vs. letting Mother Nature have a few words. Being able to harmonize with “other” is how narcissism is cured.
4. Creativity and Visioning aren’t real strengths. I blame the cult of celebrity on this, but fame and wealth are all that seem to matter sometimes. Why do anything unless it brings you money or fame? It’s a question they’ll have to find a better answer to.
So, will they meet the challenges ahead? I’m working my ass off to help them but it’s 50/50 in my opinion. It will hinge on their ability to keep their strengths out of liability phase and to remain conscious of how their weaknesses are acting as liabilities.
It’s certainly interesting.