Ryan sent me a video to watch the other day by a guy called Simon Sinek, who’s talking about how Millennials are struggling with forming relationships, having rewarding careers and life in general. I shared the video (and I’ve put the link at the bottom of this post or you can click on the picture on the left) with the intention of putting up this post to go with it. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked. Several days later, I’m picking up where I left off. Well, kind of. I also had several conversations about the video with Ryan and my Uncle and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to get their views on the video, too: three generations of commentary.
At the start of the video, I was intrigued; Simon makes several great points. But I don’t agree with his ultimate point at all, because he’s saying that Millennials are the way they are and it’s not their fault, poor them; they’re victims of poor parenting and the narcissism of today’s technological lifestyle.
Excuse me? Millennials are the way they are and it’s up to them to take responsibility for it, look at how things are, take what works and move beyond what doesn’t work. That’s the way it is for all of us. That’s the way it has been since time immemorial. It’s called growth, development, maturity.
Simon points out that companies need to support their employees and bring out the best in them, and right now that’s not happening. The poor Millennials want to make a difference in the world and because they’ve grown up with this need for instant gratification, they’re getting disillusioned and moving from job to job. Employers need to change the way they do things to stop that. Employers definitely do need to change. Some of them have an appalling culture that affects not just the poor millennials but every other employee, too. We’re all human, we all want to make a difference in the world, but as time goes on and the world changes and grows, we’ve become more aware that making a difference is a basic human driver. We’ve moved away from mere survival to something more. This can be said about every company towards every employee. When a company’s main focus is the dollar, when it’s all about efficiency and profit and production, something needs to change. It’s no longer a sustainable business model. A successful business today needs to be about the people within the company, not the product. The people are the true resource, not the product.
Each generation has its own hurdles to overcome. If I look back at my grandmother’s parenting technique, “Bring me that brush so I can hit you with it” will never form a part of my child-rearing armoury. But my Granny was rearing her children to the best of her ability, in the way that she felt was appropriate at the time. She wanted her kids to do well, she wanted them to succeed, she did her best. Did my parents have crap to deal with as a result of that? They sure did? Do I have stuff that I need to deal with because of things that my parents did? I sure do. We all do. My parents did their best, my grandparents did their best, I did my best, AND WE’RE STILL GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES. It’s called growth, learning, development, maturity, wisdom. It’s called being human.
On the whole, parents ALWAYS try to do the best they can for their kids, it’s an inbuilt survival mechanism, it’s difficult to avoid. Parents are also people. They’re growing, learning, making mistakes. Parents are – shock, horror - fallible. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing most of the time, they make it up as they go along. There could never be a manual for parenting but we’re all so individual. Our personalities and unique experiences mean that each of us will deal with every situation in a slightly different way. We have to learn for ourselves. That’s called LIVING. That’s what being a human is all about: learning, growing, maturing, becoming wiser.
The Millennial generation has it no harder or easier than any other generation, their experiences are simply different. The outcome of that particular style of parenting is different to previous generations. Their lifestyle is different to any other generation. The expectations that they have from life are different. And conversely, every older generation since the year dot has commented that the younger generation don’t know how easy they’ve got it and that they don’t know how the world will survive when they younger generation take over.
This is all GREAT news, because it means that as a human race, we’re growing and developing. We tried something, maybe it didn’t work as well as we wanted it to and now it’s time to take whatever learnings we need to take from it, integrate them and grow.
But the overall feel of the video, intentional or not, was that of “oh, the poor millennials” like they’re somehow weak, powerless, victims who have zero control over what happens to them and how they’re so hard done by and how they’ve got so much to overcome. That is not my belief. My belief is that these generations are the strongest we’ve produced yet. They may have different problems to overcome, problems that haven’t been seen before in the history of mankind, but so has every generation before them. It’s all balanced: the size of the problems/experiences/expectations I believe is balanced out by the size of the opportunities and potential rewards.
This generation is far from powerless and they’re definitely not victims. Or at least, they can be if they want to be, the same as everyone else, and maybe they have the power to be far more victimised and powerless if they want to be. It’s a choice. My feeling is that they’re the best generation humanity has produced yet, and the following generations will continue to improve. Yes, they face different challenges to me or my ancestors, but they’re more than capable of dealing with them. And yes, the older generations need to change and grow and adapt in a way that gives the younger generations the best foundation they can have for the future. That’s how it’s supposed to go… in a perfect world. We’re becoming more and more aware of what we need to do to make things work best; we’ll get there.
Ryan’s commentary on the video:
There are, apparently, two schools of thought:
In the first, the idea is that, originally, humanity was at its peak, morally and emotionally. Since then, with the invention of more and more weapons and unnecessary technological clutter, we have come steadily further and further away from that basic state of human nature. People point to heroic eddas, or classical epics, and claim that because the people in those were unquestionably heroic, we have definitely come downhill from there. Now, instead of lying around being tragically moral, we just sit on our phones and ignore the more general problems facing our species.
In the second, however, the idea is that as we develop more and more advanced technology, moving further away from the necessity to spend the entirety of our days finding food or shelter or other such banal trivia, we come to a state in which we can develop our morality and emotion consciously. Being rid of the superficial, we can focus on what it really means to be human.
So: either we were better in the good old days, or we're getting better with every passing day. Sound familiar? Is the glass of cognitive understanding half empty, or half full? Do Millennials really contribute anything to the world, or were things better before the invention of the internet?
I saw a video a couple of days ago, and promptly sent it to my mum, who's generally interested in these kinds of things. In it, a speaker 'diagnoses' why Millennials have such different expectations in the workplace. His reasoning was to enable the older employers to understand why Millennials want standing desks, or to have their phones on them at all times, or to - and I'm not exaggerating - "make a difference in the world".
[Quick Point: I'm a Millennial, according to most measurements on the topic. I grew up when Facebook was in its infancy, I watched the internet grow into what it is today, and the changes that it made impacted on how I developed as a person. Just so you know: it might make my viewpoint different to yours.]
This speaker said that the differences between the newer generation and the older are caused by four distinct effects: bad parenting, changing technology, ingrained impatience and a communication-filled environment. And while, as he goes through the list, he makes a few good points about how we were raised differently and how technology has impacted on the way that we interact with the world, in the end I found that I didn't really agree with him. For two reasons.
Firstly: all of this assumes that our generation is different to the one before. "Millennials are so entitled." "Millennials are impatient." "Millennials don't know how good they've got it." Should I bring everyone's attention to the 60s? At what point do people think that the fact that technology has changed mean that the people who grew up with it are somehow worse for having different expectations about how life should be lived? Where does the change occur in a person, going from "technology is great" to "technology is ruining young people"? Because I will guarantee: the people who complain about iPhones and Apps are the same people who defended the rise of mobile phones.
Secondly: we shouldn't be tiptoeing around the fact that young people act differently to old people. Young people have their phones ringing, and if we don't like it, it's up to us to bring it up. It always takes a while for society to develop an etiquette about new technology, and in the last ten years we've gone from "don't speak to strangers on the internet" to "set up a date with a random person over an App based on nothing but a picture and a short paragraph". Sure, young people may be rude in the eyes of old people, but old people are behind the times to young people.
And that is the way that it has ALWAYS been.
My point is that, in the end, people are all the same. Every generation since the dawn of time has complained about being sandwiched between a generation that doesn't move with the times and a generation that moves too quickly.
We weren't any better before, and we won't be any better in the future. But maybe we can get rid of the idea that our generation is better than the others.
I’ll add my Uncle’s commentary as soon as I can.
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Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...