Millennials, loosely defined as young adults age 18 to 35 as I write this, are everywhere and messing up the machinery. Like a plague of locusts or alien invasion, Millennials are taking over the world with their opinions, ideology, work ethic, worldview, and their value systems. The old school is taking notice and whining about it plenty. Darn kids!
I disagree with my generation when it comes to bitching about Millennials. These young people do things different in some ways, but generally do a great job, even better than my generation in many instances. The slightly older (ahem) crowd needs to remember a few years back when we were the recipients of complaints from The Greatest Generation. We were asked why we were not so great. Pissed us off then, pisses us off now. So why do we pass the same BS to the Millennials?
The Millennial generation has the same issues previous generations had when cutting their teeth. Moving out and starting life is hard. Figuring out what to do when so many options are available is daunting. Times change, but people remain the same. More Millennials live at home with parent/s or rent than prior generations even if they earn enough to afford home ownership. It is too easy to paint Millennials as lacking commitment when seeing these statistics. Instead, look deeper. Our world is more decentralized than ever before. Mobile communications allow us to work and play almost anywhere on the planet without losing touch. Home ownership ties a person down who plans on traveling a lot. Working from home or on the road is easy and common in our modern world. Lucky us.
Millennials are not afraid to learn from older people. This is apparent in their massive following of Bernie Sanders. Young adults are not the problem. Their worldview is molded by technology. It is normal to respond as they have. Auto ownership, for example, is unnecessary in many communities as Uber and ride-sharing replace the need to own a car; it is cheaper too. Even desk top computers are making way for mobile devices. Millennials adopt modern technology, and the frequent changes in the technology, without angst; it is normal for them because it was that way all their life; they don’t know the old worldview because they never lived it. Yet they still follow an experienced old guy like Bernie and learn from him.
The rest of society can learn from Millennials, a valuable and diverse group of intelligent and talented young people. I offer this advice to my young friends:
- Your Opinion Matters: You do not need 30 years of experience before taking a leadership role. Remember, past generations had young people lead into the future, too. Think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Old people get stuck in their ways. It takes a fresh set of eyes to lead boldly into the brave new world. Leadership is a skill partially learned, partially inbred. Young people can and should lead, even people older than they are. As an employer I have had plenty of older people under my command. You need to lead when the opportunity arises. If the old guy has a problem with the chain of command that is their problem, not yours.
- Understand Complaints and Criticism are Part of the Process: Authority from the elderly feels more natural to many people. Authority is earned from experience. Older people do not always possess this experience. When it comes to my cell phone (or whatever we call the darn thing now) I defer to the younger generation. Since I have a tenuous relationship with my cell phone it is common for me to seek out a young person to help me when I am on the road. I would only ask an older person to help with my phone if no young people were around. Younger people, in my mind, have more experience and authority with newer technology. It might be untrue or unfair, but it is my worldview. The same applies to Millennials. Don’t take it personal when not credited for your work or face complaints. It is not about you; it is about them. Remember, it is difficult passing the reins to the next generation when they have been running the show for so long.
- Abolish Fear: The future is built by people with vision. Your worldview will create tomorrow’s world you and your children will live in. What I think is awesome will seem a bit dated by most Millennials. Progress is required to handle the problems facing society; you are the solution. Previous generations can and will help in your goals. Your dreams and vision will be the world you live in. As older generations diminish by death, you will remain to live in what you created. Move boldly into your new world without fear.
- Listen: You have so much to learn from the world around you and your elders. Let us tell our corny stories. The lessons we learned about life have served us well. Take what applies to you and entertain us with a laugh on the rest. Our experience is valuable. People do not change all that much. Relationships, work ethic, and beliefs are the only things changing; human nature is not. Who am I to condemn you for living together versus marriage? Who am I to spit angry retort over your work ethic when you have learned better balance in your personal life than my generation and accomplish more? Who am I to tell you which god to pray to or if you should pray at all? Listen to our bitching with an ear towards understanding what we really are saying, a tough act for sure. Allow us to help even when it seems counter-productive.
- Teach: You have so much to offer. Take your knowledge, skills, and understanding to the generation behind you. Also know you will soon move to the front of the line as the new generation asserts itself. Do it gracefully. Complain, if you want. Teach your experience to the young and step back as they show how awesome they can be. Most of all, look back. Remember the Baby Boomers (I was born in the last year of this generation) and Generation X. We want to hear your stories, experience your joys and successes. We live for that stuff.
Life can take over. It is easy to forget where you are with so many demands starting a career, saving for retirement, and growing a family. Society has many unwritten demands for you to follow. Break the rules. Only follow the mores you choose. It is your life to live.
Society can act concerned as a new generation begins to make itself felt. I lack such concern. I have seen Millennials and am impressed. Never before in the history of mankind has such an intelligent group of people moved into the leadership positions. If The Greatest Generation built great things, Millennials will create the most awesome and futuristic world ever, where all people will be treated with dignity and respect. I am excited every day to watch this exciting world unfold.