I’ve recently changed my position on the millennial epidemic. It was all too easy to call them lazy because they don’t want to work as many hours as their parents, they don’t respect authority, and they have to know EVERYTHING. Their default stance is noncompliance.
There’s a little truth in the criticism. Let’s dig down a few layers beyond the surface to look at what created us monsters before we discuss how to defeat us. SPOILER ALERT: The generation that birthed the millennials created them. [Here is where I switch to first person pronouns]
I wasn’t there when my dad’s generation were children, but I can guess that they gave their parents headaches with the need to be different. It’s probably a reasonable assumption that my dad, his siblings, and peers were forming ideas about how they would raise their children differently, how they would make ways to provide much more for their children, and how they would have bigger houses, better cars, and more money.
Role of the Baby Boomers
My dad’s generation could also be called the Backbreakers (take that). They set out to work as hard as possible by grinding it out with longer hours or going through years and tens of thousands of dollars of school THEN grinding it out with long hours with a straightforward goal in mind: get a job that ensures your family has as much as possible of every thing from the best shoes and best schools to the biggest birthdays and bedrooms. The backbreakers promoted a life about working.
Guess who got to watch their parents grinding it out day after day in jobs they hated. Guess who saw less of their parents but more TV channels, video games, and toys. Guess who saw a pattern they didn’t like and promised themselves that they would be different adults and parents. You see where I’m going with this. Mom and Dad created us millennial beasts.
We Millennial Beasts
Let’s take a good look at us. We want to work for companies based on a lateral management structure, or we want no boss at all. We want to work hard at things we love and seek vocations that make use of our talents. We’re ok with having 3 enjoyable sources of income versus one monotonous 9 – 5 (I have to drink something sweet after I say “9 to 5” to get the taste out). We want to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.
We wrestle daily with pursuing our parent’s or society’s expectations of us. We second-guess going to college or higher. We like to have options. We need a 3rd, 4th, or 5th failure before we know that this isn’t something we’re good at. We have short attention spans and seek wide-spanning connections. I miss anything?
The Mark We Might Have Missed
I’d love to say that we’re fearless masters of independence. Fearless in trying on new professions or relationships, absolutely. But independent we are not. We managed a “faux-pendence”, because we’d been ready to break from our parent’s rule since the age of 12 and totally convinced ourselves that we were totally ready to totally crush adulthood.
We missed some valuable lessons from the adults that raised us. We nailed the attitude, but in application, most of us are blowing it. What activities do we do without the buy-in of someone else? Without seeking validation for an accomplishment, a tough decision, or a vacation photo? What do our parents think about this? How does our inner circle feel about us? What can we do without our team, our recognition, or our followers’ praise? What can we do without our support?
The Supported generation is a much better name. The definition is built into it. Millennial describes the time period we became of age. That’s weak and boring. I’ll probably use The Supported because it reminds me of The Departed (How’s your mother BTW?).
I think the Supported missed something or just went with the Cliffsnotes on the path to young adulthood. I’m sorry I don’t have any science to reference. Maybe in our haste to figure out life for ourselves, we decided we’d learn more from each other than the old people that have already spent time going through the stages. It’s kind of absurd to approach any other task that way. We wouldn’t ask someone that needs glasses to teach us to parallel park or take cooking lessons from a snake. (What? – “WHAT??”) Maybe it’s pride that keeps so many of us from getting worthwhile help.
Healthy Support: The Wind Beneath Your Thumbs
I’ve been fortunate enough to muster humility and sit down with my parents, sit through some therapy, and pick up a book or 12 written by smarter people*. My light to figure things out hasn’t died, so I’m still actively working to get over the hump into being the adult that I was on track to be.
I’m still figuring out who I want to be when I grow up, but so far I know how I want to be. I want to be able to draw a thick, defined line between help I need and help that doesn’t actually help me.
Call it healthy support – the stuff that actually sees progress made. I think there is a good bit we can learn from each other, but we have to seriously eat our pride and understand there are a lot of answers we won’t get on our own.
* My definition of intelligence is the application of knowledge and not the belief that intelligence is equal to acquired knowledge