I am in search of my inner millennial. I am a baby boomer. I am the product of Depression-era and pre-WW2 parents. Obedience was expected of me and my generation.
It was, for me, the time where “children were seen and not heard” by executive order and infractions were punishable by corporal punishment.
The members of Gen X, Y and any other letter designation are the inheritors of the problems created by past mistakes and short-term thinking. They are the beneficiaries of being born in an era where parents were far less authoritarian (generally speaking), far more supportive of helping their children feel good about themselves, and eager to provide opportunities (from learning a foreign language, Lego-Robotics, fencing lessons and overseas travel, to name a few).
For my cohorts, there was no direct supervision when we were told go out and play. We were left to our own devises to create entertainment; simpler activities in simpler times — riding bikes, pickup games of baseball or whatever the sport of the season. We had no devices to communicate other than the dial phone in the kitchen.
I am not, by any means, saying one generation is good and one is bad. Our new generation of adults (whatever the classification) is astounding in so many ways. They, as a group, are confronted by heaps of student loans and lack of employment opportunities (mostly because the boomers are unwilling to give up their seats of power).
These are big obstacles; hurdles significant in the path to creating alternatives to a “mainstream” career path. So what did this young, bright, energetic, and slightly pissed off group do? They took matters into their own hands. They created careers that worked with the lifestyle they valued. They created startup companies, freelance alliances, co-working spaces, and creative pools of talent to uncover problems that need solving. Bravo!
The creative force lives and prospers in this group who is not afraid to thumb its collective noses at the boomers that are not making room for them at the table. They have, in many ways, recreated life and how we go about navigating our way. Think about the innovations from Uber/Lyft, AirBnB, Seamless, and countless other applications that have been built to simplify our — boomers included — lives in so many ways; from banking to finding a hotel room at the lowest price.
Consider how our lives have changed just in the area of personal financial management.
We can deposit checks right from our phones, find the lowest interest rates on mortgages or highest interest rates on savings accounts at our fingertips. We can track our expenses and move money from account to account and rebalance our 401(k) accounts – all while we’re waiting to pick up the coffee we’ve preordered.
We don’t have to write checks and enter them into registers or go from bank to bank looking for mortgages. We don’t have to meet with sales people if we want to buy life insurance. The idea that millennials have brought us, if you’re paying attention, is that you can save time on mundane activities and use that time to be creative, enjoy your family, community, help others, or do something you value rather than spending time on these life logistics.
These simple conveniences weren’t created so you can work longer hours and get buried in unnecessary details. It’s a choice. I know expectations have changed with email that follows you everywhere. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of providing immediate gratification to the sender instead of setting reasonable expectations that don’t put you in an untenable position.
Maybe boomers had such a hard time saying no to our children that we are having a difficult time saying “no” to the unhindered flood of emails and text messages, and the expectations around them.
Perhaps we boomers can learn something very important from our children. Focus your attention on what you value. Create a life that supports those values. Explore your creative side to solve problems or discover new ways of living and working. Create community that is supportive and knows how to think and laugh.
Most importantly, look to tear down the walls between the generations that focus on our differences and not our common bonds. If you’re a boomer, like me, don’t be afraid to ask this bright, energetic, and creative group how they might attack a problem. Give them a seat at the table, promote their access to experience and decision-making, and share their enthusiasm for finding new ways to make life better. You never know what you might learn. Laugh, learn, and work together for the betterment of our world. Try it, you’ll like it!