Family/CommunicationLeadershipAugust 19, 20130Giving a Hand Up To The Next Generation — 08/19/13

OK, I am now offi­cial­ly tired of lis­ten­ing to baby-boomers and gen-Xers trash talk about Mil­lenials.  The com­plaints I hear over and over: “enti­tled,” “no work eth­ic,” and “dis­re­spect­ful.”

Maybe I’m hang­ing out with the cream of the crop, but the folks I know who are in their 20s and ear­ly 30s aren’t any of those things.  Or maybe I’m just see­ing it dif­fer­ent­ly. Rather than “enti­tled,” I’d say, “ques­tion­ing tra­di­tion­al path­ways to suc­cess.” Instead of “no work eth­ic” I’d say, “unwill­ing to work hard at things that aren’t mean­ing­ful to them.”  And I don’t see the young peo­ple I know as “dis­re­spect­ful,” I see them as being “unwill­ing to respect oth­ers based on role or posi­tion.”  In fact, the Mil­lenials I know have enor­mous respect for what they see as impor­tant accom­plish­ments, finan­cial, social or moral.

The way my peers talk about the gen­er­a­tion now com­ing up is eeri­ly rem­i­nis­cent of the way the World War II gen­er­a­tion talked about us baby-boomers when we were in our teens and twen­ties.  In fact, I’m absolute­ly pos­i­tive, when I was a hip­py in the late six­ties and ear­ly sev­en­ties, that those exact accu­sa­tions (enti­tled, no work eth­ic, dis­re­spect­ful) got thrown at me and my friends.  So per­haps it’s sim­ply a uni­ver­sal grum­ble that each gen­er­a­tion has about the sub­se­quent one.

Why Not Grumble?

I think it’s impor­tant, though, to stop indulging in gen­er­a­tion-based grip­ing, and fig­ure out what we can do to help them instead.  These young peo­ple who are now enter­ing into their adult lives are the future of our world.

Until recent­ly, most human cul­tures ascribed to the the­o­ry that each gen­er­a­tion would impart skills, val­ues, and knowl­edge to suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions.  Young men and women appren­tic­ing to their par­ents in trade; young peo­ple lis­ten­ing at their grand­par­ents’ knee to the sto­ries that defined their soci­ety — its cau­tions and taboos, its accom­plish­ments and values.

And I think we can still aspire to pass along what we under­stand and know how to do to the next gen­er­a­tion.  I find it deeply sat­is­fy­ing when one of my kids, or a young col­league or client tells me that some­thing I’ve shared has been valu­able to them: it makes me feel as though I’m doing my part to sup­port the evo­lu­tion of the human race. The more we can pass along, the less each gen­er­a­tion will have to start from scratch in fig­ur­ing out impor­tant stuff.

So, my ques­tion for you: what skills, insight, or knowl­edge do you have that you could offer to the new gen­er­a­tion?  That is, how can you — per­son­al­ly — help ensure that the next gen­er­a­tion has what they need to make this a bet­ter world?

Till next time,



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