Don’t Fight Dragons Alone: 5 Indispensable Tips for Young Professionals

Game of Thrones — HBO

It seems every week there’s a new article about how Millennials are messing up the world. While most of the world they inhabit has been co-created and controlled by other older generations, young folks seem to take a lot of heat for having the audacity to have been born more recently.

It reminds me of a story I used to read to my Communication classes called The Indispensable Tiger. In the story, an old lion and old tiger compare their situations. The tiger had taken the young from his pack out hunting, but hadn’t provided any direction, so the young tigers hadn’t been successful in feeding the group. The lion, on the other hand, had trained his young well. He was able to laze around in retirement while they fed the pride. The tiger was oblivious that he was the reason his young couldn’t step into his leadership role; he hadn’t actually trained them. He had put them in a position to fail and then criticized them, insisting he was indispensable.

I think more Boomers and Gen-Xers need to step forward and offer strong mentorship to young people, before judging and criticizing them. Perhaps the greatest struggle many of us older (more analog) folks face is determining how we might offer meaningful guidance in dynamic times. Certainly, in the story with the lion and the tiger, the young were inheriting a much similar world as the one the elders knew. The same cannot be said for our reality.

So I sat back to compile what I believe are useful tips for young professionals:

1. Find moments of privacy.

Our world requires us to be present and perform constantly. While I believe we are as Victor Turner described, homo performans, and as Augusto Boal described, spect-actors, we can’t always be on stage. Most great actors know that to be great, one must have the backstage space and time away to prepare and reflect. Your ability to step out of the spotlight and into a space that is private, will help you find clarity and direction.

2. Never stop developing your character and your character’s story.

Try on new roles and performances. Play with the framing of your story — the plot of this novel life you lead. Who are you? What have you been through? How are you a different person now than who you were five years ago? How might you want to be in 5 years from now? What are the meaningful events that have influenced who you have become? What good and bad can you take from them? How do you incorporate new experiences into your life? Are you comfortable with change? With adapting to new situations? Learn to be. Adaptability is key and being able to recreate yourself is a way to stay relevant and emotionally healthy.

3. Rehearse.

What you say can and will be used against you. It can also be used for you. Prepare what you want to say to have more meaningful connections. If something is bothering you, step back and find different ways to look at the conflict or issue. Practice different ways of addressing it with others. Listen to yourself say these things. If it doesn’t sound right or it will exacerbate the situation, use a different approach, perspective, or set of words until you find exactly what you want to say. You can rehearse for most everything: job interviews, first dates, confronting your cheating partner, celebratory toasts at dinner, asking your boss for a raise, etc.

4. Don’t fight dragons alone.

We all have our struggles: physical, mental, and emotional. These challenges will not end. They may be different over the course of your life and you may have overlapping challenges that complicate things even more. Know that almost everyone you meet has some issue that tests them in significant ways. Get your dragon-slaying team strong. Find allies who can help you be strong and support others in their struggles. Your team membership may (will) change over time; constantly look for ways to improve your support network.

5. Intersections matter.

Intersectionality is very real. People’s experiences in the world are different, depending on who they are, where they were born, and the different identity markers they carry. Many of the obstacles people face is external — in the form of systemic barriers. Other obstacles are internal and come forward as prejudice. Economic class matters. Racial caste matters. Gender norms matter. Ability matters. Regretfully, you still must endure oppressions that people have resisted for millennia. But you have a new power with a global web of translation and communication: real tools that might actually lead to positive social change on an international level. I have faith in young people to find greater freedom for themselves and their progeny, especially guided by thinking that allows for complexity in identity.

The tiger called himself indispensable, but was really lacking in leadership. By offering young people real tips and strategies for navigating this world — which we also inherited — older generations can be more comfortable in retirement, knowing that our younger generations are fully capable of taking on the challenges of the future.

Christine Warda can be found at

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