A Millennials Perspective On Millennials (and all the things we struggle with)
Full transparency: I want this piece to get some attention. I aim to present some ideas that ideally motivate you, regardless of what definition you want to give to the generation you belong to (apparently we can’t all belong to a group called “humans”) to comment and share your opinions. I want to poke the bear a bit for a few reasons. 1. I recently watched another great Simon Sinek talk where he spoke about Millennials in the work place, our supposed inability to be led (true to a degree I think) and in the process, raised some very valid points that I want to echo. 2. We love to create and use labels to define and put things into groups so that we can feel better about things we don’t understand. This leads to gross overgeneralizations that lump people into camps and lead to statements like “Well she’s a Republican, of course she would say that” or “Isn’t he a Democrat? I thought so considering the way he behaves” or “You Millennials are all the same!” We no longer refer to ourselves as a collective group of human beings. Now of course, distinctions and definitions are important but if you have to label things in order to feel better about being able to make sense of something, recognize that perhaps you struggle with not knowing what to do with concepts that you can’t make sense of and have found a way to reduce your mental and emotional turmoil by making a label so you can feel at ease.
Generally speaking, we feel better when we can write something off as explained or understood. This isn’t my interpretation of what Simon was doing but it does occur sometimes that we have a hard time relating with things that we can’t comprehend, define, categorize or otherwise understand. This is a limitation on an individual level. This is really great if you like shortcuts and reducing mental effort but not so great if you have goals to continually become a more critical thinker. Finally, 3. I find a lot of things said about “those millennials” true and embarrassing (not in all instances but some, for those that might interpret this as an anti-Millennial rant). We sort of deserve to be poked at if we are going to keep doing silly shit, acting entitled to thinking we are special, reacting every time someone challenges us or our viewpoints and blaming external circumstances that will never favor us (or anyone for that matter). In fact, for a fun experiment, go find a Millennial, strike up a conversation with them and see what happens when you challenge some of their assumptions and beliefs. Hell, do that with any person and watch what happens…. That’s how many dinner conversations have been ruined when someone mentions politics.
If this piece makes you angry, great. If it makes you laugh, great. If it makes you wish we (the Millennials) were better, great. My ultimate goal, as with most things, is to get you, us, society at large to ask more questions and think more. Like small children. Small children are great at showing us where we have built and reinforced rules for ourselves and where we have stopped asking questions and being curious. You know this if you either have kids or have ever spent more than 30 seconds around them. If you consider yourself a curious person, welcome! I hope you enjoy this article. I encourage you to question it, me and yourself. But only if doing so adds value to your life. If you want to remain static and unchanging, I have nothing for you and bid you a fantastic day. In fact, I’d prefer you not read this. Otherwise, let’s get started.
Simon began by breaking down his observations and considerations for Millennial’s behaviors and struggles into 4 categories. I’ll use these same categories because I find them wise and want to provide some continuity for anyone that chooses to watch the actual talk, which I highly recommend. I’ll include thoughts and quotes from the video and give tribute where due along with add my own personal thoughts. My intent in writing this is to add context given that I am a Millennial and can speak directly from my perspectives on my generation. I will acknowledge though that I might have a dramatically different take on Millennials than those in my group (sorry guys, but hear me out) so I wouldn’t be surprised to have those of my generation disagree with me vehemently.
Consideration #1 — Parenting
Simon mentions that most Millennials are the result of a “Failed parenting strategy”. Tai Lopez, in the 14th step of his 67 Steps Program refers to a concept he calls the “Blind leading the blind”. In essence, you have blind people leading blind more people which results in the second blind person (the one being led) becoming surprised when things aren’t working out. For those that feel the urge to react to that last sentence, be they parents or kids of parents, I’m not disparaging or judging parents. Far from it. It’s just a truth that we are all limited, don’t have all the answers within our own experience and tend to pass on our limitations in some form to those that we work with closely in any capacity. I love my parents dearly and truly but there are some things I will never let them try teach me (sorry Mom & Dad) because I don’t want the results they have or we just have different beliefs driving our behavior. But back to the current consideration.
Let’s take a child that has been raised with the understanding that they are special and can do whatever they want and have whatever they want. This child is grossly over-rewarded and praised for everything, including things that they didn’t really earn. This is the equivalent of 7th place participation awards (Simon’s words) or more hilariously, rewarding a child for potty training (something they have to do to be a normally functioning adult). You won’t get any job if you still poop your pants (#truth). Kids are being excessively praised for things that they simply have to do if they want to be normal, participating members of society. This can create an obscene thirst for recognition for menial, everyday, commonplace actions. This leads to phrases like “adulting” which are very prevalent in social media. Millennials will brag (or complain and suffer) about how they are “adulting” successfully or how difficult it is, i.e. working 8 hours a day, paying bills, doing laundry and getting their cars oil changed. All of which is shit that you just have to do if you want to take care of yourself! Forgive me my Millennial brethren but let’s get our shit together. By over-inflating the value of these tasks we distort them by making them suddenly special and worthy of others attention. Then, if we don’t get that attention, we get pissy.
We then want or expect recognition for things that we should be doing anyways (Look! I worked an 8 hour day today! Notice me! Give me a pat on the back!) In a different step in the 67 Steps Program, Tai Lopez talks about one of his mentors Joel Salatin and his perspective on punishing kids with work and things that are required as an adult later in life. We are teaching our children that normal things they must do to be self-sufficient (do the dishes, clean their room, mow the lawn, etc.) are actually a form of punishment for not doing other, different things that are also required to exist as a human in modern society (silly right?). This leads to a generation of people that don’t understand why they can’t get things immediately after entering the adult, work world. Or why they aren’t rewarded and complimented because they can use a copy machine. Then, we refer to life as “the grind” and feel stressed by the things that are a minimum to survive. The things we want recognition for are things that simply come with the territory which means we may not be going above and beyond to do what it actually takes to get where we want to go (because we don’t know!).
It’s like a person expecting praise for lacing up their running shoes yet complaining why they aren’t getting in better shape when they’ve never left the house to run! They expect, according to Simon, for love, business, success, fulfillment and happiness to be like a scavenger hunt prize; something that will magically be discovered one day. One of my favorite lines from the talk is when Simon says (and I’m going to paraphrase) “You end up in love because you work hard each and every day to stay in love!” Many Millennials are unfamiliar with the cause and effect relationship of earning things through effort. Health, love, money, happiness, fulfillment should all happen right now or tomorrow “because I deserve it!”
What I am about to say is the topic of another piece entirely and could be looked at, defined and understood in a number of ways. So, understand that what I am about to write is one of many interpretations. I say all that because I know that I’m about to provoke some of the “New Age” folks. Some millennials are finding value in spirituality, “the universe”, mysticism and concepts like “putting it out there” that if something is meant to be, it will be. This is great, really and truly, because we all need a framework to live our lives by but, one downside is that it completely removes you (the Millennial) as the person responsible for your actions and results. You can soften the blow of things “not going your way” by saying “Well it wasn’t meant to be” or “The universe didn’t intend for me to have it” or some other dismissive statement (my opinion only, feel free to view this differently). Here are my thoughts on that behavior. 1. What if you suck at what you were trying to do? What if you simply didn’t/don’t have the skills, knowledge, experience, personality, comprehension or other trait to get that thing, opportunity, person or company to see your “value”? So what? Everyone sucks and struggles in the beginning. Of course you’re not good at something you’ve never done or had before! You’d think this would be more obvious…..
Dismissing it as “not meant to be” in some ways assumes that everything about your current process is correct and accurate and the world at large had an oversight and missed something (how dare that happen to you, you poor thing!). You now don’t need to do the reflective work to figure how you made yourself fail at getting something you want. 2. Some (maybe a lot of) Millennials are very sensitive. Very! About what? A lot of things. We project that we are sure of soooo many things yet I believe we are incredibly insecure about most things, generally speaking. Millennials are very sensitive to rejection in work, love, friendships and anything social (based on our upbringing and childhood environments where we are praised and accepted for every fucking thing we do). As a result, we have devised really clever, seemingly mature and evolved ways to communicate our experience of failure that make us look like we aren’t phased (phased = felt something = not a robot). Well, what if we just did the work to overcome our sensitivity to failing or being rejected? While I wholeheartedly agree with Simon that many Millennials were dealt a bad hand because of the circumstances we found ourselves in as we grew up and matured (many of which we couldn’t exert direct control over), I will add that we (Millennials) are COMPLETELY responsible for improving and changing our expectations, perspectives and psyche as is sensible so that we can get out of our own way and perceive things in a way that will allow us to move forward more effectively and efficiently. This all leads me to Simon’s next point, technology.
Consideration #2 — Technology
I grew up in a house filled to the brim with technology so perhaps this is why I have the experience and perception of technology that I have. I don’t feel or seem to relate to technology and social media the way that I see some of my friends relating to it and want to give some back story as to why I haven’t really hitched my sense of self worth to the performance of my social media profiles. My father worked for numerous technology companies so, from the time that computers first existed, we had several. Then came fax machines, scanners, palm pilots, video game systems, etc. Now of course I had my fixations with gaming and fun with these devices but because these technologies represented work for my father that he enjoyed, the myriad of devices in our home were viewed more as tools to accomplish things. I became familiarized at a young age with how using technology might help me. I was scanning paychecks for direct deposit before there was an app for that. Does this mean that I am exempt from the points I am about to make about Millennials, entitlement and our ease of living with modern technology? Absolutely not! I just have my own version of instant gratification and attachments I use to feel better about myself.
I will go out on a limb and say that for a number of reasons, including all those that are part of the first consideration, some millennials have very poor social skills. They play out in different ways of course but we’ve all got areas where we haven’t developed certain social abilities. Are we generally more well-versed in using social media and technology to connect with vast numbers of people than older generations? Sure. Are we more limited in terms of being able to have vulnerable, difficult, confrontational conversations face to face with others? I think so. Here Simon talks about the Millennial propensity to “ghost” people, meaning you just cut them out of your life because, for one reason or another, you experience discomfort at dealing with this person in a more honest or direct way. Meaning that you lack the social skills to have a difficult, emotional or confrontational conversation. It makes perfect sense that we would experience limited empathy with others because much of our “socializing” doesn’t have to be done face to face. If I really imagined and felt what someone feels when they are ghosted, I probably wouldn’t do it. But doing that requires you to stop and feel your emotions, which not many Millennials think is sexy or cool, since we all want to look like we have our shit together. And supposedly feeling emotions (you know, that thing that lets you know you are a living, breathing human being and not a robot!) means you don’t have your shit together. We, as a generation, do a lot of dumb shit, but this one takes the cake in my opinion. I have been very fortunate to have a wonderful education in the realm of emotional intelligence which has only made me realize how out of shape I am in this arena and the imperative of getting fit. Emotionally speaking that is.
With all of our wonderful technological toys, we can easily avoid hard conversations, awkward moments and moments of vulnerability without even knowing what we are doing to ourselves. But let’s open our eyes guys. Let me give you an example of some of the things I have heard Millennials say when beginning to experience moments of exposed reality. “This is too real” “Don’t be so serious” or “I don’t want any drama” are some of the things we’ll say to acknowledge, then totally avoid real human interactions, conversations or circumstances! You know, the kind where you might feel something. We see a lot of movies and TV shows where people always seem to communicate smoothly, confidently & eloquently and seem to have little drama, discomfort and vulnerability (it’s like it’s been scripted or something…). At best, when we see people in TV or movies struggle, it is made to look effortless, easy or glamorously stylized. The information that influences how we form our expectations around human interaction is very far from reality in a lot of instances (no one I know has met the love of their love after one intense look in a Starbucks; but hey, what do I know!).
“I don’t want to talk about that” “Don’t kill my vibe” or “I don’t like how I feel right now” are just more examples of things that we will say to avoid feeling uncomfortable when exchanging words with another person. Tai Lopez summarizes this behavior in what I think is a blunt, yet effectively succinct way in another Step of his 67 Step Program. He speaks about how many people want to look healthy, young, strong and have a six pack or a nice butt. However, if he could project their brains onto a hologram, people would have the mental (and probably emotional) equivalent of an obese, overweight 500lb body. We need to get our brains and emotions in shape people! We are an emotionally and intellectually obese, unhealthy generation and need to really see the problem before we can fix it. I bet all those sexy bodies you see on Instagram don’t have equally developed levels of mental and emotional fitness. And even if they did, you can’t photograph it for people to comment on! And if people can’t comment on a photo you took, why would you share it? I’m being very sarcastic in case you didn’t notice.
Technology also makes it easy for us to get many things almost instantaneously. Food, movies and dates to name but a few. We don’t have to wait for anything, be patient, put forth effort, struggle or flat out fail and make fools of ourselves (God forbid it ended up on Facebook!). I really believe that below the surface many Millennials are frail, fragile very sensitive emotional individuals whose magnificent effort to appear strong, smart, right, educated and successful only mirrors the intensity of internal insecurity. Is that all of us? No, but I bet that describes more of us that we are willing to admit. This entire perception assumes that there is a problem with feeling stuff. If you’re working out and pushing into unknown territory, is it bad to feel your body? No! If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be getting in better shape. You have to literally tear down the fabric of your current capacity. I wrote about that concept here. The fact that we can exert very little mental and emotional effort is affecting how we bring ourselves to interpersonal interactions, again something I talk about in this article.
One of the biggest effects of this use of technology (which I’m not saying is bad) is that we don’t even know the effects that it is having on our perception of everything around us. It is a generation where “everything is fine”. As Simon says (ha!) for Millennials, in the worst scenarios, nothing is really ever amazing. For you to feel amazing, you have to feel the opposite equivalent (shitty & depressed). You can’t stifle one end of the emotional spectrum without stifling the other. Similarly, if you stifle opportunites to feel physical discomfort (working out), you can’t get stronger. But no one seems to get that as it applies to feelings and thoughts! We don’t know how we are limiting ourselves because of our tremendous misuse of a wonderful tool (technology). Simon spends a great deal of time discussing the dopamine effects of alcohol, drugs and gambling and then lumps social media into the mix as well. While I agree that there are measurable physiological effects when we use technology and social media, I think the problem is also emotional (in case you haven’t guessed).
There is another part of an addiction (or any struggle really), separate from the physical component. Every time I am feeling insecure, depressed, or not good about myself for whatever reason; if I use technology or social media (or drugs, alcohol, shopping, eating or sex) as a way to give myself permission to feel better, I am slowly training myself to only feel better after doing an external action, like checking my Snapchat. All because I can’t sit with myself and be a human, feeling a sensation, for 17 fucking seconds! After a time, I will literally believe, only because I’ve conditioned myself, that I cannot be ok unless I am using or have access to my phone (or anything else external for that matter). The extreme version of this, as discussed by Simon, is the Millennial (or any human) that feels devastated when someone unfollows them or when their Instagram post doesn’t get enough views and likes. We are a generation that has put all of the most amazing feelings we can ever experience on the other side of a condition that we cannot ever be in control of (how we are perceived). We only feel joy when we get attention, the job, the love, the money, the respect, blah blah blah.
We conditionalize the joy out of ourselves and then resort to hating Mondays, living for the weekends, needing a vacation and finding a sense of enjoyment through drugs, alcohol, our outfits or working out (that’s right, you can use health as a cover up to feel better about yourself because you’ve committed to identifying yourself with your physical function and performance). We need to have a drink after a “bad” day. We have to get high to mellow ourselves out. We need a weekend to get away from a life we’ve chosen to feel stressed about. Truth is, we all just suck at managing our emotions and thoughts. Just like some people suck at managing health and money. That’s not a judgement either because some people just don’t have certain skills yet. We’ve just trained ourselves out of all the other options. Then, we blame. The corporations, economy, politics, the President, the older generations, and our parents for making our lives difficult. It’s fucking ridiculous. We then spiral farther down an indulgent rabbit hole trying to make ourselves feel better. We must (credit to Gary Vaynerchuk) start breaking patterns. Now, I’ve already mentioned it a bit as an effect of our exposure to technology and social media but the next consideration is Impatience.
Consideration #3 — Impatience
Taking into account the first 2 considerations, perhaps you’re having some thoughts and feelings about how it might make complete sense that the Millennial generation is judged as being astronomically impatient (I’m adding the astronomically part). I’ll start with health. The largest chunk of my life has been spent, both personally and professionally, in health, wellness, fitness and movement. I have been using my body and working on this for myself for almost 3 decades so I don’t share the impatience that I see a lot of others struggling with. Am I exempting myself at all right now? Nope. I have impatience in others areas. Here’s the skinny (pun intended): You don’t get in shape overnight. It will not feel warm and fuzzy. It will require a shit load of failure and experimenting. You will never arrive and what you find working one day will not work the next. You’ll miss workouts, get sick, injured or just not feel motivated some days. There is no certainty. Oh, and it might take months to see any meaningful changes. I will add to this another concept from Tai Lopez’s 67 Steps Programs. It’s the concept of Patient Impatience and Impatient Patience. Here is what it means. Some people are PI’s (patiently impatient). They are always delaying and putting off effort, work, projects, ideas, etc. Yet, when they finally begin something new, they immediately get impatient and wonder why things aren’t clicking (you’ve never felt this way right?). In health, it’s a lack of instant progress. In relationships, it’s a lack of instant love and acceptance. In career and business, it’s a lack of instant money, fulfillment, impact and/or respect. Then you have the IP’s (impatiently patient). These are the folks worth emulating a bit more. They immediately seek to take action on new things but are then patient with the timeline required to get to where they want to go.
What does impatience in relationships look like? Wanting the other person to love you today, trust you today, communicate openly with you today, share everything with you today, have sex with you today. But here’s the thing; You need to earn that shit, bro! (or girl!). Now, I’m far from being any kind of authority on relationships, very far indeed. I can only reference the ones that I’ve been in and what I’ve learned from trying to force, control and rush things (spoiler alert: it doesn’t work!). Add to that all of my failures in effectively communicating with a person that I’m sharing my life with. Oh and expecting that person to always behave in the way I think is best. Line up ladies! I sound like a keeper right?! This impatience is compounded when mistakes are made and you expect a solution or resolution right away. You must feel the pain of a mistake (everyone participating ideally would) and then figure out what it will take to move forward, one day at a time, in a way that both parties can feel good about. Couple all of this with the stunning lack of vulnerability and skill to have direct, honest, emotionally challenging conversations and it’s no wonder some Millennials can’t find good relationships and friendships. We’re never actually ourselves! We end up blaming the other party saying things like “He/She didn’t respect me!” “They didn’t appreciate me” “He/She wasn’t open with me” “He/She wasn’t willing to commit to me!”.
We need to humble our asses. Respect and commitment are things that we have to participate in earning! It’s entitled as fuck to say that someone else should love and respect us because we want them to. They’ll either give it to us or they won’t. We can’t make it happen. Especially if we don’t know how to feel good without them doing it. Do you realize the position you’re putting the other person in? It’s crazy! You’re essentially saying “Hey! I’m putting you in charge on my emotional and intellectual well-being. Don’t mess up!” Let’s learn to respect and love ourselves first! As long as you think or feel you need something or someone, you will be more likely to employ destructive strategies to get that thing (because people become objects if you don’t know how to feel good without them) and you will push away things and people that you want. We’ve all been around that person who seemed impatient and needy. Their “need” for you can actually push you away. I feel the pain right now of the ways I have done this and still do it, so I am not exempting myself from it. So for health, relationships, career, business, fulfillment and happiness, realize that that shit takes time and that the efforts you are putting in might not actually be moving you closer to what you say you want. Check yourself before you wreck yourself guys.
Consideration #4 — Environment
This is where I will completely defer to Simon. I am not a corporate business owner and don’t directly participate in the creation of corporate environments that Millennials are in right now. I will simply lend some of my thoughts on the topic. By this point, there are a lot of things supporting the notion that it wouldn’t make sense for Millennials to behave in any other way than the way we do now. Let us now take our Millennial and place them in a corporate environment where, as Simon discusses, shareholders are now more valuable than the employees. Employees aren’t viewed as people but as interchangeable parts (non-human objects). Millennial employees are less likely to be loyal because they expect instant results and participation ribbons for every single thing they do. They, in turn objectify the companies they work for. Both sides are experiencing the other side through a sort of negative rose colored pair of glasses that removes all sense of humanity and cooperation. A quick digression; Please understand, I realize that not all companies view employees this way and of course I know that there are millions of hard working, determined, humble, collaborative Millennials. I am simply referencing the ones that aren’t this way for the sake of this article, because they do exist. We can all name at least one company or Millennial we know that fits the bill above.
Corporations, companies and organizations that views employees as assets or resources to be jettisoned when the mothership needs saving are in no position to lead. You can’t lead if those who might choose to follow you are viewed as non-human objects. Again, this is my opinion based on what Simon discussed because I have never led an organization before. These corporations, companies and organizations will probably attempt to manage rather than lead. And managing is not the same as leading, something Simon elegantly summarizes in saying “people don’t wake up wanting to be managed, they wake up wanting to be led!” Conversely, Millennials want fulfillment, feelings of impact and happiness (right now!) and will need to shift their perception of how they relate to their health, relationships, careers and businesses. They must remove the receivership mentality of things being given to them and instead look at how they are participating with other human beings (because that is what a company is) towards a (hopefully) mutually beneficial goal.
This thing called health, wealth, relationships, love, career, business, success and life exists as is, and has been the way it is before we all existed and started playing the game. This game is what Simon refers to as an “Infinite Game” meaning; there are known and unknown players, rules can be changed and the objective is to keep the game going (referencing Game Theory). The opposite is a “Finite Game” where you have known players, fixed rules and the objective is to win. We’ve made the tragic mistake of thinking that we are playing a Finite Game than can ever be “won”. We are all infinite players that have entered the game with a limited, or confused understanding of the nature of the game and our capacity to participate in it. Much of Scientist and Humanitarian, Keith Raniere’s work, is dedicated to helping people become more reality-based, adaptable versions of themselves. When you are more adaptable and reality based in your thinking and feeling, this in turn makes you a better player in the game we all call life. In seeing reality more as it is versus how we want it to be (a Seth Godin line), we get an increasingly better understanding of the infinite game and how to continue to have the will (physically, emotionally and mentally) and resources to play with everyone else. If you fight reality and the laws of physics, you will lose. Tai Lopez gives tribute to his Mentor Joel Salatin again here in saying that Mother Nature is the teacher of last resort. Something you don’t want to experience.
The game being played is the game being played. It was here before us and it will be here after us. The best that we (Millennials and everyone else) can do is seek to remove our personal convictions, biases and delusions so that we can see as clearly as possible (Tai Lopez’s words) and be reality-adaptive participants (Keith Raniere’s words) capable of seeing “what is” versus “what we want to be” (Seth Godin’s words). It’s worth mentioning here that this is something that not all people want. However for those that want more, it is a life long, noble journey of ever growing self-discovery. In doing so we can become like children, ready to receive and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; metaphorically (if you aren’t religious) and literally (if you are religious).
I have one final, simple request. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Really. I realize you could have been doing a thousand other things, so I appreciate your attention. I would like for you to comment with your thoughts, experiences and opinions on everything I’ve presented here. I don’t have the only perspective and want to expose myself to as many other perspectives as possible. It is my way of breaking my own convictions, biases and delusions. You will be helping me more than you may realize.
Keep growing and questioning.