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Dear Millennials: It’s Not Your Fault

Dear Millennials: It’s Not Your Fault

If, like me, you are of the generation born after 1984 dubbed “Millennials” or “Gen Y”, I owe you my sincerest apologies.

You belong to an imposed demographic accused of being tough to manage, narcissistic, entitled, self-interested, unfocused, and lazy – aka, every young person ever in the history of mankind. So it’ll pass. Your bad rap won’t follow you into retirement – if you make it there.

You confound leadership. When asked what you want, you reply, “Make an impact, work in a place with purpose, free food, and bean bags.” Yet for some reason you’re still not happy.

There’s a missing piece.

“Entitled is the big one,” motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek says in his recent Inside Quest interview on Millennials in the workplace.[1] A speaker for modern leadership, he goes on to explain why new Millennials confound old methods and what can be done about it.

Sinek breaks the blame down into four categories:

  1. Parenting,
  2. Technology
  3. Impatience
  4. Environment

1. Parenting

Helicopter moms, participation awards – the generation that could do no wrong and were told they could grow up to be absolutely anything are then confronted with a whole lot of real world nothing. Enter apathy.

Millennials grew up subject to failed parenting strategies and are a generation of kids told that they were special, and given the constant messaging that they can have anything they want in life – just because they want it.

It was a strange time to grow up in where higher grades were often awarded because parents complained, and everyone received all-inclusive participation medals just for being there. Medals that scientific studies have since proven to devalue the reward itself and makes the person who comes in last embarrassed and feel worse. So, that backfired.

Consider the upbringing mentioned above and then being thrust into the working world, a harsh place where surprisingly, despite what the past formative years would have you believe, you get nothing for coming in last, and can’t have something just because you want it.

In his illuminating discussion on this topic, Simon Sinek dubs Millennials as “an entire generation that is growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations. Through no fault of their own. They were just dealt a bad hand.”

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2. Tech Addicts

You don’t have to shoulder all the blame for your perceived narcissism. Mark Zuckerberg can share some.

Your parents didn’t grow up on Facebook. Imagine a time before social media where dinosaurs roamed and couldn’t troll on one another to learn intimate, albeit mostly false, details about each other online.

Back in the day, people couldn’t slide into your DM’s and had to develop and learn how to pick up on actual real-time social cues – something babies miss out on now while staring at tablets in restaurants, deaf and dumb to the conversations around them. But we’ll get to how this affects our interactions later… *cue avoidance expert deflection*

The generation growing up with these social media tools are well-versed experts in putting filters on things, giving others a very limited and inaccurate scope of how their life is really going.

We create a Stepford Wives version of our lives to make ourselves feel better about it, and when we get praise for these constructed identities, the validation falls flat because it isn’t for anything we really did.

This is a generalization – there is a gold mine of comedy and art and design to follow out there – but I’m guessing your feed features more than that. It’s easier to look at the success of others and portray your own contrived image of being great than actually working at being great. And that falls into the next damaging factor to Millennials: the patience shortage.

So with the filtering for likes and creating false summaries of our lives without the balanced honesty of the bad, depression spikes. Everyone appears to be living their best #blessed life ever while being #depressed behind the scenes. Despite the majority of messaging on social media, most people don’t have it figured out.

Double Tap to Get High

Science has proven that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. In a validating game of pitch and catch, it feels good when you send and receive a text. Nothing gives you more of a sense of accomplishment than topping 11 likes. You’ve done it. We obsess over our social online identities and deal with the trauma of being suddenly unfriended.

Dopamine makes us feel good when we smoke, drink, and gamble – in short, it’s highly addictive. There are age restrictions on the aforementioned bad habits, but not on social media and cell phones, which Sinek argues in his talk is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet. It allows access to addictive numbing, as young people are going through the high stress of adolescence.

Simon goes on to explain that almost every alcoholic discovers drinking in their adolescence. When we are very young, the only approval we need is from our parents and as we go through adolescence, we make a transition to now needing the approval of our peers.

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Some discover the numbing effects of dopamine to help them cope with the stresses and anxieties of this difficult phase. Unfortunately, that becomes hardwired into their brains and for the rest of their lives when they suffer social, financial, career, and general stress.

As they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep meaningful relationships. Young people admit many of their friendships are superficial. They admit that they don’t count or rely on their friends. They have fun, but know they will cancel on them if something better comes along.

Deep meaningful relationships aren’t there because they never practiced the skillset to obtain them and, worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when stress shows up, they are not turning to a person they are turning to a device to social media, which offers a temporary relief.

Studies show that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher amounts of depression. These things are not the enemies, in a balanced life, they are fine – just like moderate alcohol consumption is okay. Too much of anything – gambling, etc. – is dangerous. While there is nothing wrong with social media and cell phones, it’s the imbalance that’s the problem.

How do you know it’s a problem? You’re sending subconscious messages that the people in the room with you aren’t important by picking up and looking at your phone at dinner, looking at your phone first thing upon waking up before saying “good morning” to your spouse or housemates, treating your devices or social media like a reflex behavior when bored – those are all red flags.

Like all addictions, these things destroy relationships and cost time and money, and generally despite the immediate reprieve, make your life worse.

All of this results in a new generation growing up with lower self-esteem that doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to appropriately deal with stress or the skills to establish and maintain deep, fulfilling relationships in real life.

3. Immediacy

Enter impatience.

Oh attention span. How long is this article? I don’t have time for this.

How many times do you tap the screen on your device to see how many minutes are left in the Netflix series you’re binging on, or the YouTube video you’re watching with another eye on another device. Seven minutes?! Ugh.

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Anything long gets a bit lost in the immediacy of the movement happening now. As explained in the last point, we want those hits of dopamine fast and back to back to back, times infinity.

It would appear now that our time is hyper-valuable and if we can’t glean the value of something within a few minutes – seconds preferably – then we’re out to find a faster source. In all this jumping from one thing to the next, do we really retain anything aside from a quickly fizzling high?

Strung out, we search for the next thing endlessly and again in times of stress, instead of reaching out to others, we turn to the escapism of Netflix. Netflix won’t let you down, bud. I get it. Binge away. I’m just as guilty.

So Simon Sinek points that we live in a time now where we can buy something on Amazon and it arrives the next day (hopefully soon by Drone, which is exciting/dooms day-ish?), watch a movie, watch a TV show – binge don’t wait week to week. Instant gratification.

Dating in an online world without all the uncomfortable fumbles and learning curves – just swipe right and you’re a stud. No learning of social coping mechanisms. Everything you want, you can have instantaneously. All you really know is instant gratification.

So it becomes a world where everything is available to you immediately.

Except for two things – job satisfaction and the strength of relationship.

Simon explains the sad news that there is (or not yet at least) no app for that. That both things require slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.

Instant Impact Issue

Simon Sinek goes on to praise the Millennials he’s had the opportunity to work with and discuss things with as “wonderful, fantastic idealists who are hardworking and smart, but get disillusioned because they aren’t making an impact.”

It’s not that they aren’t, it’s just that the results aren’t in yet because we look for immediate results and give up if we don’t get them.

Sinek says the young people who were bemoaning the lack of impact had been at their jobs for an average of eight months and that this generation has a very abstract concept called impact and needs to learn patience.

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He goes on to say that some of the things that really really matter like love, or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence, a skill set – all of these things take time. There are of course some shortcuts but – spoiler alert – the overall journey is arduous, long, and difficult. So patience, young grasshopper.

4. Environment

Sinek wraps up his talk urging leaders to innovate the workplace environment to better suit this new generation.

He describes young fantastic kids dealt a bad hand are put in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than the kids, a system that cares more about short-term gains than long-term life. They are corporate environments that aren’t helping them build confidence or develop skills of cooperation, and fall short in helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance.

It isn’t offering any guidance in overcoming the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time, that cannot be done in a month or even a year.

We are thrusting them into these ill-suited corporate environments and the worst part is they think it’s their fault. They blame themselves. They think it’s them who can’t deal and it makes it all worse.

Simon defends Millennials, saying it’s not them, it’s the corporations, and corporate environments and total lack of leadership in our world today making them feel the way they do.

It falls to leaders in the corporate world to discover new ways to engage and encourage this generation of workers, to find innovative ways to build up confidence and teach social skills they are missing out on, and to help form trust in working relationships.

T-Swift Summation: Haters Gonna Hate x3

Don’t let the shade thrown on the time you happened to be born in get you down and don’t adopt or internalize the discrimination geared toward this generation.

In a few decades, you’ll be flinging the same cow patties at Gen Z or the iGeneration. You’ll be waxing philosophical know-how on how you lived in a simpler time when the Internet was only available externally – before the singularity.

The point is, Millennials aren’t a particular breed of impossible new species – they are simply a product of the factors listed above, growing up in an ever-evolving technological world.

#thereshopeforusyet

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/bearded_earthling-2972455/ via pixabay.com

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Rebecca Smith

Copywriter, Freelancer, Short Fiction

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

There are several perspectives on the term systems thinking. The discipline goes beyond a collection of tools and techniques. A lot of individuals are fascinated by tools like brainstorming tools, structural thinking tools, dynamic thinking tools, as well as computer-based tools. They believe the system thinking tools can make them smarter and productive. However, it goes beyond that as systems thinking is more strategic and sensitive to the environment we find ourselves.

So what is systems thinking and why is it good for you?

What Is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a diagnostic tool that can help you to assess problems before taking action. It helps you to ask questions before arriving at conclusions. It prevents you from making an assumption, which is the lowest level of knowledge.

A systems thinker is curious, compassionate, and courageous. The systems thinking approach incorporates the act of seeing the big picture instead of seeing in parts. It recognizes that we are connected, and there are diverse ways to solve a problem.

Characteristics of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking can help you in analyzing the connections between subsystems and understanding their potentials to make smarter decisions.

In a soccer team, the elements are the coach, players, the field, and a ball. The interrelationships are strategies, communications among players, and game rules. The goal is to win, have fun and exercise. We all belong to several systems and subsystems.

Some characteristics of systems thinking include:

  • Issue is important
  • The issue is familiar with well-known patterns
  • Attempts have been made to resolve the issue.

Given these characteristics, systems thinking goes beyond an operational tool; it is a strategic approach and a philosophy.

How to Use Systems Thinking

Here’re 3 ways you can use systems thinking:

1. Understand How the System Works and Use Feedback Points

The first task is to know what system is all about and identify the leverage points or feedbacks that influence its functioning. This is what will help in adjusting the system.

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If you want the system to be productive, enhance the feedback points. If you want it to be less productive, exhaust the same points.

A good example is that of a bathtub. The leverage points are the faucet and the drain. If you forget to close the drain, having turned on the water, the water will never stop flowing, and the tub will never overflow.

If you want more water, close the drain while you turn the water. If otherwise, turn the faucet off and open the drain. You can apply this to your personal development.

Once you discover the feedback points in your life, find your leverage or feedback points, then enhance those points. If you want to be fit, get a trainer, find a mentor, or eat healthy foods.

2. Discover the Patterns, Structure, and Events

Trends and patterns could be compared to clues for a crossword puzzle. As you aspire to enhance the system, trends and patterns offer you hints and cause to shift your paradigm. Usually, they can direct you to unusual and unexpected aspects, to ideas, people, or places you have never thought about.

Smart people watch out for trends and patterns so they can be conversant with changes.

You can view the world from 3 different perspectives:

i. The Event Perspective

If you consider the world from an event perspective, the best you can do is to be smarter is ‘react’. You tend to be smarter by reacting quickly, becoming more lighter on your feet, and flexible as you advance through life.

So how do you view the world from an event perspective? You ask a question like, ‘What happened?’.

There is the possibility of becoming more aware and seeing more at this level. An excellent technique to achieve this is by telling a story to a group. If you can see beyond each event, see beyond patterns and trends, you will be empowered to anticipate, predict, and plan.

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ii. Pattern Perspective

To view the world from a pattern perspective, you need to ask, ‘What has been happening?’

It is most times difficult to see the actual size of an iceberg (underlying structures that are the causes of events). The waterline dissects what’s visible from what’s not visible.

A systems thinker does not assume from what’s visible only; he or she seeks to know what has been happening.

Take a look at this video to understand more about the Iceberg Theory:

 

iii. The Structure Perspective

To view the world from a structure perspective, you need to ask, ‘what is causing issues?’ The answers will be the factors and forces responsible.

If you find yourself in a traffic jam, you don’t blame the next driver as a smart person; you could ask, ‘what’s been causing the traffic jam?

The usual answers could be a decaying road surface, careless driver, or high speed, but that would be the same things identified as trends. What makes the structure perspective different from others.

The structure is what propels your energy. It is what affects happenings. A systems thinkers make deductions based on internal structures to arrive at a conclusion

3. People Problems vs System Problems

Several issues ranging from security breaches, product flaws, poverty, to transportation inefficiencies are systemic.

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Even when you misbehave, there is usually an internal system to blame.

If you are not productive in your business, it may not be caused by you. There may be a system that you need to enhance.

Do you remember our feedback points? As soon as you assess the system, you can focus on people. Is a new hire causing lag in the packaging process? Is poor communication affecting the team’s performance? Reallocating job roles may be a perfect leverage point.

In the traffic jam example, there could be a system-based solution such as installing traffic lights and subsequently enforcing traffic laws in the area to penalize reckless drivers.

How to Foster Learning with Systems Thinking

Systems thinking helps you to appreciate the interrelationships of people, organizations, policies, decisions, ideas, and relationships.

Peter M Senge propounded five disciplines that foster learning in your DNA- whether you are leading an organization, starting a venture, or working as a freelancer.[1]

1. Gain Mastery

You can take online courses, attend conferences, read blog articles and books, listen to podcasts, converse with leaders within and beyond your industry, watch documentaries, learn from your team, and stretch yourself by improving your skills.

2. Discover Your Assumptions and Biases

There was this parable of four blind men who made different assumptions about an elephant. Their assumptions and biases hinder them from understanding how the animal looks like.

Biases can rob you of innovation and prevent you from experiencing personal growth. To become aware of your biases, you have to take an internal trip and engage breakthrough thinking.

3. Establish Your Vision

Systems grind to a halt when the goal or mission is not defined. You will not have the motivation to complete the online course if you don’t know why you subscribe in the first place.

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Is it for career advancement? To up your game or to gain general knowledge? Vision inspires you.

4. Learn in Groups

There is power in shared learning. There is a solidification of understanding when you learn in a group. You can have the lessons etched in your long term memory.

For instance, you can join learning groups where information is shared weekly.

5. Think in Systems

Systems thinking is about lifelong learning and improvement. It has also been linked to the Iceberg principle, which affirms that visible events are insignificant compared to what’s visible. There’s more ice below the waterline than what you can see with your physical eyes.

Anytime you are battling with a challenge, think in systems. Understand the details of the issue. Discover your leverage points. Assess, adapt, and keep improving your models.

After all. If you meet a lion in the wild, you need to understand what you are facing.

Final Thoughts

You can foster systems thinking by modeling your own environment. Participate in training, watch TED Talks, and create time to connect with others.

Also, practice critical thinking instead of making assumptions before you make a decision. The more you think systems, the more you will become smarter and productive in every aspect of your life.

More to Help You Think Smarter

Featured photo credit: Olav Ahrens Røtne via unsplash.com

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