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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

Reference

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Rebecca Smith

Copywriter, Freelancer, Short Fiction

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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