At MPD Ventures, we periodically open up our blog to share insights from our current interns who tend to be about two decades younger than us (hard to imagine, I know). Today please meet Jamie Boelens who shares her own millennial take on a video trending these days by Simon Sinek.
Recently, a video has been floating around cyberspace of Simon Sinek, a noted author and speaker, discussing the millennial generation on Inside Quest. (Watch the 15 minute video here.) The video spoke to me as a recent college graduate. While there are some elements I can’t relate to, Sinek made points that had me emphatically nodding my Millennial head. Even if I don’t experience all of them, I regularly see the issues he discusses in my peers. No matter who we place the Millennial blame on, our parents, ourselves, society as a whole, there are some things Millennials need to learn and as Sinek points out, some things other generations need to learn about us.
Sinek defines Millennials as those born around or after 1984. Millennials have been characterized by the not-so-noble traits of selfishness, laziness, and entitlement, among others, according to Sinek. He identifies four “pieces” that explain why Millennials seem to be clashing with the business world and those who lead it: parenting, technology, impatience, and environment. From these, we can learn much about Millennials that will assist with interacting with them (or in my case, us) both professionally and personally.
Sinek used the borrowed term “failed parenting strategies” to discuss the Millennial child’s atmosphere that earned us the reputation as the “participation trophy generation.” He reasons that the mentality that everyone is a winner (even when they aren’t) and not having to work for our successes hurt Millennials in the long run through a warped world view and low self-esteem. When Millennials get into the “real world,” our world view tends to collapse on itself as everything becomes much harder than it was growing up.
Although I’m sure this happens, I wouldn’t attribute my adult struggles to “failed parenting strategies.” I was taught to work hard, and I knew the world didn’t revolve around me. However, my circumstances at home and at school were easy growing up. I made good grades and participated in extra-curricular activities, all with relative ease. The struggles didn’t come until I began to transition into the real world as I went to college, graduated, and looked (and look) for a job. I’ve learned what it means to be cut from the team, earn second place, and be under qualified more in the last four years than the rest of my life combined. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN is essentially Sinek’s message about technology. He cites research showing that when we text or use social media, our brain releases dopamine, the chemical that leads to addiction. Sinek says that, like alcohol, sometimes adolescents use social media as a coping mechanism. Eventually, social media transforms into an addiction and the “hardwired” coping strategy for dealing with stress. In the long run, this inhibits interpersonal skills and fulfilling relationships.
This is one of those points I feel should be shouted from the rooftops. It drives me crazy when I see a couple on a date with eyes glued to their phones instead of each other. I have heard horror stories about phones being pulled out in interviews and at funerals. Scarier still, we Millennials think we are forming meaningful relationships via text, Tinder, and Twitter, while we can’t see that our relationship with the person sitting across the table is suffering.
Everything in our society today is instant, “… except job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that,” says Sinek. Millennials don’t know how to wait for the fruits of our labor. Sinek compares it to a mountain: if we’re at the bottom and the (truly fulfilling) goal is at the peak, we don’t want to climb the mountain. We just want to be at the top. Yet, real satisfaction with what truly matters isn’t instant and it takes work.
I’m guilty of this one. I am accustomed to quick results and no waiting. Ever heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? I won’t have six-pack abs after one trip to the gym, get a job overnight, or fall in love in three days. The important things, health, job, and love, take blood, sweat, tears, and time to make them so worthwhile. Hopefully not too much struggle but enough to feel the joy.
Sinek’s last point is that the work environment Millennials are thrust into does nothing to help the low self-esteem, inability to cope, and poor interpersonal communication skills we have developed up to that point. He calls upon the leadership of the corporate world to take responsibility for adjusting to Millennials, to find a new way to lead a new generation and to care about us.
I think one of Sinek’s points here is that the work environment is becoming the breeding grounds for a change to take place. Even though we are a little late to the game, with the help of our peers and our elders, we can be taught those valuable skills many Millennials are missing. To me, this is a good place to start closing the generation gaps.
Millennials are different than our parents and grandparents. And believe me, we know what our parents’ and grandparents’ generations think of us. Admittedly, we have a lot to learn, but these differences should present an opportunity for everyone to learn, not a chasm that can’t be bridged. We need the wisdom of the older generations to teach us how to shut down our technology and deal with failure. We don’t need participation trophies. Despite this, technology will continue to evolve and Millennials will continue to be at the forefront of that change. Perhaps, we too can share our skills with our elders. Collaborate or divide, either way we will share the workplace for years to come, and that seems like a great reason to work together.