Bust Millennial Myths, don’t perpetuate them!

Breaking News Bulletin! The US Census Bureau has just issued a report that shows the millennial generation looks different than the generations before them. In a related study, it has been revealed that Baby Boomers look older today, than they did 10 years ago. (Ok, I made that part up.) The USA Today wrote a nice big piece on this shocking revelation (insert side-eye here). The first major eye-opener of the article informed its’ readers that more millennials live at home. That’s the big earth-shattering news!

While we can point to a multitude of environmental issues that could impact this trend, the report works hard to attribute this trend to what it says reflects “a wider shift in attitudes about the importance of work and education over family.” A few lines down, it’s revealed that the author of the report, Jonathan Vespa — a demographer at the Census Bureau, examined at the “four common milestones of adulthood”.

I have my two major concerns with the inherent bias of both this report and this USA Today reporting. Both reinforce stereotypes by playing to the underlying narrative that baby-boomers and Gen X’rs are most willing and susceptible to buy into. Primarily, the belief is ‘my generation is better than your generation’. The second issue concern, is the inherent partiality in the baseline assumptions of phrases such as; “four common milestones.” Whose milestones is the report referring to? Answer: those milestones established by the previous generations. Big take-away; if you don’t behave and believe like we did do must be broken.

To be fair, I will agree with the base premise of the article. The Millennial Generation is different from all the other generations that came before them. Of course, they are different, as they should be. Business and society need and want the next generations to be different. To raise the bar. As the parent of two millennials myself, my wife and I worked very hard the past 25 years to ensure that they were different. Not only different, but better versions of what we are.

I’ve done a great deal of research on the millennial generation for the creative business I own, Skidmore Studio, as well as for the book I just finished writing on the millennial entrepreneur. I have had the benefit of a great deal of learning from these past four years of research, interviews and study. I’ve seen first-hand, the successes and new way of thinking from this group of entrepreneurs and I am blown away. I have come to believe that it is the Baby-Boomers and Gen X’rs who are at the root of the problem, not the Millennials

Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure to sit down one-on-one with dozens of millennial entrepreneurs. I’ve seen first-hand the drive, vision, energy and intelligence. I have been blown away by the ability of this group to capture both the entrepreneurial and human spirit in ways I could never have imagined. I was hoping I could provide some assistance to improve their journey, but what I received from them was amazing ways that I could improve my journey. While I won’t speak for the trees, I will speak for this generation that has been maligned and given a raw deal.

Let’s compare it to any scenario where the group who currently has the power, will defend that power in any way possible. And when all else fails, they will resort to the underhanded tactics of talking smack and pointing fingers. If we don’t understand how this generation work best, let’s call them lazy. If we can’t figure out what motivates them, let’s call them entitled. If we can’t comprehend the concept of multi-tasking and mobile computing, let’s call them rude.

It’s easy, and diabolical and it does not serve our greater good at all. We have before us the largest, most educated, highly motivated and socially aware group of change agents in our lifetime and we (older generations) seem to be trying very hard to force-fit them into our paradigm of what work and life should look like. It’s not working, at all. And it is lazy and entitled and rude of us to do that.

We all need to do better. We need to listen more and talk less. See the good and trust the intentions of this group that will someday rule the world. Here is the one line of the report I can get behind. It concludes with this statement: “If one theme describes how adulthood has changed over the last 40 years, it is growing complexity.” That statement is a starting point. It is more complex, and more difficult for all of us. For the baby-boomers and Gen X’rs facing our waning years, and for the millennials stepping into the fight looking to improve things. And isn’t that what we should all want to have happen?