Well which is it? And what does your age say about you?
Well, surely if you're older, you've got it figured out, right? Wrong. For years we've looked at the number and not gone far enough beyond that. Age is just a number however our generation, how we lived, were taught, our experiences, our culture, and exposure to the world is what truly defines who we are and what we can become.
I believe we all need to have more generational appreciation.
What do I mean by that? Well just like there's xenophobias about culture, I think our world needs to appreciate the melting pot of people we have working and living today. A colleague of mine, Don James and I recently spoke on generational differences and acceptance. Don is a war baby and grew up as a Traditionalist. His ideas of technology, information, people, relationships and how he thinks and responds to the world are very different from mine, however we share an appreciation for the diversity we bring to our work.
I'm a member of Generation X. (At one point we were called slackers.)
I grew up in the 80s in the age of Reaganomics, Yuppies, MTV, HIV/AIDS, mid-life divorce and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an interesting time. Life was still "local" and cellular technology was for thugs and drug pushers. In high school I was courted by a fellow who wore a pager, was middle Eastern, older, and had a mustache. He was a nice guy! Nowadays that describes a lot of people, but back then it was "different", not widely accepted, and certainly more "talked about" in my yuppie South Louisiana suburb of New Orleans.
But nothing compares to our time, right now, and the stories we are weaving and writing today...and the new generations emerging as a result.
I have a love for all the generations. Here's what I've come to recognize:
Traditionalists are great story tellers.
They love to talk about "back in the day" and it's because many of them have been around 70+ years. When I was kid I used to wonder if my grandfather knew he told too many stories and many of them over and over. I miss that. I wish I had an IPAD to capture those moments. I cannot imagine the lens of sitting in the mind and body of a Traditionalist. They've seen poverty, wars, economic upheaval and mistrust in the markets, terrorism, the civil rights movement, and the rise of technology. It's got to be overwhelming yet exciting.
Boomers are wealthy in intellectual capital.
As a Generation X, many of my colleagues often dismiss boomers. It's pretty ridiculous if you ask me. "I wish he/she would retire!" The middle-kid workforce is waiting for the boomers to retire thinking this generation is ready to sit idle and do nothing. Nope, boomers like to work. They will work until they die because boomers are the wealthiest in knowledge capital and experience. They promoted consumerism and are reinventing the workforce. They grew up loyal and are leaving corporations in droves now in their 50s and 60s. I read recently by 2020 it's expected the labor market will be 40% contract in the USA. That's a seismic shift. If you're an Gen X or Gen Y, pay attention closely. It's my belief (and a strategy I've been employing for years) that my former Boomer bosses need to be buddies. They have money to invest, time (and exceptional experience and wisdom) to give. You ought to respect that and reap that if you're smart. I have so many cool bosses I'd hire in a heartbeat or I call on for coaching. Don't bash the boomers. Love on em!
Millenials are ridiculously more self-aware, connective and they care.
Really I love all people, but I've most recently fallen in love with the generation ahead of Ally. I mentor several and I'm struck in awe at how curious they are, open, and honest they are about their intentions. The work they do has to be meaningful so once you see that passion, they're in. They get "global" because they've known nothing else. A lot has been written about this generation lacking social skills and I bet to differ. Because they love to be deeply connected to their work and it has to have social value, I believe they possess the ability to see things on a broader level. They also know how to use technology to take small things and make them bigger, more viral, and more impactful. I've never seen more heart than I see in this generation. They are generous with their time if you connect to what matters to them. To my fellow Generation Xers, remember these kids are going to our children's leaders. To my older brethren, find out what motivates them, connect to that and leverage the energy they possess.
So as you engage in your work and life, begin a unique learning journey to appreciate the people around you. Get to know them by developing trust and knowing more about their unique history. These are truly phenomenal times. We're all so blessed to be here. There's plenty of space in a world that's becoming flatter to make a difference, together. Bring these experiences and new knowledge so you can go out and do even more meaningful work.
What does your age say about you? Which generation are you from? What do you love about it and what you know and love about others? How can we learn more and work together?