"Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it"
~ George Orwell
As I was driving into work a few days ago, I listened intently to a radio program whose guest was talking about the "Millennial" generation and how they radically differ from all of the generations before them.
According to this sociologist, Millennials are typically highly educated but can appear to be deficient in certain social skills that may make them unemployable.
Many are void of ambition and drive and are known to still be living at home with no intentions of ever leaving the nest but yet they are still a driving force in today’s economy.
They tend to be socially aware but lack the social skills needed to hold a face-to-face conversation as their preferred means of communication is through texting.
Who exactly are the Millennial Generation and how did they develop this yin/yang existence?
The Great Generation
In the beginning, there was the "Great Generation"; those American born from the middle 1920’s until the end of WWII.
The men and women of the Great Generation lived through incredible financial hardships of the great stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression and great dust bowl of the prairies states. They made great personal sacrifices at home and on the shores of foreign lands as they fought against Axis powers.
Growing up, life was anything but "great" for these individuals as they struggled for their very existence. They were products of hard work, scarcity, and uncertainty. The members of the Great Generation were survivors, scrappers and fighters figuring out what needed to be done and just went about doing it.
Upon the end of the war, the members of the Great Generation were now ready to settle down and start living.
The great manufacturing complex, created during the war to produce armaments, now churned out automobiles, white goods, and building supplies... while the members of the Great Generation created babies...
The Baby Boomers
The Baby Boomers, as this generation was affectionately known, were defined as being born from the end of the war through the middle ’60’s, and were not typically subjected to the hardships of the Great Generation.
The boomers saw life in abundance and convenience. The store shelves were stocked with goods and the post-war prosperity brought disposable income to families to spend on leisure activities and non-essentials.
The Baby Boomers were doted upon by a stay-at-home mother and a father who was home each evening to have dinner with the family. Traditional family values were commonplace among boomer families who tended to think parochially and rarely concerned themselves with world issues.
The boomers wanted for very little as their parents, now much more affluent, adorned their children with attention and resources to buy goods that they themselves were deprived of in their own youth while sheltering them from the harsh realities of the world.
Boomers also had educational opportunities that were simply unavailable to their parents due to the Great Depression and WWII.
As more of the boomers came of age, they ended up on college campuses where they soon began to spurn the same traditional family values that were prevalent in their youth. Their attentions were now being directed to the inequalities of the human experience within and outside the border of America.
As boomers entered the workforce and started families of their own, they did so with an agenda to create a cultural change politically, economically, and the roles of women in the workplace and home.
Women of the boomer generation increasingly worked outside the home. The primary reasons were to prove financial independence as well as to contribute to a household that was becoming ever more so consumer oriented.
Boomers have an unending appetite for more and more "stuff"... buying bigger houses to keep their stuff... and accumulating more and more debt.
Generation X became the children of the boomers.
Gen Xers were essentially raised in households where few traditional rules were applied due to mostly absent parents who essentially abandoned them to pursue careers and personal endeavors.
Without much parental supervision and family structure, Gen Xers became increasingly independent often demonstrating a great deal of creative thinking.
Although many movies of the times stereotypically cast the Gen Xer as a slacker without motivation, the data actually shows that members of Generation X are highly educated, creative, calculated, and not adverse to risk... many of the same attributes found in entrepreneurs. And in fact, many of the greatest modern-day entrepreneurs are members of the X Generation.
Gen Xers have also returned to more traditional family values that the Baby Boomers rebuffed. They became increasingly focused on creating a goal-oriented "full life" as they attempted to program career, family, community, spirituality, recreation and health into their lives. They demanded more and more from their own lives as they tried to propel themselves to "success".
Unlike their parents, most Gen Xers are not great consumers but have become investors who tend to purchase appreciating assets rather than buying consumables (but also tend to create investment bubbles as they speculate in those same assets).
To a Gen-Xer, the best future investment that one could make is an investment in their children.
The idea of achieving "success" was not limited to the Gen Xers themselves. They saw their children as a direct extension of their own success. It was their job as a parent to ensure the future success of their children so they began to over-program the lives of their kids providing them with pre-pre-schools and early tutoring (so they can get into the right schools), highly competitive single-sport athletics, foreign language immersion programs, computer and math camps, international travel opportunities, as well as computers and other learning tools.
This also meant that there was little room for failure even if that means the parents would do the work themselves. It was not unusual to have Gen-Xer parents completing their children’s homework, advocating for their children’s standing in the classroom, completing scouting projects on behalf of the kids, making sure every player got a trophy (as not to damage a child’s self-esteem by labeling them a "loser") and sabotaging the work of rival children in order for their own children to stand above.
The parents of Millennials didn’t mean bad, they just wanted to give their kids the push-start that their own parents never gave to them...
...but the things that made Gen Xers drive themselves to success are now missing in the lives of Millennials...
...things like independence... creativity... social skills... risk-taking... resilience... adventure... and self-determination...
Although their social evolution has been somewhat retarded by well-meaning parents, more than likely, Millennials will eventually acquire these important life skills as they find themselves still living at home into their 20’s and 30’s without the prospects of beginning the new generation yet to come...
Looking back, it’s easy to understand where the stereotypical traits of a generation are formulated... as each future generation over-compensates for their own generation’s deficiencies.
As one generation is replaced by another, we will continue to place our trust and well-being into the capable hands of our children and grand-children who will hopefully find the skills and fortitude to lead us into the future.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that our best days still await us in the future.
Jim Kalb President
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