This past week I had the opportunity to lead a discussion with an ENACTUS group and also a church group discussing key topics such as congruence and authenticity. In each group of about 20 Millennials, I started by thanking the group for the great examples they are to other generations. I do love the way they have taken charge of their lives in terms of aligning their desires with their actions.
This generation is perhaps the finest to have ever lived on the planet, and yet, the boomers and x’rs are quick to judge this generation. Charges such as being entitled, not focused, non-committal or time wasters are just not true, and frankly, I’m tired of hearing them. Truth is, those making these charges, including spiritual leaders, have not taken the time to learn, celebrate, and engage with the 20 and 30-somethings. The Millennials desire authenticity, transparency, purposeful commitments, and a deep desire to make a difference.
When boomers set forth in their VW painted vans, grew long hair, and embarked on “free love,” were they also labeled and ostracized for not fitting in with their parents culture? You bet they were, and yet, somehow they went forth to change the world they lived in.
In one recent presentation I used the game Arch Rival, where an arch is formed over two braces (the braces could be the mentorship all generations need to succeed and get a start in life). Once the braces are removed, they are held together by the weight of each piece against a keystone.
The object of the game is to role two dice, one has a number and the other a color. Participants place odd shaped parts according to the number rolled, in the bucket of the color rolled, the objective being to not collapse the arch. Too much emphasis and lack of care will mean too much stress on one part of the arch. Careful positioning however will bring stability and not collapse the structure. I believe Millennials are very careful in placing their energy and resources in the boxes that make the most sense to them—-with precision and artful alignment.
The tension between generations is caused by trying to control where the other one puts their time, energy and resources. Nothing good can ever happen when mentorship turns into dictatorship.
With authentic and yet loving mentorship, a person will properly build their lives in a balanced and worthwhile direction that bridges gaps and brings about transformation. What might be the keys of consideration to accomplish this? Let me offer three:
- Stop Judging. There is so much to celebrate about Millennials; let’s build on the wonderful traits they embrace FIRST and then see if they can also appreciate lessons of our generations. Way too much energy is spent trying to “define” this generation, rather than accepting them for the wonderful people that they are.
- Listen before talking. I find so often that the boomer generation wants to impart their wise views of life before listening with an open mind to the millennial tribes views on things. Shut the “pie hole” for a while and just hear them out. I’m seldom surprised, but often elated by the things I learn as I simply listen and appreciate their points of view.
- Give them the reins. My first horse was named “Spooky” for a reason. She was a wild one, and when I took the reins, she would first try to rub me off on a fence, buck, and go on a tirade. I found out that if I let her speak her mind for a bit before I was too tight on the reins, she seemed to respect that space I gave her, and the balance of the ride was so much better. Let the free spirits of this great generation soar; give them the reins to control their own destiny. If they don’t go right where you expected, respect their path and you will see that where they are going is a place we also want to end up. One example of this is their view on the pace of life. The boomer generation for example has been wound tighter than a watch spring for so long that they have worn themselves out; and yet many have only the watch left to tell time. Our Millennials on the other hand have accepted a slower and more deliberate pace and enjoy life on a daily basis—not just the grand moments.
In summary, stop judging so harshly, listen with an open mind, give them the reins and enjoy the ride. Let them roll the dice and discover the results of how they place the different parts of their plans for life. Celebrate their unique attributes and successes and I guarantee you, their lives won’t come crashing down; rather they will build meaningful bridges of success. Our parents didn’t blow up our VW Bus when we took off to destinations unknown, so why shouldn’t we also give a little space to this wondrous generation and all enjoy the ride together.