Dumpster Diving: 3 Things to Keep, 3 Things to Toss, 3 Things to Unify

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

April 12, 2017

Millennials have been sifting through the sands of post-modern relativism and are honing in on what they value and espouse.  They claim to be the most non-judgmental generation, yet are indeed making value judgments and tossing out that which just doesn’t feel like a match in the world they are creating.  In the post-modern relativistic world, not all things fall into the category of “it’s all good.”

While thinking on this, I reflected on a time when my young teenage boys participated in a sport called dumpster diving.  They would literally dive into dumpsters around town and dig through the discarded waste for treasures.  It was surprising what they came home with, including the smell of their clothes.  This was a dirty process, but yielded some great finds.

If the world the 20 and 30-somethings live in is likened to a dumpster, then they live in a world where much of the garbage they find themselves surrounded by was thrown in by the prior generations.  They are sifting thru the garbage we tossed into their lives or in which they found themselves when they arrived.  This is not to say they are not ultimately responsible to develop the environment in which they choose to live, but they ARE also a product of the DNA they came with.

Examples of the garbage past generations threw into their dumpster:

  1. Your job owns you. Nothing wrong with hard work and loyalty taught by the forefathers, but they took it to the extreme.  60 hour work weeks do not really a balanced life create.  A job should have purpose and change the world for the better; so let’s take a lesson from our Millennials and find the proper balance.
  2. Giving back requires dollars. The mind-set used to be that one needed to work extra hard for a long period of time and save a lot of money beyond sufficient means to allow one to give back in a meaningful way.  The Millennials teach us to find ways to give back in both non-monetary and monetary ways, daily.  What a refreshing outlook to adopt for all generations!
  3. Just do it. The older generations were given the old adage when pushing back “because I said so…”—-we didn’t like it then, and the Millennials surely don’t accept that explanation now. You deserve to discover your own path.  You don’t need to just do it because you were told it’s the only way.  Explore your limits in wholesome ways.

Because Millennials have pushed back so much on the world and status quo they grew up in, the formation of their views is not only analogous to sifting through the garbage, but in some cases, starting a dumpster fire and completely starting from scratch.  No one can argue that  a dumpster fire is not cleansing in many ways, but what might be forgotten is that there are many recyclables worth saving.  Just like the practice of recycling will make the world a better place, so too do the fundamental and timeless principles of previous generations add to a holistic life.

Examples of good things from past generations that should be recycled:

  1.  Family. “Tribes” is the term of Millennials, and they have broadened the customary borders which typically define family.  The older generations also find the center of their universe in family.  Let’s keep it that way.
  2. Core values. Developing your own core values is not necessarily about religion or spirituality, and are not necessarily categorized as relativism or moralism; though they could be inspired by any of these categories,  Core values are about deciding which principles or values your life will be centered around.  When those values are part of your core, all other things will assure life will be holistic and congruence will become your friend.
  3. Compassion. I have found that the “greatest generation,” the parents of boomers, has a sense of neighborliness about them that is warm and inviting.  I remember  many stories told by parents and grandparents of this generation that speak of compassion for others.  Perhaps they were shaped by the wars they lived through and the great depression that taught them deep gratitude—-but whatever it was, this is a recyclable that should be embraced and emulated and never discarded.

This message is for all generations to consider.  In summary, here are three things that will unify our efforts:

  1. Make dumpster diving a regular practice.  Sifting through what was, what is, and what is hoped for is a very healthy thing.  All generations can learn from each other, and it is really an individual thing, and not a generational thing to decide what stays and what goes.
  2. Be a hoarder. We are in the process of preparing our home to be sold, and in going through a life time of “stuff” it is very difficult for me to throw things out.  My wife on the other hand can easily let things go.  Some treasures, principles, and values are worth hoarding.  Don’t let anyone toss them out of your living space if they hold a special place in your heart; hoarding isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  3. Recycle. Each generation brings with it unique gifts and attributes.  While we celebrate Millennials for their never-before-seen gifts and unique ways of looking at the world they live in, there should also be a healthy respect for the good things that don’t change with time.  Each generation should keep those gifts and pass them on.  Each generation should embrace those gifts passed along and cherish them.

In my world, I spend a lot of time studying and pondering generational attributes.  As I do so,  I am becoming more and more convinced that instead of expounding upon the differences and how to figure each other out, it’s even better to find the commonalities we celebrate.  In that light, I hope you take a deep dive and find what you are looking for.

Note:  The principles of Launching Leaders empower millennials in this entire process.  Check it out.

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