“America isn’t breaking apart at the seams. The American dream isn’t dying. Our new racial and ethnic complexion hasn’t triggered massive outbreaks of intolerance. Our generations aren’t at each other’s throats. They’re living more interdependently than at any time in recent memory, because that turns out to be a good coping strategy in hard times. Our nation faces huge challenges, no doubt. So do the rest of the world’s aging economic powers. If you had to pick a nation with the right stuff to ride out the coming demographic storm, you’d be crazy not to choose America, warts and all.”― Pew Research Center, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown
Every generation is riddled, twisted and tied to the horrific tragedies of a world aimed at thwarting the economic power of rival countries. The external influence become demarcations that characterize an entire generation, and more importantly, shape the mindset and prevailing attitudes about their place in the global landscape. Who among us hasn’t looked upon our youth with the unstoppable urge to soar with the eagles, change the tide and bulldoze new roads to pave a lasting legacy of success?
The drive to outdo our parents with the internal mantra, “I will never make the mistakes they made,” is timeless. Isn’t every generation born with the same desire? Do we not all share the same DNA that motivates us to dream bigger, think bigger and live bigger than those who came before us? Do we not take our cue from the lessons of the previous generation to not repeat history by seeking to be more knowledgeable than those who have shared their life lessons as cautionary tales – a ledger of do’s and don’ts to guide our behavior?
In answering these questions, it is timely to step beyond ourselves and take the cue from the Next Great Generation. Putting all bias or prejudice aside, allowing the voice of the Millennial Generation to speak truth made indeed insure our future remains in good hands.
With so much chatter about Millennials flooding mainstream media channels, I thought it wise to cut through the fog hype and share with you what I have learned from personal interviews with Millennial men and women all across the country. Their impressions, their mindset, their life philosophy that steers how they redefine success and significance – in their own words.
Mr. Y is the embodiment of an entire generation, here is the interview:
Q: How did you find your passion, purpose and meaning? What life experiences have led you to find your calling?
Mr. Y: I have always gravitated toward helping people, a life-long passion for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others; especially those less fortunate than I. As morbid as it may sound, I thought to myself and began to wonder, “When I die, what do I want people to say about me?” I want them to remember that I sought to solve the world’s greatest problems while inspiring others to join me in the pursuit of leaving the world better than when I came into it.
I do not want to follow in my parents’ footsteps. You see I saw them do the 40-40-40 career – working 40 hours per week, for $40k per year, for 40 years of their life – because work is not something that I go to it is an extension of who I am, who I most desire to be. Also who I want to be and how I want to be remembered.
Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing your generation?
Mr. Y: From where I sit I believe the challenges to be great. A vice grip is trying desperately to get me to conform. I am constantly fighting the internal and external pressures that try to define who I am supposed to be against who I am attempting to be. The challenges are:
- To embrace the good principles instilled in us by our parents combined with the good principles of our own generation.
- Patience to navigate the road blocks that others place before me since I possess a diminished tolerance for slow change.
- I am misunderstood, seen as entitled and lazy by others, but the truth is that I want work-life integration. I don’t want to settle for work-life balance.
- It is up to me to challenge the status-quo and prove to others that positive lasting change is possible by pushing the limits of creativity, innovative thinking and personal freedom.
Q: So how do you define success? Significance? Are the two synonymous with one another?
Mr. Y: Great question. Traditional thinking defines success by money, fame, and titles. But significance is about the meaning or value you provide to your work. For me, success is getting to do what I am passionate about. Waking up every morning excited to do what I am skilled and passionate about, and then going to bed every night with a deep satisfaction that I have moved forward my goals for personal achievement.
To sum it up, success and significance only are synonymous when I have married my dreams with the lifestyle I lead, which is best defined by the essential elements of: doing what I love — doing what I am most talented at — making a comfortable living and helping others in the process.
Q: Why is your generation choosing to pursue entrepreneurship over seeking work in corporate America?
Mr. Y: I’d rather gamble on myself and lose than slave away helping someone else achieve his dream, one that serves no greater purpose than producing a profit. I have had internships and jobs with major companies and I vowed never again.
Why? I couldn’t stand the lack of authenticity among leaders. Empty rhetoric backed by compromising values that stifle independent thinking. There just didn’t feel like much of an opportunity to make a difference. It was hard to connect with the work when I felt like just an employee number and nothing more. It’s important for me to connect with the Why in what I am doing. Large companies have a hard time being able to explain the Why. They tend to focus more on the How and that is frustrating.
Q: What advice do you have for other Millennials?
Mr. Y: I love this question. I would tell my peers the following:
- Challenge everything and never allow yourself to settle for conformity or what is comfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to take risk. Of course be smart about the risk you take but you owe it to yourself to push the limits of what is possible.
- Find something you love when it comes to a career. After all, you will spend a good chunk of your life doing it so you can’t waste your life on something that isn’t fulfilling.
- Negative people, naysayers, and critics will tell you that you can’t do something – prove them wrong. Be a problem-solver and never think that your passion is too small. Go for what you want.
- We are all wired differently and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Work hard for freedom and never stop taking the risk to live out your greatest desires in life.
- Get more involved. As a generation we need to focus more on building relationships and building communities to encourage positive change.
- Show love, live by the Golden Rule, and be intentional in your purpose. Embrace failure because no one has ever achieved success without learning through failure.
This interview merely scratches the surface of hours of interview questions and responses, conversations that allowed me to step inside the psychology of the Millennial mind. But it serves the purpose of placing a spotlight on the truths that dispel the myths about Millennials.
Whether we are ready for it or not, this generation is influencing politics, technology, economics, consumerism and humanity. It is a period of transition that is forcing organizations to re-evaluate the way they choose to attract top talent, integrate this emerging workforce into their culture and more importantly lead them into the future.