“Was there ever a time when older people said, ‘Hmmm. I think it’s just right’?” – Neil Howe, Coined the term “Millennial” in 1991 and author of Millennials Rising
My light reading over a long Labor Day weekend at the beach: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, the comedian best known for his part in the NBC show Parks and Rec. He takes an anthropological look at dating among Millennials where – no exaggeration – 35 percent of this generational cohort meet their significant others through online dating apps.
It’s hilarious. Listen to how Ansari work the book’s themes into his act with the embedded podcast below from NPR’s The Hidden Brain. He brings audience members – Millennials, of course – onto the stage and gets them to read aloud text messages received from members of the opposite sex. Start at about the 2:50 mark to hear how one poor guy bumbles a clear shot at a date.
And it’s utterly terrifying. I’m at the stage of life where I look at these things through the lens of a father whose young daughters are nearer to their first dating experiences than I am removed from my last. I read Ansari’s account of what boys text to girls in hopes of getting their attention, many of which are made public, he tells us, on a popular blog called “straight white boy text.” I won’t recount them here, but let your imagination run wild. I imagine my daughters nine or ten years from now, and my blood pressure spikes.
It’s these kind of anecdotes of the Millennial Generation that lead so many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers to dismiss it. What are the common descriptions we hear? Coddled. Entitled. Craving praise. Living in the parent’s basement. Failures to launch.
I’ve seen plenty examples of those, perhaps enough even to justify the stereotypes. But the Millennials I’ve encountered in the workplace? Not even close. These are motivated young people eager to learn and eager to lead. I’ve seen a hunger for authentic interactions with others that is not checked at the door when they walk into the office. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve seen an utter lack of fear of authority; a willingness to talk truth to power, but in measured tones. A maturity, to be sure, that I didn’t possess at the same age.
Though I’ve been in a position to lead and manage them, I’ve often stepped back just to watch and learn.
I’m skeptical when I hear my generation and the Baby Boomers speak in crotchety terms of what the future might look like with Millennials in charge. Neil Howe’s quote above carries some wisdom. I look at this generation, and I see a character – perhaps molded through the trials of the Great Recession – that I don’t think the previous two cohorts possessed.
While I may never appreciate Tinder or the dating rituals they’ve invented, I see potential that makes me believe that we will all be working for Millennials one day. And we should be optimistic for that future.
Some quick references:
Take a listen to this combination of Ted Talks called The Next Greatest Generation. Perhaps it influences your own opinions of what the Millennial Generation has to offer.
Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari on Amazon. Hilarious.
Millennials Rising, by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Also on Amazon. I’ve only skimmed this one, but I look forward to reading it in-depth.