Apparently, Millennials, as a generation, is a group of people who were born approximately 1984 and after. They are tough to manage and they’re accused of being entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused and lazy. But entitled is the big one. And because they confound leadership so much, what’s happening is leaders are asking the Millennials “what do you want?” Millennials are saying we want to work in a place with purpose. We want to make an impact. We want free food and bean bags. And so somebody articulates some sort of purpose, there’s lots of free food and there’s bean bags.
And yet, for some reason, they’re still not happy. And that’s because they’re missing this there’s a missing piece.
What I’ve learned is that I can break it down into four pieces. There are four things, four characteristics.
One is parenting. Two is technology. Third is impatience and the fourth is environment. The generation that we call the Millennials.
Too many of them grew up subject to (not my words) failed parenting strategies. You know, where for example they were told that they were special all the time. They were told that they can have anything they want in life just because they want it. They were told some of them got into honors classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. And some of them got it is not because they earned them but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents.
Some kids got participation medals where you got a medal for coming in last, which the science we know is pretty clear. It devalues the metal and the reward for those who actually work hard and that actually makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it. So that makes me feel worse.
So you take this group of people and they graduate school and they get a job and they’re thrust into the real world. In an instant, they find out they’re not special, their moms can’t get them a promotion and that you get nothing for coming in last. And by the way, you can’t just have it because you want it. And in an instant, their entire self-image is shattered. So you have an entire generation that’s growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations.
The other problem to compound it is we’re growing up in a Facebook Instagram world. In other words, we’re good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I’m depressed. And so, everybody sounds tough and everybody sounds like they got it all figured out and the reality is, there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out. So when the more senior people say what we do, they sound like this is what you got and they have no clue. So you have an entire generation growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations. Through no fault of their own, they were dealt a bad hand.
Right now, let’s add in technology. We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text, it feels good. When you’re feeling a little bit down or feeling a bit lonely you send out ten texts to ten friends saying Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi because it feels good when you get a response right back. It’s why we count the likes. It’s why we go back ten times to see if our Instagram is growing slower. Did I do something wrong or do they not like me anymore? Its trauma for young kids to be unfriended. Because we know when you get a hit of dopamine, which feels good, is why we like it it’s why we keep going back to it.
Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink and when we gamble. In other words it’s highly, highly addictive.
We have age restrictions on smoking, gambling and alcohol but we have no age restrictions on social media and cell phones, which is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet.
That;’s basically what happened. We have an entire generation that has access to an addictive numbing chemical called dopamine. Through social media and cellphones, as they’re going through the high stress of adolescence, is why is this important. Almost every alcoholic discovered alcohol when they were teenagers and we’re very very young. The only approval we need is the approval of our parents. And as we go through adolescence, we make this transition where we now need the approval of our peers.
Very frustrating for our parents and very important for us to know that allows us to acculturate outside of our immediate families into the broader tribe. It’s a highly highly stressful and anxious period of our lives and we’re supposed to learn to rely on our friends. Some people quite by accident discover alcohol and numbing effects of dopamine to help them cope with the stresses and anxieties of adolescence. Unfortunately that becomes hardwired in their brains. And for the rest of their lives when they suffer significant stress they will not turn to a person they will turn to the bottle social stress, financial stress, career stress. That’s pretty much the primary reasons why what’s is happening is we’re out allowing unfettered access to these dopamine producing devices and media. Basically, it’s becoming hardwired and what we’re seeing is as they grow older they don’t know how to form deep meaningful relationships. Their words not mine.
They will admit that many of their friendships are superficial they don’t count on their friends. They don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends but they also know that their friends will cancel them out when something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practice the skill set and worse they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress starts to show up in their lives, they’re not turning to a person. They’re turning to a device. They’re turning to social media. They’re turning to these things which offer temporary relief.
We know the science is clear. We know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.
Alcohol is fun but too much is bad. Gambling is fun but too much gambling is dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with social media and cell phones. It’s the imbalance. If you’re sitting at dinner with your friends and you’re texting somebody who’s not there, that’s a problem. That’s an addiction. If you’re sitting in a meeting with people you’re supposed to be listening to and speaking with and you put your phone on the table face up or face down I don’t care that sends the subconscious message to the room that they’re not that important to me right now.
That’s what happens and the fact that you cannot put it away it’s because you are addicted. If you wake up and you check your phone before you say good morning to your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse, you have an addiction. and like all addictions, in time, it will destroy relationships.
It’ll cost time and it will cost money. It’ll make your life worse. So we have a generation growing up with lower self-esteem that doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to work with stress.
You add in the sense of impatience and they’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification. If you want to buy something, you go on Amazon. It arrives the next day.You want to watch a movie? Log on and watch your movie. You don’t check movie times. You want to watch your show. You don’t even have to wait week to week to week. I know people who skip seasons just so they can binge at the end of the season. Instagram. If, on occasion, you want to go on a date, you don’t even have to learn how to be. You don’t even have to learn and practice that skill. you don’t have to be the uncomfortable into which this is yes when you mean no there’s no when you mean no but yes when you you have to swipe right. Bang, I’m a stud.
You don’t have to learn the social coping mechanisms. Everything you want you can have instantaneously. Everything you want comes with instant gratification except job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that. They are slow. meandering, uncomfortable and messy processes.
And so I keep meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working and smart kids. They’ve just graduated school. They’re in their entry-level job when I sit down with them. When I ask how’s it going? They say something like I think I’m going to quit. I’m like, why? They’re like I’m not making an impact. I’m say, you’ve been here eight months? It’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called “impact” that they want to have in the world, which is the summit. What they don’t see is the mountain. I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly but there’s still a mountain.
And so, what this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really really matter, like love. job fulfillment. joy, love of life and self-confidence are a skill set. Any of these things, all of these things take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult journey. And if you don’t ask for help and learn that skill set you will fall off the mountain (or you will the worst case scenario the worst case scenario and we’re already seeing it the worst case scenario is we’re seeing increase in suicide rates) We’re seeing an increase in this generation, We’re seeing increase in accidental deaths due to drug overdoses. We’re seeing more and more kids drop out of school or take leaves of absence due to depression. We have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep, deep fulfillment in work or in life. They just walk through life in little daze. Everything is just fine. How’s your job? “it’s fine”. the same as yesterday. How’s your relationship? “it’s fine”, like that’s the best-case scenario.
Which leads me to the fourth point which is environment. We’re taking this amazing group of young fantastic kids that were just dealt a bad hand. It’s no fault of their own. We put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short-term gains than the long-term life of this young human being. We care more about the year than the lifetime.
So we are putting them in corporate environments that aren’t helping them build their confidence. That aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation. That aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance. That isn’t helping them overcome the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard over on something for a long time. That cannot be done in a month or even in a year.
And so we’re thrusting to them them in corporate environments, and the worst part about it is they think it’s them. They blame themselves.
I’m here to tell them it’s not them. It’s the corporations. It’s the corporate environments. It’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do. They were dealt a bad hand in it and I hate to say but it’s the company’s responsibility. It sucks to be you, like we have no choice. This is what we got and I wish that society and their parents did a better job. They didn’t, so we’re gonna get them in our companies and now have to pick up the slack. We have to work extra hard to figure out the ways that we build their confidence. We have to work extra hard to find ways to teach them the social skills that they’re missing out on.