Ok Boomer - My Perspective
Hello younger generation.
I am a boomer and I can’t blame you for wondering what I’m all about. You would think by now that my generation of 80 million (born between 1946-1965) would have the smarts, energy and perspective to take in all views rather than judge. After all, we have some of the highest profiles in many respected professions. We’re self-made entrepreneurs, hard-working folk doing all kinds of work across the country.
However, we’ve had our share of division in the past and it didn’t always play out well. We lived through the Vietnam War and other terrible global conflicts. Things weren’t any easier at home. The civil rights movement emerged in full affect and women fought for pay equality and much more. There was also a more collectively understood grounding around family and career. Personal safety at home, school or work did not seem at risk like it is today.
W seem to be re-living these troubles in new ways, unforeseen ways. We had our share of divides, but the level of division today is at an entirely new level of intensity. Most boomers I know valued life, personal achievement and family. They worked for their children to have a good life. Working hard was a shared value regardless of what kind of work. We wanted to be good at our work and inadvertently handed down more “perfectionism” than ever needed.
It might be easy for you to place us in the “you're either right or wrong” category. Were we limited in our own view of the world while growing up? Maybe we lived in a way that was too narrowly focused on what was right in front of us? We did not address climate change, housing shortages, job markets transitions and the prospect of huge college debt like you might have wanted us to.
The world has become so divisive and extreme. Gun violence is out of control and frightens us and our children in ways we never imagined back in the 70s.
We are all in a different and complex time now so to simply say, “ok boomer” we don’t appreciate what you have left us younger workers makes it tough to get to a forward looking rational reality. We have alternative realities today. I won’t comment on the political scene, but it spills over to our social, wellbeing and economic realities. In order to understand these realities, we have to stop talking at each other, pay attention and listen. Never has a time required more quiet.
Make fun of us if you must. Use Ok Boomer as a rallying cry, but let’s give all sides a chance to hear each other. How can we understand different points of view and place unproductive mental models and assumptions to the side? Does this require a new mind set? Yes!
I’m making a pivot to work with early career professionals. These are the next generation of leaders who are now in their late twenties to early thirties. They bring a fresh, exciting and unique perspective to their life and work. Yes, they have a strong and idealistic voice and an intensity that might overwhelm. Yet, they’re engaging and wickedly smart and I respect them! They are probably too hard on themselves to be perfect—I wonder where they learned that from?
Let’s get to a place where we celebrate our gifts and not put unnecessary pressure on perfection in the long run. How about letting all of us create our own journey to a destination that will undeniably change many times?
Now it is our time to take in the energy and possibility thinking of our young professionals and build new bridges, connect across generations and find ways to support each other in unexpected ways.
Imagine, within the next five years, over half of our workers will be under 38 years old. There will be more CEO’s under 40 than ever before and 35%+ of CEO’s will be women and people of color. Many believe that mandatory retirement will be gone in 20 years. More than 25% of workers will have a high school education and then attend trade schools or create their own business. The kind of work we do, how we do it and where we do it will change dramatically in response to individual needs and desires.
Managers – Your Call to Listen
· Make time with a next generation individual. Share how you see each other’s desires at work and in life. Discuss how you best learn and what you each value. On our path we let go of all the labels we have created that separate us from others and move towards “equal vision” and towards understanding differences.
· Imagine new ways to work. The next generation of leader probably values what we valued when we were at that stage of professional growth. It includes; family, team, trusting your tribe, being confident and achievement orientation. It also means more flexibility so that what is valued at home and work somehow blends more effectively for everyone. I suggest that rather than a boomer saying, “we don’t do that here” start with, “tell me how we make this work.”
· Imagine new ways to learn. It is true that we all learn differently and research shows that it might not be what we think it is. Some of us grew up in the assumption that self-discipline , turning off music, being isolated, memorizing things was the way to learn. Today, we see a generation of workers who want clear expectations, an integration of technology, a personalized hands-on experience and frequent feedback. Sounds good to me.
With all the distractions of our current times, it seems many of us are ready to “live our life as it matters” says, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Jon is known for his work as a scientist, writer and meditation teacher. He introduces us to the concept of meditation – the one human activity that we engage in for its own sake – for no purpose other than to be awake to what is actually so. Taking the time to listen to our younger generations and even ask ourselves about what matters to us will reveal more shared perspectives than you think.