Millenials: Ignore what adults are saying about you. It is unhelpful. Go out and be individuals and lose yourself in something. I like that message from David Brooks in his recent column, “It’s Not About You.” I can identify with it. I often lose myself in mediation. But his message needs to be enlarged. We simply need to avoid classifying people. We spend far too much time stereotyping people. These classifications get in our way. We make incorrect assumptions, and it undermines our ability to be effective with others.
In case you don’t know, millenials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000. According to the stereotype, they have been managed throughout their youth with scheduled activities and little free time, and they are focused on themselves. They are used to being in groups and succeed in that setting. They are accustomed to getting every trophy and succeeding at everything. Articles instruct us to capitalize on millenials networking abilities and their knack for multi-tasking. Give them a good work/life balance. According to Brooks, we compound the problem when we say things such as: “Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself.” He explains that we are, once again, focusing these kids on themselves.
The problem for me is this: Can we just stop using these labels? I guess I just don’t see the value of the labels. First, I don’t see these traits, by and large, in my adult children, in my nieces and nephews and in my friends’ children. So, where are these millenials? Second, I don’t believe a negative frame or blaming the way these children were raised is helpful. Third, as a neutral, I have to fight these stereotypes in myself and in others.
What is helpful, Brooks explains, is to encourage these young people to begin to do tasks and to understand these tasks will begin to shape their lives. We find things that interest us. We find things we are good at. If we are lucky, we find something we are passionate about, follow it, and earn a living. The tasks of life are at the center. Even our negative experiences shape us. How we work on those tasks shapes us.
And so, I am with Brooks. Go lose yourself in something. And, try to leave the stereotypes behind.