Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boomers, legacies and bad headlines

Recently a comment on this blog by JenX67 got me thinking about the Boomer-Xer riff that’s been going on forever. You see, I’ve really lightened up on the Boomers over the last year, mostly because I work with a bunch of them that have been really cool to me. And they do the things I think most Xers want from their Boomer colleagues like teach you stuff and then encourage you to take things to the next level and then don’t get in your way.

I think there are some Boomers who have this idea that Xers are waiting for them to die so that the Xers can take over. Literally, that’s the phrase I’ve heard used - “waiting for us to die.” But the thing is, I don’t think most Xers want what Boomers have. I think Xers would like to keep what Boomers got right (like making it okay for professional women to do something other than be a teacher, secretary, or nurse) – but then dump the stuff they screwed up.

I read this article about writer Matt Bai who decided not to write a book about President Obama so that he could write a book about what the Boomers didn’t get right in politics. In the interview, Bai talks about Gary Hart and how he was a creative thinker, but he was flawed and therefore rejected by the Boomer establishment (we also saw this with Bill Clinton). Bai also said he wanted to write this book for Xers and future generations so that these problems could be addressed.

But the article was obviously edited by a Boomer with the “waiting for us to die” philosophy. The headline was “Bai to Boo Boomers in New Book.” I’m assuming that’s because if a Gen X writes a critical analysis of the Boomer legacy, it would mean he’s booing the Boomers. Whatever.

So it makes sense to me that a lot of my fellow Xers are fed up with this kind of thing. But I ask you to look for that Boomer in your life who doesn’t fall into the Boomer stereotype – because it will be those people who build the bridges to younger generations. It’s those people who realize that although we are not waiting around for them to die, they will eventually die. And the impact they have on the future begins with the impact they have on the Xers.


Eric Zodik said...

Love the blog! I'm kinda sick of hearing the "waiting for us to die" whine-a-thon... it's almost as lame as pretending to invent the Beatles! Free-love, hottubs, cocaine, and disco sound pretty nice compared to AIDS, the Drug Wars, NAFTA and Seattle '99. Just glad I didnt' end up like those prissy losers on ThirtySomething (don't need no goddamned TV show to celebrate the aging process neither)

Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I'm waiting for a good number of Boomers to pass on through to the other side. If for no other reason then to ease the burden on Social Security.

If a lot of Boomers are lamenting that GenX is waiting for them to die, I've not heard it much, but t hen I've long since developed an automatic response to tune out such Boomer whines.

And can't wait for the Matt Bai book to come out. So much so that I fear I'll be doing the 5-year-old pee pee dance until it hits the shelves.

Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

I've made the most novel discovery about my own relationship with Boomers over the last year. (By the way, I had to go read my comment b/c I didn't have a clue what I'd written. That'll teach me.) Anyway, the discovery is - what has bothered me all these many years about Boomers, and it's not at all what I thought it was. Here it is. For the most part, I have always been an early adopter, but none of the Boomers I ever worked for were. In fact, they were usually the late majority or laggards! Invariably, they'd catch on to programs and projects I was pitching months or YEARS! after the fact, and when EVERYONE ELSE WAS ALREADY DOING IT. This created so many opportunities for failure - not only of the organization, but in my own career. I saw the missed opportunities for the organizations as negligence. I saw the missed personal opportunities as them trying to keep me down and control my success.

I started my own virtual PR shop a year ago, and since that time have been working primarily with Boomer clients on social media campaigns. They are so amazing. In fact, (watch for lightning), in my experience, Boomers make for some of the very best bloggers and tweeters. I'm still working out that evaluation, but one thing I've noticed is that they are very genuine without being exhibitionists (Gen Y) or overly snarky (Xers).

I wish I'd understood all this 15 years ago. I know I could have gotten the Boomers around the bend on adopting the new ideas. And, all of them eventually came to regret the ideas and projects they passed on when a year or two later some counterpart was rolling out the project. Honestly, I should write an article about this, b/c I can cite about five gargantuan examples of me adopting a new idea, trying to pitch to a boomer and them drawing the reigns in tighter. Then two years later they're expressing regret, half-way apologizing and asking how to recuperate from the loss.


Thus, I think we have started to wait for them to RETIRE (die is a little strong for me) so we could finally FINALLY adopt the new ideas without a lot of pleading, convincing, harassment and subsequent failure...

All of this makes me wonder if Generation X isn't primarily composed of early adopters and early majority vs. Boomers who are primarily composed of majority and late majority.

Le said...

well I married a boomer so I think I've done my bit to bridge the gap ... he is a 1956 version so maybe you guys call him a joneser ... unsure.

I think Jen x is on the right track - I am a change lover and early adopter and risk taker.

My boy does fine with change, is risk adverse and neither an early adopter or late - he is left of centre adopter ... if you know what I mean ... had to be to marry me :) not left in a political sense ...

Love your work Ms S - le

Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

Did you see this? Had you heard about it?

I found via a google paid placement ad, so I think it is legitimate - as in, really in production.