Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The value of wisdom

There’s a lot being written these days by Millennials (born 1980-1999) about how they will revolutionize the workplace, mostly because they are 78 million strong and know how to work a Blackberry. However, with the risk of sounding like the glib Gen Xer that I am, I have to remind our young friends that a lot of their generation is still in elementary school and technology is always changing (therefore, your cohorts born in 1999 will kick your ass at technology when they enter the workforce in 2021).

I think what’s missing in these discussions is the value of wisdom. Learning from your mistakes. Learning because you’ve spent many many years dealing with assholes. Learning because you have to keep learning to succeed.

I could argue that Gen X is as tech-savvy as Gen Y, because we also grew up with fast-changing technology. Being tech-savvy is about being able to keep up with the technology. So then, it becomes a numbers game. The advantage is that Gen Y is a big generation. However, those middle school Millennials born in 1996 aren’t going to be entering the workplace for another 10 years.

In the meantime, the Boomers are still out there. They love to work. People keep saying they’ll retire, but I think they just like working too much. So for argument’s sake, let’s say they’re not as tech-savvy as the rest of us. Then how the heck did they get (and retain) so much control?
In the end, I think it comes down to relationship building and patience. And those things you learn from experience.

A couple years back I tried dying my hair red and it looked horrible. And I was in distress. And my 90-year-old Auntie Helen said, “Go to Sally Beauty Supply and buy this stuff and it will take the dye out. Sometimes you try things and they just don’t work.” I’m freaking out, but she told me to just go fix it.

We had to buy Auntie Helen a special remote control for her TV that is made for the developmentally disabled because she kept breaking the normal ones. So we can safely say that she is not tech savvy. But successful business people use Auntie Helen’s advice all the time. If it doesn’t work, fix it and move on.

What’s all this have to do with the Millennials? I would say most people, regardless of generation, have a harder time admitting their mistakes when they are in their 20s. I would also say that we’re a little more head strong at this age.

I think our successes in the workplace have less to do with numbers or technology than they do with wisdom.


Anonymous said...

Wisdom, yes. Being able to fix things and move on, yes. Being adaptable - definitely! Regardless of age, you have to be willing to change and update your skills - which can include technology.

Carla Shore said...

The Millenials, like the Boomers, think they are all that due to their sheer size. The boomers paid no respect to the generations before or after them, and the millenials are just doing the same thing.

See, you're not the only bitter Gen Xer out there! ;-)

Ms. Mama said...


Hitting the nail on the head I think it is called. The main difference is that the Mil. have been told how great they are from the get-go. So why would they be any different now.

I have not worked with any Mil.

mountain said...

1961-1981 is X.

Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

I think this is my favorite post you've ever written. I loved the part about a**es.

KateNonymous said...

I totally agree with you--the problem, though, is that wisdom is something you don't appreciate until you've acquired some.

J- said...

I totally disagree about GenY being so great with technology.

Using twitter or building a myspace page or using an iPhone doesn't mean your "great with technology", it means you can surf to a website and type a few annoying lines or answer a phone.

As for the Boomers, just because ten of them can get into a meeting and discuss about how to find a committee that can decide what font to use on a website doesn't mean they're good managers.

The hard parts of technology are still being done by X'ers. The Boomers don't learn it because they think it's beneath them and the Y's don't learn it because they're lazy.

Personally, I'm sick of both.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree a bit with J regarding Gen Y being great with technology. Most of Gen Y know how to use the stuff but because everyone in Gen Y is doing it. Gen X has had to figure out technology on our own. Gen Y has been coddled through their formative years whereas Gen X has had to survive, fend for ourselves, and learn on our own. Therefore, I also agree that Gen X not only has much wisdom to offer but also character.

the ticketmaster said...

Glad you said it!! Sure, the generations after Gen X (i'm on the tail end of X, 1976) may be more tech savvy than the rest of us, but they can't string together more than 5 words to make a complete sentence and, in general, have no social skills. They also have to have constant praise about how great they are because they're also of the generation that says you need to have a prize not just winning winning the game, but for merely participating. I've worked with may different people from different generations and by far the worst once are the ones in the Gen Y / Millenials. Some of the boomers feel that the world owes them something for nothing.

My experience in general is Gen Y/Millenials can't think for themselves because if it doesn't come off a computer or cell phone, they don't get it. The GenXers end up drawing fumblefarting through MySpace/Twitter/Facebook and text messaging to send them instruction that way and it's only then that they understand it.