An Open Letter to My Millennial Friends

A friend of mine shared this article today:

I’m a Millennial and My Generation Sucks

The first time I saw a piece like this, I thought it was a satire. I kept waiting for the irony, the punchline, the big reveal. It didn’t come. I have come to believe that this writer, and the people who share these pieces, are 100% sincere. So if that’s the case, I have something I want to say.

I grew up part of Generation X. I heard every day that we were slackers. That we had no goals. That we were all on track to be the first generation worse off than our parents. We would never retire. We had no causes to define us, like the Boomers. We were an entitled bunch of technology obsessed deadbeats.

Sound familiar?

Here’s something to consider. Who benefits from this lambasting of an entire generation of people? The discussion is great for websites and news outlets, and has made the careers of a whole pantheon of consultants who have somehow arrived just in time to teach corporate America how to manage and inspire the largest generation in history. Why? Because it’s in their best interest to lump you together and paint you as self-obsessed savages with no work ethic. After all, how else will they make their living if you’re functional and responsible?

Here’s the thing. You’re you. I’m me. We’re both going to make mistakes. Neither of us is perfect. But our mistakes will be different, not because you are Gen Y and I am Gen X. Our mistakes will be different because you are you and I am me. Everyone in this world is an individual with their own story, their own hopes and dreams, their own likes and dislikes. The bigger the group, the less accurate the generalization becomes, and your generation is an extremely large group.

There’s no possibility that any single person is actually represented by that stereotype.

Are some of your generation narcissistic? Sure, but so are some of mine. Do you have technology that earlier generations didn’t have? Sure, but so did the generations before you. I’m sure the guy who invented the wheel heard that his generation was going to ruin everything with their new-fangled ideas.

We live in a world full of uncertainty. We are confronted daily with challenges ranging from intolerance and hate to economic upheaval and environmental disaster. We are surrounded by people who want to generalize, compartmentalize, and otherwise draw lines between us. Millennials are not to blame for what’s going on in the world. We are all born into our own moment, and all we can do is live in the time that we have.

We have big problems to solve, you and I. We have a world that needs our compassion, our innovation, our tenacity, and our hope. We can waste all kinds of time worrying about things we can’t control, including when we were born. But it doesn’t get us anywhere.

Don’t let other people define you based on something you can’t control. Go be your best self, and I’ll do the same, and hopefully everyone else will too. And in 20 years, when they start complaining that the next generation is a bunch of virtual reality obsessed slackers, you can smile, and nod, and maybe forward this on to them.

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