Millennials just don’t get it. We know this because the media tells us so. Millennials are reprimanded (at college graduations, no less) as being the “least knowledgeable graduating class in history.” They are ridiculed because they won’t leave their parents nest (incurring the label “boomerang generation“), a fact that has been exacerbated by government social umbrellas like Obamacare (providing Mommy and Daddy’s insurance until 26). They are viewed as narcissistic and self-involved as demonstrated by their social media addictions.
Sweeping generalizations like these are easy to hurl. It’s when you actually meet and talk with Millennials you realize that they are us … just younger (and often with tattoos).
The 20-year-old me was also trying to figure it all out. I never wore a watch because … “Hey man, time is not a physical factor, it’s a concept.” My distrust of “the Man” was continually confirmed on the nightly news reporting government corruption and shady business dealings. My echo chamber wasn’t the yet-to-be-created social media, but George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Cheech and Chong records. We all hung out at night on hilltops, cracking wise, drinking beer, smoking, and revving engines. Our truth was like every other generation’s … we were rebels without a cause, or a clue.
These days I encounter twenty-somethings in my line of work. Because of my type of business, these folks are generally entrepreneurial and have their heads on straight. They are free market capitalists with a focus on impacting the world. They are not looking to punch clocks or shuffle paper for 40 years like their parents. Their goals generally focus on using commerce to make people’s lives better. (And if they can simultaneously make millions, great!) However, I always assumed that because it was a business environment, these yutes were the exception, not the rule.
This last weekend I had the pleasure of joining a friend for her birthday party and LAtitude-Young Republicans Meetup. The “kids” I met there were terrific. They not only had their heads on straight, but hardly spent any time looking at their phones while in conversation. They were each articulate, funny, and intelligent … what we would hope for our children.
They also get what Joe Friday was saying. They appreciate freedom, capitalism, and opportunity.
For older generations, the impression we get of today’s youth is the Watters’ World archetype; while entertaining, it doesn’t give the whole story. A story that should show a generation that is the most fiscally conservative since the Great Depression, yet more socially moderate and accepting. Ideologically, they want to create a better world, and many are not settling down with responsibilities which would crimp their abilities to achieve their goals. They are marrying and having kids later than their parents, allowing them to become more financially self-sustaining and then, when ready, they can have a family.
While they watch their parents and grandparents arguing over which is the better cancer treatment as it metastasizes throughout the country, Millennials are instead working on finding a cure.
Notwithstanding all the world’s problems, I am more optimistic for the future than in recent memory.