Millennials rising (Part 2)


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William Strauss and Neil Howe hypothesized that generations repeat in a cycle of four basic archetypes. Reading the theory puts a lot of pressure on Millennials, who fall into the “hero” category.

In summary, hero generations are raised overprotected, see the rise of major problems, and are thrown into tumultuous events with nothing more than team-orientation and optimism.

While this is already eerily descriptive of current times, the pressure increases further. Four generations back – the parallel to Millennials – was the GI Generation, also referred to as the “Greatest Generation” (GG).

Tom Brokaw famously coined this description of the GG, saying, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”

People of the GG were known for their lack of greed and self-interest, instead acting in the benefit of what was right and just.

This is an obvious difference from Millennials’ reputation of delaying problems for personal gain; however, the GG was on a similar track as Millennials are today.

The GG was born and raised in the Great Depression, parallel to the recent economic period in which the Millennials are maturing. In young adulthood the GG tackled World War II, similar to the War on Terrorism and the growing threat of ISIL.

After overcoming these early problems, the GG blossomed into respectful middle age power players and influential elders.

Like Millennials, the GG was believed to be in an end of days. The stakes were raised and changes were made to adapt to a more globalized world.

I am not going to lie to you and say the problems of today are identical to those of the GI Generation. However, Millennials’ idealism, open-mindedness and optimism are traits that this world desperately needs.

It is absolutely true that Millennials stay at home longer, delaying marriage and children. They want to get things right the first time.

With the housing market in shambles it is no surprise Millennials do not want to spend their sparse cash on a permanent home. Millennials in delaying marriage also have less sex than previous generations, according to University of College London.

An easy way to think about this is not filling up on appetizers before the main course and hoping the dessert is something you can take home.

Why would anyone want to do something that is not the best alternative? This is a common question for Millennials. While other generations may scoff at Millennials for being immature and finicky, the real reason may be closer to perfectionism.

Millennials also place a heavy emphasis on the rights and freedoms of individuals, perhaps echoing the GG. Socially, Millennials are more accepting of differences in race, gender, sexual orientation and blended families.

Just look at the ideal lifestyle of Millennials. The amount of differences is astounding and the acceptance of everyone’s responses doubles that.

Millennials’ personal idealism and open-mindedness will allow them the flexibility needed for survival in a world where not everyone will have the luxury of living in a white, picket-fence house.

Optimism is exactly what the doctor ordered in this time. Much like the GG, despite being told things were better and we live in a rotten time, Millennials are simply not affected.

Pew research found that about three-quarters of all Millennials expressed a strong belief that they would meet their goals. Of those unemployed or financially struggling, another three-quarters said they would one day have enough cash.

This positive outlook ties into idealism and open-mindedness. This generation may not be as lazy as perceived. A sense of long-term planning is a common theme as shown throughout these examples. Instead of negligence, it may be patience, idealism, optimism and open-mindedness about the changing world that can result in these delayed transitions to adulthood.

In Strauss and Howe’s generational theory, we are currently on the brink of a crisis. Unrest is apparent in government and institutions, and the world struggles to restructure itself with new values and theories.

While many would paint our generation as selfish and avoidant, I have seen the work Millennials put into what they are passionate about. Focus is placed on the low-hanging fruit, while failure to notice the quality of idealism and open-mindedness in the changing world is evident.

Sure, we may be arrogant at times, but that is because we know things will get better. We know this because we are confident in our ability to change it.

Millennials have watched the world slowly turn in on itself. I have a firm belief that Millennials can follow in the GI Generation’s footsteps by transforming our dubious values into greatness.

Find part 1 of this article in the Feb.25 issue of The Journal.

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