Journal, Perpsective

What Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials Should Learn About Each Other… NOW

I’m barely a Millennial (I was born in 1982), who was brought up by a Baby Boomer father (he was born in 1949), dedicated to working his butt off for one company for his entire life (Carrier Corporation), starting on the factory floor and working his way up to a stable, mid-level management position.

However, after 25 years of dedication, we all know what happened to Carrier and many of the other large scale, public manufacturing companies here in the United States – downsizing. We don’t need to talk about where those jobs have gone, though, as that is a whole ‘nother rant.

As many apparent disasters in life, this situation was a blessing in disguise. We’ll get to that in a second.

My grandpa (father’s father), comes from what is known as the Silent Generation (he was born in 1927). His example for my father was that you went out and got a job with a public company that could provide you with security and, with a personal display of the proper blend of loyalty and work ethic, that company will get you to the promised land – A.K.A. retirement in your 50’s.

For my grandpa, that company was Chrysler.

You know these folks all too well… They’re our hard-working grandparents who tell us stories of how they went out and got their “gold watch,” working for that one company that they grew to love.

So as a 15-year-old boy who’s dad had to start over after 20 years of hard work for one company, I watched a paradigm shift occur in his life. This experience really knocked home what has become a very unique perspective of past generations, with the present one that I am a part of, to create a blended perspective we should all maintain when it comes to our relationships with family, friends and especially in business.

Getting laid off, forced my father to get creative and build his own sales territory for an international shipping company (Expeditor’s International). Since our hometown of Syracuse, in Upstate New York, didn’t have an Expeditor’s footprint, my dad had to be entrepreneurial enough to go out and create a territory of his own. It was almost like he was franchising a new sales territory for Expeditor’s, who had 0% of the multitude of manufacturers in our area, using their large-scale international shipping services.

Not only did my father make more money, but he learned how to leverage technologies, using this thing that Al Gore had just invented, known as The Internet, and a mobile user-friendly IBM laptop computer, to be able to work on his own terms from the guest room in our East Syracuse, New York home.


Watching my father’s journey, gave me perspective as a young professional, father, husband and leader in today’s society.

The flexibility made it so that I was able to spend more time with my father throughout my high school years. I just wish it happened earlier in my childhood, as this transition all took place just a few years before I left for college baseball in Alabama – and yes, I’m still here!

I became very interested in this topic, after hearing Gustavo Grodinsky speak to my Vistage group here in Birmingham, back in August at the Vestavia Country Club. I’m the only Generation Y guy in my group of older, more experienced business owners. I gain a wealth of knowledge in being around these guys.

In reading William Strauss’ masterpiece, The Fourth Turning, a book I highly recommend you read, Strauss and his co-author Neil Howe, left me with some serious motivation as a member of Generation Y.

Their case for the fact that there have been four types of generations that have repeated themselves throughout history, suggests that Generation Y (A.K.A. Millennials) is actually responsible for initiating the next cycle of four. That means we must set the stage for the next century. And, if you know anything about how fast things move these days because of technology, the next 100 years may have more significant developments for mankind, than all of the previous centuries combined.

This will either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether or not we can conquer some of the world’s most pressing issues that are staring us right in the face. If you’re interested in a plan of how my generation will conquer those issues, sink yourself into Peter Diamandis’ book Abundance.

He’ll make you feel a lot better about my generation and the future of this world, because of the exponential effect of the microchip since Fairchild Semiconductor invented it now more than 50 years ago.

Here is a chart of just the past century and its display of the cycle of four, into a repeat of that cycle recently, starting with Generation Y.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 3.50.57 PM

Strauss and Howe paint a picture of last Hero Generation, which includes those humans born between 1901-1925. Once again, the Hero Generation-type is the initiator of this four generation cycle that continues to repeat itself. Because of the time at war that this generation served, it garnered the name of the G.I. Generation. Guess when the Fairchild folks, who invented the microchip tech that is changing our world exponentially, were actually born… You guessed it, The G.I. Generation.

G.I. also includes people like Bill Hewlitt and Dave Packard, or Walt Disney and John Wayne, who were just a few of the people that established a new world of business and entertainment for America. It’s also a time where seven U.S. Presidents were born into society. Guys like JFK and Ronald Reagan earned their membership to the Hero Generation!

Following a Hero Generation-type, is what is known as an Artist Generation, which is where my grandfather that I referred to above, was born (and many of your grandparents too). The 20th century version of the Artist Generation, is known as the Silent or Traditionalist Generation. Whether it’s the one company loyalty-style that came with the coveted gold watch or the “seen and not heard” disciplinary-style that Silent Generation parents had with their Baby Boomer children, it surely created a unique situation that came after them.

How many presidents came out of The Silent Generation? Zero.

The Baby Boomers are what is known as a Prophet Generation, which is the third in this cycle of four generation types that I am explaining in this essay. As children of their hard-working Silent Generation parents, Baby Boomers wanted more. Eighty hour work weeks, commission pay structures, and other types of professional leverage, allowed Baby Boomers to make more money than their Silent Generation parents, as well as treating their Generation X kids with more respect and provision than they ever experienced as kids themselves.

But the Generation X folks knew that there had to be a better way. They wanted to find what is now so warmly referred to as a “work-life” balance, and in addition to being as nice as their Baby Boomer parents were to them, they actually wanted to able to spend time with their kids, not just money on them. Generation X is what is called a Nomad Generation-type.

Then comes my generation – Generation Y, or as so many like to call us, The Millennials. We are known as entitled, immature young adults, who live in our parents’ basement (ruining their retirement plans) and are always engaged in technology. That’s just the beginning of the stereotypes that come with Generation Y, but don’t forget, according to Strauss and Howe, we are the next Hero Generation-type!

Please understand, I am the first to get mad about these stereotypes above and call my generation out over them! As my employees, my friends and young family members… I am known as too serious at times, and more mature than my age. That’s only because I am a blend. A blend of my grandpa, my father and my generation. So I have the blue-collar mentality that my grandpa taught me, combined with the figure-it-out and get-er-done example that my father set for me, mixed in with the benefits of being a Millennial who can leverage tech to be more efficient than either of them could have ever hoped.

And I call out my Generation Y friends to do the same!

So what good is in Generation Y, for us to think we could be heroes for the future? Here are some things to embrace about Generation Y – we don’t work for money, but instead we work for a purpose that is embedded in a company culture where direct reports actually like their bosses. We know technology better than any of the generations before us, and are willing to leverage it at all times a day, to help the brand we are working for. We want flexibility, not a 9 to 5. So if we can get that flexibility then we’ll also return the favor; we’ll work for you at 10pm sometimes, if that’s when an email needs to be sent or a presentation needs to be tweaked.

Can Generation Y be the next Hero Generation? You better hope so. The future depends on it. Once again, read Diamandis’ Abundance.

Alright, so what does all this mean in regard to the gap between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y?

It seems to me, being around so many of the elder statesmen in the business-world, that there is a bad taste in the mouths of Baby Boomer and early Generation X entrepreneurs, regarding the Generation Y pool of talent they will have to integrate into their organizations, should they make it successfully into the 21st Century. Instead of adapting and catering to the communication styles, culture aspirations and overall purpose-driven ventures that Generation Y people desire to be a part of, I’m seeing low adaptation and thus, an extreme amount of turnover.

The average Generation Y employee doesn’t last three years. That’s a big difference from the Silent Generation that worked for one company their whole lives, right? My assessment is that this is because Baby Boomer bosses are not taking the time to learn about how to best motivate and communicate with their Millennial direct reports.

Well, I hate to tell ya, but the good ole’ days are gone. Generation Y is here. Yes, we need more blue-collar perspective and in many cases, more focus and work ethic. However, we are the future and if taught, can not only adopt the things that past generations did so much better than we do, but we can also bring in game-changing aspects of efficient technology and motivating culture, that can take any brand in the right direction for the 21st Century.

That’s exactly what I have tried to do with our brand at Iron Tribe Fitness, combining my grandfather’s blue collar loyalty and my father’s figure-it-out resolve. I also spend a great deal of my time reading books from historical accounts and outside entrepreneurial perspectives. I am in mastermind groups where I am the dumbest and the youngest. I have mentors who are older and wiser than me, helping me make the best decisions possible in all facets of my life.

So don’t think I am saying Generation Y is the perfect fit. We NEED that perspective. But we also have a technological capacity that allows us to accomplish much more individually, than groups of 10 or more did collectively before us. If we study, respond and act with tact, the sky is the limit.

As with everything else, diversity always trumps close-minded pride in your own kind. Be diverse, work together and create a culture where not only all generations can work together, but they actually take the good from each and combine it to create a mix that is truly unique and unattainable without that diversity.

If I remember right, that’s how America began.


3 thoughts on “What Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials Should Learn About Each Other… NOW

  1. Pingback: Millenial employees and internal communications | Rostra Consulting

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