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What a Boomer or GenXer Can Learn From a Millennial

Guest Blog: Adapted and personalized this from a recent post by Chip Conley of the Modern Elders Academy and Wisdom Wells fame. – Christine Stadler

Recently, I was part of a discussion where the “olders” in the room were asked what someone our age could learn from someone half our age. Here is a spontaneous list I created based on my own experience and what I distilled from the discussion, all of which is terribly generalized. Take what’s valuable to you and leave the rest:

1. Bias for Action

I appreciate how Millennials decide and act with speed and a willingness to take risks. I would never have taken certain job/career risks I took in my 20s and early 30s at the age of 50 or 58, knowing what I didn’t know. Risk seemed a little exciting then and filled with new experiences to explore. Of course, at 26 or 30, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, only that I could see this big wave of opportunity in the world of technology where I spent 25 of my traditional career years. I wanted to catch that wave. The shadow side of Bias for Action can show up as impatience.

2. Value of Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are about more than age, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability. They are also about different points of view, experiences, and thinking, as well as cognitive diversity: a mix of experiences, identities, ideas, and opinions. The Millennials I know appreciate creating a more collaborative environment that values open participation from people with different ideas and perspectives versus a traditional, purely demographics-based diversity.

3. Blended Work/Life vs. Work/Life Balance

Millennials have grown-up in a hyperconnected, always-on world where they can connect anytime, from anywhere. So, this has naturally led to more work/life integration vs. work/life balance. Perhaps they can see more clearly that “balance” is not an achievable state and implies that work is separate from life when we live in a truly frapped world. I made really BIG mistakes in the life/work balance arena in early and mid-career and paid a significant price for doing so. Apparently, I’m a slow learner.

4. Life is not Linear

Millennials don’t conceptualize their career trajectory in a linear way. They don’t expect to start and then stay with a single company for their entire careers, climbing the corporate ladder. They view their careers as more of a jungle gym—a series of starts and stops, unique explorations, and journeys. The whole Millennial FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a repudiation of the traditional three-stage life: learn till you’re 20 or 25, earn till you’re 65, and retire till you die. Thanks, Encore community, for introducing us to FIRE and the model of The 100 Year Life.

5. Comfort with Transitions

Perhaps Millennials’ POV on transitions is the result of the increased pace of change we have seen in the last two or three decades. Regardless of the reason, I find it healthy for the most part. In my case, I am grateful both personally and professionally that I adapted to change fairly easily and developed a high threshold for ambiguity in work situations (especially working for tech entrepreneurs!)

6. DIY Learning

Most of the young people I know don’t have an Encyclopedia Britannica. Or an American Heritage Dictionary from the 1970s like the one I have. They consult Google before grandma or grandpa. And, YouTube has become their learning concierge. I do feel a little sad, though, that books and newspapers seem like old relics to the young folks.-year

7. The Wisdom of Reciprocity

Skillshare programs offered in many Millennial companies and the growing popularity of mutual mentorship in which you find someone who is the yin to your yang are evidence that we’re moving in the direction of wisdom becoming reciprocal. This is something I discovered in my second Encore Fellow role with the Second Acts for Strong Communities (SASC) national initiative. Our program director, 38-year-old Emily Merritt, is the Director of Intergenerational Initiatives at The Alliance for Strong Families & Communities, them the program sponsor. Through my work with the SASC project and my interactions with Emily and others of her generation, I was often trading my knowledge of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) for my mentees’ and colleagues’ DQ (Digital Intelligence). Today, Emily and I are friends and I truly value our relationship.

Now, of course, there is a long list of skills that Millennials can learn from us as well, but, for now, let’s simply ask the following question, “How could I become more curious about learning from those younger than me?”


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