Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

The great thing about many CEOs is that they know so much.

Or, at least, they think they do.

Who can forget Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella saying that women shouldn't ask for a raise, but instead should have faith in the system? (Yes, he apologized, but the words can't quite be unsaid.)

How lovely, then, that when Starbucks' chairman Howard Schultz spoke to Arizona State University graduates, he didn't (entirely) offer them rules and answers.

Instead, he even admitted that his generation was an entirely self-centered bunch of self-regarding self-obsessives.

I paraphrase, of course. He offered the more elegant concept that his generation hadn't made things easy for its children.

"Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle have not acted with enough courage, nor honesty, in addressing the long-term challenges we face," he said.

He might have added: "And our business leaders have personally enriched themselves more than any business leaders in history."

However, he tried to save the day by telling these young impressionables to trust themselves (just like his own generation did -- and how) and be guided by three questions.

1. How will you respect your parents and honor your family?

2. How will you share your success and serve others with dignity?

3. How will you lead with humility and demonstrate moral courage?

It is, of course, wonderfully idealistic advice.

But in a nation for whom money is God and the bible is Joe and Jocasta's Excellent Adventures in Individualism, notions such as respect and honor sound almost quaint.

The younger generation will surely understand "share", because that's what they do on social media every day. Share things about themselves, that is.

But serve? Well, they do often have to get jobs waiting tables in order to graduate.

The idea of service is, though, one that rather fell by the wayside as self-serve became the norm. (And I'm not specifically referring to any restaurant or government department here.)

As for humility and moral courage, well, you often hear those who have achieved stardom, riches or at least an Academy Award claim to be "humbled."

They would likely no sooner know humility than they would know what it's like to iron their own Cerruti shirt.

Which is why Schultz's advice is so good. It confronts the very things that his generation managed to abdicate, the very things that the younger generations have already been forced to observe being obliterated in favor of self-ness.

It's true that younger generations always have a chance to be better people who make a better world.

First, though, they have to confront who they really are. For previous generations, this has often come a little too late.

But let's not be too pessimistic. The younger generation's greatest fight might be against the robot class.

How will they be able to explain concepts such as moral courage, humility and honor to beings that have only been programmed to be clever and efficient?

Perhaps promulgating such higher values will make robots' heads explode, allowing humans to take over the world again and serve each other with humility, dignity, respect and moral courage.

Just like they wish they always had.

Published on: May 14, 2017