There I was, sitting in a management team meeting with roughly 30 of my colleagues. The next-youngest person in the room was 20 years older than I was. As a group, we were hearing about something called a "Millennial."
This strange new beast is coddled.
Ruined by a constant, unquenchable thirst for video games and participation trophies.
People looked at me, the only person in the room who fit this description, and likely thought:
"There sits Dustin. He probably wants a participation trophy just for being here."
There was no deviation, no room for difference in my kind. According to the speaker in front of our group, my two kids at home didn't exist. My lifelong hatred of video games was replaced by a crippling addiction to technology. My two drug-addicted parents were replaced by parents outfitted with helicopter propellers on their heads who sought to shield me from the harsh realities of the world.
Simply because of the year I was born, people knew everything they ever needed to know about me.
But the good news is, that was in 2005.
In the 11 years since, we've studied this generation further with an understanding that the personal experiences that come with aging and the collective changes we experience as a society have a powerful effect on people. We understand that the 24-year-old in 2005 is now a 35-year-old, and is likely a parent with a mortgage who occasionally has thoughts like:
"Holy crap, where did all that grey in my hair come from!"
Or, more depressingly,
"Holy crap! I used to have more hair on that head!"
Yes, thankfully, we have moved beyond those rather shallow observations that attributed many traits associated with simply being young to permanent character deficiencies.
Because it would really suck to read an article on Millennials from 2005 and realize that in 11 years we haven't come up with anything different or original to say about millions and millions of people.
I mean, after all, there is no way having kids, buying a home, or caring for aging parents could possibly change people.
And there is no way experiencing the election of our first African-American president, the legalization of same-sex marriage, the 2016 presidential campaign, the rise of social media, the Great Recession, the explosion of the gig economy, and the effects of technology and automation on employment--all of which have occurred or greatly increased since 2005--could possibly change the way millions and millions of people view the world.
Nope, no way--at least according to all of these "generational consultants" and their conference presentations.
Everything that we ever needed to know about an entire generation was fixed when most of us didn't have Facebook, Twitter didn't exist, few of us knew who Barack Obama was, no one except realtors and bankers knew what a subprime mortgage was, and Donald Trump had just taken over TV, and not yet the world.
Of course, challenging those assumptions would require some of those consultants and content creators to look a little deeper and be willing to admit they may have been wrong, or are at least wrong now, and that's not something most of us are any good at--and having to re-evaluate and take a deeper look is never good for business.
So we will keep writing the same articles.
And saying things like, "Millennials want bike paths!"
Until finally, thankfully, no one wants to talk about it anymore.
Then we will talk about the next generation.
And everything we need to know about them we will learn in 2018.
And that will never change, even when we are being fed smoothies by robots, free to enjoy the leisure brought to us by a guaranteed minimum income.