Business seems to have turned a corner, and I couldn't be happier or more grateful. It's been a long time coming, but the days of management walking on eggshells to appease entitled employees could soon be ending. The timing couldn't be better. If the U.S. is planning to compete for the future on a global scale, employers have to get back to seriously taking care of business after enduring several soul-sucking and defeatist decades of political correctness, lip biting, and tongue holding.
Billions of dollars and millions of hours have been wasted on frivolous and foolish efforts to make miraculously sweet lemonade out of life's lemons. If you didn't like working for a living or working at all, if being graded, evaluated, and judged was just too tough a test for your selfish little self, and if no one had ever bothered to tell you the hard truth about so many things in the real world, then just give us a moment or two, and we'll try to change our reality to meet your fantasies, insane expectations, and absurd entitlements. We'll do this because of serious misconceptions of what makes the world go around and other grievous errors for which we will promptly atone and beg your forgiveness in advance. All because we really like you, in large part, because you remind us of when we were young and equally stupid.
Meantime, China and India are raising and training millions of "meat eaters"--serious, ambitious, diligent, and brutally hard-working individuals--who are grateful for the opportunities finally being afforded to them, willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, and proud of the commitment, sweat and effort it's going to require for them to achieve their dreams.
They're not ashamed or apologetic about competing aggressively with their peers, wanting to better themselves and make a difference for themselves and their families, and working ceaselessly toward those ends rather than wishing or waiting for them to magically appear. They don't expect the world to hand them their future on a silver platter. They don't need time-outs, safe spaces, speech police, or security blankets to get on. They just need the chances that we take for granted.
Meanwhile, here at home, parents are raising millions of precious little flowers who need to be accepted and appreciated for what little they've achieved rather than expected and challenged to reach for better and bigger things. They're focused and fixated by trivialities and trumped-up traumas and concerns while the rest of the world rushes by them. They want to bring their whole selves to work, but they're not that excited about actually working once they get there. They've been taught and told that they've clearly got more important things to do and other places to be.
I'm confident that millions of other CEOs and entrepreneurs agree that telling it like it is--outside of their soon-to-be-burst bubbles--is the best service and favor that we can do for our kids and our younger employees and, not incidentally, for our businesses as well. Though there are plenty of valuable D&I programs, no businesses can succeed on a fabulist foundation of half-truths about diversity and inclusion, false promises (which are quickly abandoned when the rubber hits the road), and made-up pithy mission statements that no one lives up to.
The pendulum is hopefully swinging back toward frankness, painful honesty, daily doses of reality, and actual authenticity which can only help all of us manage through what are likely to be several more years of ugly surprises, hard times, and do-nothing politicians aiming only to inflame and anger us.
Companies need to give employees and--even more importantly--the newest grads a simple message about work: "You don't have to like it, you just have to do it." In a world of special cases, a million exceptions, tender sensibilities, and helicopter parents, this message has the special charm of being a one-size-fits-all solution. Sit down, shut up, and suck it up. When you come to work, be prepared, be honest, and be on time. Leave your angst, your affirmations, and your anxieties at home. Or feel free to "pretend you're working somewhere else," as Elon Musk says.
Mark Zuckerberg is even clearer in his no-nonsense approach in talking about changes coming to Meta, noting that, "Some of you might just say this place isn't for you. And that self-selection is okay with me."
Entrepreneurs and managers who think they can still try to be all things to all people are engaged in a fool's quest. Worse yet, they're most likely to be called out as phonies by the very people they're trying the most to please. Twisting yourself in knots and spinning around in circles trying to placate them (while the very words you speak stick in your craw) isn't productive and only wastes your time and energy.
You can hope to be anything, but in the end, you can be only yourself. If you're true to yourself, your own upbringing and beliefs, and your own commitments to your work and your business, you'll discover that that's the best you can be for everyone else as well.