Millennials are a hot topic because they are the modern-day disrupters. They're the generation causing the most change. They're the ones redefining the way things get done--and they're the ones closest to the action. They are both the prized spending demographic as well as the ones helping shape it.
As a result, they are the first to get the guillotine. Instead of understanding this wild and crazy demographic (I myself being one of them), many are quick to rush to sweeping generalizations and surface-level assumptions. "Millennials are impatient. Millennials aren't hard-working. Millennials aren't ."
But let's pull back for a second and examine some of Millennials most looked-down-upon traits and habits.
A young person's self-confidence today is quickly renamed "narcissism." Or "arrogance." If you are young and you believe in your idea, older generations have a tendency to look at that and say, while patting you condescendingly on the shoulder, "You have a lot to learn." Yeah. Obviously. We all have a lot to learn, always. But that doesn't mean that self-confidence is wrong or without good reason.
Imagine growing up in a world where you have access to technology that allows you to learn anything you want, whenever you want. Why, then, as a young person, would you not be confident in your ability to make whatever your idea is become reality?
This might be a hard pill to swallow, but ask yourself where this judgment of a young person's self-confidence is coming from. Maybe you're jealous because today's 20-somethings have access to resources you didn't at that age. That's valid--but that does not mean today's Millennials are all, by any means, "arrogant." It's just a different time period.
2. The desire to travel
It astounds me how many people look down on this, when it's the very thing just about every single person says they want to spend more time doing.
When Millennials say things like, "I want to see the world! I want to travel! I want a job that will allow me to work from my laptop, wherever I want!" they tend to be met with frustration. Older generations respond with statements like, "When I was your age ... " or "I didn't hop on my first plane until I was ... "
Instead of seeing how times have changed and encouraging this sort of newly available lifestyle, older generations discourage it. Millennials are told they aren't hard enough workers, condemned because they don't want an office job.
Yo. Bob. If you were 20-something again and your Instagram feed was filled with gorgeous photos of beaches all over the world, you'd want to have a job that allowed you to travel too.
3. Forgoing the American dream
It's interesting to me how many young people have redefined the American dream for themselves. It's no longer about the white picket fence and the big backyard. It's about freedom--the freedom to explore, to do what you love. Young people realize that real freedom is, in a sense, having less. It's about creating a lifestyle, not taking on a bunch of debt and a mortgage.
However, this, too, can be difficult for older generations to understand. They see the new dream as a matter of a young person just not knowing what they want.
On the contrary. We know exactly what we want. And it is not found on 927 W. Drury Lane.
4. Having something of their own
This is a difficult one to explain, but I see it everywhere among my peers.
For Millennials, it's all about having something of your own. Something that's your idea, that you execute and pour yourself into, day after day. Whether that's a personal blog you update every once in a while or a full-blown business, there is this itch that Millennials have to express themselves in a way that is not overshadowed or "parented" by external influences.
This is a big one, and a struggle for a lot of companies and older entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and business owners to understand. You will get far more value back from Millennials if you work with them and encourage them to find their own voice, do their own thing--unselfishly. Because young people will discover a lot about themselves in the process, create more value for themselves, and ultimately be a more valuable resource to you, sure, but it's about more than that. It creates a relationship in which they see you and trust you as a friend. They want to work with you because you've given them that space to explore.
5. Tackling brand-new industries
Here's a personal story for you.
I was recently brought on by a gaming startup called LVLUP Dojo to be its creative director. The Dojo is a resource library and education platform teaching gamers how to make a living in the gaming industry. We are partnering with big-name pro gamers, YouTubers, and Twitch streamers to create video courses that teach people how to essentially make a living as a pro gamer or gaming thought leader.
Imagine explaining that one to your parents.
Mine didn't even know where to start.
It is not easy being a young person in today's world, where new opportunities sprout up by the day, and to me, to us, they make perfect sense. Gaming is a billion-dollar industry. As a teenager, back in 2007, I wanted to be a pro gamer. I was one of the highest-ranked World of Warcraft players in North America, with a gaming blog that had more than 10,000 daily readers. At the time, everyone said I was crazy and "making a living on the internet" would never happen. Now, 10 years later, I'm the creative director for a company that is going to provide a solution to that problem.
The hardest part about being a young person is not holding grudges against people who don't see what you see. That's both the gift and the curse of being young. Your finger is on the pulse. You see where things are going before other people, because you're so in it. So when people doubt you or question you or tell you you can't, you have to just stay true to the path and find out for yourself. But don't hold grudges. Realize the powerful position you're in, and just focus on doing what you love.