It's common knowledge the Millennial generation has single-handedly re-framed one of the most fundamental aspects of the work force by asking themselves a simple question: "Would I rather make more money doing something lucrative that I don't really enjoy? Or would I rather make less money doing something that gives me a genuine sense of fulfillment?"
This question has sparked a huge amount of controversy, especially between the Millennial generation and older generations that, as a result, find Millennials to be any (but not limited to) the following: impatient, entitled, difficult to work with, etc.
Recently, a video featuring author of the hit book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek, shared a video (that has since gone viral) touching on Millennials in the workplace--and why they are the way they are.
Here's the thing: I actually agree with many of the points Sinek shared in his talk, and I actively write about them often: don't over-indulge on social media, don't binge on Netflix, don't mistake fleeting social interactions for deeply gratifying friendships and relationships, etc.
Where I believe Sinek, and this larger conversation as a whole, has gotten off course, is in the grey area between life lessons and what is expected out of a job. If we're talking about Millennials in the workforce, then let's not suddenly change the topic around how Millennials also don't have the patience for deeply meaningful relationships--when their work managers don't really care whether or not their relationship is all that meaningful, as long as the excel spreadsheet gets filled out on time.
Sinek says, "What this young generation needs to learn is patience. Some things that really, really matter--like love, job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence--all of these things take time."
In isolation, I agree with the above.
In the conversation of workplace happiness, I disagree. I think Millennials are the most self-aware generation yet (and I realize I'm biased). What I mean is, we are the generation that have helped make massive strides in social rights, self-reflection, a broader understanding for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and more.
What many have failed to acknowledge in this conversation is that we are, truly, the "Why?" generation. That's the big question we, as Millennials, ask on a daily basis--and it's also the question that tends to cause a stir in authority figures and those that came before.
When someone asks us to do something, we ask, "Why?"
When we're told to do a task one way, we ask, "Why?"
When we're given the direction to be patient, to invest more time, more years in a direction not necessarily of our choosing, we ask, "Why?"
To those in authority positions, this questioning of "Why?" is seen as rebellion, disobedience, impatience, etc.
To us Millennials, it is the only question. How else can you continue to improve and make discoveries on your own, if you're not asking the question, "Why?"
According to an Intelligence Group study from 2014, 64% of Millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.
Addressing what Sinek shared in his talk, he (and many others) have said we are the generation that grew up in a world of participation medals.
Do you know how many participation medals I received growing up? Zero.
He (and many others) have said we are the generation who got patted on the back every time we did something even half-way decent.
Do you know how many times I got patted on the back for getting a B? Zero. Actually, I was held after school, my parents were brought in, and I was reprimanded for not caring enough about microbiology.
He (and many others) have said that we are the generation who seek instant gratification in everything we do.
Alright: Let's stop using Uber, Amazon, iTunes, our iPhones, GrubHub, YouTube, Spotify, Skype, etc. Because all those things provide instant gratification in some form.
And truthfully, it's not just the younger generations that are asking, "Why?" Older generations are quickly following suit. Here's a perfect example: female entrepreneur Nicola Moras, was making six figures working a cushy corporate job. One problem: she wasn't fulfilled. So what did she do? She asked, "Why?" and now works with small business owners, authors, entrepreneurs, etc., teaching them the online marketing system--aka how they can grab hold of their life and do things their own way. Nicola's story is just one of hundreds, probably thousands of people who are seeing the freedoms technology can bring, and questioning the conventional way of doing things.
This is something I, too, have seen and experienced ever since I was a teenager. In high school, I was told that I needed to go the same route as everyone else. I needed to be "patient." I needed to not "think I had it all figured out." I needed to "stop rebelling."
I saw things differently. I was fascinated by the world of blogging and building a personal brand for yourself online. I saw the value and heavily invested in myself to learn the in's and out's of how to do it on my own. I asked, "Why? Why do I have to do things the same way as everyone else? Why do I have to spend years upon years packing my resumé with things I don't actually enjoy? Why?"
My ambition wasn't met very receptively. I was called disobedient. Rebellious. I was all sorts of problems for the authority figures in my life.
But guess what? I am now 26 years old and living every single day of my life doing exactly what I love: writing and blogging. And I'm doing it on my own terms, because I know how to set my own goals and measure my own success.
As a Millennial, I really don't believe our generation is completely blind to these larger life lessons we are told exist outside our tunnel-vision. I find my peers to be extremely self-aware, reflective, and knowledgeable about what it takes to build something of lasting value.
What I see, however, is a massive conflict between Millennials and other generations over the question, "Why?" We don't ask, "Why?" because we're trying to be a pain. We don't ask, "Why?" because we get joy out of causing a ruckus. We ask, "Why?" because we genuinely don't understand how, in 2016, it makes any sense to do things one way when there is an even more efficient and effective solution right around the corner.
The question "Why?" is only seen as beneficial once it comes to fruition. When the taxi industry turns into Uber, when delivery companies turn into GrubHub, when music sharing turns into iTunes, that's when everyone sits back and says, "Thank goodness someone asked the question, 'Why?'".
But when you are the Millennial sitting at the bottom of the summit, fresh out of college, trying to get a good sense of where it is you want to go and how you can get there in the best way possible for yourself, asking, "Why?" is seen as the opposite. It's a rebellion against the way things are--and nobody in any sort of authority position takes kindly to that.