The Millennial Generation: An Introduction

I’m a member of gen Y, the Millennial generation, the mosaic generation, the screenagers. There are many varying ideas of what ages Gen Y consists of, but I believe that it ranges from those born in 1982 up to those born in 2000. Those people now aged about 12-30. Here are a few facts about us.

  • The Millennial Generation is the one that famously scored lower on math and science than almost all developed countries yet when asked how they thought they’d done they ranked the highest in confidence.The following clip is from the documentary Waiting for Superman.

  • But, as a result we’re generally positive. Because we’re so stupidly confidant we often do things that were thought too difficult by others because we’re too stupid to know they’re impossible.
  • We’re also not resigned to the world ending soon, because we know that if it doesn’t we’re stuck with it after the other generations are gone. That’s why we want to be good stewards and recycle. We don’t want to be living in trash heaps in our retirement.
  • We’re high maintenance, but it’s not totally our fault – it’s the way we’ve been conditioned. Most of our parents were extremely affirming. In a science fair or archery tournament we didn’t have to achieve anything, yet we’d get a ribbon just for participating. We’d play video games and after 2-40 hours we’d save the world. We’re used to instant gratification and lots of positive feedback. We need affirmation.

  • But we’re also high productivity. Mellinials are highly perfectionistic, but also efficient with time. Daniel Pink, an expert in the field of human motivation, says that this is why, despite our age, gen Y is starting at higher power positions than that which many members of gen X are still working.
  • Entitled. In a survey that’s the number one word that’s used to describe us by our employers when we first got into the work force and it is incredibly true. It’s what I hate most about my generation.

    sorry Varuca Salt, you can’t have the whole world right now.
  • We’re suckers for social Justice. Talk about rescuing orphans from sex-trafficking or feeding the poor an you have our attention. As a group we largely believe (incorrectly) that we’re the first generation to care about the poor, the widows and orphans. We do want the world to be a better place and haven’t given up on it yet (as we believe our parents have.)
  • “Fassionate” Is the term used by Dr. Tim Elmore to describe mellinials. It reflects Gen Y’s desire to be fashionably compassionate – that’s why organizations like TOMS, Charity Water and Warby Parker are popular with mellinials. Because they’re good causes that also make you look good by participating in them. Superficial? Absolutely. Admirable? Somewhat. Hey at least we want to appear to care about others.
Woah. Check out the altruism on her.
  • We’re more family oriented than the past two generations. Every year US high school graduates take an exit survey that has an array of questions. On of the questions is “who is your hero?” We were the first generation to not select “a celebrity” as our most common answer, but rather we said that our parents are our heroes. I know I did.
  • We are generally restless and impatient. We need stimulus. This is often times improperly diagnosed as ADD. I call it having a hungry brain and a drive to act.
  • We’re good at processing large amounts of information. Because we were born in the information age. Information is like air to us. Consider this:

 In 1985, the year I was born, it was estimated that the world contained the equivalent of 2.64 billion gigabytes of information. That includes all print, audio and video media that was in either digital or analog form. In 2007 it was estimated that the world contained just short of 300 billion gigabytes of information. If you think that’s crazy, get this: in 2010 the amount of information in the world reached over 1 trillion gigabytes or over 1 zetabyte. What’s even more insane is that in 2011 alone we generated 1.8 zetabytes of information. That means we generated more information in 2011 than in the previous 3,000 years of human history, a rate that is only expected to increase as the years go by.

  • But often we don’t keep information we process we pass it on or we save it some place for when we want to sound smart later. We think in sound-bytes and text messages. We like edible little quotes, not long lectures.
  • We are ‘spiritual’ but not religious. Despite the fact that we are notoriously unchurched, only 23% actually consider themselves atheists. More than 50% pray before a meal an a third discuss spiritual issues regularly. Organized religion isn’t preferable, having become disillusioned with large institutions of any kind; the government, political parties, education, etc. This was famously outlined in this controversial video (with which I largely disagree) the best response to which can be found at this blog.

  • We came of age in the worst job market in recent memory. In a well-written article, Jesse Rosen responds to criticisms toward gen Y written in a New York Times article reminding the authors that we may not seem as adventurous only because we’re practical; we don’t have money and we aren’t going to go into debt. The subtext of the article is “go ahead, go to italy we’re going to be here at home trying to figure out how to save the world.”
  • We’re the most visually sophisticated generation to date. Far more than previous generations. We have access to more photos, video and artwork than any generation before us. In fifteen seconds I can have any popular painting or photo as the desktop of my Macbook.
thanks google!
  • The result is that we’re not easy to impress and that content has become king. 20 years ago someone with a TV station had a unique position of being the only one with a channel into people’s homes. Now anyone can create a youtube channel. This last year all major broadcast networks took a hit in ratings. Every major motion picture studio has released at least one “guaranteed hit” that flopped miserably. The media that wins has nothing to do with the money it costs or the channel through which it came – it has to do with content. This goofy video took 1 night to shoot and will get more views by the end of next week than Disney’s John Carter did. It’s because this video is an original idea executed in a funny way and John Carter was weird and unrelatable.

  •  Some sociologists call us the boomerang generation, or the peter pan generation – they say that we’ve refused many rights of passages that other generations embraced as a result of not wanting to accept adulthood. Most notable is how the younger half (the ones in high school now) aren’t pining for their drivers licenses as they can interact with their friends digitally just as well. This was outlined by Shaputis Kathleen in her book, The Crowded Nest Syndrome.
  • Other sociologists call us that next “Greatest Generation.”  William Strauss and Neil Howe have written two books Millennials Rising and The Fourth Turning the latter of which identifies four cycles in which generations move, the last being the time of crisis from which a great generation rises.

So yeah.

I have no concluding grand thought save for this: don’t count us out – we’re worth your time and who knows, maybe God is going to use us to save the world.

The lie we were told: a letter to my generation

Millennials, we were all lied to. From the time we first set foot on the preschool campus to the moment we were handed that college or high school diploma. We were lied to. No matter who you are, if you grew up in the US over the last two decades you were told this lie and despite how innocent it may have seemed to its progenitors, it has recently come to a head in a frustrating, pointless and even violent way.

Somewhere long about the early 80s a decision was made in America. I don’t know where it came from, I’ve tried to find out, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. This decision would make us the guinea pigs of a soon to be horribly failed experiment in human behavior. Weather the decision was conscience or just an unhappy fluke, we all felt the effects of it our whole childhood. And the results of the experiment have recently come to light as we, the Mellinial generation, generation Y, the screenagers, the mosaic generation- as we have entered ‘adulthood.’

I don’t know whether those who first told this lie actually believed it or if they just thought it would be fun to see what happens to a generation when they are all told something that isn’t true. I don’t think it was malicious; I think those that lied to us thought they were helping. I think they thought that this lie would somehow drive us to do great things. As I said it was in one way the largest psychological study of our time and it’s outcome is now obvious.

What is this lie? You may still believe it to be true. You may think I’m exaggerating it’s effects, but regardless of what you feel about this phrase, you’ll recognize it. You will recognize it from teachers and coaches. You’ve heard it on TV and in film. You read it in comics, magazines and books. Some of us were even taught it by our parents.

The lie is this: You can do anything if you want it enough. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it. If you can dream it, you can do it. Astronaut? NFL player? President? All possible so long as you want it enough. You may still think this is true, but any Mellinial who wants to behave like an adult has to realize that this is a lie. I’m 5′ 7″ and no matter how much I want it, I’d never be able to beat Lebron at a one-on-one game of basketball. While I truly believe that positive thinking can take you very far, (studies show optimists live longer, healthier lives) there are some things that are simply out of reach.

Like the rest of you, I don’t like limits, I don’t like rules. I don’t like things to be hard and fast. I want to cling to the romantic notion that the unattainable can be attained, that I am capable of anything I want to do, so long as I really want to do it. But here is the truth they didn’t tell us: You can do almost anything, but only if you’re willing to work hard your whole life and make sacrifices in order to achieve it. It is amazing what you can accomplish by imagining something and then pouring every ounce of strength you have into the realization of it. You can do what many thought was impossible, but you have to do more than write a thesis and receive a degree (or two) to see it happen. You have to work for it. Wanting it, dreaming it, believing in it is simply not enough. You can reach for the stars all you want they’re not coming any closer you must go to them.

It takes time, which is perhaps the hardest part. Anyone can work hard for a day, but to do it for years or even decades in order to see a dream realized takes patience and strength of character. Don’t get discouraged. I often hear from my peers that they thought they’d be in a different place than they are now, they thought they’d have  a better job, or a better paycheck. Craig Groeschel addressed this at catalyst this year.

“This generation overestimates what God what’s to do with you in the short run and underestimates what God want’s to do with you in the long run.”

You will have a hard time accepting this if you are a true member of the Mellinial Generation, because the one thing we excel at is overconfidence. You may know that according to an international survey, despite scoring very low in math and science, our generation scored highest in confidence. For the past two decades we have believed that we were the best, that we are smarter, funnier, and more creative than any generation before- because the lie lead us to believe those things. The lie made us think we were special. The lie made us arrogant. In reality we are not any better than our parents- we’re just different. We have different strengths and we have different weaknesses. That may be news to you as well, but we do have weaknesses.

But, thats not what they told us. I warn you that if you continue to live like this is true that you will see the fulfillment of Malcolm Muggeridge’s prophecy written about the same time we were all being born.

Thus did western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down.

And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.

Or will our mantra be that of George Bernard Shaw’s great quote:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

So Millennials, what will future generations say of us? What will our children tell their grandchildren- will they say we sat around in public places shouting our anger at the world for it not bending to our will? Will they say we expected the government to spoon feed us? Will they say all of our talk of social justice was nothing but show? Will they call us lazy? Entitled? Or will they say we beat a bad economy with ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit? That we worked hard so that they could live in a better world- That we never blamed anyone for the hardships we faced- That we were selfless?

We are writing history and we can choose now to be a generation that couldn’t face the truth or we can be the generation that showed a maturity beyond its years. And when that history is written, what will it say? It could say that we didn’t rise to the occasion, that we lacked innovation, that we chose to play the victim when things got hard, that we left this world in even worse a state than we found it, that we were selfish, that our generation spent more time playing video games or rehearsing with our band than we did actually trying to better this world, that our knowledge of popular culture dwarfed our knowledge of anything useful, that we sat writing blogs complaining about each other, that we were a total waste of space and that the only way in which we were an example for our children was that we showed them exactly how not to live.

We could be that generation or we could be a generation that used our creativity in a way that created jobs for future generations, the generation that ended extreme global poverty, the generation that saw the end of slavery and human trafficking worldwide, the generation that stopped the AIDS crisis in Africa, the generation that spent more time fixing the problems of the world than complaining about them, the generation that fed the hungry and healed the sick, the generation that watched the divorce rate dwindle into nothingness, the generation who used their creativity to house the homeless and give hope to those who have none, the generation that solved the debt crisis and the energy crisis, the generation that saw the whole world get clean water, the generation who did more for the next generation than they did for their own, the generation who left this world a much better place than the way they found it. Because if we want to be that generation, it doesn’t happen on accident. The only way this happens is by sacrifice.

Does all this sound impossible? We’re the generation who doesn’t believe in the impossible, remember? See, there is one condition under which this ideal is, in fact true.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Phil 4:13 (KJV 2k)

Through Christ. not through wanting – not even through hard work can all things be achieved, but through Christ. Our confidence doesn’t come from our knowledge or our own strength. It comes from God:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14

So mellinials, we need a generation that stops believing the impossible is possible, what we need is a generation who will do the impossible because Christ is their strength. Will you be that generation?

Quote: Dedication and Failure

I think one of the greatest failings in my generation is impatience and a lack of true dedication. We tend to pick a cause or project and chase after that for a stint, and at the first major failure we’ll give up and decide that we’re not chasing after the right goal. I’ve seen it in others, I’ve seen it in myself. The great film director, Cecil B.  De Mille said

“Most of us serve our ideals by fits and starts. The person who makes a success of living is one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That’s dedication.” – Cecil B. De Mille

This reminded me of something Craig Groeschel said at catalyst this year

“This generation over estimates what God wants to do with them in the short term and under estimates what God wants to do in the long term.”  – Craig Groeschel

I know some people that at a young age are already angry because they haven’t reached celebrity status in their field. I think one of the greatest failures a young person can have is thinking that I have already reached a place where I no longer have any major lessons to learn. This mindset means that failure comes as a total shock and complete disappointment. Whereas a resilient, dedicated individuals remember Thomas Edison’s quote regarding his efforts with creating the first lightbulb.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison