An Unknown Millennial's Ponderings

by Kenneth Rayman on August 20, 2017
I recently listened to Simon Sinek, a leading organizational speaker, for the first time and was surprised to find out that I am considered part of the Millennial generation. I had always identified myself as Generation Y, but that may have been because the term Millennial had not been “invented” yet. Looking at his examples though it’s oh-so-obvious because of what led me to start my self awareness development. But I think of another leading voice when I think of the impatience argument of Millennials, Vishen Lakhiani. Vishen’s argument about the “culturescape” influencing the developmental continuation of rigid gender and society roles illustrates, to me, a perfect explanation to some of my experiences.

Growing up, my parents raised me in a bubble, though as Simon points out is no fault of them or me, because of doctor’s fears that I may not be able to participate normally and the risk if I did, which was unknown medical territory at the time. This caused, as I later described, my parents to became the poster children for “helicopter parenting.” Out of fear they made sure that I felt included, special, and motivated that I could achieve anything; anything to keep my spirits up and to inspire me to keep my focus away from my physical limitations.

This backfired though because my desire to fit in was driven by the challenge of participating, not the mere act. I was allowed to play sports, albeit for a team of disabled children to give them a chance to participate. The “league” set up games with teams who went easy on us to allow us to get easy outs, make easy baskets, and enjoy ourselves, while they would ultimately win the game. I hated the participation trophy that I was given at the end of the one baseball season that I played in; basketball was the same, with my frustration evident in the one game we legitimately won being something we couldn’t duplicate and the one close loss that I was a sore loser afterward. My family quickly showed me what was wrong with showing that unsportsmanlike behavior after a loss but I saw wrong in an argument of my brother’s that “I was not a good sportsman if I didn’t want to just have ‘fun’.” To me, competition would add a level of “fun” by striving for the best you could put forward and that was fun since I wanted to be like “everyone else.” To match this with Simon’s argument, I was primed to expect reward for participating even though I wanted the exact opposite.

Later in life, Vishen’s argument, bears fruit after the crash of 2008. Simon points out that we were dealt a bad hand, but Vishen points out that the same expectations held firm. I was criticized for not having “a” job six months out of college and my explanation of people telling me to quit checking in on my application because it would do nothing and to just go online to apply were met with accusations of laziness and labeled “excuses.” The narrative held firm that you were expected to get a job no matter what and if you didn’t you weren’t trying hard enough. It wasn’t until a year later, a cross country move to look for work, and another family member needing a job being met with those same instructions to “go online,” was I believed.

Once I got a job, the pressure was to move in to position were you could provide for yourself (which meant to own rather than rent, among others). I looked at my brother and sisters as examples to where I should be at that age and when I was at that predetermined age I was still barely able to save enough per month for a value meal, let alone a Masters education, a pet, or social gathering that might lead to meeting someone to fall in love with. There were rules that governed my thought process to where I should be and once I was just about to the clear the rung on the pole vault, it was moved once again. These rules were the source of my unhappiness; couple that with my uninhibited emotions that I never learned to control due to those previous life experiences and their influenced reasons, you have a recipe for never being “good enough.”

My thoughts were that Millennials were impatient with the lack fast promotion or increased buying power through increased salary but it was also that the expectation of society and what it deemed as successful never adapted to the new world of today. I have big ideas but my thoughts on my previous frustrations were that society still demands that at 30, I should be a predetermined point as a member of the whole. For me, personally the desire to move up was not to move up fast but to put the skills I had spent my entire life studying and developing (because that’s all I was allowed to do) to use with something other than answering a phone for a year to prove that I could do something beyond that.

Looking back on my prior work life history and the issues I had with my development, Simon’s assertion that I was a Millennial was clear as day though I never looked at it as a struggle to make an impact after a few months and make a difference somewhere; it was that I felt like I was a failure due to not being where life seemed to expect me to be.

My desire to achieve is still the same, though with a new emotionally stable perspective, and that is to actually do something with the skills that I’ve honed and actually make something of the connections that I’ve formed to problem solve with innovation. If that is Millennial thinking in the derogatory sense than I guess I’m a Millennial, but I view it as a way to put to use the knowledge I was made to learn towards something.