Toast Note - 4 January 2018

Yesterday, I had a nice chat with a good friend about why people don’t ‘eat their vegetables’. Why is it that even when we know what we should do, have all the tools at hand and even a strong WIIFM – a motivator for change – we still fail to take the actions necessary? I have a working theory that basically we all need to get bitch-slapped. As a theory, it merits some exploration. In practice, however, I can’t see myself wandering around the office smacking people. Seems like a career limiting move.

So why don’t we eat our veggies, drink the water, exercise regularly, spend free time studying for our next career, save money, be nice to our family, spend time with our friends, breathe in, breathe out breathe in breathe out. Like, literally! Ask 100 people to spend 5 minutes a day frickin’ breathing – just breathing self-consciously. Check in a month later, and you’d be lucky if you could count on more than one hand the number who actually did it.

My friend had a notion that it was generational. Now before you young’uns get your hackles up, it is. Stereotypes exist for a reason which often sources from a kernel of truth. You were raised during a period of unprecedented global peace and prosperity and as a group were pampered beyond belief by parents who were under the delusional pop-psych notion that parenting is all about telling you how wonderful you are. It’s not hard to see how culturally this would embed the notion the world owes you happiness. Conversely, the older crowd has a different challenge; They were raised in an era of long term relationships: you and your community, you and your spouse, you and your employer. While the youngers expect the world to give them everything, the olders assume nothing will be taken away. And when it is, they suffer just as loudly and just as miserably.

Squeezed in the middle, as a GenX I find both cultural norms manifest in a similar inability to take responsibility for change. “Change is hard. People resist change. THEY are changing things.” Codwash. Change is the living and breathing manifestation of growth and aging. We changed rapidly and well as children and if we could just retain some of that joy in the new and strange, we would find it easy, entertaining and exciting. People don’t resist change, they just don’t like being told what to do. The world doesn’t change us, we change the world. If you don’t like the world as it is, move it.

I’m not sure that’s a GenX thing though. It might just be me. I could make a case for the nihilism and cynicism of my generation contributing to making us far less likely to believe in either “they owe me” or “they take care of me”. My Millennial kids, however, seem to share this perspective. Again, just them or generational? By the time they came on line, it was blindingly obvious to all but the most thick that they face a future of rapid and in many cases catastrophic change. They know that the most important thing they can learn during these early years is HOW TO LEARN. Otherwise, they are just fucked. That simple. Change resiliency is not a nice to have but a survival trait.

I’m not sold on any of these generalities, but I do find them an interesting thought experiment. How many of the change ‘truisms’ we learned in Change Manager school and reading Forbes leadership articles are really just generational cultural assumptions, and are they going to prove useful at all as the Millennials start taking over?

Every generation welcomes the pirates from the last.” ~ Lawrence Lessing