Part Two: Who’s this Millennial?

I think I started the ‘series’ way ahead of where I should have. That’s why I’ve been feeling so stuck and frustrated on how I’ll go about this job I’ve pleasantly placed upon myself. I will be on millennials this, millennials that, and I haven’t described who this millennial person is. So let’s go back to square one and understand ourselves first, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ before we get into the environments that unleash who we truly are. And since I am a selfie taking poster child of this cohort, I will be speaking from a personal experience and that of my peers based on my observation.

Selfie taking millennial.

Source: Millennials also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, are the demographic cohort that directly follows Generation X. The Millennial cohort is identified as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004.

When we think of a millennial, what is the first thing that comes to mind in terms of character? It’s this person that’s young, fresh, vibrant, agile, dynamic, aggressive and relentless go getter. That collectively makes up our strengths. What about the weaknesses? The weaknesses are mostly a perception of us that have been created as a result these strengths, and most of which we prove to be every other day because that’s our predisposition based on the times we have been raised. That’s why researchers have been able to put us in a general box called, the microwave generation.

A generation where we are hell bent on instant success, instant gratification, and instant coffee. Just had to throw that one in, but we want things as fast as we can get them, do them, and the sooner we can wrap up and show it off, the better – just because we have graduated from the University with honors or we have put in some money into something or we have put in a few hours of work into something or we have put together a few loose plans and they’re in motion. Even if we’re non-experienced, we feel like we can still conquer the world with our individual skills in a day given the chance – and we easily vilify what others are doing because we feel we can do better or we know better.

We have a sense of entitlement because we have been raised to be aware of our rights and the notion that we get should get what we deserve (or want) because it’s our right. That it’s our parents responsibility to provide for us, and we ensure that they are aware that’s their role. That it’s our leaders responsibility to ensure that everything is in check including us, and we ensure that we show them that it’s because of them that things are unstable in our institutions, country and the world. We absolve ourselves from all this.

A fair share of us have spent the better part of our lives being shielded from the real world – the growth trajectories, the possibility of unemployment and poverty, the politics, the humiliation and degradation, and the general struggles that people who are older than us have had to go through to ensure that they live up to our expectation, because we always look up to them. We’re almost unaware of what they had to go through to get to where they are to-date, or even if we are aware, we just get the top story or a summary of their successes – but the messy in-betweens are not openly discussed. They only reach out to you when you’re in a similar situation and you need someone to encourage you. But sometimes it’s a bit too late, because we’re single-mindedly chasing the perfection we imagine they are living – one job after another, one business after another.

We imagine they just started a business and just became millionaires, they got into the work force and just became executives; they earned their first checks and bought cars and built houses; they got married, started a family and everything just worked itself out. And you only come to realize that the devil is in the detail in between or in the process when you get into it. When you leave the nest and you’re not under anyone’s wings anymore. When you’re exposed to the realness of the world and you now have to rely on your own wings to cater for yourself. That you have to put in work every single day to get to where you aspire to be.

We rely on stories from books, magazines and movies from foreign writers and actors – but that somewhat feels out of touch because these are not people that have had a direct impact on us. The closest we get is that one uncle who decides to narrate to us stories about where he started from – but then we miss the seriousness of these tear-jerking stories because we’re in between laughter, snorts and aching ribs. It’s unbelievable, his stories are unbelievable and so hilarious because he’s the only one sharing this process that’s so progressive, so real and so raw. But then I realize, he’s seriously trying to tell us that for him to be where he is, life has not been a bed of roses. He has had to start from the bottom and work his ass off. It didn’t happen overnight. But it’s not a conversation that many of us are willing to share.

That’s why our weaknesses as millennials are that we are peevishly entitled, unpleasantly competitive, overbearingly expectant, overly impatient, short-term thinkers and sometimes over promisers – only to under deliver because we often bite more than we can chew. We imagine that everything is in our control, but forget that the world is a shared resource. That there are people that have been there before us and they have been through what we are going through, we’re not as special as we imagine we are. That we need to work together if we’re to make the most of this shared resource. And most importantly, that we need others (our elders and our peers alike) to make things work. That to get where we aspire to be, we possibly can’t entirely rely on ourselves only.

Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. Neil Gaiman

This series has been born out of the realization that it would be great to get into the details of how one grows in their career and their businesses. It’s all about the process, yes, but the deeper details of the process are barely shared. You know, the one that reveals to us the reality of things. We read of people’s success stories and get the overall summary of their journey, and that’s completely okay, but it’s also the core reason behind the unrealistic expectations that we’re accused of having as millennials. We want to get there where they are today.

Only to get to the hot seat and realize, there’s a process to it. And that this process needs to be respected for it to work out for us. From knowing who you are and what drives you, creating value for yourself and for those around you, putting a price tag on yourself based on this value you’re creating, knowing when to negotiate up, knowing when to say yes and when to say no, knowing what cards to play and when to make that move and when not to make that move.

If you feel like you can contribute to these discussions based on your experience, whether as a practitioner or as a person (millennial) currently going through this process, or as a mentor (post millennial or millennial too) that is well into the process and is at a level close to what we consider as successful, please reach out. Your input and wisdom will be greatly appreciated.

Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*