My generation’s favorite past time, it seems, is critiquing Millennials, who have been around just long enough to lose their allure.
The editorials about the “digital-native generation” have given way to hatchet pieces about the “social media generation,” labeling Millennials as self-centered, coddled youth.
Millennials are lazy. Millennials lack an appreciation for hard work and loyalty. Millennials expect success to come with two day shipping.
If all that is true, then why are Millennials living better than Boomers?
Boomers Never Figured Out How To Be Happy.
The problem is, my generation hasn’t figured success or happiness out. Year after year, the Gallup Poll finds that two thirds of Americans are unhappy in their job. Anecdotally, I can support that.
I work as a coach to CEOs, presidents, and leaders from all industries. Before starting this career, I was a VP at Goldman Sachs. I’ve had access to a network of highly-successful people for a very long time, and you know what I’ve found to be true?
Not only are most of them unhappy, most of them don’t consider themselves successful.
Millennials are starting out their careers with a knowledge that we didn’t. They know that happiness and success have relative definitions, not in some dorm-room philosophy way, but in terms of actual business.
Why Millennials Are Natural Leaders—And Why No One Sees It
The average Millennial changes careers 4 times before their mid-30s. Many call that disloyalty, but it’s actually leadership. They don’t buy into the value of a long relationship with a company, or of putting years in the mailroom to get your foot in the door. And you know why they don’t?
Because we raised them.
They watched us, their parents, lose our “stable careers” in 2008. They heard us talk about the disappearing act pensions pulled. They watched strong, young leaders take new technologies and topple entire industries. They saw what happens when someone else owns the wheels, and what you can achieve when you’re in control.
Now, my experience working with Millennials is admittedly different than most. I’ve never had to sort through resumes or interview Millennials for an entry-level position. My clients are at the top of their companies, and until recently, Millennials just hadn’t had time to get there.
Now that they are running things though, it’s clear to me that Millennials are far beyond their years. My first “Millennial encounter” came while writing my first book, Do What You Want On Wall Street. The company I worked with to write and publish the book, Book in a Box, was co-founded by a young 20-something named Zach Obront.
My first interaction with Zach was interesting. He was the opposite of business culture, but the embodiment of leadership. He didn’t wear shoes in the office, he didn’t have an assistant, he was in many ways as far from familiar as possible for me.
But he had something all great leaders have: focus. He was manic about analyzing my problems, giving me solutions, and setting something in motion immediately.
Was that typical Millennial impatience? No. He was just completely uninterested in the typical business culture, and obsessed with solving problems—which is the point of business.
Millennials Will Be The Death Of A Useless Business Culture
Getting to know Zach better, he checked so many of the standard Millennial boxes. Millennials change careers 4 times by the time they’re 32? Zach has started around 15 companies, and he’s 26. Millennials are too casual? Zach doesn’t own a suit.
But here’s what else Zach does: He works longer hours than anyone I’ve ever met—and I worked on Wall Street—yet he’s never burnt out. In fact, he’s almost always happy, bordering on giddy.
My generation has created a massive checklist of qualities that we define as “professional,” as necessary for success. We did that because we have never been in control.
Millennials don’t have time for any of that. They are a generation that has been in command of their own lives since they were teenagers. Even as kids, Millennials owned their identity via social media, carefully (or recklessly) deciding how to present themselves to the world.
Millennials don’t know how to give up control of their own lives. They are entrepreneurs by default. They aren’t soft idealists—compared to us they’re hardened cynics.
We can whine and moan, but the future belongs to a 20-something year old serial entrepreneur, who wears no shoes, works 14-hour days, and is happier than most of us have ever been.