Entitlement :: Chronic Illness of Millennials

Apparently, everyone is too important to do the dirty work. We're all creatives, changing the world one emotional YouTube video at a time. There should be jobs with six figure salaries waiting for us after our undergraduate degree. Our ideas are more lofty and meaningful than every generation before, and subsequently the best. 

It seems as though the millennial generation (those born in the 1980's to 2000's) deserves everything and owes nothing. After all, this is the generation that will change the world, unlike all those other, older people. And for this reason alone, not by anything already accomplished, millennials are entitled.  

We do not know a life without the internet, without the iPhone and without social media. But, they also do not know a life of World Wars, deep economic depression or a life where some of the best jobs were butchers and farmers. Instead,  our generation is made of social media "experts", branding "specialists" and eloquent "story tellers". Most of whose work would not be visible to the naked eye without some kind of screen and internet access.

Everyone now has a voice, and the millennial generation seems to increasingly believe it can do all things with little effort and no outside influence. We can all build a website, setup a Facebook page and make a tear jerking video; and to the older generations this looks like mastery of a skill. To quote Merlin Mann,

The issue comes in several decades, when the CEO's, CFO's and COO's of the last generation begin to wane and our generation is next at bat. Our skills of blogging and tweeting will be of little use then. We will need leaders, innovators, those people the late Steve Jobs called "The Crazy Ones." 

These skills of management, ability to inspire and motivate a team, how to act as a leader when your company is under attack ; they are not developed by gaining Twitter followers all day. This takes mentorship, trial by fire, failure after failure, and the experience of staring another human being in the eye and letting them know you can be held to your word.

On the flip side, those who have been in power for decades also suffer from entitlement. A common thought might be:

These "kids" don't care about anything, can't run a company and shouldn't be given the chance. 

For many this is true, but it is impossible for us to learn the skills needed to steer a ship without the opportunity to step up to the wheel.  Just because the CEO has been the CEO for 30 years does not discount the ideas of a younger generation. A new perspective can refresh a company's face (Yahoo), or possibly reveal a newer method of conducting business more effectively.

Entitlement on both ends are killing this generation's ability to lead. As millennials we must realize hard work, perseverance and failure are part of the learning process and not shy away from it. Or worse, believe we are too good for those things.

Meanwhile the older generation must not reject the younger because of their strange haircuts or use of words like "hashtag". There needs to be more mentoring, more learning, and for millennials, more growing up. 

Steve Jobs did not create one of the most successful companies in the world by staring at Twitter. He worked without ceasing. He recruited like minded people to his cause. He learned the value of having passion for your creation and seeing something through to its completion. And he began in his parents' garage, not some sofa filled startup office with ping pong tables.

I recently experienced entitlement from the wrong end. A musical ensemble I have performed in for the past five years held seating auditions this season. I sat as "last chair" trumpet because I was the youngest member of the trumpet section, and the newest to the group. The auditions were blind, I saw no judges and they did not see me. Results would be based purely on the performance given.

The fellow musicians I was up against have been in the orchestra 10-20 years. They have been loyal, faithful participants to the orchestra. But this audition would not take that into account. Only the ability to play our instruments would be judged.

Preceding the audition I practiced daily. Even if it meant playing my trumpet into a blanket as to not wake my children. I would practice at midnight. I ran through the pieces over and over, tried to increase my endurance and improve my tone.

After the auditions, I received the honor of Principal Trumpet. 

My initial reaction was joy; appreciation. I was excited to once again lead a section in the orchestra as I had done in college. This could be a learning experience and a period of growth as a musician.

Unfortunately, the results of the audition were devastating to the other players. The previous lead who had held the position for 20 years was hurt and angry. The third musician who has been a long time friend was also discouraged. In turn they have directed some of these feelings toward me.

Yes, loyalty to an organization should count for something, and these musicians have certainly been faithful. But the results were based on one thing: ability to play the instrument. The current situation could be a wonderful time of mentorship as I learn from the previous lead trumpet as he sits right next to me each rehearsal and performance. 

But, he felt entitled to the position I now possess. So instead of a joyful learning experience, rehearsals are now a slog where every note I play is critiqued and looked down upon. My opportunity for tutelage has been stolen.

My plea to the generations that have come before: Not all millennials feel entitled. Some genuinely believe in hard work, learning from someone with experience,  and may actually have some fresh ideas. Don't discount someone because of their age or their peers.

Now, for you, the millennial. I am a part of your generation, with the same desire to change the world, tomorrow. I understand having a plethora of ideas all at once and wanting to pursue every one of them. The constant nagging that something can be done a better, more efficient way. But...

Stop being a punk. 

Your manager or boss may not know a tweet from a Tumblr, but that doesn't mean he lacks all knowledge. Their years of experience selling a product, providing quality customer service, dealing with the infinite variations of client dissatisfaction has taken a long time to cultivate. It may take someone from an older generation months to setup their first Wordpress site, but it will take you years to win the trust of clients and partners alike.

Seek mentorship. Find someone who has a head for business, who has led a company to success, who has changed the landscape of their field. Then be quiet and learn from them. Technology and the world around us may change, but the relationship between a company and its clients is still based on fundamentals. Good customer service, clear communication, leading people; these qualities will stand the test of time.

The plea to my generation: Admit you have something to learn and allow those who have gone before to teach us. Receive instruction and correction with grace. And if you disagree with someone in authority, speak with respect and honor them. 

Recently, I voluntarily stepped down from a position where I led a team made up of individuals younger and older than myself. The middle-aged gentlemen did not take to being under my leadership right away. Granted, he knew significantly more about certain areas of sound and production, but I also possessed knowledge he did not.

Over the few months of being on my team I came to respect and admire this individual. He had years of experience and I sought his counsel many times. Soon he would lean on my knowledge for certain things as well, and we both benefitted.

When I announced I was leaving the position, members of my team each spoke a word of encouragement to me. His words were especially meaningful. 

You've shown me that I still have a thing or two I could learn from someone younger.