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 Clowns to the left of me, jokers on the right…

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If you’ve been on any social media channel recently, you’ve no doubt seen the graphic from CBS news describing the generational differences in the workplace. The content isn’t new or even that useful, but the reason you’ve seen it is because whoever designed the graphic described the Baby Boom Generation, then went directly to the Millennial Generation and completely left out Generation X. An entire generation was left off the graphic and social media had a hay day about it. As a member of the last half of GenX, I’m not insulted. In fact, I’m used to it. It didn’t offend me, but it highlighted something really interesting to me: Two Generations Can’t Get Along and We’re Stuck In The Middle. 

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Being bookended by two of the biggest generations in history has it’s advantages though. Chief among them, we get to be objective observers in a fight raging in American workplaces. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

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Every Generation Needs A Generation Who Are Lazy And Entitled

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Before it was settled (unfairly by the way) that millennials are lazy and entitled, it was us, GenX who had that honor. Before us, yeah it was the Boomers. They called us the M-TV Generation because, presumably, that’s all we did was watch M-TV. When the Baby Boom Generation was coming of age, it was said that they needed to “get a haircut and get a real job.” If you listen closely to Millenials, you’ll hear them describe the next generation, Gen Z or Post-Millenials that they’re lazy and entitled. It’s a fact of life. Your generation will always be better and had it harder than the generation coming of age. It strikes me as funny that everything being said of Millenials was said of Boomers first. It wasn’t true then and it’s not now. 

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Millennials Get A Bad Wrap

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We blame them for spending too much time on their phones. Cool, so does EVERYONE. 

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“Everyone got a trophy” It’s funny because they didn’t ask for them and they were given by the very people now complaining about them. There’s also quite a bit of science out there that says rewarding effort rather than outcomes is the best way to develop kids with grit and persistence. 

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“They job hop and never stay anywhere.” BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. The boomers won’t retire and Xer’s won’t be able to so in order to simply make a living, they have to move. Keep in mind they have more student loan debt than any generation in history so it seems like they have unrealistic expectations for income, it’s because their lenders have unrealistic expectations of loan payments. 

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We have in this generation, the most technically skilled and best-educated workforce we’ve ever seen. So much so that managers don’t know how to handle it so it becomes easier to just write them off as difficult. It’s untrue and unfair and companies that do so will be left holding the bag. 

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Millenials NEED More Compassion Toward Baby Boomers

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If it seems like you’re co-workers in their late 50s and early 60s are always tired and always cranky, maybe we should examine why. I clearly see it with my own parents. Up until recently, my Millenial brother was still living in their basement and my 85-year-old grandmother is aging just around the corner. Their parents are living longer and their children are staying at home leaving them as the sandwich generation; still raising kids while caring for aging parents. They had intended this to be the best years of their lives but they’re running themselves into the ground burning the candle at both ends. The patience that Millennials demand for themselves has to go both ways. 

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Just like I’m happy to be excluded from the CBS graphic, I’m happy to be excluded from the conflict, but since we’re stuck in the middle, GenX has a pretty good view of both sides and sees that neither is right and neither is wrong. Neither is difficult so much as they’re just different but if we work to understand those differences, the difficulty is diminished. 

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This is a true story. I haven’t even changed the names to protect the guilty.  If you’ve poked around this blog at all, you’ve noticed that discipline is a big subject for me. In just about every post, I will somehow allude to the fact that discipline separates winners from losers. I’m a big believer in not neglecting the small daily disciplines that add up to big successes. I’m constantly telling people to sweat the small stuff.  I’m also a big believer in hard work. I even wrote a post about how my generation watched their parents preach work/life balance to the point that they forgot to work. It’s a pretty big high horse I’ve been riding around on and that’s why for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I was stuck. I, Mr. Discipline, was being lazy. I, Mr. Sweat The Small Stuff, was neglecting all of the little things that I knew were easy to do. I was embarrassed, I was ashamed, and I was depressed. 

How Could This Happen?

While I was still showing up for work every day, it had been a long time since I had been showing up in my life. It was kind of a fog and I slowly moving through it, making all kinds of good excuses, and I was good at it. In fact, I am a world class excuse maker. I blamed the fact that they fair ended. I blamed the fact that I didn’t like summer. I blamed the fact that no one was reading my blog. I blamed my diet. (There’s actually something to this one, but that’s another story.) I was blaming everyone and everything except for some reason, I couldn’t blame myself.  Let me add at this point that the two things that I despise the most are weakness and laziness. I despise them the most when I see them in myself and for the month of August, it was on full display. I wasn’t eating well. I was weak. I wasn’t going to the gym. I was lazy. I wasn’t developing content, reading, working on myself or for myself. I was being lazy and weak. 

The Big Mo

Just recently, after a really enlightening coaching call where I was called out on all of my bullshit, I was hit with a startling realization; I’m not dealing with a laziness problem, I’m dealing with a momentum problem.  If you know me at all, what you’ve read above is probably pretty surprising. I’m known for my work ethic. I’m known for my discipline. I’m known for having only one speed; wide open. I don’t take days off. I don’t take breaks and I don’t cheat on my diet. I’m pretty much an all or nothing sort of person. Moderation has never really worked well for me. And this is my problem. I’m not good at taking a break before I need it. I keep going until I’m burned out and then the laziness and weakness that I despise so much creep back in and steal my resolve. I haven’t had the discipline to rest and it’s killed my progress.   As long as I’m rolling, it’s pretty easy to keep me moving. I enjoy working and I enjoy the process. I actually enjoy the discipline. It’s once I stop, that getting me moving again become a task of monumental proportion. One day off becomes three. Three days turn into a week and then I’ve wasted an entire month making excuses. The frustrating part of all of this is that it could have been avoided if I had just forced myself to slow down. Not stop, but slow down before I needed all of my efforts again. I didn’t but wish like hell now that I had. 

What This Means

This is a longer, more personal than normal post. I’m writing it because of this realization that a really good coach helped me hit upon has lessons applicable to almost anyone. Building virtually anything is a game of momentum. It’s so much easier to keep going than it is to start over from a dead stop. In the future, I’m going to be more mindful of when I just need to slow down and find the strength that I know I have to find the discipline to rest. ]]>