80% of Success

One more day, I say…one more day and I think I’ll have some fun news on the Stealing the Sun front (he says as he bails water out of his schedule)


Nick Kendall, a millennial, and the guy who also happens to be married to my daughter, wrote this post about the idea of participation trophies. In it he argues, using his own cantankerous form of the language, that it is not the millennial generation that is spoiled and expecting of rewards for just making an appearance (though wasn’t it the distinctly non-millennial Woody Allen who said that 80% of success as just showing up?). The problem, he argues quite well, was their parents.

I think the argument is pretty much spot on.

I’ll leave you to read his post, which I suggest you do.

My own experience with the millennial generation as a parent conforms to his view. A lot of parents of a lot of kids I knew were unable to deal with the conflict inherent in having kids growing up in their houses. Adding to the mix, a lot of parents live vicariously through their kids. A “failed” kid is a failed parent, and we can’t have that.

Now, look, I know I’m generalizing. #NotAllParents, in the vernacular. And #NotAllKids. But that’s what we do, right? We generalize. At least that’s the generalizing stereotype I hear people of my generation and older making when they talk about millennials.

That said, I think there is a difference in this millennial gang and my gang. I spent years in the corporate arena attempting to figure out how people worked–how to make policy and create environments where people could achieve their optimum performance. My experience with the millennial generation at work is not that they are looking for hand-holding, but that (unlike earlier generations) they showed up for work on day one expecting to be valuable—wanting to do something more than grunt work. They wanted and expected the company to do something for them at the same time that they accomplished something for the company.

Imagine that, right? I mean, imagine thinking that a company should be indebted to people who do the actual work, and should help people, even early employees, by enabling them to do something that is valuable to them as well as purely productive for the company. I understand that’s different from what came before, but I think it’s hella healthy relative to the alternative. My generation sat on a transition front—when I went to work, the idea of Individual Development was looked at pretty much slantwise. The idea of career progression was still heavily reliant upon the idea that you should just be happy that someone decided to hire you. You owed them big time, and you really should just kind of shut up and stay in your corner until your dues were paid, at which point you got someplace better…

You catch the irony there, right? Don’t you?

Okay, let me spell it out for you. The irony here is that in my era as a new employee, you fundamentally got to a better place by just showing up for long enough that they had to promote you. Sure, there was a bit of meritocracy to things, but seniority was and still is a big deal in the corporate environment, and anyone who says otherwise is missing a lot. And that’s the thing with seniority, isn’t it? You show up long enough, PARTICIPATE for long enough, and do at least well enough to keep from getting fired, and you advance. I wonder where I’ve heard of that before? [grin]

Anyway, there’s something wrong with the idea that you have to plan to come to work for X years of grunt labor before the company deigns give you something that feeds your soul.

So, yeah, #NotAllMillennials, and #NotAllKids.

The cool thing here is that all that coddling does not actually seem to have harmed them. Maybe they needed a little more time to figure out how to work in hierarchies. Maybe they needed more time to figure out who they were. Dunno. But in the end, I think their way of viewing the world–their ideas of hat leadership is and how they decide to follow it, is pretty danged okay. Overall, anyway. I think they’re fine.

After all, it’s not the millennials that have screwed the pooch on this whole “vote the country to the edge of destruction” thing now, is it?

Their parents, however … well … there’s a topic for another day.

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