Birthday Blues and Gen Y
Today is another milestone on my path in life (my birthday) and I always grow contemplative and melancholy on this day each year. When I was a kid it was all about having my birthday being ‘lost’ due to the impending Christmas holiday (“hey Steve, you’ll get your ‘combo’ bday/xmas present on Christmas!”) and I was more sad than anything else. As I moved in to adulthood, this day was all about thinking through the meaning of the year of my life just passed, what I accomplished, and whether or not I made a difference in the world.
Has mine been a wonderful life? I often wonder. Today, more than any other, is the time these thoughts swirl around in my head faster than any other day throughout the year. Though some think it’s sappy and is an overused metaphor for contemplating one’s impact on the world, I still watch It’s A Wonderful Life almost every year…and it has the same heart-tugging, introspective effect on me every time.
Most people have reflective thoughts like these on New Year’s Eve. Me? That evening feels like I’m on the precipice about to leap in to the future — and I always find myself enthusiastic, optimistic and eager for the new year to begin. I consider a new year to be all about renewal, possibilities and being my opportunity to re-engineer myself and focus on making a difference and being a “bright light” once again.
On the next page is content from an email I received from a buddy of mine last night. It is of the type that I almost *always* immediately delete — but I didn’t this time and it sparked thoughts about my “generational place” in the world and the continuing process of renewal.
I normally detest the urban legend, human interest story, funny picture emails that are often blasted around from person-to-person. The one below, however, arrived last evening and made me think about context, how far we’ve come technologically and that a new generation dubbed “Gen Y” — like all generations that have come before — is arriving in to adulthood with new context, new ideas and a fresh perspective on re-making the world.
My context is technology. Computing, communication, peer-to-peer, presence aware systems and tools that are enabling all of us to innovate and create value for the world in new and innovative ways. As those of us in technology rush ahead and drive toward re-tooling and re-making the world with tools and new approaches (and ‘go public’, cash in, and get to the good life), to me it’s always beneficial to consider the context of a new generation. Context is the catalyst that new generations enjoy enabling them to apply their intention, considerable energies, effort and fresh perspective to solving the world’s problems while kick-starting the engines of change and driving new opportunity.
Generation Y is the designation given to those who have been born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. They’re also called “echo boomers” (children of the baby boomers) or the “millenial generation” or “newmils” as they’re known in the United Kingdom.
This generation is race, creed and location blind. They have new ideas, new paradigms, different perspectives and, some say, are wired differently than the generation before. This is the generation that will design their babies all while hacking and optimizing their brains through new generations of pharmaceuticals (dubbed neuroceuticals by blogger Zack Lynch). They are less interested in the labor paradigm of old and will be a motivation and training challenge. Marketing to them will be an interesting exercise and you’ll need tips to get them to listen and buy.
If you’re in your mid-twenties or beyond, in four years or so the 18 year olds of today will be the ones using their context to mold the world. So to end today’s “birthday blues” post of mine, let me leave you with some of the content of the email my buddy sent me last evening. I think you’ll agree that — if you put yourself within the context of the Gen Y’ers — it will help you understand where they’re coming from and the world that has shaped (and will continue to mold) their perspectives.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONTEXT
The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were born in 1986.
+ They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.
+ Their lifetime has always included AIDS.
+ Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.
+ The CD was introduced the year they were born.
+ They have always had an answering machine.
+ They have always had cable.
+ They cannot fathom not having a remote control.
+ Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.
+ Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.
+ They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.
+ They can’t imagine what hard contact lenses are.
+ They don’t know who Mork was or where he was from.
+ They’ve never heard: “Where’s the Beef?”, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel”, or “de plane, Boss, de plane”.
+ They do not care who shot J. R. and have no idea who J. R. even is.
+ McDonald’s never came in Styrofoam containers.
+ They don’t have a clue how to use a typewriter.
+ For them, there have always been personal computers.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.