We aren’t all that different, we get you - despite the media reports saying otherwise!
I’m a Boomer. I feel a little bit like Rose in the Titanic when she looks into the salvaged hand mirror. Though she was quite a bit older than me in the movie, I can still relate when she said, “the reflection’s changed a bit.” The important parts, however, which make us very similar, have not changed. Shall we take a look at them?
We Boomers were born between the years 1946 and 1964. Like you, the largest generation at the time, we took the world by storm. We were disruptors, advocating change and annoying our parents and co-workers who were considered to be “traditionalists” at the time. Unlike my generation, our parents had been through their formative years during an era of conformity. It was pre-feminism when women stayed home generally to raise children and only worked in certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary. Men pledged their loyalty to the company and generally kept their jobs for life. They were disciplined, self-sacrificing and cautious. And then, we showed up and life as they knew it would never be the same.
We came into the workforce as a driving force hoping to leave a legacy and leave our mark. Like you, we were independent and confident. I know that you are sometimes labeled “self-absorbed” but I believe that, in many instances, that just means that you have confidence. We wanted change and we stood up for it which was reflected in the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam rallies and feminist crusades. We were the catalyst for the sexual revolution making sure that the world knew that we had a right to be “in choice.”
We invented video tapes and records, the world wide web, DNA fingerprinting, the first diet drink, implantable artificial hearts, TV remote controls, the Apple II, OCR and text-to-speech technology, car phones followed by disposable cell phones, space travel, the first sexual reassignment surgery and Viagra. Born after WWII, we were optimistic that a bright future lay ahead. We believed in the American Dream, that we, ALL of us, could have anything we put our mind to.
As our parents had come from a place of scarcity during WW II, we worked at giving our children every opportunity. We made sure you lived in a nice house and if possible had your own room. We wanted you to go to the best of schools and take advantage of every experience from Suzuki violin to summers away – all those things that seemed extravagant to our parents but that we had yearned to do. We studied new parenting techniques that would ensure that you knew that you were special and different and had a right to have anything that your hearts wanted. We had fought for the disenfranchised and you would not be one of them.
And then, like all good intentions, we hit some bumps in the road. Our visions and hopes became shaky, we were exhausted and burned out and the economic downturn dramatically touched our families and the people we loved most were affected – including you.
Somehow, the original definition of the American Dream had changed in meaning during our watch and shifted from a noble one to one reflective of material pursuits. When the phrase American Dream was originally coined by writer James Truslow Adams in 1931, he said that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with the opportunity for each, according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.” He verified that “It is … a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and recognized by others, for what they are.”
The phrase had become overused however. We heard it in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, the American Dream Downpayment Act and the Forbes magazine American Dream Index. The media hyped the term day in and day out around the world and at home and we bought into it until we were brought to our knees with the reality that material things can’t equal happiness even if they provide for our families.
Within the next 17 to 20 years, it is likely that the youngest in our generation will have passed the baton on to the generations behind us. Although currently we still control a large percentage of power and wealth in the business world as we know it today, your purchasing power is impressive, and you have a different set of talents. And fortunately, at this point, you don’t seem to have been influenced by the last iteration of the American Dream – you see clearly the values that were originally intended by the author.
You are here to create a positive impact on this planet and those that inhabit it and we are thrilled to leave it in your capable hands. We have helped train you from the moment that you were born. The question that seems the most relevant to all of us is – Are you ready?
Do you understand the business world knowing that many things don’t change easily, particularly in the financial markets or regulatory and compliance areas?
Are you prepared to rally and lead your troops, garnering loyalty and making the hard decisions? Do you have the people to people skills?
Is your network in place? You can’t create the kind of movement or impact you desire with the “faceless millions” on the internet alone. You need a kitchen cabinet that you can call in the middle of the night when important decisions are to be made that affect countless lives.
Will you be faced with the same quandaries that your parents and theirs were faced in terms of keeping the lights on and food on the table and how will you do it differently?
Have you mined the years of knowledge from our generation and those before us? Because, it makes no sense to reinvent the proverbial wheel, we have no time for that, there is too much work to be done.
We are grateful that you are here and ready to begin the process of assuming the mantle. Technology changes but people don’t. At the end of the day, we all want to feel valued, respected and rewarded for our efforts, know that we have impacted others in a positive way, feel safe and secure and ensure our families are taken care of. Ultimately, we want to turn the lights out and close the door behind us knowing the job was well done.
Copyright © 2018 Linda Lattimore