Part 2: This is Not Another Gen X / Boomer Think-Piece

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Last time I put my stake in the ground. There is a new normal when it comes to modern-day labor and it isn’t so much the responsibility of Boomers and Gen Xers to understand Millennials and their quirks, but rather to support the path toward fulfillment they seek in order to rebuild a sense of stability in an age with more volatility and variety.

Nearly 20 years into the new Millennium, and as a more progressive, technologically-advanced, and I dare say evolutionarily-advanced species—let’s be honest—no matter what our birth year, many of us either want to fully participate in, or at least covet, this new Age of Enlightenment. To punch-in, push paper around for eight hours, and punch-out (actually or metaphorically) is no longer the flag you wave to show the world you are winning at life. (Was it ever?)

Let’s go back to the very beginning of the path when you had your whole life ahead of you.

Let’s take a walk.

Linear Pather or Wanderer?

The Fast Track. Say you’re a Linear Pather. While the straight and narrow looks easy enough to manage—safe, stable—you might fear and even experience a lack of choice and variety, perpetually climbing the proverbial ladder with no time to stop and take in the view. Keeping up with the Joneses forces you to keep your eyes on the investment portfolio rather than those silly things they call “your dreams.” But doubt creeps in and perhaps you start to feel hopeless about ever achieving your full potential. To others, you might look stodgy when, in fact, you’re simply stuck. The Assembly Line. You yearn for an escape route, the weekend, those little vacations, and finally retiring so you can kinda feel like a kid again when responsibilities didn’t weigh you down. Youth is wasted on the young.

The Adventure.
Say you’re a Wanderer. While the meandering path looks promising—filled with excitement and potential—you might fear and even experience toiling in destitution as you struggle to find your way and your paycheck. You make a lot of mistakes to figure it out, but sometimes—with such a variety of possibilities before you—analysis paralysis will stop you dead in your tracks. To others you might look lazy when, in fact, you’re simply daunted. The Wild Goose Chase. You yearn for a mentor, a guide, a sage to show you the right way, so you can finally fulfill that purpose you seek. Wisdom is wasted on the old.

When you look back now at your path, what are your regrets?

There are two very exciting corporate positions ripe for the taking: The Escape Route and The Mentor.

The Escape Route promises outside-the-box innovation that can get a you to the finish line faster, richer, and smarter than the other guys who are spinning their broken records. The Mentor promises guidance and insights based on both historical experiences and projection-based wisdom that can get you through the same rough patch that traps everyone with decision fatigue and a zeroed out bank account.

The trick is: these two players need one another to win the hand. There’s a dance here, a partnership, that requires putting on the other’s shoes for a bit, wearing the soles down to holes, so that you can feel the road underneath. What’s it like to walk on grass and gravel, when excitement and peril lurk behind the brush? What’s it like to walk on that fresh coat of interstate asphalt, when concrete barriers block the view?

Wanderers crave to be noticed for their voice, their unique skill set, their ideas, and their raw talents. Deep down they want to work hard—maybe harder than their parents and their parents’ parents—if it means that their own dash of creativity adds to the exciting, innovative future that’s in a constant state of flux. The internet created this hypervigilance. Their evolution (and revolution) is on blast. The internet ushered in an era in which a Wanderer’s qualities are much more noticeable, marketable, and even sustainable because funding is more accessible. Harness those qualities and you’ll win: there’s your Escape Route.

Linear Pathers crave to be noticed for their work ethic, their finely articulated playbooks, and their unwavering need to succeed. They see themselves as the backbone of this whole damn thing. Deep down they want to leave a legacy themselves, a set of rules that set a dynasty into motion. Time and experience created this hypervigilance. Their progress is on public display. History ushered in an era of transition, of passing the baton to those worthy of its receipt. Youth isn’t necessarily waiting in the wings to tear it all apart, but build upon that legacy. Harness that wisdom and you’ll win: there’s your Mentor.

Succession in obviously inevitable and it really is up to all of us in the workforce to drop the finger pointing and man our respective battle stations. Gen X now accounts for 51% of leadership roles globally (1). With Boomer retirement on the rise [to the tune of 10,000 every day (2)], Gen X is primed to swoop into the most important roles of their lives.

These posts were not Millennial/Gen X/Boomer think-pieces, but rather calls-to-action during an incredibly important time of transition in our capitalist economic culture.

What does this all have to do with your business’s brand story?

That’s up to you. Are you the hero who needs help? Or are you the help that needs a hero?

Take a closer look at your own company culture, your numbers, your attrition, your audience, your wins, and your losses. You might be surprised to find who you really are and who you really need.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to ponder and protect the thread we’ve started here as we continue to share with you how powerful and pivotal a strong company culture is in this modern age.

Katie Robleski