Part 1: This is Not Another Millennial Think-Piece

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What sinks you as you peer trepidatiously at the path ahead?

If you were raised by a culture who celebrates the Linear Path and rewards you when you reach each of the distinct bus stops along the way, you’ve armed yourself with the tools and technologies to reach each of those stops. You put blinders up against anything that will stand in your way. You relish in the collection of the college degree, the job, the spouse, the kids, the house, the car, the 401k, even when the people younger than you are telling you you’re boring and that you are ruining the world.

If you were raised by a culture who celebrates the Wandering Path and rewards you when you find your unique purpose, you’ve armed yourself with the tools and technologies to explore the experience. You tear down walls that keep you away from the scenery. You relish in the collection of the street smarts, the tribe, the trips, the arts, the mindfulness, the saving the world, even when the people older than you are telling you you’re too entitled and that you are ruining the world.

At least that’s what the stereotypical media think-pieces tell us anyway. We’ve done a pretty good job at pitting generations against one another. Tale as old as time. It’s my way or the highway. Get off my lawn. Shh, I’m tweeting.

It’s about time that the generational Clash of the Titans isn’t so much a gap to be surveyed and scrutinized, but rather a gap to be bridged. If anything else, for the sake of the success of your company.

By 2025, Millennials are projected to comprise 75 percent of the workforce (1). At that time, Millennials will range from ages 29 to 44—the sweet spot in one’s career—young enough to make some risky moves, wise enough to take over the world. At 75 percent, that’s a lot of risk and rule-age.

Some people are frightened because they believe in their heart of hearts that the whole world will go to hell in a hand basket with Millennials at the helm. As if all businesses will be start-ups with nap pods, video games, and beer, and nothing will get accomplished. (Note that these counter-culture perks were not invented by Millennials at the helm, but I digress.)

Hyperboles aside, yes, younger people do seek a different kind of work culture, but it has nothing to do with the nap pods bonuses themselves. Rather, these perks represent a philosophical shift in employee priorities. Passion over profits. Balance over bank accounts. Life to be lived over working to death. Nap pods are basically the symbol for a company with leadership who is open to ideas that break convention to build a better, smarter, happier workforce (and maybe also cool with taking a quick siesta because you were on a call with India at 3:00 am this morning, yet still have to work until 8:00 pm tonight - a subject for another time).

But in a world that moves even more quickly each day, and in an economy that’s barely pulled itself together after nearly 20 years in and around the toilet (2), can we afford our metaphorical nap pods? Is it too risky to wander around searching for our true calling?

In part two, I’ll answer that question, but spoiler alert: A man does not live by bread alone, especially when the bread could be snatched from your hands at the drop of a terror attack or bank bailout.

Instability breeds alternatives. Alternatives breed innovation. Innovation is blind to age and generational labels.

Now which one do you think you could use: an Escape Route or a Mentor? Find it...

Katie Robleski