Every generation has stereotypes about them that follow them wherever they go. Baby Boomers are spoiled and obtuse. Generation X is cynical and contrarian. We Millennials, and you’ve heard this in the news and online, are selfish and entitled, amongst other things. Like all stereotypes, they have a basis in reality, even if that reality is ephemeral or tritely stated.
Regardless, it is incumbent upon us to not fall into the patterns of stereotypes.
Here a few ways to confound and delight people who are not members of our generation. And yes, I am aware that this means changing your very nature, at least on the surface. And I’m also aware that this sounds pretentious. In any event, try them sparingly:
Slow down. Non-Millennials aren’t going to be able to keep up with our flittering attention spans. We’re a multi-tasking generation, and on the flip side, we are unable to keep our attentions focused on one thing for a prolonged period of time. It’s a positive development in the sense that we need to do this in order to keep up with the rest of the world, but it’s a negative one when concentration is required on something for more than a short while. Attempt to focus on something, anything. Meditate. Learn an instrument. Both will make you more interesting, too. Additionally, when explaining Foursquare and Instagram and Twitter to Octogenarians, don’t get exasperated; this is an entirely other world to them. Even the words themselves (Twitter primarily) are some type of joke to them. And honestly, can you blame them for laughing?
Don’t be cocky. Cockiness, while undesirable, is understandable if you’ve done something impressive. Graduating from college is not impressive. Congratulations, you’re now one of hundreds of millions. It depends on how you fill your time after graduation day that will matter.
Don’t humble-brag. It’s the worst thing anyone can do, let alone a Millennial. For example, don’t say, “I’m so grateful that I went to grad school and didn’t have to straight into the work force” to a group of janitors. Don’t talk about your trips to Italy, Indonesia, or India, to a 23-year old single mother of three. I should write an entire column on humble-bragging later. Be humble, and not just fake humble. If you’re twenty, guess what, you don’t have all of life’s answers. Even if you make it to 100, you won’t have all of life’s answers. Relax.
Don’t whine. Millennials are known as whiners. Stop feeding the perception that we’re pampered and entitled. If you’re going to complain, at least make it constructive. And being constructive depends on the situation at hand.
Don’t concentrate so hard on being unique. It’s the most conformist thing you can do. Concentrate on being the best version of yourself. Always strive to be what you are, not what you think you ought to be. Be happy, but not at the expense of others, including your long-term self.
Work hard. This is probably the broadest of the shibboleths I’m proposing, but seriously. How many times have you heard an employer say: “These young people just don’t want to work!” Or, “They’d rather just sit around and play on their phones than earn a paycheck!” I’m ad-libbing those lines, but the point is valid. I’ve known plenty of people my age who show up for a paycheck and that’s it. Show your employer that you’re not spoiled and entitled, and watch the surprise!
Plan ahead. This is one I struggle with most myself. Not just what you’re going to eat tonight, but how you’re going to eat in the future. Not just when you’re going to work, but what career you want as well. Set short- and long-term goals, and you’ll be surprised how much you find out about yourself.
Exercise good judgment. This is the very hardest thing to do, and this is something not strictly related to being a Millennial. Good judgment is something that is absolutely formulated in your twenties. It’s the difference between Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill; James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. The only way to get better at it is to practice it, whenever possible. Say that its 10PM, and you have to get up early for work. Do you have a coffee with a shot of espresso? Or do you try to sleep now, even if you’re not really tired? Start exercising good judgment now.