THOUGHTS ON THE MILLENNIAL PARADOX A Table Talk with a Father and Daughter

jana-dad

Recently, a video clip of Tom Bilyeu interviewing motivational speaker, Simon Sinek on his show Inside Quest was circulating around Facebook Land. My daughter and I noticed it because it was titled “Simon Sinek Explains the Millennial Paradox.”

It peaked my and Jana’s interest because her daughter/my granddaughter is a Millennial.

We didn’t know who Tom Bilyeu or Simon Sinek were but we love millennials, so we clicked the play button and for 15 minutes were educated about the Millennial plight. 

As we watched we were particularly drawn to Simon’s genuine nature. He seemed passionate about what he was talking about and believable. Simon began by defining how millennials have been described by leadership in corporations as entitled, narcissistic, unfocused, and lazy. 

Then Simon went on to explain that millennials are the way they are because of poor parenting strategies, citing parents that gave their children what they wanted when they wanted it, creating an instant gratification generation and other parents that didn’t allow their child to fail, thus devaluing their achievements. Add to that poor coping mechanisms to deal with stress that Sinek attributed to addiction (to social media and cell phone) and finally he concludes that millennials have lower self-esteem than previous generation, through no fault of their own, that they were “dealt a bad hand.”

In his final admonishment he speaks to corporations, stating that “It’s a total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do. They were dealt a bad hand. I hate to say it but it’s the companies responsibility, sucks to be you, like we have no choice, right? This is what we got, and I wish their parents and society would have done a better job. They didn’t, so we’re getting them in our companies and we now have to pick up the slack. We have to work extra hard to figure out the ways to build their confidence. We have to work extra hard to find ways to teach them the social skills they are missing out on.” 

Then his pinnacle conclusion that the reason millennials are the way they are is because they were “dealt a bad hand” and that their best case scenario, “as an entire generation, was growing up and going through life and never really finding joy. They’ll just waft through life but never find joy” just broke our hearts. 

So Jana and I set out to have a dialogue or table talk if you will about what we were hearing. I know this blog is longer but I want to introduce Jana to you and how a father/daughter combination can seriously discuss this issue of the Millennial Paradox. It’s a discussion that we ended up moving over to email and our separate blogs in order to capture our thoughts in writing so as to participate in the greater conversation.

Let me invite you to hear the conversation. Feel free to weigh in if you like.

Jerry: My first thought as I watched this guy, Simon, give his ‘expert’ opinion, his ‘diagnosis’ on the problem was that he offered no hope. Where is the hope?

Jana: You’re right dad. Although I felt hopeful when I initially started watching his talk, I realized that what I actually felt was his excitement as he set a tone of confidence regarding his knowledge of the topic. In the end, there was no hope in his message. It was dire diagnosis and all Simon could prescribe ultimately, was for corporations to bear the load and try to repair this generation the best they can.

Jerry: It’s interesting how perspective can expose issues. Much of what Simon said was funny and seemed to resonate an image of a millennial. Simon was very persuasive about identifying millennials but as I was listening my question was “Who is defining this?”

Coming from an understanding of Marketing and Counseling (Twisted Thinking) combined, I know that anyone who is the definer of a problem gets to control the process. 

Jana: Yes, he seemed knowledgeable and I agree with much of what Simon said about screen addiction. I agree that millennials, as a whole, were even dealt a bad hand. However, if I’m playing poker and I’m dealt a bad hand, am I not still responsible for how I play it? 

Jerry: True, when he started to emphasize that a millennial is a millennial because they were dealt a bad hand, through no fault of their own, my ears perked up. Whether he meant to or not, he just promoted what I call Martyred Thinking. 

Out of Martyred Thinking develops a prearranged tactic that avoids responsibility so the person claiming they’ve been dealt a bad hand (whether its true or not) can go do what they want to do. It becomes a platform of pursuing anything that is forbidden.

How do I know this? I’ve been working with Criminal and Twisted Thinkers for years in clinical settings where individuals have perpetrated unconscionable acts on others as a result of taking this closed stance on being a victim. 

There is no hope for integrity, dignity, and living responsibly with people who insist they have been dealt a bad hand and use that belief to support why they become addicts of one sort or another. The blame game isn’t a new thing. It’s been repeated politically, religiously and socially throughout history.

The drug of choice or addiction of choice, at that point, is what I call the excitement of what is forbidden. This phenomenon leads to inflated views of self and not low self-esteem as Simon suggested in the video. It leads to a stubbornness, recklessness, impatience at not being instantly gratified and the result is that others will experience the brunt of it.

Jana: I was hoping Simon would give us something deeper, some of his optimism he’s famous for. I was hoping he would talk about the heart issue and empower the millennial to “play their hand well” but he seemed to make any hope for the Millennial everyone elses problem, thus paralyzing them. 

Jerry It’s definitely a heart or character issue. 

Much of what Simon taught was old hat. Baby Boomers (Eighty Million of us) weren’t using I Phones, I Pads, or technology to produce the chemical reactions we wanted to feel “okay” or superior physically/emotionally/spiritually.

In my day it was all out drugs and sex. Just think Woodstock and you’ll remember. People then weren’t good at relationships either. They tuned out, zoned out and dropped out in droves. 

Experts or the definers of the process want to say it’s not the kids fault, that it’s a matter of parenting but the truth is that experts are scared of not being in control and the go to is that the “you were dealt a bad hand”, so billions of dollars can be spent on reorganizing the chaos or lethargy at hand.

There is no hope for those who would rather blame their environment or station in life by using Martyred Thinking to go and do whatever feels good and is forbidden. The arrogance that exudes from Martyred Thinking isn’t about low self-esteem but about being or thinking a person is entitled and if anyone gets in the way of their entitlement, a prearranged tactic to avoid accountability and responsibility is launched. 

As I watched the video I saw many faces that did not look hopeful but rather had a look in their eyes that said “how can I use what Simon is saying for my benefit.” 

Twisted thinking is very exciting and useful for people who default to “I’ve been dealt a bad hand” and that’s why a person who is practicing twisted thinking would have a core belief that says, “I’m self loathing or am having an identity crises thus I flounder and NEED technology to satisfy my thirst for well-being and want. Then I can BE and not have to worry about relationships which don’t work well. Give me my Xbox or Snap Chat and that’s living!”

Jana: This is familiar and as I look back on my teens and 20’s I know that I was a well-practiced Martyred thinker, blaming you and mom for not protecting me from abuse and from the pain of betrayal. 

It worked for me for a while. I felt a sense of freedom and lived a reckless and exciting life.  I did the drugs, redefined my sexuality and tried to distance myself from your religion. Think Footloose, The Breakfast Club and Trainspotting. I believed that I was dealt a bad hand and I spent a lot years playing that hand by operating in victim-stance, manipulating and lying to get my way. However, when I fell pregnant with my daughter my perspective was rocked to the core and for the first time I was able to see myself clearly in the mirror. What I saw was hopelessness, isolation and a great chasm between myself and others. It was then that I remember really having to work through a false belief that you and mom did not do all you could to give me a leg up. I knew it wasn’t the truth but it was very hard to let go of that belief for it had become so much apart of my identity. I was afraid of losing “myself” or more likely losing my sense of control. 

I believe that my plight was an indicator, a symptom, of the deep depravity of the human condition that we are ALL subject to. When I finally really looked at my hand and realized that the only good play was to fold, I found hope. 

I asked for a new hand and I found new life, real freedom and a deep reconnection with self, with you and mom, with my Creator and with others.

Jana: So is there any merit to what Simon is saying?  

Jerry: Simon really did have some sound things to say but in defining the problem like he did, he put himself in control of the process. What process?

The process that leaves the listener left empty unless they can agree that “Yeah, he’s right. Parenting is why I’m the way I am. Yeah, somebody is going to have to pay for this. I have a right to continue to live as a person who has learned helplessness and get away with it.” 

I’m not saying there aren’t environments that foster or influence this Martyred Thinking mindset for decision-making. But what I am saying, is like in a test tube, unless it’s proven right every time in the laboratory, it’s not really true science. Conscious or unconsciously, Simon just threw so many millennials out there into his beaker of Martyred Thinking who aren’t martyred thinkers. They don’t buy into what Simon has said because they’re out there creating, building, engaging and valuing relationships. 

Jana: Yes, I know many of them. They’re innovative, passionate and responsible but what about the others, where is the hope for the those listening to Simon’s talk and identify with his findings, those who believe they were dealt a bad hand and are functioning in the belief that it isn’t their fault. Where is the hope for them?  

Jerry: For me, hope for change would have been to have this expert call out their* responsibility for their laziness and to own how it hurts others. 

Hope for change would have been for this expert to call out how their sense of entitlement hurts others deeply because others are treated as property that have no choice but to endure their selfishness. 

(by the way, *their represents us all, whether we’re talking about Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or whoever) 

People who activate any Martyred Thinking have no empathy and where there is no empathy an individual is capable of doing unconscionable harm. That doesn’t look like HOPE to me.

Hope encourages self-respect and the respect of others.

The thought that Simon gave about the need to value and develop relationship was right on, but this need transcends to us all. Pointing the finger at parenting or other places of society as those who are the problem, those who dealt the bad hand, actually breaks down the relational concept he is promoting. 

As you have shown in your own story Jana, something happens that’s good on the inside of a person who has come to terms with their responsibility and accountability for who they decide to be. 

Yes, it’s true we can be and are shaped by our personal history but we are not defined by it. There’s HOPE in that. 

HOPE that pursues life! 

Unwittingly, that was missed in the talk this expert gave. 

2 thoughts on “THOUGHTS ON THE MILLENNIAL PARADOX A Table Talk with a Father and Daughter

  1. Jerry & Jana, loved the post. I saw the Simon Sinek video about a month ago and was fascinated at his take on Millennials. Really enjoyed your open conversation about it. You both make great points. I am in agreement, Jerry, that at the end of the day, no generation can neglect the personal responsibility when it comes to behavior. The problems or complaints in each generation are different with various challenges. The bottom line is that without God, the motivation to make changes comes down to how we each see our “little Kingdoms.” Unfortunately, that type of attitude towards change never ends well. There is hope and I see it with my sons. There is a strong group of Millennials that really “get it” from a spiritual and work ethic perspective. I am excited for the next generation and I am seeing signs of the pendulum swinging back to an appreciation for values-based decision making. Thanks again for your perspective…loved the format!