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Social capital as currency

10 Sep

Yes, I hark on this point often: social capital is a form of currency.

While money is the currency most recognized in commercial transactions, alone it’s flat, bland and doesn’t tell the whole truth of an exchange and engagement. Nothing wrong with it. It does its job. It allows for transactions and exchanges, particularly when relationships of trust don’t exist, and sometimes when they do. 

Yet there is another form of currency, one rising in power and influence, particularily these past six-seven years, and one that helps distribute wealth to a larger group of people, and that’s the currency of one’s social capital. In looking at generations and in understanding that each generation forms and is formed by the surrounding generations and the cultural era in which it sits at whatever phase of life its in, I’ll bring forward again the claim that the Millennial generation (the Hero archetype and those born 1982-2004ish) will always “fight” for the “right to a middle-class existence.” They may not know this thought consciously, but they feel it deep within their individual and collective spirits. They are The Common Man, The Average Joe, generation (as much as they’ve been raised to be special … go figure).

GenXers, now in mid-life, trust no institutions, particularly not monetary, government institutions, and they feel instinctively that the primary wealth that matters is the skills, connections and resources that can be moved in a moment’s notice … things that travel with them. And that makes sense because GenXers are the Nomad archetype, per Strauss and Howe’s work

Social capital can take many forms: an introduction for a job opportunity or a date, bending some rules as a favor to someone to give them a break, encouraging acquaintances to try a new product or business service and many, many other forms. In particular, an area where I tread is as a party host. I host lots of parties, notably and recently with a bent for connecting local bloggers with readers, civil servants, politicians, reporters and everyday folk in the community.

These parties, while in some sense, I can do, figuratively, with my eyes closed, do take time and e-f-f-o-r-t. But the thing that makes them considerably easier for me is when a business (usually a restaurant) approaches me wanting to do the parties. Wanting to have the bloggers and readers at their venue. The energetic difference between having to explain, convince and sell someone vs simply organizing, planning and hosting a party is huge. And the easier the parties are for me to host, the more (quantity, type and frequency) I can host. 

So to all of you who take the five minutes to tweet and use the venue’s correct Twitter handle (so that they can see and witness your social capital in action), or to upload a photo to Instagram and tag it well, or to like the venue’s Facebook page and write a comment of thanks for their generosity in hosting us … and particularily for those of you who blog and take the time to write a post about a party, bless you and thank you. It’s an honor and joy to host the parties and to help people connect, and it’s not my show … it’s our event. I may be the organizer, but without the ecosystem of which you’re a part, it would be flat, bland and just another party. 

Amen for us!


Here are some examples of local parties and social capital currency.

HoCoBlogs at Nottingham’s 

Super Sana and Secolari

Storify and Second Chance Saloon

Annie Rie and Petit Louis Bistro






Comb-overs, faces covered in a mess of gray hair, embracing baldness and wearing hats: men, hair and generations

13 Mar

I like bald-headed men. Then again, I’m of the generation where men have embraced baldness rather than fighting it. Here’s my take on how how men approach their hair, through the lens of generations.

Silent Gen, b 1925-1942. Born too young to be GI Heroes and too late to be peace-love-n-rock-n-roll Boomers, Silent Gen men  hit midlife in an era of increasing desire for personal expression in what we now call the Consciousness Revolution. As a generation, they helped loosen the grips on responsibility and adulthood; they were the swingers of the ’70s. And they were the ones  who embraced the comb-over and toupe. They’been known for their bad, DIY home hair-coloring job, trying to be a generation younger and not succeeding. No need to say any more about this. Close your eyes and try not to remember.

Boomers, b 1943-1960. One of the core experiences of the Prophet generation (today’s Boomers) is that they first fight a new phase of life and deny the personal implications, then they embrace it, call it Good. They perceive of themselves as forever young (no one else does) until they finally embrace elderhood and become what are historically and cyclically known as “Gray Champions.” But during their mid-life and early elderhood years, you can spot Boomer men by their facial hair (beards and moustaches that cover their faces). Often accompanied by glasses and a cheap haircut. The antithesis of style. It’s as though they picked a look that worked for them at 27 and haven’t updated their style since then. May they grow their beards longer, wear white robes, grab a cane and do as their generation does in elderhood: provide the moral compass for society in an era of Crises. (Note to Boomer men: You all look alike! Well, those of you with moustaches, beards and glasses do.)

GenXers, b 1961-1981. GenX men remember all too well those Rogaine and Hair Club for Men commercials. Come GenXers into midlife and look at the cultural shift toward baldness. Bald guys are hot. Even men in their early 30s often shave their heads. It’s a look. It’s a statement. Being bald  — which for most men is really an act of embracing hair loss and “the inevitable” by shaving off their thinning hair — is taking a step forward, rather than fighting accumulated years. It’s an “I am what I am” thing. Embracing assets that are abundant — moustaches and beards —  expresses a GenX value to work with existing resources.

Millennials, b 1982 – 2004. At the top end, they are 32 in 2014 and hair loss is not big on their radar; the youngest in their generational span are but ten years old. My prediction: hats. That’s how they will deal with their hair loss. Formal, informal, but definitely stylish, quality, hats harking back to the 1930s. (Just go back 80-ish years to see the trends; it’s all a cycle!) Hats and more focus on things that shape a man’s face with refinement (vs the GenXers’ embracing of the beards reminiscent of the ’70s and a nostalgia for their childhood years). You can already see the change in the flamboyant moustaches, that GenX and Millennial men are sporting. Millennial men in midlife, I’d think, will wear monocles, have well-slicked hair, groom for pencil moustaches and, in general, embrace anything that is anti-grunge, leaning instead toward a conservative, preppy and ready-for-success look, which they are already doing.

This is, of course, one woman’s opinion, unedited. Not proofread.

The Fat Drug — and an open letter to Millennials for when you’re in midlife

11 Mar

From the NY Times, “The Fat Drug.” “How humankind unwittingly joined an experiment on antibiotics and weight gain.” / and / “In the meantime, we are faced with the legacy of these drugs — the possibility that they have affected our size and shape, and made us different people.”


The Fat Drug.

The Fat Drug.

Dear #Millennials, please remember antiobiotics (these good-ideas-gone-horribly-wrong) when you’re in mid-life (42-62 years old). You probably don’t know this but it’s your generational archetype (Heroes) that ushered in Vaccines For All (wheee!!!) and  promises of “antiobiotics are good”  to the masses the last time your archetype was in midlife. That would be, for your reference,  the GI generation, born 1901-1924. And in some ways, they weren’t wrong.

But see, the thing for your generation to understand about itself is your Achilles’ heel: your hubris. Your generation is upbeat, trusting of institutions, increasingly powerful as it ages, and focused on a few grand solutions rather than scattered countless gambles (that’s the GenX role) or moralistic, values-driven contemplation (Boomers’ role).

But, in your collaboration and agreement, in your assumption that because you all find X or Y or Z the Thing To Do, what you forget to do is assess, to look at repercussions, to look at the effect and the effect of the effect. That’s what your junior generation (the Homelanders) will do for you in their young adulthood to your mid-life years. Heed them. And more so, remember in your feelings of glory and power, that the things that seem so grand today will — like clockwork — become the profound problems that create the crisis situation for society and the next round of Millennial-like kids and young adults 80 years hence.

You’ll do great work; that is certain. Just remember to listen when your elder cautious GenXers and your younger sensitive Homelanders say, “um, maybe this could be tweaked just a bit.” And heed. For truly, your generation’s weak point is your hubris, a problem which becomes increasingly pronounced — not too surprisingly — the more older and powerful you become.

How generational archetypes perceive allies and enemies

29 Dec

For GenXers (born 1961-1981), there is an intense need to know personally one’s enemies and allies. The archetype in which GenXers fall is that of Nomad. Think about being nomadic. You need to know your people, your tribes and which other groups your tribe considers friendly and not-friendly. GenXers are more tribal than other generations. Think of all the branded/logo-focused clothing and the rise of that phenomenon during GenXers’ ascent into young adulthood. Tribes, bay-beee, tribes. Also, Nomads’ lasting contributions to society are in the realms of liberty, survival and honor. GenXers in general don’t trust or want much alignment with others, preferring the edges to the center, but when they do connect, it’s tribal. Look for the indications. You’ll see them.

GIs - the Hero generation. What "total war" will today's Millennials fight?

GIs – the Hero generation. What “total war” will today’s Millennials fight?

For Boomers (born 1943-1960), their enemy is found in opposition to their values. Opinions change. Values don’t. Boomers, whose archetype is the Prophet, orient toward their inner spiritual world of values, vision and religion, and it is here where they have the greatest impact on society. Think Red State-Blue State stagnation, and the values wars that started in the Vietnam War era (and have neither been forgotten nor forgiven). Notice how it’s more important for many Boomers to defend values than to move conversations (personal, business, government, community) forward.

For Millennials (born 1982-2004ish), their enemy is The Total Enemy. Millennials are a peer-oriented generation … throughout their entire lives. Generally upbeat, can-do and aligned to the heart-space of their generation’s core, most Millennials are very aligned with Boomers’ moral direction and guided by GenXers’ exquisite capacity to marshal resources and make the impossible possible. But their enemy — and they fight this in their young adult years — is The Total Enemy, and as such, don’t be surprised if in the next 12 years or so, we experience another Total War in which the enemy needs to be utterly and completely vanquished. Millennials’ archetype is the Hero, and as such, they “need” to fight the battle that is the War of the Worlds battle that can be won by their foot soldiers, led by GenXers generals and created by Boomers’ moral compass. This is cyclical path of their Hero archetype, and their cultural contributions are community, affluence and technology.

For the Homeland Gen (born 2005ish – 2025ish) and the Silent Gen (born 1925-1942), their enemy is The Insensitive Majority. Growing up behind the peer-oriented, Common Man, dissent-quelling Millennials/GI Generation/Hero archetype; they grow up to loathe The Insensitive Majority. But being the Artist archetype, they express this loathing through song, art, stories and the culturally current-to-the-times version of “civil rights.” They advocate for the minority voice, the unheard, the under-represented. This archetypes’ cultural contributions are due process, plurality and subject matter expertise.

More information on generational archetypes is found in any of the William Strauss and Neil Howe books, videos, etc.

Small towns, generations and a housing crisis?

13 Mar

Via Bill Santos, I found this article, “The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis” on The Atlantic Cities’ site. I started writing a comment, which became, by length, a blog post in itself! Here’s what I wrote in response to the author’s piece.


It’s easy to get caught up in the “Baby Boomer as Python” thinking. But it’s not accurate. Baby Boomers are only a large gen vis-a-vis the *prior* gen, which is the Silent Gen, or Depression Era babies (a gen which really extends from 1925 to 1942 for birth years). That was a time of much darkness. Humans naturally have fewer babies when they feel it’s dark/cold/scary/hopeless outside. Baby Boomers were born in society’s “spring,” a time of renewed hope and fecundity.

But the GenX generation is actually larger than the Boomers, by 28%. While the literal birth rate dropped during GenX birth years (1961-1981) , the *immigration* increased during that time, so when one takes the actual 2005 US Census data — using the correct-to-the-archetype birth years, that is — it will be known that to Boomers 64 million, GenXers had 81 million (and Millennials 79 million).

I offer that the major senior sell off is significantly from the Silent Gen, who are a *pioneer* generation. Think log cabins, plains, settlers … and new suburban homesteading (in the ’60s and ’70s). With a sweeping generalization, they tend not to move often after having “pioneered” territory, and much of their staying-around-ness has caused all sorts of housing/school districting problems all over the country as they’ve aged in place in homes designed originally for families.

The other significant factor with housing — I’d add — is that GenXers (born 1961-1981, and currently 32-52) have gone back to the edginess of cities, repopulating them and helping to make them safer for the hoards of early-wave Millennials who will flock to them, needing neither cars nor good schools so much as they are, at the top end, 32 in 2013 with half their generation still in school (at the youngest they are eight!)

But back to the author’s premise: I think she misses the point in falling for the myth that Baby Boomers are a large generation followed by a small generation; the numbers tell the opposite story. The issue has more to do with desires, current “wants,” what is considered preferable housing and environs.

And what will happen come 2020 (more like 2024)? The Millennials will be the gen moving into mid-life and the Homelanders will be the gen moving into young adulthood. It is always the gen in young adulthood that sets the *mood* of the country; and these Homelanders, who are share the same archetype with Silent gen (b 1925 – 1942) will want to “pioneer” something once again. The prediction: small towns with walkable downtown areas.

This will work well for Millennials, who always wish to be among their own. The Millennials, especially the latter half of the gen which spans from birth years 1982 – 2004, will need to find a place to be among their peers and they’re not all going to be either fit into or be able to afford living in world-class cities. In small towns with walkable downtowns, there will most likely be much housing vacancy, dilapidation and a genuine need for their civic/engineering/build/do/external focus. It will work for them because there won’t be many GenXers there and hardly any Boomers by then. And these small towns will work for Homelanders, who in “pioneering” a sector of the market that needs revival, can once again *homestead,* as is their way, and lay claim to land and space where they can begin to carve out their own cultural and power domain.

Our GenX POTUS, Fiscal Cliffs and how the Boomers will save us all …

9 Nov

I’m not much of one for politics, elections, who-is-our-savior/who-is-the-devil stuff. I’ve tried. It’s just isn’t my thing. What does fascinate me is cycles, generations and cultural movements deep underneath what manifests and is given heed.

Photo from The Left Call

I will offer to anyone who whines about how the economy/ unemployment/ jobs creation/ budget woes etc were terrible under Obama’s administration, get over it. He didn’t create the problems. He can’t fix them back to the level they were at. And no one can. I’m not advocating that he’s been the Best of the Best president, but …

What I do understand is that we are in Society’s Winter (a 20ish-year period starting around 2006ish). We are in a Fourth Turning. I understand that Winter — just like in nature — is the time of contraction; it’s when things not hardy die; when there is less external activity; when there is little to harvest; and when resources and stores of wealth need to be watched and distributed with a different eye and a perspective that stems from the understanding that some seemingly harsh decisions will need to be made so that the majority of the tribe will survive til Spring (starting around 2025ish) when fecundity, new energy, and genuine hope for a bright future will once again uplift Society.

Photo from Web Design Ledger

I do believe that President Obama is the best leader for the times — even in his foibles and stumbles. He’s a GenXer, born in 1961 the first year of the GenX gen (1961-1981). And I believe that both parties, come 2016, better have GenX candidates primed and ready for the campaign. As with all generations and all cycles, each generation in midlife (42-63 years of age) has the understanding of the times and the skill sets to lead in that era.

Unfortunately, President Obama will have a very hard time doing what GenXers do best (getting to the root of the structural problem and fixing it). He needs for the Boomers to move into their rightful and appropriate role as our Society’s elders. And in doing so, for them to have their “Ah-hah” moment, first in small clumpings, then as a national calling and a moral rectitude few in their generation will rally against.

What is this “ah-hah moment” you might wonder?

The Boomer “ah-hah moment” is to recognize that they are now the senior generation. (Yes, there are still millions of Silent Gen living, but it is the Boomers that are redefining what it is to be Society’s Elders.) And in recognizing that they are the senior generation, their mortality and legacy will start to hound them with a piercing that they had not previously understood. In that hounding, they will realize that they are unwilling as a generation to leave to the Millennials (never mind the GenXers; they neither need nor expect governmental help) the burdensome debt of caring for them. Nor will Boomers accept a legacy that provides little economic hope for their beloved Millennials (a gen born 1982-2004ish).

And what will the Boomers do?

They will do what no government can do without their collective permission (nay, leadership!) as a generation. They will begin to redefine what is due to them. They will begin to extoll the virtues of wisdom that can only be imparted by elders and a life lived morally and well. They will begin to decry and call wrong the folly of science and medicine to thwart their Makers’ Will by trying to extend life beyond what is natural and spiritually right. They will redefine what they expect in the form of medical care and Medicaid, transforming the conversation from the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in healthcare to save but a life to a conversation around meditation, reflective prayer, and maybe how organic carrot soup with a wee bit of ginger will help with their bodies’ circulation so that they can better sit in their meditative and prayerful poses.

They will demand the right to a natural death … and government support for their yoga instruction at their holistic retreat centers while they come to terms with their diabetes, their Reiki sessions versus chemotherapy, and acupuncture treatments along with physical therapy and drugs post-stroke. They will demand of their well-to-do generational brethren that they opt out of Social Security and other benefits. And they will do what no politician or political party can do: they will change the conversation around “entitlements” by putting their own needs front and center in the conversation and doing the thing their generation will yet learn how to do: COMPROMISE.  

But they have to get there themselves. As a generation that is now 69 on the top end (born 1943-1960), the Boomers (the Prophet generation in generational theory) don’t know is that their archetype’s greatest contribution to Society comes not in their youth and their Peace, Love and Rock-n-Roll days, but in their elderhood, when they are known in each generational cycle as The Grey Wolves, able to take their role as elder statesmen (and -women) in a time of Crisis.

Calling it: Boomers will move from their current reputation of fueling a Red State/Blue State nation divided over arguments stemming from their young adulthood values wars into a mature generation that will call ONE PATH the right path forward. And that path will have much to do with making sure that Millennials have the chance for a future. While I could be wrong, I would say the area of entitlements is the area where this generation can — and most likely will — leave much of its legacy.

Time will tell.

And, um, there isn’t much time left.

For those who believe history/time/culture change/tech is moving faster than ever …

1 Oct

Is History Moving Faster? Great piece by Neil Howe, generational master in the super-duo Neil and Howe.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the life experiences of the peers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, born 1890.  When he was a child, kings and queens still ruled Europe, you needed to know Morse Code to communicate faster than a horse could run, and (in fact) horses were the only mode of ordinary street transport, even in the largest cities (the removal of manure being a huge municipal challenge); children routinely died from bacterial infections; and Lord Kelvin, one of the greatest scientists of that age, declared that “aeronautical travel” was impossible.  Now let’s fast-forward to Eisenhower at age 69, in 1959, during his second presidential term.  He was inside in a Boeing 707 (the first “Air Force One”) dictating memos on the deployment of hydrogen bombs, sugar-cube vaccines for polio, and plans to put a “man on the moon” (a plan later spelled out by Jack Kennedy and executed on time by LBJ), while flying at 35,000 feet over a nation whose vast, affluent, home-owning, car-driving, union card-holding middle class would have been utterly inconceivable in the presidency of William McKinley (or during the twilight years of Queen Victoria).  Oh, and did I forget to mention that he lived through two world wars and the establishment of two totalitarian states (USSR and PRC), all responsible for the slaughter, deportation, and migration of countless tens of millions—and the rise of a family of liberal and democratic “developed economies” responsible for the affluence of hundreds of millions.

And later …

In the Fourth Turning, we point out that the western world (especially since the Reformation) has adopted a uniquely linear view of history in which practically every generation believes it just happens to be experiencing the apocalyptic inflection point in world history, in which humanity is about to be completely transformed either morally or technologically.  And to buttress such conviction, we try so very hard to persuade ourselves, contrary to fact, that our grandparents and our earlier ancestors have lived through a history in which very little happened.  Let us please rid ourselves of this modernist hubris.

Social media, generations, institutions and power change

18 Apr

An impromptu interview — and how I met @GeoGeller — in 2007 at a diner in Baltimore where Jeff Pulver was hosting a breakfast party. Talking about social media, generations, institutions and power change.

and then a bit here, with @SpiralEyes


Millennials and the Occupy movement

20 Mar

I started off answering a quick Q someone posted on my Facebook page this morning and ended up writing this piece, below, about generational dynamics and the Occupy movement.

The Millennials, born 1982-2004ish and the primary oomph behind the ‘Occupy’ movement, are a “Common Man” gen. Their *civil rights* movement is for the right to have a middle-class existence. The take-to-the-streets thing isn’t really their schtick because they’re not true protestors and they neither hate nor distrust The Man, organizations, or government.


What may help in understanding this phenomenon, is to take the Occupy movement as a statement about the Millennials’ life-long direction and values: in their world view, the needs of the many (“their” many for their generation) outweigh the needs of the few (the environment co-created by GenX orientation to risk, markets and gambling + Boomer ruthlessness and turf battles + Silent Gen glee about market deregulation).

Add it all up and what you have is the widest spread of wealth since the post-War era and a lot of unstability and uncertainty. Millennials are about stepped progression, earned rank and the Average Joe. The Occupy movement, while by no means the exclusion of Millennial interest, was energized by them and by Society’s willingness to consider the future of the gen ascending into young adulthood worthy of attention (not something GenXers experienced at the same age).

The Occupy movement was perceived of as a lot of whining to some GenX, Boomers and Silent gen people, and rightly so, because there was a lot of whining. Millennials have no historical frame of reference to understand that the quality of life they knew as children — parents churning out frequent $20 expenditures on them as though $20 was a quarter or a buck, the massive redirection of govt money for education and children’s programming from which they benefitted, and an overall rise in what was considered standard even for the poorer among us (TVs, computers, cel phones, new clothes each year) — that all of these things they’ve grown up to consider “their right” to have actually came from the environment they now decry and call wrong.

Expect more from Millennials of this orientation toward *The Rights of the Common Man,” as Millennials in their need to create a world that matches their world view do not turn to the streets and sewers to find their path forward (that would be GenX and their Mad-Max-the-world-is-broken view). No, Millennials smile, keep an upbeat attitude and look at adults-institutions-governments with a calm, rightful expectancy of Society’s redirection of money, interest, laws and programs that make their experience of the world match their values.

And it’s all good, for cycles are cycles and corrections need to happen lest a trend become entrenched and Society becomes stuck.

Clean-cut Burners, fuzzy normals and blinkies everywhere

15 Feb

This post will mean little to one who is not a Burner (or raver, per Mona). I’m going to make a claim about something I’ve been seeing trending and how it aligns with generations. I’d guess that in three to five  years, my claims today will seem then like, “duh, yeah, of course … like, everyone could see that coming,” but I’ll say them anyway.

Here goes:

The edge-y, Mad-Max, raver-hippie, sparkle-pony, dust-loving extremeness of the Burning Man community’s dress will chill. And not just chill, but it will become chic to wear in the desert a suit, a cocktail dress, a classic, elegant, even preppy bit of attire. The sparkle ponies will always be cute and sexy. There will always be hippies who appear not to have showered in ages. And Burning Man will always attract artistic, awesome people who live big, create the most awesome costumes, and do what needs to be done to survive and thrive for a week in the moon dessert storms that so define and make Burning Man at Black Rock City, Nev., the place that it is.

But the stuff of which Burning Man fashion has been so quirkily specific — the furry boots, the neon pink furry animal-like hats, the faux fur endlessly covering ones body — this has started to move mainstream, and thus Burners will need to redefine Burner fashion, lest they look like the vacuous 11-year-old I saw the other weekend sporting major Burnerific faux fur fashions. How not hip to be like everyone else.

Oh, (she catches herself as she writes.) Wait, I’m thinking like a GenXer preferring the edge vs the center. Never mind, if Millennials in their same-sameness (which they don’t see  about themselves but which all other generations do) bring the fur en masse, it will be, indeed, en masse, and worn without meaning except to be like their generational brethren. Again, to my point: the fur will lose its meaning at Burning Man. And being preppy and clean cut in the desert will ride on the wings of the younger GenXers wishing to be different (not like the older grungier GenXers) and leaning toward  and meeting the style leaders of the Millennials with their fresh clean-cut, upbeat and redefined metro preppy attire.

And while Burning Man will get a cleaner, sharper look, the suburbs will be filled with pink-faux-fur wearing teens and moms.

Black Rock City, where the Burning Man festival is held, will find its streets lined increasingly each year with more and more clean cut, urban-leaning young folk. Not hipsters: for Millennials are not hipsters; they don’t need to try to BE anything. By virtue of their peer focus, they choose, and choose en masse, making all of them the same at once; distinction by difference is not their game; distinction by earned rank is.

And what of blinkies? These array of lights-lights-lights everywhere on bodies, bikes, art cars and more that are not just found but required at Burning Man lest one be called a “dark tard” and put oneself and others in danger of injury.

Blinkies will be everywhere. The cultural mood will shift, and more swiftly than you can imagine. It is winter, my dears: society’s winter, and a 20-year phase of an 80-(or so)-year cycle. We need lights in winter, as the days are short, the nights are long and our part of the earth is further from the warming sun.

In less than five years, we will see LED lights all over. Nary a bike will be ridden at night without the rider (the person) and the bike (the vehicle) bedecked in LED lights. And each unique. Backpacks for children (and adults) will have built-in LEDs. Clothing will have lights. City-scaping (and even the faux pastural suburban environments) will have streets, parks and public areas lit with colorful LEDs. And it will all seem natural and right, and it will be, for cycles are cycles and they can be ignored, but they cannot be stopped.

It’s already happening in shoes for little ones, these blinkies. Of course, these litte ones are our Homeland gen children, suffocated by the encroaching fear their parents carry to raise their children in Winter. GenX parents were themselves the children of Summer, neglected in an era of adult self-indulgence, so they swing in the other direction as parents, as do all genarations. Our Homelanders will have no choice, for they are the generation that silently receives this suffocating parenting of their stealth-fighter GenX parents. But again, this will be right and timely. As we protect our Homelander children with lights so that they can be watched with fierce diligence by their parents, these same lights will make young Millennials in cities safer, and the street-scaping will make us all want to be out more, close to home and our kin and country people. The lights will call us out, making it safe to leave the McMansions and lonelier days of Bowling Alone.

And so, I believe, it will be: Metro preppy Burners (trust me: the Burners will cry out and call me wrong); Burner-ific faux-fur-covered suburbanites and blinkie LED lights everywhere. I could always be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. Then again, I could be more right than you could possible even foresee now.

Time will tell.

Occupy Baltimore

25 Jan

Monday night I attended a BMoreSmart event (a tech event) at which Rico Singleton, CIO of Baltimore City, was the key speaker. Among the many things he addressed that night, developing a relationship with the local tech community was key. He wants to/needs to be able to hire local people for many (mostly) coding and development projects the city needs done but doesn’t have the staff to do.

This is, of course, complex.

The city isn’t quite set up for this type of working relationship. Much is yet to be done to work out the kinks of that system.

The city isn’t really in the position to pay the appropriate market rate for the volume and caliber of work that needs to be done.

The sexy-shiny-social-public-facing apps are great, but it’s often the onerous, less-glam projects that really need doing.

The city isn’t set up to pay someone a portion of their fee and allow them then to own the code/product they create (so that they can sell it to others).

And, perhaps most importantly, the city lacks the talent to fill the jobs need in the whole city. (Don’t scream, you geeks. He wasn’t saying that there isn’t tons of talent and a great tech community; rather, that the volume of work to be done and the people able to do it just doesn’t exist at this time.)

There’s the Apps for Democracy, Code for America and a slew of other choices, but those projects and programs tend to be about sexy subjects/apps and such.

One of the speakers showed a website he’d developed on vacant properties in Baltimore. It was quite cool. And the data, well, it was quite fascinating.

I heard talk of Mayor SRB and her plan to bring — what is it? — 10,000 families to Baltimore in x years? And then I had a funny thought: funny, in that I laughed to see pieces of a puzzle come together.

“Occupy Baltimore!” was what I heard.

Yes, Occupy Baltimore.

Here’s a vision to try on in your head. I kind of like the way it is in mine.

Imagine the city were able to create a good system wherein it had a robust this-is-what-we-need procedure for short-term, specific tech projects. Imagine if decided to pay but a pittance for (probably, though not exclusively) young developers to work on these projects for below market rate. Imagine that the city would own the code, as their structured mindset so requires them to do so now if they pay for development.

Imagine that rather than being paid fully in cash for wages, or in code developed that they could resell, instead these coders were paid in Occupy Baltimore “currency:” in cash specifically and only toward vacant Baltimore housing. I’ll make up some numbers, but let’s say a project was worth $10,000 in a legitimate market, but the city only had $2,500 to pay for it. The person who took that job could get $2500 in cash and, say, for example’s sake, $15,000 in Occupy Baltimore currency. Maybe they took on another project, or worked with a friend or two to pool their Occupy Baltimore bucks. Who knows? Before a year could be out, a few friends could pool together to rebuild a vacant home.

Now, it might behoove the city to put these (mostly) young coders in group housing during there earn-less-than-market-rate days, assuming they were to work a minimum number of hours a week or month. It would need to be good housing. Dormitory grown up housing. Preferably near a fun area of Baltimore so they’d feel more connected to the city. These are Millennials of which we speak, and their long-cycle cultural legacy is affluence, technology and culture. They want all that and more, and adults do well to give it to them in childhood. Now that they are in young adulthood, we need to think differently about how to make as much as possible free for them. Not free as in hand-out free, but as in trade-energy-and-vitality-for-free. That kind of free.

I’m sure there are a 1,001 problems with this vision. And a 1,001 reasons why it’s perfect and right.

It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I’m gonna” (ref the State of the Union tonight and any other candidate on the campaign trail). It’s another thing to think differently and find solutions that are right for the times.

And the banks. Remember the banks, Wall Street, investment firms? Well, here’s a chance for the banks to redeem themselves; I’m sure they can work out some financing with the vacant properties, the city’s Occupy Baltimore bucks and some lovely form of a new housing program for young Millennials moving into city’s to re-energize them and bring brightness. Imagine the possibilities for bank’s (local ones especially) to transform themselves before the new generation of customers by doing right … for THEIR generation. To give them hope and possibility.

With Baltimore’s CIO, Rico Singleton, thinking in the direction he is thinking to get more coders who will do big work for little money, with Mayor SRB thinking in the 10K More Families direction she is thinking, with the insane vacancies in Baltimore (what, isn’t Baltimore the only major city in the last couple of decades to have actually lost population?), with shamed financial institutions needing a really good (and legitimate) win, with the massive and can’t-be-fought cycles of generational shifts and the opportunities for working with young Millennials at hand, my sense is Baltimore may just be the city perfectly positioned to make the OCCUPY movement actually mean something.

Occupy Baltimore!

Young geeks, if not you, then who. If not know, then when.


No, I didn’t edit or proofread this post. It is what it is.

I saw it in my dreams

10 Dec

I had a dream the other night: a dream in which I was walking through a city —  DC, presumably, as that’s what it felt like. Except I saw it in the future when the city had become (as all are now) more residential, filled with hip GenXers and bright-eyed, collegial Millenials. A city alive, vibrant, re-energized and with all the extra zing, color and shapes that are possible in dreams.

In my dream, there was a particular image that struck me, resonated. It was an apartment building: a particular type of apartment building. The apartment was a high-end, positioned in the best of the best spots in the city. Night time. Streets filled with happy people. A good feeling in the air.

This particular apartment building wasn’t just any building where any-ol’-anyone could rent. It was marked SATURN, and in this building lived only and exclusively employees of Saturn. The city was filled with such buildings: amenity-rich, decked-out and top-of-the-line places designed specifically for the employees of a particular company. In this future I saw, this type of apartment buildings had become “the thing.” They had become a part of the economy, the job market, a recruiting tool.

See, rather than providing salaries that put just cash (lovely as it is) into the pockets of employees, companies had crafted worlds in which their employees were treated as special, where they were protected and bathed in the focused affluence and comfort of their employers who held these employees as very dear.

Think about it from a generational lens: the generation of Millennial young adults was brought into the world during a surge of “Baby on Board” stickers announcing their parents’ precious cargo; they were lovingly watched over in monitored playgroups as toddlers; resources for education surged during their years in elementary, then middle and high school; playgrounds were made safer; programming for kids exploded as an industry and, in general, the world of adults turned attention, time, money and effort toward ensuring that this particular generation would not be like the one that preceded it.

Why would it be any different when they are the dominant generation in young adulthood? It won’t be. Their young adulthood years will be a continuation of the focus and care of adults and institutions, and that is how the cycle goes.

Are Millennials less religious than other gens?

12 Jul

This morning I was reading a Boomer’s blog post about religion, churches and his view of generational shifts in “religiosity” (not sure if I made up that word). He wrote, “It is not uncommon to hear that the generation in their 20’s and 30’s are agnostic or atheist.”

My response through the lens of applied generational theory:

Millennials, those in the 7-ish to 29-y.o. range in 2011, are raised in a culture influenced mostly by Boomer values. Boomers orient as a generation toward vision, values and religion. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that if you’re raised by a generation that leans one way, that you lean the OTHER way. It’s not that Millennials are mostly agnostic; it’s that they’re less curious about their internal and spiritual worlds and more curious about the external and physical world. Boomers, who grow up in a structured and well-built world as children, in young adulthood created a cultural change to focus on the meaning and purpose (of everything!).

So as Millennials now define young adulthood, what do we see? Millennials grow up in a values-fixated world, and in young adulthood, bring a focus back to the physical world and the importance of structure.

GenXers, in between both, correct the excesses of a values-fixated world and lead the shift toward a world where systems function better, thus allowing the Millennials a platform upon which they can bring their “Hero Energy” into society and actually use it!
The Silent/Homelanders are another story for another day.

So I offer this to the Boomer who looks at Millennials and sees them, along with his generational cohorts, as more agnostic and atheist: generations always see other generations through their own filters. (Right? Makes sense.) Imagine what the Boomers’ values-fixation and generational unwillingness to define as important the care of the physical world, e.g. roads, bridges, public parks, IT systems, looks like to Millennials who are raring to go, raised for their role as Heroes and wanting very much to live in a world that is safe, gleaming and structured. Then let’s talk about which generation is more this and less that. Being more religious or more agnostic is not a good-er or badder (I might have just made up two more words) thing. It’s a cycle and a rhythm that happens naturally to correct excesses, provide what’s needed now and create the path for a future that’s coming. That’s what generations do; they balance each other, allowing for growth, renewal and evolution.

Why are Deborah and Janet so successful?

30 Apr

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the cyclical naming of babies and how generations and Turnings (per Strauss and Howe) impacts popular baby names. A few days ago this earlier post came to mind when I came across an article about the most popular baby girls’ names in 2009. (These would be the Homeland generation: the generation that shares the same archetype as the Silent generation, born 1924-1942.)

Check this out. Notice how the names sound to your ears and the image that you have with the personality that would match such a name.

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Isabella
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Sophia
  6. Madison
  7. Chloe
  8. Abigail
  9. Emily
  10. Addison
  11. Ella
  12. Lilly
  13. Mia
  14. Alexis
  15. Grace

Then look at the most popular female names of 1999, when Millennials were winding down but still Millennials. More Glamour Girl (my child is special) names. Listen to how the names sound and the personality you’d associate — sight unseen — with such a name.

  1. Emily
  2. Sarah
  3. Brianna
  4. Samantha
  5. Hailey
  6. Ashley
  7. Kaitlyn
  8. Madison
  9. Hannah
  10. Alexis
  11. Jessica
  12. Alyssa
  13. Abigail
  14. Kayla
  15. Megan


Fast Company has an article based on Linkedin data in which it claims the best names to name your baby and future CEO. In my eyes, this article would be much more valuable were the author and the good people at Linkedin to have given generational theory its due. The article (per Linkedin’s data) concludes the most-likely-to-be-CEO female’s names are —

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Deborah
  2. Sally
  3. Debra
  4. Cynthia
  5. Carolyn
  6. Pamela
  7. Ann
  8. Cheryl
  9. Linda
  10. Janet

Hmmm, let’s see. Most female (not male) CEOs are in their 50s. So what if we go back and find the most popular female baby names in 1959. (These would be the tail-end of Boomers.) There’s some correlation between popular names for baby girls some 50+ years ago and the more-common names of 50-something female CEOs today. Duh.

  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Donna
  6. Patricia
  7. Debra
  8. Cynthia
  9. Deborah
  10. Lisa
  11. Barbara
  12. Pamela
  13. Sandra
  14. Nancy
  15. Kathy

And, not to leave the GenXers out of the conversation, I looked at the top female baby names in 1971 (GenXers are born 1961-1981, so this is the mid-point in the generation).

  1. Jennifer
  2. Michelle
  3. Lisa
  4. Kimberly
  5. Amy
  6. Angela
  7. Melissa
  8. Tammy
  9. Mary
  10. Julie
  11. Stephanie
  12. Heather
  13. Tracy
  14. Dawn
  15. Karen

Cyclical time. Cultural turnings. Rising trends and fading fashions. These things are part of the experience here on this lovely planet. Always there is something being born, something rising up, something being solid and powerful and something fading and moving toward death. To my mind, and as I continue to study generational theory, I find the (approximately) 20-year turnings that occur each time a new generation moves into young adulthood, one of the more compelling, informative and insightful bodies of work.


Are Hollywood “mega-fauna” going out of fashion?

29 Dec

I didn’t make up this term: mega-fauna. I heard it once and liked it. Mega-fauna was the term used to describe the pop culture fascination and focus on big, camera-friendly animals such as tigers, (polar) bears and pandas, oh my. The Mega-fauna movement — loosely organized as it was — spoke to the importance of the large-in-volume, small-in-number animals and their plight in the face of human choices about land use, pollution, and so on.

bacteria electron microscopeWhile I have no literal data at hand, I’d say that the Mega-fauna movement tied in very much with the Third Turning (Society’s Fall) and the era in which Boomers had primary cultural dominance. Boomers (Prophets) orient as a group toward causes, messages, vision and values. They are masters at messaging that is filled with spiritual importance, moral direction and Big Picture Vision.

Come now, the Fourth Turning and the age of Winter: the era in which GenXers (Nomads) have the primary influence on leadership and the direction of action Society takes. (This role naturally aligns with whatever generation is ascending into mid-life, and that’s GenXers at the moment.) GenXers orient as a “group” (snicker, snicker) to that which is broken, needs fixing now and can be addressed with minimal resources and consensus. GenXers are also the masters of tending to things which are small and seemingly unimportant yet are critical to effective system functioning. Here, think microbes, bacteria, the small and unseen. Talk of microbes and bacteria in personal health (fermentation, gut health, the quality of soil in agriculture and thus food), in the water, in our environements will become a subject of increasing importance as GenXers replace Boomers as the dominant generation in midlife and, thus, change what is considered to be a focus and concern for society.

Is it just me, or have movies, news, advertisements and cultural focus been on bees, ants, bugs, germs and bacteria? I love-love-love this commercial by Kleenex and find it a cultural marker. Take note! Expect more conversations and focus on the unseen, for that’s how GenXers have experienced their childhood and young adult years.

The Role of (generations and) Civility in Democracy

4 Oct

My local library is hosting a symposium this week; it’s titled, “The Role of Civility in Democracy.” With mid-term elections, the prevalence of nasty political campaign ads, and the library’s Choose Civility initiative, all these factors add up to a well-timed event. I also believe there is another reason this  event is well-timed, and it has to do with generational dynamics and cultural change. Now, I’m not a historian, but I am well-versed in the generational theory, so come with me on this path, if you’d like to see “the role of civility in democracy” through a generation-theory lens. Here goes —

There are four generational archetypes that appear in a fixed, repeating cycle. They are affected by and affect other generations. They each have their strengths, their value, their weaknesses and their paths. Each generation is approximately 20 years in length, or the equivalent of a phase of life (childhood, young adulthood, midlife, elderhood). Right now, the constellation of generations in America is this:

The Silent Gen are moving into elder-elderhood. Born 1924 – 1942, they are 68-86 years old in 2010, and their numbers, per the U.S. Census, are about 30 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of pluralism, expertise and due process. This is the true Civil Rights generation that fought for rights from a perspective of sensitivity to the weaker among the community.

The Boomer Gen is moving into elderhood. Born 1943-1960, they are 50 -67 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 62 million.Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of vision, values and religion. They are the “principled moralists, summoners of human sacrifice and wagers of righteous wars.”

The GenX Gen is moving into midlife. Born 1961-1981, they are 29-49 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 81 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of liberty, survival and honor. They are the get-it-done generation and are “cunning, hard-to-fool realists—taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.”

The Millennial Gen is moving into young adulthood. Born 1982-2004(ish), they are 6-28 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 80 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of community, affluence and technology. They are a bright, upbeat, team-working generation.

The Homeland Gen is being born now and just entering the K-8 system. They will, assuming the generational cycles repeat, have a life course that is similar to the Silent Gen.

All the quoted text in this post, by the way, is from Strauss and Howe’s work, e.g. Lifecourse Associates.

So, let’s look at “civility and democracy” through this lens … not just that there are generations, but in which phase of life each generation has been, and how it will impact the phase of life it is now moving into and the surrounding generations.

In the past 25 years, Boomers were the primary gen in mid-life. Mid-life is about power. Think about it: it’s the 42-62-years-old people. Families are mostly started and kids, if they are still young, are typically in elementary school or beyond. School is done. Professional capacity and community leadership are realms of directed energy for many in mid-life. Boomers in midlife, per @lifecourse, “preach a downbeat, values-fixated ethic of moral conviction.” In other words, they are argumentative, passionate, focused on their values (one does not negotiate “values”) and more interested in their convictions than they are in solutions. To have even talked of civility in democracy while Boomers were in midlife would have been an argument, in and of itself, about whose values were more civil.

In the past 25 years, GenXers were the primary gen in young adulthood. Young adulthood is about vitality, about serving institutions with energy and the excitement of a life to be experienced. GenXers in young adulthood are “brazen free agents, lending their pragmatism and independence to an era of growing social turmoil.” To have asked GenXers in young adulthood to speak of civility in democracy would have been seen as a joke. GenXers are not trusting of institutions, by and large, to do right by them as individuals or as a generation and, therefore, do not put a lot of faith in democracy and governments to solve problems. Nor would GenXers compete in Boomer turf to gain voice at that phase of life. Boomers were simply too culturally dominant then, both by phase of life and certainty that their values were more relevant and needing to be heard.

In the past 25 years, Millennials were the primary gen in childhood and have been “nurtured with increasing protection by pessimistic adults in an insecure environment.” Millennials in childhood have grown up believing that government is good. All they have to do is turn on the news to hear campaigning politicians proclaim that they are a more child-friendly candidate than their opponent. In their childhood years they experienced a stream of increasing child-focused programs and initiatives being funded. They have no memory of Civil Rights tensions, nor of the contentiousness around the Viet Nam war-skirmish-geopoltical maneuver. They have watched their next-elder GenXers scramble and tumble through McJobs, unreliable contract work and extreme sports-behaviors-attitudes that are a bit too edgy for their tastes.

In the past 25 years, the Silent gen were the primary gen in elderhood. They have lived life by the rules, keeping their heads down in young adulthood, and hitting phases of life at relatively uneventful times to be the age they were. So, in their elderhood, while midlife Boomers slashed society with their moralistic rants, and GenXers rapidly transformed the culture with their take-what-you-can-and-cash-out-quickly approach, the Silent Gen helped “quicken the pace of social change, shunning the old order in favor of complexity and sensitivity.”

OK, “so what,” you might be saying. Well, generations move through time, which is why unless someone is pinging to the archetypes, years and definitions of Strauss and Howe, they are really talking about “demographics” and not “generations.” But I digress. OK, so time has moved along. We are not 25 years back, but 25 years forward. Let’s look at each of these generations and their impact on “civility in democracy.”

Today, Boomers are moving into elderhood where they “push to resolve ever-deepening moral choices, setting the stage for the secular goals of the young.” In other words, Boomers (will) finally have a moment of realizing as a generation that they are the elders and that their legacy as generation is perilously close to being abysmal. And Boomers are about their moral legacy, so this dawning sense that their moralistic rants and red-state-blue-state politics are putting in peril not just the nation, not just the rising generation of young adulthoods (their beloved Millennials), but their l-e-g-a-c-y, as well … this is the wake-up call for Boomers to self-correct and align in a more civil, go-forward direction that is — while not-less-moral — less polarizing. Or perhaps I should say, the Boomers who wish to have their voices included in the coming dialogue about where our nation is going will do so. Those who continue to polarize will be marginalized, which will be a system-shocker for those Boomers who’ve come to believe that polarizing is how to get attention/focus/dollars.

Today, GenXers are moving into midlife with the first POTUS of this generation currently in power. GenXers in midlife “apply toughness and resolution to defend society while safeguarding the interests of the young.” The challenge for GenXers in midlife — long at the edge, the extremes, the fringes — is to come  in to power structures, bring their capacities to solve problems without all the bantering around moral direction and vision that Boomers have done, and to force change toward fixing broken systems, businesses, governments and more. GenXers in young adulthood have been a cranky generation, a grunge-y generation, a leave-me-alone generation. To be included in the public conversation about what needs to be changed and how it will be done, GenXers need to release much of their crankiness and instead lead and make things happen.

Today, Millennials are moving into young adulthood with a trust of government, institutions and corporations do not only do right by them, but do right by their generation, and — by their thinking and the cycle of generations — do right by the nation. Millennials in young adulthood “challenge the political failure of elder-led crusades, fueling a society-wide secular crisis.” Millennials don’t understand (don’t have any personal experience with) moralistic, values-based battles to which many Boomers still cling. Millennials don’t understand GenXers’ crankiness, as they have received the opposite treatment as GenXers got in childhood; they were precious to adults, while GenXers were forgotten. They are being exalted and talked about and supported while they are moving into young adulthood and new careers, while GenXers were met with temp jobs, contract work and a “no vacancy” job market in their young adulthood. More to the point, Millennials like team work. They are bright-eyed and upbeat. They believe their generation to be very capable of solving large-scale problems and don’t need experience to prove this: they already know it to be true about themselves and their generation. Heck, they’ve been getting awards, gold stars and adulation since they’ve been in kindergarten! In other words, Millennials don’t understand Boomers’ nastiness and GenXers’ crankiness. (Was I just cranky in my explanation here?)

Now, are generations the only influence making “civility and democracy” a timely issue? No, of course not. But generational theory does provide some clues as to why “civility” is becoming a more a desired and important value at this point and time. It is time to be civil once again in democracy and politics. Or at least for civility to start to have a stronger toehold in the conversations. Nobody except Boomers cares about Boomer values wars anymore, and, I’d add, some Boomers are growing tired of the same-ol-same-ol from their generation. Nobody cares about GenX crankiness anymore, except equally cranky GenXers. And Millennials are showing up in jobs, in politics, in communities and in organizations, believing that life and work and community and governance can all be balanced and good. It won’t change overnight, for sure, but — and perhaps — a bit more civility will get us there faster.

Rock on.

Millennials: an “I want to help” generation?

22 Sep

I’m reading Millennials in the Workplace by Neil Howe, my generational theory super-hero. His latest book, produced with the help of Millennial super-star Reena Nadler is, imo, a must-read for anyone who gives a hoot about HR, workplace issues and general cultural shifts. In full disclosure, I’ve been working with Mr. Howe on some pr, branding and social engagement work in and around this book and his brand.

Any time I read any of Mr. Howe’s books, I read it slowly. I highlight the heck out each book he writes. I talk about the book with friends and colleagues. I digest it. And this book is no different. Recently, I read about how “team oriented” and helpful Millennials (born 1982-2004) are and the implications for employers. (Really. Heads up, folks. Generational cycles impact workplace issues. Heed the experts here to your own advantage and peace of mind.)

Anyway, as a GenXer and one who has been watching the media frenzy and giddiness around Millennials and whatever phase of life they’re in, I’m reminded that when talking about any generation, it’s most informative not to look at a generation as isolated and separate, but as part of a constellation of generations all moving through life phases, with each of the four generational archetypes influencing and being influenced by each other.

So, come with me here as I look at this view of “team oriented” and “helpful” Millennials. How true are the claims that Millennials are more helpful? More likely to feel their career choice or company mission or volunteer work needs to help the community, help others and have a positive impact on society as a whole? Well, when surveys ask that question, guess what? Survey results demonstrate really high stats that show Millennials are much more oriented toward such goals. Not too surprising there.

But what if the survey question looked more like this:

Are you willing to tackle a messy, disastrous project, by yourself — perhaps with the help of some online friends you’ll never meet in person — and to do endless hours of work, never get credit, never see the limelight and never be personally acknowledged for your efforts (except and perhaps by a handful of others doing the same work who will, by the way, also get no credit)?

Hmmm, I don’t think many Millennials would check that box on the survey. But this is exactly what hundreds of thousands of GenXers did in their young adulthood years. What about this question?

Are you willing to tackle a project for which you have no guarantee of success but with the slight chance that others behind you (businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments and individuals) will benefit? Can you do this knowing your effort may help others not have to deal with the horrible  tech tools, software, unusable manuals and unresponsive help desks at hundreds of companies across the country and globe? (Remember: no credit, no limelight, no tuition reimbursement, no Volunteer America website acknowledgement, no awards, no shining smiling adult faces looking at you and praising your value)?

What do you think? Do you believe Millennials would score high as “helpful” on this kind of question? I don’t think so. And yet, this is exactly what the GenX generation has done, mostly on their own dime and time. But this GenX effort and time will never be recognized in surveys as being “helpful,” mainly because GenXers didn’t do such activities to get recognition but to do — as GenXers (the Nomad archetype) do — what needs to be done, regardless of or in spite of the obstacles, blocked pathways and unwillingness of those who created the problems (older generations) to recognize the complexity of the mess they’ve allowed to be created.

So, back to Millennials in the Workplace, the surveys that show them to be ever-so-statistically higher in a helper orientation and, by result, interested in jobs and careers with a obvious helper role: this is really important information to know, understand and apply. Read Mr Howe’s book! And it’s true. They are — as a whole — much brighter in their optimism, desire for collegial work experiences, belief in themselves and their generation to “be helpful.” I offer that while acknowledging this as true, my own generation has helped in a way that is equally significant, just not the type of work that will lead to ceremonies, acknowledgement or recognition.

GenXers do what needs to be done because it needs to be done.

Millennials help and get involved because they see and experience themselves as trusting of institutions, team oriented and helpful.

It’s all good. And it’s all part of the mix.

Together, we sell.

25 Jun

Noticing the word “together” showing up in advertisements and newly crafted company slogans? If you haven’t yet, put some attention there, and I’m betting you’ll see this theme popping up.

Come + Together – Macy’s

Let’s Build Something Together – Lowe’s

Build Together – Lego

Come + Together, says Macy’s (via AGrinberg on Flickr)

And there are many, many others.

But the questions to ask are why is this happening nowwhat does it speak to and where is the opportunity to tap into this cultural shift?

See, about every 20 years, a new generation is born. And when this happens, it naturally becomes the new generation in childhood. That means the prior generation in childhood is now the generation rising into young adulthood. And connected to that, the generation thathas defined “young adulthood” for the most recent 20 years, now starts to define what it is to be in mid-life. And so on.

Millennials (born 1982 – 2002ish) are rising into young adulthood and bringing their core personality traits into America and the markets that wish to serve them. Who are these Millennials and why are they so different? Where their predecessors, GenX (born 1961-1981), were hardscrabble, pragmatic free agents in young adulthood, Millennials are team-oriented, achieving and confident. For a deeper exploration into what makes this generation tick, I recommend going straight to the source of generational theory and read, Millennials and the Pop Culture, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

Another cultural pressure on this “come together” thing is that GenXers, “their fringes more powerful than their core,” (Strauss and Howe) are now in mid-life. And if you failed to notice the profound hypocrisy that Boomers (born 1943-1960) displayed when they hit mid-life and created “zero tolerance” for drugs and kids, and other such things they’d have rebelled against in a New York minute in their own youth, GenXers (as all generations) have to shift as they grow up. GenXers, by archetypal definition “the nomad,” now has to reverse their isolation and pull tighter together their tribe. GenXers will aways be more powerful in their fringes than in their core, but the X in their X-treme behaviors shifts direction in this era, which runs approximately from 2005 – 2025 (ref. The Fourth Turning).

So, if you’re still waiting for The Recovery (cue: angelic trumpets) and for things to go back to how they were, go ahead and wait. But, if you’re looking to tap into the natural energies of cultural change and the deep, archetypal forces of generational marketing, I say, “come together, right nooooowwwweehhh … ” Oh, and make it snappy.


This post appeared originally on Network Solutions’ Grow Smart Business blog.

Is GTD a GenX thing?

24 Jun

Is GTD a GenX thing? … And will it fade from its current glory of an All-hail-David-Allen solution in 15 years or so, as Millennials ascend into mid-life and redefine what it means to “be organized”? I hadn’t given this question too much thought until Thursday Bram, the editor of Constructively Productive, asked if she could interview me about generations and concepts of productivity. The audio interview recording is here, and if you prefer a transcript, you’ll find that on the site as well.

I’ll be there.

23 Jun

It was about a year ago when I first saw the commercial.

I was mesmerized. The Jackson 5’s “I’ll be there song” played in the background while artfully selected video of people both vulnerable and strong played on the screen. “Who and what is this advertisement for?” my mind asked. It was brilliant.

State Farm, I soon discovered, was the answer I sought.

But the thing that touched me was the statement about generation-influenced cultural shifts. GenXers (born 1961-1981) are now the generation ascending into mid-life, the primary generation raising children and the new definition of 40-somethings in the U.S. The Jackson 5 song, I’ll Be There, hit #1 in 1970 when the oldest Xer was nine years old.

So, here’s the thing to note for those of you in marketing, communications and HR is this: GenXers (the Nomad generation in archetypal language) experienced childhood in an era when adults are self-absorbed and the needs of children were roundly considered an inconvenience to adult experience, expression and fulfillment. While Millennial children (born 1982 -2002ish) rarely know a moment that doesn’t have some form of hovering parent, teacher, coach, babysitter, extended family member or paid supervisory adult around them, GenXers’ childhood was the era in which the term “latchkey children” came into being.

So, let’s look at the “latchkey children” turned midlife adults. Know what they value? Accountability. Access to information. Transparency. If you run a company and you think you’re currently accountable to your customers, you will only know this to be true when you’ve passed through the hell-fires of damnation your GenX customers will give you when they feel they can’t trust you to be straight, when they believe you’re not reliable and when they are not allowed full access 24/7 to the information about their accounts with you and your company data that they feel they have a right to see.

Trust me that they don’t trust you just because you have a long history of customer service, or that you pride yourself on XYZ, or that you’ve got a great mission statement splattered on your website and collateral materials. By the culture into which they were born, GenXers learned early and fast that adults and institutions didn’t have their backs, so, Boomer-led organizations, don’t take it personally when your GenX customers don’t respond the way you think they should. They’re operating on cultural programming different than yours, and different than Millennials.

Rather, accept the nature of this generation and BE THERE.

You want a sliver of the 81.3 million American GenXers as your customers? Be there for them. Transform your communications. Your online access to account information. Your speed with which you respond to inquiries. Tear down the opaque systems and obfuscation of data. Fire your copywriters and bring in people who can write in a human, clear, concise voice. Make sure that every piece of information your GenXers want is provided.

Don’t know what that is? Read your emails. Read the complaints. Stop acting as if customer service and your PR departments are supposed to “handle” problems. Put these biting complaints front and center in your management meetings and ask what you need to do as a company and how you need to transform — now — to become the kind of company that can serve and support this very large, intensely market-savvy, don’t-mess-with-me generation. Why? If there was ever a word-of-mouth generation that trusts individuals over institutions and personal commentary over corporate messaging, it’s this generation.

You may not like this. But you will do well to adapt. And one of the core values to add to your culture now is the explicit determination to “be there” for GenXers in the ways they say are critical to them

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