Tag Archives: millennials

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.

One cute kid at a time …

8 Jul

I remember the first time I gave money to a large organization. I was happy I did it. I benefited from their do-gooded-ness, and even though my own finances were rather tight at the time, I’d decided this org was one I wanted to help fund.

I also remember how disheartening it was to get mailing after mailing from them, soliciting more and more money. At one point, I wondered how much of my money went to actual programming and how much was funneled back into the fundraising arm of the org.

I notice that I’m more interested in opportunities where my contribution can be experienced and valued more specifically. As such, it’s been very easy for me to support Tapulanga Foundation, a small school (and community organization) in a rural village in the Philippines. The foundation is also run by a friend, Robin Abello, and his sister Mimic, who is on-site at the school. For those of you who know hocoblogs.com, Robin is my “co” in this venture.

If this type of donation appeals to you and/or you wish to express your appreciation for hocoblogs and the community created around it, I encourage you to check out how you can support Tapulanga Foundation.

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.

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.

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.

What happens when they grow out of Barney?

1 Feb

Millennials grew up on the excruciatingly-sappy-to-adult-ears songs of Barney, the Dinosaur. Got any guesses on what you think they’d orient toward as young adults? Yep, you got it: happy sing-song-y songs. La-de-da-da. With any generation, as it ascends into young adulthood, they redefine what it means to be in that phase of life, including the music that is considered popular.

While GenX met young adulthood full of cynicism — and songs (and tone) to match — Millennials are an optimistic, can-do generation. Explore the dark edge, holes and dysfunction of society? No way; that’s the GenX role. Songs they like sing of and toward bright futures the Millennials know they individually and collectively have. The songs that resonate for them are happy, sing-around-the-campfire songs, upbeat, sing-song-y, with happy lyrics. As with any generation in young adulthood, the music they listen to is often created by the latter-half of the next-elder generation more in-tuned to the next gen. But that changes over time, as more of their own generation moves into young adulthood and they occupy that role fully.

Now, I’m not, by any means, any sort of historian, avid follower of, or super-knowledgable gal when it comes to pop culture and music; I know there are many paths, subpoints and examples to prove this point otherwise. It’s the large trends and how they sync with generations that’s my focus. Here’s a taste of some of these songs. I don’t dislike them, but I find they sure do drip with the heavy taste of saccharine. 🙂

Michael Buble

Owl City

Jason Mraz.

Glee and today’s generations.

27 Nov

On word of @stevenfisher, I turned my attention to the TV show Glee. (Thank you, hulu.) What I was struck with right away — above and beyond the characters and unfolding story — was the dead-on accuracy of the generational depiction of today’s Americans generations.

While GenX grew up in high school with The Breakfast Club being a most iconic movie for the state of high-school-ness, Glee is the equal opposite. In The Breakfast Club, a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse, come together for one day because they are united by being in trouble by the Idiotic Adults who put them in detention. They find tribe and connection and then disband completely after the event. Diversity, connection for a moment, and back on to their own paths.

Glee features today’s Millennials in high school. In their diversity (white, black, asian, gay, obese, handicapped, jock, jew, bad boy, goody-two-shoes… and so) , they find union, team work, happiness and a collective sense of purpose and value. As well, the GenX glee club teacher wants to do a good job and bring value to his students and has to fight a ruthless Boomer gym teacher. (Can I get an amen, GenXers? Really, you’re not imagining it at all if you find some of your Boomer colleagues ruthless about protecting their turf.)

But back to the Millennials and their natural orientation toward peer relationships, coming together and collective power. I find these few minutes of the Hairography episode, in which they sing The Beatle’s Imagine, to be absolutely on target for expressing in song and vision the heart space of Millennials. For those of you who love and/or find yourself baffled by Millennials, go to this show (the 11th episode) and 31:18 minutes in. Watch the song. Feel the feeling, and be one step closer to understanding the Millennial mindset. (Hurry, the hulu.com link won’t last forever.)



Toy art. Trash art. GenX art.

10 Nov

This question was in my email inbox today. I’m going to answer it publicly:

The Q:
Jessie, I came across your post looking for context for an art review I’m working on. I’m writing about an artist my age (mid 30s) who, like a remarkable number of GenX artists, fills his paintings with toys, cartoons, video game motifs, etc. I can’t think of anything comparable in the artwork and pop culture of the boomers. Is it possible that ours is a more nostalgic generation- and why? Your thoughts would be very welcome!


barbie art

The A. Well, My A:
Interesting question. I think what you’re observing has less to do with nostalgia and more to do with the desire to express oneself by making use of what is considered useless, i.e. trashed toys. That said, well, one could argue that using scrap metal or found wood is the same phenomenon of using existing “leftover” resources. So, let’s look a little deeper as to why using toys from childhood  seems to resonate with GenXers and GenX artists.

To start, Genxers have a different understanding of environmental destruction than Boomers do. There are a few basic reasons for this:  1) Genxers grew up in an era where environmental issues and Save Mother Earth was a louder issue than it was during Boomers’ childhoods. 2) More importantly, GenXers tend to orient intuitively toward a world view of systems, complexities and intricacies, while Boomers orient toward values. So GenXers have a different relationship to each toy that got thrown away as playing an intricate role in a bigger scheme, whereas Boomers typically would orient toward a desire to make a BIG change with environmental issues. And 3), the archetypal role that GenXers play in the four-part cycle is to hit each phase of life at “the worst” time. While GenXers were in childhood and hearing about pollution and environmental problems, their experience of adults was that adults didn’t have their hands on the wheels. And that things were falling apart pretty quickly. So their “uh-oh” feeling about the destruction of environmental systems registers in a different part of their psyches than for other generations.

See, even if Boomers had been exposed in childhood to the same level of bad The Earth is Going to Die news, they wouldn’t process it the same and form the same world view. Why? Because Boomer children grew up in a world where adults were very much in charge. And Millennials, well, they expect to be The Heroes who will solve big problems — regardless of the severity, and to do so with a smile and lots of support (and money) from adults/government/systems. So, they’re probably a little excited about yet-another big problem to solve. (They don’t know how they’ll do it, per se, but goldangit, if, in their midlife years, they rally their troops — and they will — they can solve, or at least alter the the course of, a situation.)

Boomers, while most would argue passionately that they care even more about the environment — tend to orient more toward a world of values, vision and spiritual awareness. So the Boomer view of environmental issues sounds more like “Save the Whales.” A big value, a big vision and heck, a whole lot of big spirituality, if you know much about whales and cetaceans. GenXers tend to orient toward small-gap solutions that require little external support (because GenXers generally don’t expect support from adults/government/Society). GenXers orient more toward personal style and expressing their values through functional choice, with less emphasis on Big Vision.

I also think that GenXers using childhood toys in their art is more therapeutic than nostalgic. While this is a guess, it makes sense inside of generational theory.GenXers experience childhood in an era (the Summer Era, or The Unraveling, using generational theory terms) when adults are rather care-free (read: negligent) toward children. So, perhaps using toys as a base material in their now-that-I’m-an-adult art is therapeutic: A way to go back in time and be in relationship to a childhood that was hurried, hurried, hurried toward adulthood.

And while there may be some political statement in terms of expressing an anti-consumerism of sorts, I do believe that using toys in art is fundamentally a desire to re-use materials otherwise considered trash; this is a high value for many GenXers. Not that Boomers and other generations can’t care about and be sincerely engaged and effective in environmental issues/protection/betterment/etc., but it’s more that the thing to look for is the GenXer desire to re-use that which is considered waste. (Think Burning Man and the costumes/art there!)


Barbie Death Camp at Burning Man.

Also, the phenomenon of “nostalgia for one’s childhood” — if I understand it — doesn’t really emerge until one has crossed into midlife. Of course, anyone can have nostalgia for a time and era passed, but, to me, the concept of using childhood toys in art for nostalgia’s sake isn’t the root of the desire. A piece, a branch, but not the root. This using of toys in art was a phenomenon, if I’ve got my cultural pulse right, that ascended in frequency in the last 20 years or so. Which means, it’s likely about to fade, as cultural preferences shift in a very big way about every 20 years.

It’s interesting to me that you would ask this question now. A week or so ago, I was watching a video made from footage taken at Burning Man 2009. It featured a whole lot of Barbies (see the pic here). My mind scanned the image that I saw, and I felt that the massive Barbie art was a classic expression of GenX in young adults. And while the artist about whom you’re asking the question is a GenX who is still in young adulthood (the latter half of it, but still …), the generation of GenXers has crossed over into mid-life (which starts around age 42). It’s the early wavers of a generation who start to redefine how that generation will create its imprint on that phase of life.

You may find it worth a look to notice as Millennials replace GenXers in young adulthood and become the new and emerging artists, how they redefine the art scene and what is considered “fresh.” My guess: for Millennials, it won’t have much to do with toys from their childhood. They’re about public spaces, civil engineering, being out, peer connected, government structures, big business, big shows/performances/glamour. Big, glitzy and featuring THEM! 😉

Hope this helps.

Millennials and “the economic crisis”

5 Mar

Will Millennials change their expectations in “an economic crisis” ? That was the question on @GeoffLiving’s blog a month or so back. The subject has popped up on my radar again, so here’s my take on answering this question, vis-a-vis my understanding of generational theory.

The conversation among the comments on The Buzz Bin is lengthy. Later, I wrote this bit, layering back in that, imo at least, any conversation about generations is only valid when the four archetypes are discussed. And, then even deeper in, reminded folk that GenXers are actually the largest generation. Whodathunkit?

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