The Millennial Generation — ‘Works in Progress’
The millennial generation and work.
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Dr Dan Gilbert.
When you start your career, you are in a race to obtain all the skills you need to move onwards and upwards. It’s like the moment you look outside the office for the first time, on your very first day, is you at the starting line of said race. As you push the door open, the gun goes off and that’s it, you’d better get your legs moving. Whilst you’re not actually running anywhere, you are rushing to obtain skills and ‘network’ to win the race. And the gold medal? Well that’s power, status and people thinking you know entirely what you are doing.
What often happens though, is that we fall. You know that horrendous moment when you watch a race, the runners are all in formation at the starting line, shiny trainers, concentrated faces, focused on what lies ahead. The gun goes off, for some reason one of the runner’s shoe lace was untied, they step onto it, twist and fall head first into the concrete.
Yeah, that’s the picture. That’s like starting work.
When Millennials Meet Work
As the millennial generation, it’s been said that we (and it is a ‘we’ as I am firmly in the millennial generation) want to find fulfilment however we are entitled. If type the words ‘millennials Simon Sinek’ into YouTube you’ll find a video with 2.8 million views, where Simon describes the ‘millennial question’. He spends 16 minutes describing the reason us millennials are, well, how we are. Parenting, technology and environment are all factors that ultimately lead to us wanting to have an ‘impact’ in the working world and simultaneously wanting to win the race, all in the first 8 months of work.
Simon argues that the big things in life: love, job fulfilment, joy — all of those things come with effort, time but most importantly of all, which I confess I have zero of, patience.
The truth is, we aren’t in a race. We’re not at the starting line waiting for the gun to go off. A race is too simple. A track where everybody is running between the same two lines is just not like work. Work is a different path for everyone, it’s also not a race because generally speaking races are quite short. If it was like any race it would be like a marathon but even that doesn’t quite fit.
What it is more like is climbing K2. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world. It has ice pillars, steep ledges, areas that are prone to collapse. It takes about a year to train for K2 and to actually climb the mountain takes 7–8 hours. It costs a lot of money and many people don’t make it all the way up.
On route you have to figure out the safest way to travel through, you might need to stop to take stock of where you are and what’s next. Sometimes you might climb so far up and think it’s not the right route so you have to go back down to find a new route that’s better.
Finding fulfilment in work is a mountain to climb. It’s not only the mountain though, it’s the training that goes in beforehand. It’s the year spent before practicing at the local climbing wall. It’s the morning runs and the late nights researching the best gear. Work is a mountain and at the top of the mountain is work fulfilment and impact.
You don’t have to walk the same path as everyone else. You can go up the mountain as fast as your body will take you or you can go up as slow as you like. There are no rules to getting to the top or any time limits. It’s the way you want to do it.
We’re Not in a Race
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’re in a race. A quick look on LinkedIn will tell you how everyone else your age is doing, if it’s not there, you’ll definitely find it on Facebook and Instagram. Fancy job titles, new cars, big houses make us feel inferior as if we’re doing life wrong.
You’re not doing life wrong, you’re doing life your way.
Right now the most important thing is figuring out what is the top of your mountain and understanding your route to get there. It doesn’t matter if people are taking pictures at the top of the mountain looking down at you, getting to the top isn’t a finite resource.
Everyone can get to the top if they want.
It’s Not Just One Mountain – The Millennial Generation
In your life, from what I can gather, you will grow. Things will change, they’ll be new mountains. Parenthood for one, ageing parents for two. As we get older there are new mountains to climb and new routes to figure out. We are constantly evolving and that’s not a bad thing. We’re always going to be works in progress.
There is always something we are going to want to improve, we all have insecurities that we wish we didn’t or weaknesses that we are frustrated with but that’s life.
It’s important to realise that life is a constant ever moving journey. You will never be perfect, you might have a day where you think ‘woah I can’t think of anything I’m bad at’ to which you should enjoy, even if you are drunk. But most days they’ll be things you want to improve because we always are going to be works in progress.
I think the sooner we realise that we all have our own mountain to climb and that when we get to the top there is still going to be things we want to get better at or improve then the happier we’ll be.
This life thing is a long old journey.