I recently read an article highlighting a study of people born between 1977 and 1983 (via Dan Woodman, Melbourne University). We are Xennials—a micro-generation wedged between Generation X and Generation Y. As someone born in 1981, I consider the article to be spot on. I’ve never felt like I identified with either generation exclusively. Instead, I possess characteristics of both.
I vividly remember when our family got our first VCR, car phone and computer. As a kid, I listened to records. In my pre-teens, it was cassette tapes. And I still have a folder of my favorite CDs that happily collects dust under my bed.
Those of us born in this seven-year window have experienced an unparalleled transition, especially when it comes to how we consume information. We know what encyclopedias are and yet, we don’t use them. We remember things like libraries, writing letters, and photo albums. However, we are also adept in social media and digital communication. My generation possesses the nostalgia of the analogue age and the tech-savvy experience of the digital age.
But as I read the article, it didn’t point out what it all means. What impact can the Xennials have on our culture?
I believe that our micro-generation holds the key for a revival—a new era in our socio-cultural-corporate development. We are a new hope. There is a chasm between Generation X and Generation Y that needs to be bridged. We are that bridge. More importantly, we are raising a generation of children who will carry us into the future. A future that we will help create.
The Problems Xennials Face
As someone who stands on the fence between generations, I have the unique perspective to live and work with both Gen X’ers and Millennials. With that perspective, there are a few observations that I want to point out.
Generation X feels largely cynical to me. They see everything with a critical eye. However, their cynicism is rooted in prudence that has been forged through experience. We can learn from that experience without being defensive.
On the other hand, Generation Y is cavalier and bold. Too often we see this as their downfall and hold it against them. But Millennials are willing to dream and they truly believe that they can change the world.
If we can combine prudence with boldness, I think it will help us navigate some of the challenges we face personally, corporately, and culturally. Below, I’ve listed a few challenges and thoughts on where to begin.
1. Too Much Information, Not Enough Wisdom
As E. O. Wilson so aptly put, “We are drowning in information, yet starving for wisdom.”
On a daily basis, we are inundated with more information than our previous generations combined. The digital age and social media has given us constant and continuous access to more input that we can possibly consume. In effect, we’ve become addicted to instant gratification and the consumption of information. As a result, we’ve mistaken information for wisdom.
Information is simply data, facts, input. But that input doesn’t always equate to truth. Wisdom, on the other hand, is rooted in truth. For example, you might be able to spit out ten productivity hacks, but if productivity isn’t the goal, that doesn’t make it a wise use of your time.
As a culture, we have to begin seeking wisdom instead of simply consuming information. That means we have to slow down long enough to discern the difference between the two. We have to listen to someone who’s wiser than we are. And the only way we’ll ever be able to do that, is if we’re humble enough to learn.
2. There’s More to Life Than Money
A shift has occurred between generations. It used to be that a corporate job with a good retirement was the goal, and hard work was the means to an end. As a result, Generation X is the pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps generation who found their validation and identity in their career. And if they see someone who doesn’t work as “hard” as they do, they resent them for it.
Millennials have a different idea. They’re more concerned with making a difference. They use words like purpose, meaning, and social impact. Because of that, they’re willing to sacrifice the nine-to-five grind and a few dollars along the way. Essentially, they understand that being rich involves a lot more than money. The problem is, if not kept in check, that mindset can result in laziness and entitlement.
Instead of standing on each side of the aisle, we have to recognize the blend of hard work and purpose. One can’t forsake the other. We don’t need to work ourselves to exhaustion simply because it’s the noble thing to do. On the flip side, we don’t need to become complacent waiting for our purpose to land in our laps.
We have to learn how to use our unique gifts and passions for a greater cause than padding our own pockets. And, once we find our unique cause and purpose, we have to work diligently because it won’t happen overnight.
3. We Need More Than Personal Development
On my 35th birthday, I had an epiphany. I call it my Jerry Maguire moment. This was the moment that I finally realized my life needed to change. Subtly, all of my pursuits had been for more money, more success, more influence. This was the Gen X in me. But I realized that no matter how hard I worked, there had to be something more.
I had fed myself a steady diet of personal development for years and while I was more productive and possibly more effective, I wondered if productivity and effectiveness were really the goal. I found myself longing for purpose, for meaning. And I honestly was crazy enough to believe that I could help change the world. This was my Gen Y shining through.
In that moment, I coined the idea “Faith Development”. What would it look like to develop the faith beneath it all? What if we could thrive in our gifts and leave a legacy much greater than a sizable bank account?
Along with my business partner, Zondervan author Kevin Adams, we founded YouPrint. YouPrint is a faith development organization that bridges the gap. We are the microcosm between faith-based organizations and the corporate world. We combine wisdom with boldness to teach people how to work from who they are, not just for what they want.
If we’re going to change the world, we have to develop people. And we can’t fully develop people if we don’t help them fully develop their faith.
Goonies Never Say Die
As a kid, I loved The Goonies—the story of adventuresome kids who were in search of treasure to save their hometown, the Goondocks. In essence, that’s the Xennial micro-generation. We have the adventuresome spirit of The Goonies. And like our Christopher Columbus-created counterparts, we hold the key to restoration. While the rich guys are trying to tear down our city and the rest of the kids are too lazy to get off the couch, it’s up to us to affect change.
But it won’t be easy. We’ll face our fair share of boobytraps and criticism. But in the end, what’s our life about?
We’ll need the wisdom and prudence of those who have gone before us. But we’ll also need the boldness and energy to persist in the face of culture that’s ready to run off the rails.
Goonies never say die. And neither do we.