I was at a golf course with a colleague in the cafe and looked over at a table of men, who i’d guess, were in their late 50’s thru 70’s. I noticed they were sizing up their golf winnings for the day. All six looked really old, worn-out, and tired. I ended up recognizing one of the men at the table, work buddy from way back. While holding a conversation with him, he actually confirmed my assessment of “old,worn-out and tired” by telling me that he in fact was, along with all the men at his table. Apparently this was their big day of the week because playing golf today was cheap and it allowed them the chance to get out of the house, away from their wives and the kid who had moved back home. Cheap was good because they all were trying to live on their 2008 interrupted pensions, 401k’s, and yes, Social Security. I looked at my colleague and asked if I looked as worn-out and old, fortunately the answer was no!
Fast forward a few weeks later, I was at a lunch meeting with another business colleague. As we were catching up, she informed me that she currently has more coaching clients than she normally does, and that they were mostly Baby Boomers. They all had a common theme, many were bitter and resentful at where they were in their lives today. Part of the bitterness? “I should be retired by now”, “I have to do it all again”, “I’m just tired and worn-out’,”I want to do something else”, ‘I’ll never make the money I once made”. Unthinkable thoughts to many, not surprising to Baby Boomer parents and annoying to their kids. This conversation I was having suddenly struck a chord for me and made me think back to that day at the golf course. It made me look more closely at many of todays Baby Boomers, like the golf course guys, and realize this feeling of bitterness and resentment has become the defining point of our generation.
Like me, all of my Baby Boomer friends busted their humps over the years for big cash rewards, splurging on big leveraged houses, cars and lavash vacations. We all did it to some degree. We witnessed our own parents come out of the great depression with nothing and were encouraged to pursue this type of lifestyle. The years of excess is the other defining moment of the Baby Boomer generation. It might be why 40 years later, Baby Boomers are pissed off and bitter. All these things plus an increase in college tuition costs covered by student loans were convenient to the Baby Boomers, until the sudden economic crash of 2008. Fear of the unknown strangled many, doing nothing became what to do. An odd behavior to the Baby Boomers, like falling off a fast moving treadmill.
Well, guess what guys, friends, Baby Boomer’s, we did it to ourselves. In the 80’s we invented the mini-van, coined the term soccer mom, we perfected day-care, latch-key kids and DINK’s (double income, no kids). Work hard, play hard resulted in the man cave of toys, kids in every sport and even longer commutes and crazy personal spending habits, to name just a few. But, alas, we were never home. Up at 6am, home after 9pm. The kids, their fine doing their homework, no need to bother. Working out at the gym, not a chance, it was a frowned on, making you feel guilty for taking out that quick 30 minutes to get you healthy.
The 90’s were ok until the late 90’s brought the run-up to the internet bubble. That was a crazy time… crazy time!! Internet companies were being funded with millions of Venture Capital dollars at unthinkable burn-rates. Start-ups were growing by literally 50 or more employee’s a week, while really poor business practices were being executed by many in the industry. Heck, I’m just as guilty, working in corporate America working as fast as I could flying through 60-70 hour work weeks, just like everyone else. All of this makes me think of asking the Baby Boomers the question from the country western song “so how do ‘ya like me now?” Did the Baby Boomers go too fast, invent to fast, play too fast, then run out of steam? Bonk out like a triathlete who didn’t manage fatigue and nutrition well during the race? There is certainly enough Baby Boomer anger and resentment to give a stickiness factor to the argument. Sure we have money, but not the stupid wealth we thought we’d have!
Let’s add in the Millenials, or as I call them the “Young Professionals”. They have witnessed it and they don’t want any part of the monster that our generation created. They look out on this vast landscape that took the Baby Boomers decades to build. Some of it was built well, but most of it was not. Did the Baby Boomers really wreak havoc on the planet, overuse and over do for profit? No matter the answer, the Young Professionals want to take it all apart and start brand new. They want to repair and reverse all the damage the Baby Boomers have done up to this point. Many have the skill sets, drive and ambition to invent, create and contribute to a different and tolerant society that includes tremendous inclusion. It’s happening quickly and in quantum leaps. What’s great about it is the Young Professionals are capable of building off the best, the unfinished and worst of what the Baby Boomers accomplished. It’s a natural human condition to better what was before us.
This is an epic change for America and the traditional American Point of View by the up and coming generation, the kids of the Baby Boomers. This generation is larger than the Baby Boomers and smarter than the Baby Boomers. They will continue to use technologies to transform the way business is conducted. They understand the true value of a collaborative and innovative work place and economy. This group of young leaders are defining what the new collaborative economy looks like. So with all that being said, I leave you with this challenge statement, maybe, just maybe, the Baby Boomers didn’t get it right after all…….