What a Boomer or GenXer can Learn from a Millennial.

December 17, 2020

What a Boomer or GenXer can Learn from a Millennial.

May 29, 2023

Recently, I was asked on a podcast about what someone my age could learn from someone half my age. Here was my spontaneous list, all of which is terribly generalized. Take what’s valuable to you and leave the rest:

1. Bias for Action

I appreciate how Millennials decide and act with speed and a willingness to take risks. I would never have started my hotel company at age 56, knowing what I didn’t know. Of course, at 26, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, only that I could see this big boutique hotel wave coming, and I wanted to catch it. The shadow side of Bias for Action can show-up as impatience.

2. Value of Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are about more than age, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability. They are also about different points of view, experiences, and thinking, as well as cognitive diversity: a mix of experiences, identities, ideas, and opinions. The Millennials I know appreciate creating a more collaborative environment that values open participation from people with different ideas and perspectives versus a traditional, purely demographics-based diversity.

3. Blended Work/Life vs. Work/Life Balance

Millennials have grown-up in a hyperconnected, always-on world where they can connect anytime, from anywhere. So, this has naturally led to more work/life integration vs. work/life balance. Perhaps they can see more clearly that “balance” is not an achievable state and implies that work is separate from life when we live in a truly frapped world.

4. Life is not Linear

Millennials don’t conceptualize their career trajectory in a linear way. They don’t expect to start and then stay with a single company for their entire careers, climbing the corporate ladder. They view their careers as more of a jungle gym—a series of starts and stops, unique explorations, and journeys. The whole Millennial FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a repudiation of the traditional three-stage life: learn till you’re 20 or 25, earn till you’re 65, and retire till you die.

5. Comfort with Transitions

Perhaps Millennials’ POV on transitions is the result of the increased pace of change we have seen in the last two or three decades. Regardless of the reason, I find it healthy.

6. DIY Learning

Most of the young people I know don’t have an Encyclopedia Britannica. They consult Google before grandma or grandpa. And, YouTube has become their learning concierge.

7. The Wisdom of Reciprocity.

Skillshare programs offered in many Millennial companies and the growing popularity of mutual mentorship in which you find someone who is the yin to your yang are evidence that we’re moving in the direction of wisdom becoming reciprocal. This is what I found at Airbnb as I was often trading my knowledge of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) for my mentees’ DQ (Digital Intelligence).


Now, of course, there’s a long list of skills that Millennials can learn from us as well, but, for now, let’s simply ask the following question, “How could I become more curious about learning from those younger than me?”

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