25 things I’ve Learned from Millennials

by a sixty-two-year-old sales professional

After my last article I promised my 34-year-old partner that it would be the final essay. From here on out being “concise?” would be my standard order for presentation so here goes… in what us Baby Boomers would call “bullet form” or in other words the “short and skinny.”

As a kid growing up in Indiana, being a Hoosier, and being 5’9” and not terribly fast, it was unlikely that I would make the varsity basketball team, but I did. Why? Because I was a visionary. I spent SO much time on the bench and understood the game SO well that my 6’5” ex-Butler center coach kept me on the team for practice fodder. Never did any larger, taller, faster, or more talented players ever get anything free nor fool me and get an easy two… yes, they got buckets but never for free, if you know what I mean. Flash forward to my professional career and as time went on I realized that I was once more out-classed. This time it wasn’t size or speed or talent, it was culture. In the next paragraph I will explain the environment I was faced with.

I was now a marketing professional in a world in which I could see ahead of time (that’s how visionaries do) was being overtaken by the tsunami of technology and I was ill-equipped to deal with the way selling would be done during the next wave. Knowing that I, and my clients, would be deficient in the skill sets to sell to the generations to come I got up on podium, beat my chest, and yelled, “We need geeks on staff to survive or we will drown!” Once more I was not the most talented kid on the team, but I certainly understood the game and the new field we were playing on. Instead of pissing, moaning and lamenting about the good ole’ days, I searched until I found a young coach who could help me navigate my way through the marketing changes of the new millennium and learn the lessons I must to stay relevant.

I say all that to say this: I owe my productive and profitable final years (I feel fine, but who knows however many they may be) to a young man who is adept at technology but had the insight to value age old, tried and true, sales truths and fundamentals. I have spent the last few years helping build an international marketing empire not because I am so darn talented, tall or fast, but because I know the game and was willing to learn the new field we now play on. Therefore, without further ado and with all due respect to all the generations reading I submit the following lessons I have learned about and from Millennials:

  1. they don’t like literature so much, so I had to learn to do Webinars and short videos (forthcoming, I promise)
  2. wasted motion is well, wasted motion, so their thinking is: why isn’t said thing efficient and if possible automated, ere-go…
  3. automation is liberation
  4. never piss off a Millennial or they can hack your computer
  5. they love clichés and Walt Disney so use them and they think you’re worth learning from
  6. they don’t buy postage stamps
  7. they respect classic rock
  8. they are in awe of the psychology of people skills, an ancient art form to them
  9. they would rather text then talk
  10. they know who Tom Petty is
  11. they think Elvis “sold out” even though they don’t know about Colonel Tom Parker and his back-door deals
  12. they think multi-tasking is efficient
  13. they don’t realize the value of focus
  14. they grew up with the Kardashians; thankfully, we didn’t
  15. they don’t know that AI (artificial intelligence) was created at Dartmouth in the 1950’s
  16. we forgot that it was a military creation (AI) and think the Millennials came up with it
  17. they can’t sing the Aunt Jemima pancake syrup song
  18. only some of us who know it (the Aunt Jemima syrup song) are crazy enough to pass it along to our grandchildren
  19. there are more Millennials in the work force than Baby Boomers, they are now the young families and consumers of the world economy (not us)
  20. Millennials are more technologically savvy and need to be communicated with as such
  21. if I didn’t mention it before – Millennials don’t like to talk on the phone as much, they gather a lot of information “online” whereas we relied on the generation before us and books to pass down knowledge.
  22. Millennials are socially and scientifically referred to as Generation “Y”
  23. Baby Boomers are socially and scientifically referred to as “Baby Boomers” (LOL)
  24. Baby Boomers who are entrepreneurial need Millennials to help them reach their aspirations
  25. Millennials who are entrepreneurial need the lessons/fundamentals Baby Boomers have learned to accelerate their climb to success

There is not right and wrong here, in the old days “traditional” (world war #2 era folks) talked about a “generation gap.” Baby Boomers “dropped out” and were anti-government and aggressively independent. The Gen X’er’s thought more globally and helped usher in the information age. Today’s world belongs to the young families. It belongs to the generation the Baby Boomers and Generation X’er’s, who wish to make a six figures and above, are serving. These preceding generations need to do two things:

  • understand their (the Millennials) context and learn from the lens they look through
  • compassionately explain our lens and its value both socially and creatively

This is a diverse and new business landscape we seek to thrive in. It is not about right and wrong, unless we are examining social and religious topics. It’s about promoting the value of traditional instruments and grass roots expression in a world dominated by technology. They both have merits; they both provide advantages that can recognize one another. So as to NOT go “old school” and turn this into an essay, I will end by making this statement: There is so much to be done to improve the world. We can do it best and most satisfyingly by respecting and learning from one another.

My daddy thought – no, he expected – that my brothers and I and our generation would make the world a better place. He was correct in his belief because he had lived in an America of continual social progress, depression followed by prosperity, segregation by integration, and so on – Wynton Marsalis


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