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I love Simon Sinek. His TED talk on the “Golden Circle,” about how great leaders inspire action, is one of the most paradigm-shifting talks I’ve ever listened to. (Watch that one here.)
But today, we’re here to talk about a different Simon Sinek video, one that is already far more popular than the one linked above. I came across this video about a month ago and have since seen it shared countless times on my Facebook feed to the tune of what is almost certainly 100 million views.
Not much, really. This is one of the most coherent, non-sensationalistic videos on Millennials I’ve ever watched. Simon rarely generalizes, and when he does, he is clear about the fact that he is generalizing, which is an important step in presenting information about an entire generation of Americans that, sadly, gets overlooked more often than not.
One thing he says right at the beginning, “Millennials are those people born approximately 1984 and after,” is wrong according to the vast majority of research done on Millennials. Nearly every study I consult pegs the beginning of the Millennial generation within a couple of years of 1980.
The end date of the Millennial generation, however, is a bit more debatable. Some people use 1995ish and some use 2000. I think anywhere from the mid-90s to 2000 is fair game. But, anyone born from 2001 to the present is part of Generation Z.
Also, I do think Simon lets Millennials off the hook a little bit, perhaps unintentionally, by passing all of the blame for their issues onto their parents. He addresses this in the update video he posted on his YouTube page, which I have embedded at the bottom of this post. I think his point is a good one though: those who manage Millennials need to have a bit of empathy for why Millennials are the way they are.
“Millennials were dealt a bad hand.” This is true, and it is a very good point. Sure, just about every generation of Americans can point to how they were “dealt a bad hand” in one way or another. But, in short, Simon points out that most of the complaints Gen Xers and Boomers have about Millennials are actually rooted in how Gen Xers and Boomers raised Millennials.
It’s not like, one day, Millennials decided to be entitled and self-centered—they were raised by parents who told them they could have whatever they wanted because they’re awesome.
Perhaps the most profound part of Simon’s monologue comes when he starts talking about the dopamine-release affect of social media and other related technologies and the effects these are having on Millennials.
Social media interactions (like receiving a Snap or an Instagram like) releases a chemical called “dopamine” in our brains. This chemical brings pleasure; it feels good. As Simon says:
Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble. In other words, it’s highly, highly addictive. We have age restrictions on smoking, gambling, and alcohol, and we have no age restrictions on social media and cell phones, which is the equivalent of the liquor cabinet and telling our teenagers, “Hey this adolescence thing, if it gets you down…[motions to invisible liquor cabinet].”
This problem is not unique to Millennials, but we have been on the front lines of it. We are Digital Natives, after all.
Another home run from Simon is his point on instant gratification. Whether its shopping, watching movies, or trying to go on a date, Millennials are able to find instant gratification in more spaces than ever before. Amazon ships products the next day, Netflix has all the movies and TV shows you need, and Tinder can find you a date without you having to awkwardly approach someone at the bar or at church.
The addiction to instant gratification rears its ugly head when, as Simon says, Millennials try to find instant gratification in job satisfaction or interpersonal relationships. These are two spaces that simply do not deliver gratification instantly—they take time and effort unlike almost anything else in Millennials’ lives.
Millennials, Simon says, need to learn patience. Amen. This is the bottom line of his monologue, and I think its an important point.
What you do about what Simon says depends on if you’re a Millennial or someone who is older than Millennials.
If you’re a Millennial: spend less time on social media and more time interacting with real people, in face-to-face ways.
If you’re older than Millennials: show Millennials grace when they misunderstand how the world works and develop them.
In case you missed it, Simon posted a follow-up video on his YouTube page responding to some people’s questions/comments: