One of the biggest (perceived) problems with the millennial generation is a sense of entitlement. The perception is that all millennials grew up being told they were special, and received trophies simply for showing up.
As time has passed, older leaders have proclaimed the entitlement stereotype of the millennial generation. Usually those who perpetuate this generalization are doing so to promote their own book, blog, seminar, etc. Rarely have they ever spent time with a millennial, much less a group of millennials.
As a millennial, I understand why there is a perception of entitlement. Yes, my generation received a lot of participation trophies. Yes, it was reinforced from many angles that we were special. And yes, there are some vocal (and downright obnoxious) millennials who wreak of an entitled attitude.
But the mistake here is the assumption of 2 things: 1) This attitude is confined only to the millennial generation, and 2) What millennials express is entitlement, not the desire to make a difference.
Let’s start with the first assumption: This apparently entitled attitude is exclusive only to the millennials. This is both a false and dangerous assumption. Why? Because it immediately creates a filter for non-millennials, and that filter changes everything the non-millennial sees and hears from my generation.
I think what people identify as “millennial entitlement” is really an attitude that has been around for a very long time. This is where we get to the second assumption: What appears to be entitlement is actually a desire to make a difference.
These two assumptions are interconnected, and I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s look at this second assumption. Many millennials, including myself, want to devote our lives to something that matters. Sure, we want to make a good income to provide for our family and support causes we care about.
But this is more than wanting to have a career that matters. We grew up watching older generations spend money they didn’t have to buy things they didn’t need to impress people they didn’t like. As a result, we have somewhat of a distaste for abundant consumerism and materialistic status. Yes, we still like having things, but we do more homework to purchase products made by companies we support.
How does the desire to make a difference get confused with entitlement? Glad you asked. We millennials are the problem. Our desire to make a difference and do something that makes an impact isn’t conveyed clearly. What should reveal our passion instead can reveal our immaturity.
This desire to make a difference is not something that is exclusive to my generation. Don’t believe me? Think back to the 1960s in America. This was a defining decade in America, with the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and even Woodstock. What group was primarily involved in these cultural defining movements?
These young people (millennials now are the age of these young people) were passionate about certain things. They knew the racism in America was wrong, so they fought against it. With protests and sit-ins, they demonstrated their desire to make a difference.
War was taking their friends to a violent conflict in south Asia, and they felt strongly that it was wrong. What did they do? Protest. Fight. In other words, they looked for ways to make a difference.
Does anyone call that generation entitled? No. They call them pioneers, trailblazers, defenders of justice. What were they trying to do? Live a life that makes a difference.
What are millennials trying to do? Live a life that makes a difference. Our medium is the internet and the size of our platform is perceived by the number of our followers. We desperately want to live a life for something that matters.
So the next time you hear a millennial appear entitled, pause. Look past it. More often than not, you will see someone who desperately wants to make a difference.
Affirm that. Encourage that. Help clarify it. Then watch that person make a positive dent in the world.