• The Millennial Question: Cultural Challenges to Our Hero’s Journeys

We in industry have a responsibility to help this amazing, idealistic, fantastic generation build their confidence, learn patience, learn social skills and find a balance between life and technology. ~ Simon Sinek ~

 

Four Challenges to Fulfillment

We never take our journeys in isolation. They are always taken within a context: a culture, a family, a social environment and from within a personal history of growth and development. In the past, our cultures nurtured our development to help us grow into well-rounded, solid human beings. This is no longer the case.

I recently came across this 17-minute video, “The Millennial Question: Millennials in the Workplace,” in which Simon Sinek, a British/American author, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. explores the malaise and exploitation experienced by the “millennial generation,” those of us born in 1984 and after. While he doesn’t mention personal hero’s journeys, his points relate directly to the challenges we face on our life quests, and I’d like to make some comments on these connections.

I strongly recommend that you watch (and review) this video (perhaps with your children or with others about whom you care deeply)–and for the well-being of our culture in general. (If you find this video of value, you might be interested in a number articles and blog posts on my own website which deal with similar issues in my library or blog posts.)

Why Are Millennials Unhappy?

Mr. Sinek believes that Millennials, as a generation, are unhappy, and he traces this unhappiness, what I’ll call the “Millennial Malaise,” to four causes:

1. parenting (“failed parenting strategies”)
2. obsession with (or addiction to) technology
3. Impatience (expectation of instant gratification)
4. environment (which cares about short term gains rather than the lives of the children/young people)

I’m won’t go through each of these causes in this post—you need to watch (and re-watch) the video. However, I do want to comment on a couple of his key points that I feel are especially important in the contexts of teaching, self-realization and the Hero’s Journey.

Technology Can Be an Addiction

First I want to explore for a moment Sinek’s belief that Millemnial malaise is, to a large extent, caused by our addiction to technology. Studies have shown, without doubt, that the use of cell phones (texting, Instagrams, etc.) triggers the release of dopamines in the brain. Dopamines are highly addictive, as addictive as smoking, drinking and gambling. Mr. Sinek makes the point that, “You have an entire generation that has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine through social media and cell phones as they’re going through the high stress of adolescence.”

His point about the addictive nature of cell phones and their stimulation of dopamines is supported by a great deal of science. Research shows that dopamine triggers arousal and stimulates our innate seeking behavior. It causes to want, to desire, seek out and to and search. In other words, dopamine motivates us to engaged in our world, seeking and learning for survival. And when we find something of interest we are satisfied, which triggers another system, the “opioid” system that causes us pleasure.

So, seeking (triggered by dopamine) leads to finding; finding leads to pleasure (stimulated by opioids) and a pause or break in the system. However, if (as with cell phones, etc.) our “seeking” isn’t paused, we are trapped in a “dopamine loop.” In Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Weinschenk writes,

It’s easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text.

Mr. Sinek points out that that we put age restrictions on drinking, smoking and gambling, but we put no restrictions on the highly-addictive use of technology, especially cell phones. He suggests that this addiction is pulling our young people away from the experiences they need for development as human beings, essentially their journeys into adulthood. And, sadly, he cites the increasing suicide rate among this age group (which has nearly tripled), an increase he feels is at least partially caused by technological addictions and the loss of human interaction they cause.

Exploitation Rather than Nurturing

I also want to comment on Mr. Sinek’s fourth point, which I will call the exploitation of an entire generation. I’ve made this point for many years (especially when I was teaching and trying to change the way we viewed education and our posture toward our students): children are no longer viewed as precious young beings to be nurtured and supported, but as a resource and a market, a commodity to be exploited rather than cared for. (Consider, for example, that schools and corporations no longer have “personnel” offices; they have “human resources” offices. People have ceased to be “persons” and are now “resources.”)

Corporations have created an environment where children have developed what psychologist David Elkind called a “patchwork identity,” in which personal identity is created not through the human, social processes of differentiation and integration, but through “substitution.” Through substitution, children build a sense of identity based on observing and copying the world around them. They don’t grow by replacing old understandings with new, more encompassing understandings, but by simply compiling “feelings, thoughts, and beliefs appropriated from others” (Elkind, All Dressed Up and No Place to Go, 1998, p. 21). This process does not form an integrated, cohesive self, but a a “patchwork” self.

This patchwork self has no cohesive, integrated, enduring core to rely on for guidance or direction. As a result, people with patchwork selves are easily influenced by others because they have no anchoring internal reference and because they have developed the habit of following others rather than making decisions based on their own understandings. They are always looking for external direction and validation, and they very seldom find real, personal meaning and purpose in their lives.

Short Term Gains Overrides Growth and Development

I’ll conclude this brief commentary with Mr. Sinek’s fourth point: environment. I’ll quote him directly: “We’re taking this amazing group of young, fantastic kids, who were just dealt a bad hand, through no fault of their own, and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short-term gains than they do about the life of this young human being.”

And then, when these kids can’t deal with that environment, that world, they think they are the problem. But they are not the problem. As Sinek says, “I’m here to tell them it’s not them…It’s the environment, the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.”

So we have taken an entire generation and short-circuited their Hero’s Journeys: through faulty parenting, addictions, instant gratification and ignoring the development of a cohesive, integrated sense of self.

But I’ll stop here, for now, and strongly recommend that you watch and review Mr. Sinek’s discussion of the the psycho-social problems faced by Millennials. In future posts I want to look at Mr. Sinek’s other causes for Millennial Malaise and explore them in the context of pursuing our personal Hero’s Journeys.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *