Millennials have been called selfish, flaky, lazy, irresponsible, gullible, and spoiled. The truth is nothing but the opposite. They are not a naïve generation on the wrong track. Rather, millennials are among mankind’s most generous, steadfast, engaged, responsible, trusting, and wise generations.
First things first—what is a Millennial? If you were dividing the billionaires on the Forbes list of billionaires into just two categories, “millennials” and “non-millennials,” where would you place the creators of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, and Amazon? Would you place the creators of Berkshire Hathaway, Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and Wells Fargo on the same side of the list? Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos may look older than our archetypical millennial, Mark Zukerberg, but fundamentally, they are the same—they have founded companies that satisfy a basic human need through technology and they are fundamentally driven by the desire to make the world better by using technology. This is what makes them millennials. The term “millennial” does not just refer to an age. It is fundamentally a positive mental attitude about technology and its role in the world. There are many 50-year-olds who are millennials and some 20-year-olds who are not. The good news is that the majority of our young people are true millennials. Technology is the putty of this generation, just as the wheel, steam, electricity, and information were to previous generations.
So, let’s now understand the new inheritors of Planet Earth and what they stand for.
Myth 1: Millennials are selfish. In fact, millennials are quite selfless and socially conscious. According to Millennial Marketing, nearly 50% of millennials say they would be more willing to buy something if it supports a cause that’s important to them. 37% are even willing to spend more on a product or service if it supports something they believe in. Millennials support brands that stand for more than just their profits—brands must be socially committed to garner millennial support (Millennial Marketing, 2016). Relatedly, when looking for work, millennials are more and more turning to companies and organizations that will provide them not only with money, but also with meaning and avenues to express their social purpose.
Myth 2: Millennials are flaky. People of previous generations would stay in the same industry and often within the same company for their entire careers. Now sadly, many of them are unemployed because of their inflexible skill sets. Millennials have seen the writing on the wall and are way more well-rounded than previous generations. Millennials recognize that their life expectancy is longer and that there’s so much more that they can and should be doing with their lives. They don’t simply define themselves by their “9-5 jobs” (which, in any case, are a thing of the past). They are working unconventional hours. They are working in unconventional ways. Millennials are starting new industries. Just a decade ago, industries like ride sharing and mobile health did not even exist. Millennials are conscious of important issues that people face and they are creating innovative solutions to address them using technology—the electricity of this generation.
Myth 3: Millennials are lazy. Millennials have pulled more all-nighters, travelled more countries, and had more experiences than most people of previous generations. That doesn’t sound so lazy to us. Millennials are interested in exploring the world and having many experiences in it. According to Millennial Marketing, 79% of millennials want to visit all 50 states, 75% want to travel abroad, and 69% crave adventure (Millennial Marketing, 2016). Millennials realize that the world is so much more than their hometown and a “regular life” (if such a concept even exists anymore). They want to explore and engage with and experience the world and they realize that doing so enriches their lives and lives of others.
Myth 4: Millennials are irresponsible. The spending habits of millennials indicate that they’re anything but irresponsible. Sure, they’re not putting all their savings into buying houses and cars, but that doesn’t make them irresponsible. It means that they have different values from previous generations. Millennials tend to value experiences more than things and are thus investing more of their resources into being able to have these experiences. Millennials also are more community oriented and worry less about making a nuclear family unit like previous generations did. They have no qualms about living at home after college. This is a generation of love and sharing. Economist Jeremy Rifkin says, “Twenty-five years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership the anomaly.” We could make the same statement about home ownership too if we extended the timeline 50 or 75 years. Millennials are here to increase sharing in the world, no other world is really possible.
Myth 5: Millennials are gullible. Fewer millennials own TVs compared to previous generations, as they can apps to stream their favorite shows. They consume content on demand and it is downright impossible to show a millennial an advertisement they are not interested in. Millennials are optimizers and look for products and services that can provide them with maximum convenience at the lowest cost (Goldman Sachs, 2016). Doesn’t sound so gullible to us.
Myth 6: Millennials are uninterested. Not true! Millennials are deeply interested in the world and take good care of themselves. They invest more in their health and wellness than non-millennials. They exercise more, eat healthier, and smoke less than older generations. They are also willing to spend more on products and services that promote wellness (Goldman Sachs, 2016). It is their focus on disease prevention and quality of life that is the greatest hope for our civilization. They write blogs and attend rallies for peace. They are not interested in hatred and war. That doesn’t make them uninterested. That makes them in step with times.
Myth 7: Millennials are spoiled. This is an ill-informed judgment based on the model of “9-5 jobs,” mortgage, cars, savings, and the ways of life of previous generations that are fast going out of fashion. Millennials refuse to live in yesterday’s world. That does not make them spoiled. That makes them wise.
Instead of dismissing millennials as a naïve generation on the wrong track, let’s look at all of the positive change that they’ve enabled. Considering the less-than-favorable circumstances of the world that they’ve inherited, millennials are doing quite well for themselves and have a better vision for the world than previous generations did. Sure there will be less traditional job security and stability for the millennials. But millennials are not aspiring for huge mansions in the suburbs. Their definition of success is to be happy, to truly experience and enjoy life, to share it with others and to make the world better for the generations that follow. This is the millennial manifesto as we understand it.
Sushma Sharma is the founder of Konversai, where millennials and non-millennials alike can have meaningful conversations. She is in her 40s and a millennial in the truest sense of the term.
Pavita Singh Konversai’s content writer. She is 25 years old—a millennial both in age and at heart.
Konversai is the world’s biggest conversation platform organized around sharing personal knowledge. It aims to make the world better—one conversation at a time.