Chris Brogan posted an entry on his blog recently called Discipline where he discussed the ways we can adhere to our routines to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. He also identified some basic obstacles and simple ways to overcome them. I posted the article to my Facebook page and retweeted it because I found it interesting, relevant, and wanted to share it with my friends.
As a result a friend asked an interesting question in response. What is the approach or lack thereof of discipline various generations like Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y (or Millennials)? Good one. Well, lucky me. I just happen to work in an architectural firm leading a team that has a mix of generations in one studio. I work closely with this team delivering services to a single client. This environment provides excellent fodder for the question.
It is clear that if you are a Boomer you grew up with different values than a Millennial or Gen Y; you feel more comfortable working with your hands, you find personal interaction more satisfying than connecting via the internet and are motivated by status. We could say that a Boomer is typically very hard working and self reliant, independent and goal oriented especially about workplace status and equate position with self worth. Boomers have a difficult time being on an equal playing ground as their younger counterparts as with age and experience, they feel, comes status. On the other hand, Millennial’s by their nature are more self reliant earlier in life and their value systems include altruistic approaches to their lives, the lives of their friends and the world they live in. They are sceptical of authority and are emerging more and more as independent thinkers developing their own way of doing business using technology as a springboard. They seek validation through crowd sourcing and more over value experiences than materialistic possessions. Relationships are critical to Millennials and they work more comfortably in groups than as individuals.
Personally, I am in the middle there somewhere just getting in on the cusp of Generation X. I grew up in an age where rebellion was commonplace and people were discovering their individuality, especially women, where self reliance was an ingrained principle and the growth of independence was an emerging trend. Technology was a thing of science fiction and as the years wore on it became more and more prevalent in our lives. Gen X types need to work at getting to know and accept technology whereby technology is a natural extension of a Millennial’s life. Since this generation entered the workforce in a downturn many Gen X types do not see loyalty to a firm as a primary driver over loyalty to their career and their personal development.
The point Chris Brogan was making was about pushing yourself to grow through controlling your actions in a way to position yourself to “do what you need to do” in order to complete a task (write a book) or grow a skill (play guitar). The question is; “Do your generational traits affect your ability to create and maintain discipline?” Is it easier if you are a Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y? Does one have an advantage over the other? Is one prone to discipline more that the other? The generational differences in traits are influenced through social status, technological advances, political and world events at the time of their birth and as they age. The world around us influences, to some degree, the person we become but the primary influencer in our development is our immediate family and social environment. There are many arguments made for social, socio-economic factors and geographic factors that influence who we become as individuals and while these factors do influence the course of our lives they are less important when it comes to the desire to achieve something that we are passionate about. The passion for achievement and the discipline necessary to achieve your goals comes from within, regardless of your generation, exuded from the influence your family, whatever shape that may take, bestows on you as you grow. It is interesting that the family, by definition, is the quintessential social breeding ground for generational influence. Most families have those “been there done that” Boomers interacting with those “think they know it all” Gen X types all observed by those eye-rolling Gen Y individuals ignoring everyone and getting back to the social issue of that minute.
As I work day to day with both flanking generations it is interesting to see how each approaches the other and how they approach the same challenges and problems in the workplace. From project challenges, to mentoring, to client interaction, to meeting tough deadlines we all move through the days and weeks as a seemingly cohesive unit. In retrospect, I can say that I really have not given much thought to the generational differences in my team until now. Above all, one thing I can say is that we are fortunate to have a great team and they care immensely about what they do. The team, regardless of generation, attacks their assignments with respect and vigour. I am lucky to be part of this group of individuals and am proud of what they have achieved.
We can all learn from each other, no matter what generation we are rooted in. If we are open minded, we can find value from the approach and natural tendencies of each generation and we will find that there is no less desire to achieve personal goals in any one of the generational demographics than the other. Each simply approaches discipline in a different manner and from unique viewpoints. The basic similarity between all generations is that each will still find immense challenge in maintaining discipline. Ask yourself, and be honest, are you able to keep the focus required to reach your goal? If so, what do you do to maintain that focus? Does it feel right to discuss it with a friend, open up your world to your friends to get feedback, or to keep plugging away with a singular insular independence until the goal is realized? A good perspective would be to take a look at your colleagues and family members in the neighbouring generations, try to understand what makes them tick and how they approach life and their work to better understand how they are motivated to achieve their dreams.
What does your discipline look like?