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Telling the Story to the Individual, Not the Demographic

I’m going to try something a little different today. I’m going to take generalizations many of us have come to accept, and blow them up a little more just to emphasize my point.

Millennials, for example. If you’ve been reading my posts you’ll remember that this group is (sarcastically) narcissistic, they job hop, live in their parent’s basement, watch Netflix all day, are notoriously lazy, and can’t do great work.

Let’s say that 90% of Millennials are like this. Depending on where you live (for the sake of this piece it is either Canada or the US) there are ~167 million of them (again, depending on the ages we use to define them), that means that just over 150 million of them are effectively useless.

Great! We’ve just made things a lot simpler.


Because assuming a demographic is all the same doesn’t do anyone any favours.

Instead of thinking that all people who are ~19 - ~35 (a Millennial, depending on the definition) want the same thing and act the same way is ludicrous.

Sure, many of them may act a certain way, but this isn’t bound by the years they were born. Instead, these behaviours are more based on the values of the individuals.

And so in a conversation last week, I heard that the Ford Escape is targeted at people who are between the ages of (roughly) 40-60. I started wondering if it is really the age of the person that defines what vehicle they want to buy? Or is it the stage of life, value set, and personality of the individual that is more important? Are we marketing to a demographic that is based on age, or are we talking about something that is more important- values?

See, a conversation with a good friend of mine who is over twice my age taught me something that is really important:

Age doesn’t matter.

With over twice as many years on this planet than I have, what he told me is that I trump him in experience in some places, and he obviously trumps me in others. Where we align though (regardless of experiences), is in some of the shared values we have.

These values don’t see age. They don’t see time.

And so whether we’re trying to sell a Ford Escape or trying to bring on a new member to our team, I’d like to challenge not how we’re communicating to people, but what we’re trying to say when we sell a product or a position to them.

Are we playing off of the demographical stereotypes, or are we speaking to the individual that is looking for the experience we are trying to offer?

The bottom line here is that many companies are trying to compete for the top millennial talent. Actually, just the top talent in general. We think that if they are between the ages of x and y then they are going to like a certain thing. Going back to the example before, even if 90% of these people felt that way and it didn’t align with the opportunity we are trying to sell, we should be celebrating that, not be concerned. Even if we have a target of 0.001 we still have over 1,670,000 people that would be a good fit for the experience.

Sounds good to you? Me too.

Let’s start telling the story to the individual, not the generalized demographic.

Raising Children

The way children are raised in the past 10 years has changed drastically. Perhaps it isn’t just because of generational differences, and ‘Millennials’ wanting to treat their kids ways they were neglected, or perhaps challenged a bit too much, but also because of the technological integration that makes parenting ‘easier’ and maybe less hands-on. Parenting toddlers and infants require an exorbitant amount of time, no doubt, but as children get older and can come home and be happily preoccupied with technology, a few red-flags should be raised, especially when considering communication skills, social skills, respect, and work ethic. These things aren’t taught at a later age, they are engrained in us from our parents as we grow from a very young age.

Jane McGonigal, TED Speaker from San Francisco posted that ‘there are more than half a billion people worldwide playing computer and videogames at least an hour a day -- and 183 million in the U.S. alone. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be a gamer -- 99% of boys under 18 and 94% of girls under 18 report playing videogames regularly. The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21 -- or 24 hours less than they spend in a classroom for all of middle and high school if they have perfect attendance. It's a remarkable amount of time we're investing in games. 5 million gamers in the U.S., in fact, are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games.’

What is more interesting that that in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to truly master something, whether it be playing the violin, or becoming a hockey player.

And on the note of the hockey player, the number of children in the small town that I grew up in in Canada has seen a 50% drop in registration for community hockey while the population of the city hasn’t changed in the slightest.

So, while kids are now becoming masters at video games, and getting out of the house less and getting less exercise, one can only guess how the future of work will be changing, and how fast this is going to take place. Children are literally becoming professionals at gaming, without developing alternate skillsets. Many don’t think that gaming and tech are the same thing.

When raising children, note that you are their number one role model and hero until you let someone else come along. The things you do together and the time spent between parents and children can only happen once, and will never be regretted. Teaching work ethic, communication, and social skills must be a top priority because if the 10,000 hours spend in front of the screen can be spent in other places learning the essential skills to life, imagine the success your children will have in a world that is full of technological integration, or what I like to call ‘optional neglect’.

My Dad always told me to work hard and showed me why. He taught me the value of money and what it took to be able to support the family. Now that I’m a little older, he’s also told me that if I don’t work, there is no way he and my mom will be able to afford the luxury old-folks home- that is going to be on me too.

Thanks Dad. Happy to help.

​The (Generation’s) Self-Awareness

The way we build relationships is changing. I’d go so far as to say the way relationships used to be built is dead, or dying quickly. We now live in a world we are doing many things and focused on none. We are on our phones more than we aren’t, and we get to know someone based on who their profile says they are, not the person we would know them to be. We spend more time looking at the weather app than we do looking outside, and we swipe based on how attractive someone is. That’s it. True relationships are fewer and further apart, and arguably aren’t worth what they used to be. What’s worse though, is that we fail to truly understand who we are first. This is the biggest problem of all.

Let’s back up. I’m 23, what do I know?

I know I’m guilty.

I know I’m using technology too much. I know that I’m a victim to social approval. I crave affirmation from others, and without that, I feel like less of the individual I’ve worked so hard to be. Relationships that I thought were ironclad are now a shell of what they used to be. Maybe this is growth, maybe I’m becoming someone I never expected to be, or maybe I’m becoming exactly who I thought I was going to be, but never could expect what would come with the sacrifice.

I think I’ve been working to be someone you want me to be.

I know I’m not talking to those that are and were important to me as I pursue those who are bigger thinkers, more ‘successful’ people, and those who push me to be the best I can be.

But there is a middle ground.

There isn’t.

The next generation, MY generation, aspires to be more than there is room for, to have more than we work for, and achieve a certain social status just by posting a picture or sharing an opinion. All of this, for external approval.

I’m living in amongst a generation that is having a quarter-life crisis at 25. Our tenure is worse than it is ever been, and the derivation of happiness is often by the number of ‘likes’ we get on a status, picture, and not the promotion itself, but the attention it gets. This isn’t for me; it’s for you to validate me.

There are more students going to university now than ever before. Why? Because we are blindly taught to be someone we aren’t. Someone we don’t understand.

I now wake up each morning to continue the pursuit of happiness- after I check my phone and all the apps that will not determine, but influence next hours I am awake.

The world we live in is nothing like the world our parents lived in, nor will it be anything like the world our children will occupy. Sure, it still has the beauties and elements it always had, but the way we communicate and learn is significantly changing.

Inherently we value the same things: love, mastery, autonomy, creativity, and so on. If we fail to critically understand who we are, then how can we expect to make our dreams come true?

Wait a second. Are they our dreams, or the ones we think will garner the most external validation?

We better figure it out. This could be important.

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