I still remember Madonna, Sting, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, and the newly minted “V-Jays” of cable TV telling me to call my local cable TV provider to demand 24 hour music videos. Back before there were 3 or 4 MTVs…and none of them showed music videos…most of the people I went to high school with still got their television through antennae. But the lucky few of us that lived close enough to town to get it through a coaxial cable, were being incited by animated likenesses of pop singers to DEMAND that we get our MTV! Dire Straits, a rootsy Brit pub band, even went so far as to include this line in their song, “Money for Nothing” launching them to video stardom.
Funny thing is, that line really drove home the vibe of the 80s. I want this. I want that. I want one of those new portable cellular telephones. I want a new K-car convertible. I want those Air Jordans. I want clothes. I want a Walkman! I want a credit card with no limit!!!!! I want, I want, I WANT!!!! To be a 20-something in the 80s was to see the world as a combination of the Florida Mall and Sears Christmas catalog! And why not. The miserable 70s were over. Rambo was kicking commie ass. Chuck Norris was bringing POWs home. And Reagan was using his Hollywood charm to make us feel all cocky. It was morning in America and the mall opened at 9am!
Fast forward 30+ years and the children of the 80s, Gen Xers, are now dealing with a new crop of 20-somethings. Millennials. And what’s our take? Over the last few months I’ve heard the term “Entitlement” thrown around a few times by various people talking about my students. Most times it’s used very generically and targeted to the entire generation. They talk about their “sense of entitlement” and call them, “the Entitlement Generation.”
But what does this mean; to be entitled? When I press for understanding it seems to come down to two things; they don’t want to follow the rules that us old people have learned to follow and they expect things quickly. Ungrateful little snots!! What the hell! You don’t want to do the things that we had to do? That’s especially insulting considering the environment, tools, and culture of business have all completely changed since we were starting our careers. And immediate gratification?? Seriously! You want?!?!?! So you’re telling me that after 20 years of having instant answers from the internet, instant food from the microwave, and instant entertainment from those stupid little screens in your mom’s minivans that you actually think EVERYTHING will be that instant? Well WE never said that!
Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Can’t help it, I’m a Gemini. But I’m serious when I say that if I hear one more post-Boomer mutter about these entitled kids I’m gonna flip. How do you think people become entitled? If you lack the cognitive skills to answer this question honestly, let me ask it this way…how do you end up with a bad dog?
There are no bad dogs. There are bad owners. I’m not talking about dog fighters or other people who abuse animals. Those bastards deserve to be staked out and eaten by their animals. Slowly. Painfully. I’m talking about that dog that won’t stop jumping on your leg. Or barks incessantly at other dogs. Or other behaviors that can be cured with a bout of dog whispering. Dogs exhibit bad behavior because their people allow it, reinforce it, and even reward it. I would say that what you may see as “entitlement” is just a continuation of behaviors reinforced from early childhood. Behaviors that were reinforced by parents raised in their own “entitled” environment. If your kid is a snot, it’s probably because YOU were a snot. The apple falls not far from the tree. Chip off the old block. I learned it from watching you dad!!!
Or did they… I’ll throw it out there that the entire entitlement tag is just a myth. Yes, there are some bad kids. Always have been. Always will be. However, last week I received just over 130 pictures from students in our first career class. I asked them to send me a picture of them holding a sign that finished the statement, “I want to…” Many students sent in pictures of them holding signs telling me what job title they wanted (even though I asked them not to do that). Most turned in a sign telling me what activity they wanted to do. But what really struck me is the number of “outward” facing goals that are out there. From the esoteric “inspire” and “lead” to ending childhood poverty, breaking the glass ceiling, and creating a legacy; my students are looking outward, not thinking about themselves and what they are entitled to.
These are not the self-absorbed little brats everyone who grew up in the 80s is grousing about. They aren’t even bad puppies. These young people have behaviors, hopes, and dreams shaped by their parents, their environment, and their experiences. And I think they’re pretty freaking AWESOME!! I’m honored and humbled to play a part in your next two years. To see you turn this dream into an actual plan, and then do the things you need to do to achieve it. Tell me, what will you DO, with your one wild and precious life?