Guilty of Stereotyping GenZ and Millennials

Millennials, and now GenZ get a bad rep. And it’s not new, you know! As a GenXer (NOT A BOOMER!), I have faced it too: “Your generation just doesn’t work hard enough!” was what we were told!

So I am going to talk about a few Millennial/GenZ people who are on my mind this week. And how they busted some myths that are floating around about this generation.

Myth: They only think about themselves
First, Pradeep and Lalit, the co-founders of the NGO, Learning by Locals. Earlier this week, I visited them and spoke to women students of a fellowship they run. It gave my privileged butt a bit of a reality check. It’s one thing to do my volunteering online, and quite another to walk down slum alleys to reach a tiny room filled with young enthusiastic women hungry to learn from you.

Pradeep and Lalit run their modest, for-profit outfits, Delhi by Locals and FilmArt respectively. They come from less than privileged backgrounds. But they find time to identify challenges in neighborhoods such as Sanjay Colony, near Okhla-II. And actually think of solutions to make it happen, and then raise money to execute. Both these youngsters are the alumni of Manzil and are trying to carve out their own income streams, while ensuring they are able to help the communities they have access to.

Makes me think. What makes someone with limited means actually create initiatives that enable others: girls to step out of their rigid familial and societal structures and get job ready, or create safe spaces for the youth in slums to hang out gainfully (reading, playing carroms or chess, or engage in discussions), or run surveys to really understand the challenges faced by the youth living in slums?

What makes Pradeep and Lalit and people in their network, not worry a whole lot about how much money they are making, but give of themselves to others, just so they have a better chance at life? I just assume they are built a different way. The media is filled with stories of the great resignation or the great return or Insta reels are about workcations and how Mondays suck and so on… Thankfully, there are these youngsters who are showing me real stuff.

Myth: They don’t work hard, they don’t ‘get’ consistency.
I just got to know that a podcast I follow run by two millennial girls is coming to a close. They have done over 110 episodes over the last 2-2.5 years. I have no idea if they have a lot of listeners or they earn money out of it. But I suppose they don’t do it to make money. They do it for expression and creativity. How many people do I know who can keep doing this month on month for over 2.5 years? Hell, even I can’t write a blog here that frequently.

They just showed to me that one can keep this going, for the sheer fun of it, for the million ways their creativity has grown and taken various shapes over this time. And even now, it’s not really coming to a close, it’s just going to take a whole different form.

If someone tells you, millennials are lazy, they don’t show up, they don’t do the work, they are not consistent, point them here. I refuse to believe they are outliers.

Myth: They don’t care what happens to the workplace; they just up and go
I am sure every manager out there has a story that goes that way: their subordinate left without notice, or if they did serve the notice, they didn’t put in the effort, the lack of interest was so obvious.

I am guilty of believing this myth too. Until a GenZ came in and taught me differently. She came and quickly figured out that she wanted to explore something else, and decided to quit. She was in her probation period, and as per our policy, she just needed to give us a week’s notice. She told me that she would stay for as long as it took me to find a replacement and smoothen out things. So instead of a week, she gave me 5 weeks. That was more than enough time for us to get things in order. Why did she do it? She had borne the brunt of such exits, and was compassionate enough to not put us through the same.

Makes you think, eh?

We love stereotyping, don’t we?

For every stereotype I build or believe in, I stop a person (or two or many?) somewhere from expressing what they really want to express. The more the labelling, the closer the walls get, the harder it is to breathe.

And that’s what this generation (or the ones that came before it, or the ones what will come after) needs: be able to breathe freely.

Pandemic Lessons: Choice and Respect

So here I am, on my 52nd day at home. I haven’t stepped out, at all. Even to fetch milk or groceries or go for a walk. 

I have gone through many phases: starting with optimism, then losing my footing to see things change so fast. Then my body staring to feel fear, which I couldn’t relate to, and I figured I was picking up the collective fear around me and from social media.

After that it has mostly been a blur: between household chores, cooking and work I don’t know where the day vanished.

But then I did go into hopelessnes for a bit and then turned the corner within a few days. 

Today I sit down to write that this is not about having hope or being hopeless. This is about choice. Your choice. My choice. 

  • There are so many versions of truth out there, which one is truer? I can choose, I can also choose not to choose.
  • There are so many predictions on the post-pandemic world. By people you consider as having some influence on your life. You can believe any of them, or none at all.

It is also about respect – Our ability to respect the other’s truth. 

In the past few days, I have been listening to some of my friends saying, Stand in your own truth, often with fair warning that people won’t like it, especially in these polarised times.

So I am consciously spending some time looking at what feels true. Yes, I choose to believe that for me to navigate these times, I have to lean into my feelings, and not just look for more and more data and expert opinions. Because all the data I have looked at and the opinions I have listened to don’t give a full answer. Maybe because there is none. 

I was at a founder’s event last September in Boston. And out of all the leading lights and founders sharing the stage and giving their insights, I found one voice which was very interesting to me. I started following them on social media. And I have gained a lot over these months simply by reading their posts. Yesterday they went live on one of the platforms and spoke about the lockdown, which didn’t ring true at all to me. That was interesting to me, that I could detect that. The same thing happened with an author last week.

But it is their truth. And I choose to respect that. It is simply not mine.

I was at a webinar last week about how to sell in these uncertain times. And all the panelists spoke about bringing more and more empathy into their conversations. The question in my head was, “But, were you not already doing that? Were you selling with less empathy or none at all earlier? Isn’t this simply a new situation that we are all in? How did empathy become a new thing?”

Again, it’s their truth. Not mine. 

I believe this is a time to look for answers, certainly. But they are not out there. They are in me. 

I am on a social media group of entrepreneurs, mostly male. Usually they are a bunch of positive people encouraging each other. Now they are simply wringing their hands and sharing their fear. They are looking at each other for answers, and that’s not happening! 

You know what time it is (lockdown has a way of screwing up with the sense of time, doesn’t it)? It’s time to see for myself what do I believe in. What do I stand for? And operate from that place. 

Let me go in.

I am a beautiful being, full of light and love. I love to give, enable others. I am only limited by the restrictions my beliefs put on myself, or the beliefs the society has planted on me, some unknowingly, some in a designed manner. So, theoretically, I am unlimited. 

And I believe that is the truth for not just me, but all of humanity.

So I don’t think we are meant to be limited in this way, being in lockdown for the 50th day and counting! 

Yes we need to give our healthcare systems the time to cope up with the pandemic. And we are getting there. Equally important is that we focus on building our immunity (yes, I know it’s a privileged thing to say, but I am in a place of privilege, and if you’re reading this, you are too. And we can do a lot from this place for those not equally privileged). Sunlight, clean air, nutritious food, supplements, exercise, meditation – whatever it takes. We have one pandemic at hand, who knows what else could come up?

If we are meant to be unlimited, then I am going to question anything that sounds like it’s striking at the heart of that. I am not an activist. But I can make small dents in my universe, my way. I have been seeing people being deplatformed from Youtube and Facebook, for saying things that are their truth, often backed by credible data. I think they have a right to say their opinions, however uncomfortable it might be for me, however inconvenient it might be for certain businesses or ideologies. So I donated money to fund a digital platform that lets them say their stuff. Small dent, maybe no dent even. But I choose to be on the side of being unlimited.

I see my friends sharing posts that sound like priming us to think limited: “just focus on not dying, ok?” No, not okay with me. I am here to live, be ALIVE, not spend my time trying to just beat death for a few years. And any close friend who shared that with me heard my opinion about it. Usually I ignore posts like these. But now I think I have to stand up for limitlessness. I respect their choice to share, and I respect my choice to counter it with what I know to be true for me. 

So it’s really down to ‘respect’. Respect another’s right to have an opinion, a way of life, choice to wear a mask or not. Don’t cut them down, from your space of being a person, a person of privilege, a person of influence, or even a person working for the government. No need to be fanatic about anything, just let others be. 

What’s the last word here: I believe life has its way. It’s bigger than a virus, it’s bigger than all of us put together. And life will show us a way out, to return to limitlessness.

You can choose to believe it. Or not. I respect your choice.