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The Millennial Generation Should Keep Dreaming – But Also Start Doing

Mark Jewell


In June, seven incredibly talented Millennials came to Columbus, Ohio for our Millennial Mastermind program. For this training, their first assignment was to go out on the streets of Columbus and ask people one question: “What does the Millennial generation need to do to lead for the next 30 years?”

As everyone returned to the meeting room with their interview videos and experiences, we noticed that one theme seemed to surface over and over again:

The Millennial generation needs to shift from being dreamers to being doers. They need to take their big vision and combine it with hard work.


The Dreamer vs. Doer Mentality

It surprises no one that there are about as many opinions about the Millennial generation as there are Millennials alive. You’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly, so I will only repeat how I’ve heard it most commonly phrased:

Lazy, entitled little bastards.

Yeah, you’ve heard it before; I don’t need to go into it. But what if I said that the “lazy and entitled” mantra was only a misinterpretation of reality? What if I translated that phrase into this one:

Big dreams, but no idea how to get there.

See, that second phrase seems very similar to the first. But it’s so different.

For starters, the first part is really positive! Millennials have big dreams! They want to lead companies, travel the world, influence society for the better! We can work with this. We want people who want to change the world and make a difference.

But it’s the second part that is critical. “They have no idea how to get there.” They don’t know how to achieve these big dreams they have – but, unlike the static descriptions of “lazy” and “entitled”, not knowing how to reach your dreams can be changed. That is actionable.

Driving Effort – The Thing Most Will Avoid

As many of you know (and have probably repeated yourself), Millennials haven’t had to make very hard decisions throughout the course of their lives. Their parents guided them to the right friends, girlfriend/boyfriend, college and, in many cases, job. This generation on the whole (my generation) has had its hand held.

Unfortunately, this constant assistance has created the Dreamer vs. Doer Mentality. We know we have dreams and ambitions, but we don’t know how to make them happen on our own without someone giving us direction.

And we just need to bite the bullet and get over that.

Using the Survivor’s Guide to Thriving Pyramid as a framework, I think that many Millennials are at the point where they need to overcome the pyramid’s fourth level – Driving Effort.

(Want to learn more about The Survivor's Guide to Thriving process? Click the button below to get started!)

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Driving effort is the phase we all have to go through to get from where we’re stuck to where we want to be. It’s hard work and, often, it’s not fun. It’s putting in long hours, having a hard conversation, leaving a relationship that’s no good for you.

And it has to be done.

Figuring Out What Has to Be Done

But what if the Millennials in your organization and communities don’t know what hard work has to be done? I would venture a guess that many of the young people you hire out of college aren’t lazy at all – they’re just not sure what it takes to be successful and, unlike the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers of the world, they have little experience “just figuring it out”.

But what if you could help?

Next time you’re struggling with one of these young workers, what if you asked them about their goals and aspirations? What if you asked them about their plan for how to get there? You might be surprised to find out that some of them have great plans, even if they’re not exactly what you would have done.

You may also find out many have no idea where to start with a plan. What about those cases? Help them. DON’T give them the answer – but provide guidance, suggestions, ideas. Be the mentor and/or coach they so desperately crave.

Now I say that with a caveat: when you’re providing guidance, don’t just sit back and tell them “Put in your 10 (20, 30) years, pay your dues and you’ll get there.” That’s not how it works anymore. Wanting to move through the ranks quickly doesn’t make someone entitled – it makes them ambitious. And ambition is not a bad thing. Foster that ambition, guide it, support it. You’ll probably be pretty proud to see the outcome.

And a second caveat: I’m not so naive to ignore the fact that there are Millennials who are lazy and entitled. They know what the hard work is that has to be done and they refuse to do it, despite believing that success is owed to them. If you’re a manager of one of these Millennials, you have my endorsement to let them find another place of employment. They won’t be helping you move your organization forward. But do your homework before labeling them as such – you never know what you might be missing.

Back to You

Do you have experience with Millennials achieving success once they know what it takes? How have you helped mentor or coach someone to reach their goals? We’d love to hear about it in the comments! 

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