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My dad runs every week with a couple of friends and they often talk about their millennial children. This group of millennials, including me, are in our late 20s and are a pretty diverse bunch. We have started businesses, traveled the world and lived in exotic locations, changed jobs and moved multiple times and have altogether lived very different lives from our baby boomer parents.
“What we’re most in awe of is your adaptability,” my dad said when I asked him what they found most interesting about our generation. “Your world changes so much with technology, work, and other things but you can adapt from one job to another, from one place to another, from one challenging situation to another.”
Even though we are still a young generation and believe me, we have a lot more to learn, I think that our adaptability has given us a few good insights. And in a changing world, these lessons are good for everyone of any age. Here are five life and work lessons that I respectfully think that everyone can learn from millennials.
Be a Chameleon and Embrace Change
Change is inevitable and as millennials, I think we tend to fight change less and just go with the flow. In fact, we often embrace change. If we need to find a new job, we use the power of tools like social media and online networking. If we need to learn a new skill, we find a tutorial online or take a class. If we want to move to a new place, we research and read about other people’s experiences. And if we can’t figure out something, we aren’t afraid of jumping in and learning as we go.
As millennials see it, if the world changes, we need to change with it or find a different path. Although change can be scary, I view change as an opportunity to expand and grow. And if we need a change, we also have to find a way to make it happen. It can be as simple as learning to say “yes” more often to opportunities or seeking out new ones.
Once you embrace change, it can lead to things you’ve never expected. After blindly moving to Morocco to teach English last year, I never expected that I would still be here a year later and building a business. Change is about action and that momentum, no matter how small, can be very powerful.
Value Experiences Over Things
Since millennials have grown up with uncertainty in the economy, I think we have really changed our views on how we spend our money. In fact, I think our generation has embraced a more simplistic lifestyle, where we don’t need to accumulate a lot of material items.
Many of my millennial friends aren’t homeowners or don’t own fancy cars. We don’t mind sharing someone’s home when we travel or using a car-sharing service like Uber since it allows us to save money and still have many of the same experiences. We don’t want to be tied down by a big mortgage payment or an expanding pile of stuff when we could be using that money to travel, visit friends and family and invest more in ourselves.
And the research backs us up: experiences are more rewarding than buying things. Google this line and you will find hundreds of articles on the science behind it.
Millennials are very aware of the power of investing money in things but we realize that we need to invest wisely and in ways that make us happier for both the short and long-term. Downsizing life doesn’t mean you can’t buy things; it means prioritizing experiences that will give you genuine satisfaction and long-term happiness.
Yes, technology is the center of the millennial’s universe. Despite some of the negatives, I see so many positives to how we can use technology to stay connected with others and improve our lives.
I’ve learned how to do WordPress, animation and video editing to making jewelry to sell online from tutorials online. I can video chat easily from Africa with people on different continents and get instant updates on breaking news anywhere in the world. I find it truly amazing we have these tools at our fingertips. And most of the time, the technology is free or very low-cost, making it accessible to almost anyone with a phone or computer and an internet connection.
But I get it, learning new technology can be frustrating and intimidating. I taught social media classes to small business owners and I remember the resistance I got from some people on why they should learn about Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. That changed when I showed them examples of what social media could do for their businesses and after I gave them the tools to manage social media more easily.
Many would leave the class feeling incredibly empowered and excited that they had access to these tools that could expand their personal and professional networks. If you’re afraid to try something, seek help from others, take a class or find an online tutorial. Technology can be a huge asset to our everyday lives so explore it and have fun!
Find a Life/Work Balance
Many millennials are not following the traditional career ladders and life paths of our parents. Instead, I think more millennials are striking out on their own paths and taking time to learn what we like and what we don’t. It could be a gap year or a gap decade, but the important thing is that we realize it’s important to take the time to learn what we really enjoy doing.
I think this comes with giving sway more to the things that really matter, like time to spend with our families, building a new business or an opportunity to live in a certain area. Many millennials are going for freelance work so that they have more power over their time rather than working a set number of hours in an office for a company. It’s about creating a lifestyle that fits what we most want out of life.
It’s not easy to strike out on these less traditional paths. I’ve definitely felt the pressure to go back to what’s “normal” and I’m sure many of my millennial friends can say the same. And there may be sacrifices, such as in making less pay or taking certain risks.
Despite all the obstacles you may face, my advice is to follow your own path. Trust in what you want and don’t worry about what others say. Maybe you’re considering a second career but worried it’s too late, or wanting to start a business but afraid to quit your job. Be aware of the sacrifices so you make wise decisions but let the rest of the worries go and find the balance you truly want.
Reinvent Yourself at Any Age
There may be a lot of changes in our world but I find most millennials are still very optimistic about the future and for good reason. There’s has never been a time like now when it’s possible to reinvent your life, passions, and ambitions at any age to align with what you truly want. In fact, millennials will always be reinventing as many in our generation will go through multiple careers, family structures, and living situations.
So instead of being afraid of what the future holds, I look at each new turn in life as an opportunity to try new things, keep learning and have many different experiences.
Evaluate what you want out of life every year. Make goals (write them down!) and know you do have the power to achieve them. Don’t believe me? Search for inspiration in blogs and books. There’s someone out there making your same (or similar) dreams come true. Follow them and read their stories.
Don’t know how to do it? There’s a how-to article (probably many) out there, often within a quick Google search. Not the right time? I think there are many millennials like me who have realized there’s really no better time than NOW to go after your dreams.
Finding your true path may be a quick adjustment or a long winding road – and expect zig-zags – but with so many opportunities out there and a big world to explore, why wait?
This blog was originally posted on Sixty and Me.