Tag Archives: Generation X

Appreciate Failure or Else… You Fail? (The Monday Fits)

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“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Taking risks, or pursuing your goals is something that is so important. I have touched on this several times in my blog, especially directed at my generation, millennials, and for young women. I find that success is often deliberate, regardless if luck, faith, or a blessing, had a lot to do with it, no one is successful from just sitting around doing nothing. But it’s long over due to talk about the challenges that you will face as you take risks in different areas of your life. And sometimes these challenges are small like hiccups, but let us not forget that life’s biggest challenges are also known as failures. These challenges are on a whole different level; more like a combo of swine flu and pneumonia.  That’s right, completely and utterly debilitating.

There is no denying that we will all experience failure, some are more familiar than others. I remember this idea in church, that if you’re not living right, the devil isn’t really trying to mess with you. When you’re walking down the path of righteousness it’s not going to be paved in gold and the path is filled with bumps and jagged edges because the devil is trying to throw you off track. I believe this is true in our lives as leaders, followers, employees, managers, friends, lovers, mothers, and fathers. Failure hits every part of our life, and how we deal with failure makes all the difference. Well, apparently, our generation is avoiding it like the plague, unlike generation X. “They” are saying that we need to fail a little more, and love it.

The millennial generation is taking a page out of the early baby boomer generation’s book: Don’t fail. A mantra of the older generation was to  “follow the rules, avoid taking risks, and don’t fail”.  “In fact, managers were once expected to be infallible, deflecting the blame when problems arose’… “young Boomers famously rebelled and adopted a risk-taking spirit—which their business leaders began applying on the job when they took over.” (source) These actions had an effect on the generation Xers that created cyber boom tycoons like Mark Cuban.

So as generation Xers are aging, and millennials are graduating, moving into new roles, and dominating the workforce, many would say that we need to take more risks, and go a step further and fail while we’re at it. However, based on the state of the economy, we’re kind of listening…. but not really.  “More millennials are unemployed than any other generation. Despite the national unemployment rate dropping below 6 percent, the unemployment rate for millennials remains stubbornly high at nearly 12 percent”. (source)  Can you blame of us for looking for security? I don’t even need to list the stats on education loans, millennials have more than any other generation, ever.

The economic downturn happened within the last 7 years, but there has been an overall push for “embracing failure” since the turn of the century  from commencement speeches to conferences that endorse failure as a part of the career process.“An NPR analysis of popular speeches going back to 1774 identified “embrace failure” as the sixth-most popular theme (outranking platitudes like “be kind” and “dream big”). Of the 38 speeches with this theme, all but three were delivered after 2000—by the likes of J.K. Rowling, Oprah, and Ben Bernanke”. (source) And based on the “startup failure’, there was a conference started in 2009 called FailCon.  Last year, FailCon’s founder cancelled the conference “out of the belief that failure is now so ingrained in Silicon Valley culture that a conference is unnecessary”. (source)

So there are a lot of people telling us that it is okay to fail, and that the more you fail, the better you will become and your future is a little brighter… blah, blah, blah. It is easy to become skeptical listening to Bill Gates, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg go on and on about how failure made a difference, because what good does that really do for you? Many stories of success come from people who failed and THEN were successful. Wouldn’t you love to hear stories in the midst of the struggle? That would be the realist stuff you ever heard.  Raw, blunt, and oh, so matter of fact. But the reality is nobody really hears the stories of those who are failing while they’re falling except themselves. Sometimes we have to learn to listen to our own stories in the midst of the struggle, and only from that place do we find the inner fight to move forward.

This is what I call appreciating failure, and learning the benefits it can provide. We can’t appreciate someone else’s failure. Appreciate means more than being grateful and understanding. After a mistake, whether it’s a week, or a year, or years later, we learn from our past mistakes. But appreciate also means to, “recognize the full worth of”. (Source). This idea is more than just learning what we did the wrong , where we took the wrong path, or maybe the goal was really out of our reach. But that there is actually something to learn from failing. To be resourceful, to be able to fall down and get back up, and we can’t learn that from anyone else: we have to learn for ourselves. But we must also recognize that failure happens even with the most well-drawn, organized, and laid out plans. That’s why I would say to some extent, we do have to accept failure , and recognize that it is not the end of the world. You may not be taking that risk, because you’re a afraid of failing, or your thinking that failure is the end of the road. It could be just the beginning.

We can put too much pressure on ourselves to not fail.  Let’s think about our kids who go crazy to the point of sickness over their grades or maybe cheat to get into that prestigious school or the young adult who becomes anorexic for the next dance performance, or the athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs. We always want to bash that they took it too far because they did x, y or z to get their end result, but are they not just trying to avoid failure at all costs?

Lately, my favorite comeback stories are baby boomers, who were close to retirement when the recession hit,  and had to pick up their life, pursue a new career at a point when they thought their careers were almost over.  Whether it’s because they still had kids in school they had to support or were foster parents, their resilience is humbling and refreshing, and reminds me that failure can happen to the most secure of us all. So I have learned to appreciate more and more failure in my life, regardless, if I want to or not, we have become familiar foes, friends, and sometimes best buddies. Failure isn’t always around, there are definitely times when I don’t want him around, but there are times when I need him, because that’s the only way I learn the tough lessons (because I can be hard-headed). Don’t be afraid of failure, you need it to thrive.

When It’s Over, Is It Over? (The Monday Fits)


The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. – Gaylord Nelson-

The life of a hero, idol, or even a dreamer are often legendary. The further from the bottom they climb, the better the story there is to tell. There are successful people who are chameleons who continue to mold their career, or have different stages in their life where it seems like there isn’t an end. But the average person is planning for their retirement. Some times that retirement doesn’t happen as early as they want to, or they cannot financially leave the workplace. Whether it is financial or they are not able to let go, when is it time to walk away? This subject is kind of a continuation of  last weeks Monday Fit. Every millennial or generation X’er works or has worked for a boss (or knows someone) who works where the person in charge has no plans to retire, and that should be the number one thing that they should be thinking about. Unfortunately, it has plagued our two generations with the reputation of being too aggressive and trying to push baby boomers out faster than we should or before it’s time. Now as a disclaimer, I am not SAYING every person who is older needs to retire, there are people who retire too early, or there are people capable until they are 90, because they have the capacity…. but that ain’t everybody .

But how do you know when it’s time to go? Better yet, as Millennials, how do we learn from inadequate leadership or managers? It may seem like we are a generation wanting to get paid more sooner, and be in charge sooner, but I promise a decent salary and a good manager, most millennials would be happy, just as much as any other generation.  More times than not, it’s about feeling appreciated and recognized for your contribution, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Part of the problem is the work culture baby boomers grew up in was harsher on their employees, and provided for less freedom, autonomy, so that when they get to a certain level in the career, that is the first time they may be really leading or feeling appreciated, why would they want to let go?

Being in Austin, I talk to a lot of millennials in start-ups or tech companies, and the reason they are less likely to feel frustrated is because they are given autonomy, freedom, and the ability to make decisions in the business structure, but understand that they are not in charge, but feel appreciated. That is the kind of environment that we should be striving for. But is the answer that simple? Probably not.

So let’s take a look at an industry where when it’s time to go, you don’t really have many options, and yet, time and time again, the aging workforce STILL takes forever to walk away, and it ain’t about the money. I think of my favorite football player, Peyton Manning, who could ( some would say should) retire today. He is going to the Hall of Fame one day, he already has a great legacy, AND he has a championship. But of course, he wants more, just like my least favorite player, Tom Brady, who know has 4 championships. But with Peyton Manning, I would hate to admit, his performance is declining and it was noticeable in the playoffs. Now Peyton’s decline is still better than half of the quarterbacks out there, but just like other quarterbacks who could hang it up, he plans to play next year.

Now his profession is the kind when your performance is declining you have to close up shop. Not because you are no longer going to be paid, but he’s own health and safety would be better served if he wasn’t out on the field with men half of his age. I wonder, how many tough games ahead I will have to watch and how painful will it be for me. But the question remains, why is it so hard to let go, when we aren’t the best at something anymore? How do we pass the torch in our industries, when the older population can contribute, but maybe not at the same level, and the younger generation is hungry?

If you look at most professional development advice for millennials, in most people’s top five things to do, is get a mentor. That’s right, if you’re under the age of 40 and you want to develop your skills and continue to improve, mentorship is key. Most people I admire professionally all had mentors who lead them and taught them along the way. That one person showed them the ropes, told them where the traps are, and how to avoid them. For some, they never had a mentor, they learned from trial and error, and you know these people, because they emphasize, that they made a lot of mistakes, but that they made it through; either path works.

But my charge is if you’re in a leadership or managerial role with millennials or generation X’ers under you that are eager to learn and you’re not mentoring, that is one sign it is time for you to go. If you’re more worried about the younger generation taking your spot, and making life hard for them in the bad way (not being hard on them to make them stronger way) then it’s time for you to go. Why do I say this? Because it is just as important to excel in a position and it is to bring in the best generation who can be vital assets.

Look at the benefits of reverse mentoring popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welch. Now the idea is still a little crazy to me, because I have never seen it in practice, but I wish there was more of it in my industry. Reverse mentoring is described as “a situation where the old fogies in an organization realize that by the time you’re in your forties and fifties, you’re not in touch with the future the same way the young twenty-something’s. They come with fresh eyes, open minds, and instant links to the technology of our future”.  (source) This method is so key to the workplace, especially for millennials but also for baby boomers. And as baby boomers are retiring later and later, it will be important to accept this change.

According to a Gallup poll, the average age Americans reported retiring has increased over the last 14 years since the poll started to be collected. Although the difference is small, in 1991, Americans, on average, reported retiring at 57. In 2014, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62. (source) The polls cities that  “retirement age may be increasing because many baby boomers are reluctant to retire. Older Americans may also be delaying retirement because of lost savings during the Great Recession or because of insufficient savings even before the economic downturn”(source)

The reality is that the financial state of the country may require baby boomers to continue to retire later and later, so we have to be deliberate and intentional about the work environment in which we develop. It is important how we nurture and grow new and raw talent. Although our generation may seem whiny, demanding, and impatient, but as I’ve mentioned before, “Attitude reflects leadership”. We are a product of our environment, let’s make it an even better one.

Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done – Ronald Reagan