23 Words of Advice for Millennials (from a Gen Xer)


photo credit: _DSF1345 via photopin (license)
photo credit: _DSF1345 via photopin (license)

Easy – some of my best friends are Millennials.

I’ve had some right here on this blog. Like this one, and this one too. I read some, like her, her and her. And you know about the whole J-Law and Hopey Solo thing. So sometimes words might feel harsh up in here, on this post.

I mean, I’m old enough to be … their older brother, or something.

My Millennial friends, friends who know Millennials, NPR listeners weary of every fourth story having some urgent link to Millennials and their thoughts and impact on the economy/ecology/and the Brexit, here are 23 words of advice to the generation who might have invented the selfie, but doesn’t have exclusive rights to it – from a guy whose generation got you started with our IBMs and floppy discs.

(Note: You’ll be addressed as a singular tribe here. I know you like to stand tall together while also seeking to make yourselves stand out as individuals in a swipe-right world. Hey, it can’t be easy being you. Take it from your big bro.)

VOTE

photo credit: meg's my name via photopin cc
photo credit: meg’s my name via photopin cc

You’re great at canvasing and handing out stickers and rallying behind change and revolution. Your bumper stickers mean nothing unless you get out the vote.


THINK

photo credit: Die Bücher und das Denken The books and thinking via photopin (license)
photo credit: Die Bücher und das Denken The books and thinking via photopin (license)

Think, especially for yourselves. The world is less black and white than you imagine. See the gray. Appreciate the gray. Understand that you stand more in the gray than you might even understand.


SHH

Don’t confuse a loud voice with a valuable one. It’s in the peace you find meaning. Lots happens around you, conversations you can learn from and contribute to.


MAINTAIN

Keep up you. There’s a tendency in youth to want your world to change to conform to your comfort. Some change comes slow. The path is more important than the outcome.


TALK

photo credit: Buntekuh via photopin cc
photo credit: Buntekuh via photopin cc

Conversations are where it’s at: with each other, with kids, heck, even with we Gen Xers. Or beyond. Your words mean more when they meet with others’ and go places.


LEARN

EJP
EJP

Play guitar. Audit a course. Attend a comedy class or storytellers group. Learn code. It’s not even as much about the skill as it is the journey to acquire the skill – and the experiences along the way.


LISTEN

photo credit: "listen up..." via photopin (license)
photo credit: “listen up…” via photopin (license)

Ask yourself: Am I processing what I’m hearing, envisioning it? Or, am I simply creating my response and not really hearing what’s being said. Resist the urge to fill silence.


HURT

photo credit: Oy, My Feet Hurt via photopin (license)
photo credit: Oy, My Feet Hurt via photopin (license)

Feel it. Don’t be in a rush to mend a heart. Find your way out, in your time, on your terms. Friends and memes can’t always depict your real heart. Only you can do that.


LOVE

Courtesy of Tamara Gerber
Courtesy of Tamara Gerber

Like you could stop it. When it strikes run with it. Be unafraid to follow what your gut tells you, about a new home, job, person who makes you smile. Take a chance.


FIND

photo credit: #312/366 via photopin (license)
photo credit: #312/366 via photopin (license)

Your spot. Your comfort zone. What makes you squeamish. Ways you can help. Places you can get help. A tribe. Your voice. Long after your clothes are fashionable, these things will remain.


MOVE

photo credit: Men of H Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, move along rice paddy dikes in pursuit of the Viet Cong: 12/10/1965 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Men of H Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, move along rice paddy dikes in pursuit of the Viet Cong: 12/10/1965 via photopin (license)

Take a job in a place you’ve never been. Interview for jobs, even if you don’t go in seriously. Take it seriously when you’re there. The experience will change you.


WORK

Julie Johnston By Noah Salzman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Julie Johnston
By Noah Salzman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Diligently. Intelligently. Follow the status quo, and look for true spots to stand out. On days you don’t feel like it – dig in. On others like that – take the rest of the day off. You’ll know which when it happens.


RUN

https://jesswitkins.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/my-serendipitous-run-in-with-keanu-reeves/
https://jesswitkins.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/my-serendipitous-run-in-with-keanu-reeves/

Even if it’s slowly, even on a treadmill. Try it. Even those of us who will never make the Olympics will find clarity in that cocktail of endorphins and other chemical highs. Go.


SMILE

MEP
MEP

Not only at those you love. Especially to those you don’t know. Smiles are like emotional donuts you can dole out free. It doesn’t have to lead to digits. Share it.


DREAM

photo credit: The Dream via photopin (license)
photo credit: The Dream via photopin (license)

Superhero aspirations might go on a shelf. Don’t lose sight of what drove you the way those dreams did. Keep ideas and pictures of those dreams in a box. Never let them go.


INSPIRE

photo credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via photopin cc
photo credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via photopin cc

We’re in this together. Recognize the low well. Help replenish it. Encourage. Listen. Teach. What we do is often way more important than what we say, even over and over.


JOURNAL

photo credit: PICT0421.JPG via photopin (license)
photo credit: PICT0421.JPG via photopin (license)

Words are fleeting. To revisit your words in two weeks or two months or two years? There’s no greater avenue to self-exploration. Write your words for others in a blog if you feel it.


WONDER

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc
photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

“What if?” isn’t for kids only. What if you said yes? What if you said no? What if you took a chance? What if you passed on one? Enough what ifs will become I dids.


SAVOR

Not just the good moments, but those too. Live it up. I know you love wine. Cheers. Also savor the uncertain and the moments you overcome. Each will make you stronger.


START

photo credit: A young start via photopin (license)
photo credit: A young start via photopin (license)

Today. I read that life isn’t downtime and spare time, but just TIME. Open your studio. Call your mom. Ask that girl out. Donate. Volunteer. Not next time, this time.


REMEMBER

The heartbreaks are easy. Remember the times someone you might even didn’t know interacted in an impactful way with you. Seek to do that for someone else, someday.


WAIT

photo credit: Waiting for a new day via photopin (license)
photo credit: Waiting for a new day via photopin (license)

God, be patient. Life not going your way? You needn’t sit in or protest. Truly appreciate the universe’s diversity, not just how it applies to you. Believe you’re destined for a wonderful life unseen.


BE

photo credit: Behind the Shutter via photopin (license)
photo credit: Behind the Shutter via photopin (license)

Recognize the states of you that feel best. Strongest. Most right.

Do what it takes to visit that often. Find that space above resignation and below inflation. Know that rather than seeking out the specifics of what you want to add to life, you can attract them by living at your finest.

What does that mean? Only you will know. You might not know now.

I can’t I say I fully know, and look at my gray hair.

It means practicing honesty with ideals we stick to that we should abandon. It means feeling no shame for the setting of our happiness – behind an easel, on a mountaintop, in front of a keyboard, behind the wheel, closing the deal or dealing with closure.

Our generations become our brotherhoods and our sisterhoods. They provide framework as we navigate life. They don’t absolutely define us, though. So, remember that, too. You’re you first. You’re a Millennial, too, but that’s not what they’ll remember you for.

I should know. Some of my best friends are Millennials.

millennials quote

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29 thoughts on “23 Words of Advice for Millennials (from a Gen Xer)”

  1. Such wise words. From someone who’s “been there”, we’ve all gone through our “me” phase, but not nearly as long as the millennials, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I just wonder how many will see themselves and take your words to heart.

    Such a day brightener, I’ll show this to my husband when he gets up, he’s going to love it to.
    Happy 4th of July!
    Susan

    1. Thanks, Susan. I think all of us have to have that phase, but it doesn’t hurt to try an impart a little direction.

      I hope it’s a discussion. I know that I could use these words myself. So glad you enjoyed this! Look forward to getting back to your page – it’s been way too long. Happy Fourth!

  2. Eli, this was one of your gems. So well said. Beautiful! If I added anything, it would be “keep the faith.” It might be a little redundant, but there are definitely times when we hang on by fingernails and having that reminder is a good thing.

  3. Great advice. Except for the contradictory “start” (do it now) and the “wait” (be patient). I LOLed (is that what the Millennials say?) I think all of this can apply to any generation, even us flappers.

  4. Eli, you’ve outdone yourself with this one. The advice rings as true to an old gal like me as it should to my millennial kids. This would also make a fantastic commencement address. It makes me think of Mary Schmich’s “Wear Sunscreen” essay in the Chicago Tribune from years and years ago. Very well done, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Mo. I hope the words reach across generations. I know I could learn from a few. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of a commencement speech! I’m aware of that essay, too. Thanks again Mo!

  5. This is beautiful. And the more I think about generations I think we are all more similar than different. I see this more as advice for young people (and still me – there is some good advice for me in there too!) rather than specifically millennials.

    1. Thanks, Louise. Those similarities, why can’t we concentrate on them, and not the differences?

      It could apply multi-generationally – for mine, for sure.

      1. Agreed. I’m involved with the alumni association with my university and so spend some time with students – I see more similarities than differences.

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