Leaders: Stop Telling Millennials to Change the World

For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of working with Millennials and getting to know many on a personal level. I can’t say I always counted it a privilege, but after taking the time to understand how their thought-processes are affected by the culture, everything began making sense.

So, this post is written purely from experience and from the urging of several Millennials who I consider to be some of the finest people I know.

Leaders: what Millennials do when you tell them to go change the world

For their entire lives, Millennials have been told that they can do anything, change anything, and that they live in a world where people don’t fail. Winning at life has been made to sound easy. But by the time they’re in high school Millennials realize what they’ve been told might not be reality, simply for lack of proof and evidence.

So when you drop the ‘go change the world’ clichéd phrase on a Millennial, who’s heard it a million times, they roll their eyes and laugh.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you tell young people who’ve never built anything, designed anything, or failed at anything to ‘go change the world’ and expect to be taken seriously?

Think about it: those clichéd phrases provide no context and nothing actionable. They’re meaningless and they do zero to motivate, inspire, and build trust.

Leaders: what Millennials think when you tell them to go change the world

kiefer-david-cohen-stop-telling-millennials-to-change-the-world

This is Kiefer, our Millennial protagonist.

I’d like you to hear directly from a Millennial about what they think when you tell them to ‘go change the world’. Our protagonist here is Kiefer Partridge, a friend, colleague (coder & designer), and a Millennial I respect.

DC: Are Millennials tired of being told to be world-changers?

KP: We don't need to be told we're world-changers. Our self-esteem's doing fine, thanks. We have the most severely cropped view of the world and its possibilities of any generation yet. What we need is vision and a plan.

KP: If you can show my generation the possibilities, we've got the resources and the self-esteem to trample down the doors to get there. It's just that our perspective doesn't go past the iPhone in front of our faces and the cliché’s we hear.

KP: And we're so quick to settle for a limited vision when we could literally take over the world if we put our minds to it.

DC: So if leaders don't stop feeding Millennials the clichéd phrases and empty ideologies, it's going to leave a wake of destruction 20 years from now.

KP: Nobody seems to be talking about how we need to be speaking to this generation. You're right; we're just repeating the same clichés that didn't work for the generation before. Holy cow. Feeding clichés like Happy Meals to fourth-graders.

KP: Give us vision. Give us a plan.

Leaders: give them an action plan, not another cliché

World-changer is not a job title or a solo operation. Telling a Millennial to go change the world implies they can actually do this alone, which is a complete fallacy. It also implies that they already know why they’re on earth and what they’re supposed to do with their life.

If you’re a leader and you want to build the kind of trust it takes to influence a Millennial, do this:

  1. Help them work through the process of figuring out why they’re on earth.
  2. Teach them how to build teams, how to network, and how to become connectors.

Oh, that sounds like a lot of work? You’re right, it is.

Millennials: 6 ideas you can realistically take action on now

  1. Learn how to tell stories people can relate to.
  2. Identify a problem or a need in your local community and creatively solve it.
  3. Begin building a network filled with people who are 10X more talented or intelligent than you.
  4. Attempt to learn something that will frustrate you and that you will probably fail at – failure is one of life’s best teachers.
  5. Start a business that writes handwritten thank you letters for salespeople, corporate executives, and founders of start-ups – in other words, do something entrepreneurial and weird.
  6. Boldly ask somebody you know or don’t know, but respect, to mentor you in one of the following areas: critical thinking, writing, entrepreneurship, or networking.

The point here is taking action on things that are both realistic and can involve other people. Nothing great that has ever been done in this world was done alone. And if you truly want to change the world, don’t get hung up on an empty cliché, don't even try, just be.

I invite you to leave me a comment and share this with others.

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  • Mikayla

    <3 <3 <3 this it so needed to be said! I'm 18 and have heard this world changer stuff forever and a day. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Seriously this is great thank you.

  • Mikayla

    <3 <3 <3 this it so needed to be said! I'm 18 and have heard this world changer stuff forever and a day. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Seriously this is great thank you.

  • Mikayla

    <3 <3 <3 this it so needed to be said! I'm 18 and have heard this world changer stuff forever and a day. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Seriously this is great thank you.

  • Chase Diehl

    Dude nails it. Nothing else needs to be said. Vision and action FTW!!!!!!

  • Chase Diehl

    Dude nails it. Nothing else needs to be said. Vision and action FTW!!!!!!

  • Chase Diehl

    Dude nails it. Nothing else needs to be said. Vision and action FTW!!!!!!

  • Michael Endsley

    For my part, I always looked to the older generation wondering what, exactly, they thought I could do of which they are mysteriously incapable. Wondering why they talk, but don’t lead by example. That has caused me feelings of disrespect and even slight rebellion toward them. There is no such thing as “handing over the reins” to the next generation, hoping they’ll take care of all the things you didn’t — it’s your task as long as you’re still alive. And you can bet that we’ll perfectly emulate your faults more than you think we will.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      I totally agree, Michael. The world is so different now than it was even when I was in my late teens and early 20s. The stakes are higher and the margin of error is smaller. I think the Millennial generation, overall, has more talent and potential than any recent generation, but all that talent and potential carries risk if not properly nurtured and cultivated.

      Here’s are three things I think the Millennial generation is capable of doing that prior generations choose not to be:

      No enslavement to debt — debt dictates the decisions people make about their lives, families, work, etc. Millennials can avoid letting debt rule their lives.

      Producing instead of consuming — Babyboomer leaders built a consumer-driven nation whose economy blows up every 10-15 years. Millennials can change this dynamic by focusing on producing and not just happily consuming.

      Peace — if Millennials, as a generation, create deep networks as I talked about in the post, and your deep networks and tribes decide you won’t be enslaved by debt and that you’ll produce, I think we could see more peace in the world. When the people of countries trade with the people of other countries, war rarely happens and the quality of life goes up.

      So if you see other generations getting it wrong, recognize that, avoid getting frustrated, and work towards getting it right.

  • Michael Endsley

    For my part, I always looked to the older generation wondering what, exactly, they thought I could do of which they are mysteriously incapable. Wondering why they talk, but don’t lead by example. That has caused me feelings of disrespect and even slight rebellion toward them. There is no such thing as “handing over the reins” to the next generation, hoping they’ll take care of all the things you didn’t — it’s your task as long as you’re still alive. And you can bet that we’ll perfectly emulate your faults more than you think we will.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      I totally agree, Michael. The world is so different now than it was even when I was in my late teens and early 20s. The stakes are higher and the margin of error is smaller. I think the Millennial generation, overall, has more talent and potential than any recent generation, but all that talent and potential carries risk if not properly nurtured and cultivated.

      Here’s are three things I think the Millennial generation is capable of doing that prior generations choose not to be:

      No enslavement to debt — debt dictates the decisions people make about their lives, families, work, etc. Millennials can avoid letting debt rule their lives.

      Producing instead of consuming — Babyboomer leaders built a consumer-driven nation whose economy blows up every 10-15 years. Millennials can change this dynamic by focusing on producing and not just happily consuming.

      Peace — if Millennials, as a generation, create deep networks as I talked about in the post, and your deep networks and tribes decide you won’t be enslaved by debt and that you’ll produce, I think we could see more peace in the world. When the people of countries trade with the people of other countries, war rarely happens and the quality of life goes up.

      So if you see other generations getting it wrong, recognize that, avoid getting frustrated, and work towards getting it right.

  • Michael Endsley

    For my part, I always looked to the older generation wondering what, exactly, they thought I could do of which they are mysteriously incapable. Wondering why they talk, but don’t lead by example. That has caused me feelings of disrespect and even slight rebellion toward them. There is no such thing as “handing over the reins” to the next generation, hoping they’ll take care of all the things you didn’t — it’s your task as long as you’re still alive. And you can bet that we’ll perfectly emulate your faults more than you think we will.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      I totally agree, Michael. The world is so different now than it was even when I was in my late teens and early 20s. The stakes are higher and the margin of error is smaller. I think the Millennial generation, overall, has more talent and potential than any recent generation, but all that talent and potential carries risk if not properly nurtured and cultivated.

      Here’s are three things I think the Millennial generation is capable of doing that prior generations choose not to be:

      No enslavement to debt — debt dictates the decisions people make about their lives, families, work, etc. Millennials can avoid letting debt rule their lives.

      Producing instead of consuming — Babyboomer leaders built a consumer-driven nation whose economy blows up every 10-15 years. Millennials can change this dynamic by focusing on producing and not just happily consuming.

      Peace — if Millennials, as a generation, create deep networks as I talked about in the post, and your deep networks and tribes decide you won’t be enslaved by debt and that you’ll produce, I think we could see more peace in the world. When the people of countries trade with the people of other countries, war rarely happens and the quality of life goes up.

      So if you see other generations getting it wrong, recognize that, avoid getting frustrated, and work towards getting it right.

  • JasonManion

    Great post Dave! You told me on Facebook back in July to “Do something dynamic before you turn 21, just because you can.” 
     I still think about that, and I’m not sure if I’ve done anything really dynamic yet, but  this post is a bit more actionable. Thanks.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Jason. Even if you don’t do something that could be classified as ‘dynamic’ before you turn 21, I think you are doing some things in your life that could very well lead to dynamic in the future.

      Your knowledge-base and skills in internet marketing and photography have certainly grown in the past few months, I’ve definitely noticed this. You’ve got your degree, no college debt, you’ve done some traveling, you took the LSAT, you’re building a personal network — all very positive things that will lead to more positive things.

  • JasonManion

    Great post Dave! You told me on Facebook back in July to “Do something dynamic before you turn 21, just because you can.” 
     I still think about that, and I’m not sure if I’ve done anything really dynamic yet, but  this post is a bit more actionable. Thanks.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Jason. Even if you don’t do something that could be classified as ‘dynamic’ before you turn 21, I think you are doing some things in your life that could very well lead to dynamic in the future.

      Your knowledge-base and skills in internet marketing and photography have certainly grown in the past few months, I’ve definitely noticed this. You’ve got your degree, no college debt, you’ve done some traveling, you took the LSAT, you’re building a personal network — all very positive things that will lead to more positive things.

  • JasonManion

    Great post Dave! You told me on Facebook back in July to “Do something dynamic before you turn 21, just because you can.” 
     I still think about that, and I’m not sure if I’ve done anything really dynamic yet, but  this post is a bit more actionable. Thanks.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Jason. Even if you don’t do something that could be classified as ‘dynamic’ before you turn 21, I think you are doing some things in your life that could very well lead to dynamic in the future.

      Your knowledge-base and skills in internet marketing and photography have certainly grown in the past few months, I’ve definitely noticed this. You’ve got your degree, no college debt, you’ve done some traveling, you took the LSAT, you’re building a personal network — all very positive things that will lead to more positive things.

  • Elizabeth Aprile

    Very true. And very inspiring.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Elizabeth.

  • Elizabeth Aprile

    Very true. And very inspiring.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Elizabeth.

  • Elizabeth Aprile

    Very true. And very inspiring.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Elizabeth.

  • SalmonSlammers

    Hi David,
    Enjoyed your comments and those of young Kiefer Partridge. If you are interested, give me a jingle and let’s talk some more about changing the world.
    FanOfYours,
    Dewey Novotny

  • SalmonSlammers

    Hi David,
    Enjoyed your comments and those of young Kiefer Partridge. If you are interested, give me a jingle and let’s talk some more about changing the world.
    FanOfYours,
    Dewey Novotny

  • SalmonSlammers

    Hi David,
    Enjoyed your comments and those of young Kiefer Partridge. If you are interested, give me a jingle and let’s talk some more about changing the world.
    FanOfYours,
    Dewey Novotny

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