GenY & The Hero Complex

Stop and think for a moment.

Shouldn’t be too hard for us. GenY are great at thinking. We think all the time. We think upon waking up in the morning, before falling asleep, while commuting to work or school. We’re thinkers, or as I like to say, “Philosophers”.

You’ve probably seen a ton of articles on GenY recently trying to explain why we are the way we are. I have my own take on this. It most certainly will not apply to all of you, but for the vast majority, I’d like to believe it will.

I spent a fair amount of time in a few different industries, trying to understand the issue of what it is about GenY that’s causing many businesses to, for lack of a better word, lose their minds. Retention is low, morale is down and companies just can’t seem to keep their GenY employees happy.

What Is It That We Really Want?

Upon starting work at any company or institution, the last many decades have always illustrated the same pattern to us. You work for a company, contributing your skills and your time. In exchange for your time and skills, you get money, job safety and financial security in the form of benefits. Not bad huh? Time, energy and skills, for safety, security and money.
The problem is, this “reward system” of safety, security and money is outdated now. Why? Because GenY are looking for a more intrinsic, intangible value proposition. Safety, security and money are definitely important to GenY, but there are a few other factors that are even more important. These are:

• Self discovery
• Doing what we love
• Feeling like we matter
• Feeling like our opinions matter
• Making an impact
• Contributing to the world in a positive way
• Doing something greater than ourselves for the sake of the betterhood of humanity
• The feeling of belonging somewhere

That’s GenY for you. Unfortunately, the business world is very slow to evolve to these changes, and who could blame them?

How can you offer self-discovery, sense of belonging and world impact to a new recruit?

The previous generations competed for money; our generation is competing for impact.

This is exactly why this thing called the Quarter Life Crisis is so evident now. A GenY-er graduate’s from school, works for a few years, realizes he doesn’t like what he’s doing, goes off to some other country like Peru or something to have a “Self Discovery Experience”, and then comes back with a fresh mindset and somewhat clarified identity.

It’s the reason why we’re seeing studies stating that GenY-ers are going to change jobs ~29 times in their lifetime. Why? Because they will always be striving for growth, finding new ways to impact the world, and consistently looking for a place to belong.

I want to iterate by no means am I saying that the previous generation didn’t care about having an impact. They definitely did at some point. But for them, the hero complex eroded a lot faster because of societal factors. For us, it managed to stick around a lot longer.

Why Are We Like This?

I’m sure there are many factors out, but I’ve boiled it down to a few that I feel are most relevant. Some of us had parents pushing us to look for meaning in our lives, while some others looked up to role models and mentors. Given most of us are from immigrant families, this isn’t always the case for us. So I attribute it to childhood conditioning.

Think back to your childhood. The pop culture, the movies, the comics and the games you played during recess. Look at the TV shows we all watched – Superman, Batman, Power Rangers, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, etc.

All these shows conveyed three major things. Three things that can also be found in other elements of our lives as kids, and three things that our parents (in most cases) wouldn’t understand as well as we would.

 One man/woman can make all the difference.
 If you believe in yourself, you can do absolutely anything.
 Save the world, or rather, always look out for the greater good of humanity.

Seems familiar?

I thought so.

And because of this consistent bombardment of ideologies, we all developed something; something that every generation had to some extent, but GenY had to the greatest extent of all.

It’s called a Hero Complex.

We all want to have a lasting impact on the world. We all want to be the heroes of our own story. We all want to belong somewhere. We want that sense of community where we can grow and contribute to the world. Above all, we all want to work somewhere (company or not), that satisfies our hero complex on a daily basis. That’s the beauty of GenY. We’re your everyday heroes, and we mean what we say.

A Generation Of Change

I can think back to it and understand why these problems exist in the business world. Most companies don’t foster a culture of heroes, they simply want someone to sit down, crunch numbers all day and make them money.
Unfortunately for most GenY-ers, this is less than ideal.

But I find nothing wrong with it. The world is slowly evolving, ever-changing and kinetic. And it’s great to see that we have so many individuals wanting to do something about it. We’re the generation of change agents, and I’m proud to call myself a GenY, a hero of tomorrow. Call it entitlement if you’d like, and I will call it idealism.

We constantly assess our contribution to the world. Imagine a world with you in it, and subtract it from a world without you. You get the difference, which is you. The greater your impact and contribution, the greater the difference.

And that is why in GenY we say, “I want to make a difference”.

We should really be saying, “I want to be the difference.”



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