When Does “X” Mark the Spot?

Chaim ShapiroChaim Shapiro
Website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
Twitter: @chaimshapiro
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chaimshapiro

It is simply untrue, I remember thinking in my graduate school class—more years ago than I care to admit (Jim Leyritz hit a HUGE Home Run for the Yankees in the World Series that year).  All that talk about Generation X and all those things that allegedly described me.

Yes. I did like Speed Racer, but I was convinced that was because Speed’s little brother Spritle and their pet chimp wore, what I thought were yarmulkes. However, just about everything else that was presented as fact about Gen X, simply did not resemble me in any way.

I was at a NACE FACE2FACE in New York a couple of years ago and we were discussing the concept of “Millennials” when a Millennial at my table turned to me and said that he felt like he had just been stereotyped. I told him to mention that to the larger group, but he declined. (So much for the need to be heard!)

Why has the very basic idea of viewing people as individuals, based on his/her own merits and demerits become so hard to understand? People often respond that “theory” is not meant to apply to individuals, and the purpose of generational theory is to provide context to a large group of people.

Of course marketing companies apply “theory” all of the time. (If you want an example Google “Thanksgivikkua.”)  Creating recruitment campaigns and designing programs based on a model does make sense in theory, although it is important to note that placing people into arbitrary groups has not worked out very well over the course of human history.

The real danger is applying generalities to any particular individual.  As much as we like to say we know that theory doesn’t apply to individuals, it becomes hard to see people for who they are whenever we have convenient labels.  It is just too easy to miss the person for the preconceived notion.

We also have to wonder, in a practical sense, how we view that one person who doesn’t fit into our Millennial-based programming? I fear that we may see something wrong with him/her even though their skill set is exactly what we would have wanted if we had applied a different generational label.

To paraphrase Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, I would like a society where people are NOT judged by the era of their birth (I was born in the early 1970’s—just LOOK at the clothes I grew up wearing), but by the content of their character.

I know this perspective is not particularly popular, but I am a risk taker, after all, I DID send my penny to Columbia House for 11 cassette tapes…