Vail Daily column: The best gen yet | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The best gen yet

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

I must have missed the memo. Apparently there’s a generation gap I haven’t paid attention to, been blissfully unaware of, and it’s right under my nose.

Silly me, thinking there would be a memo. News of this would have come by text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, maybe even Snapchat, although that would have been sent and snapped by now. Probably tucked in with a selfie, whichever the platform.

The purveyors of this supposed divide — I have my doubts — seem a bit prone to exaggeration. After all, the less-PC term for this generation has long been Echo Boomer.

It’s Millennials now to you and me and them. But they are not so mysterious. They are our grownup kids.

I would say this generation is marked more by the values they share with Boomers than the issues the Greatest Generation had with us. I mean, we go to rock concerts together. Our parents told us to turn that crap off.

Yes, some Boomers — today’s late-middle-age geezers — buy into BS that blah, blah, blah Millennials are lazy, defiant, self-absorbed blah, blah, blah just like the Greatest bitched about us at that age and Socrates’ peers whined about their younger generation. And so on.

On that account, yes, we’ve been going to hell for at least 3,000 years if you listen to the self-important older crowd. Only, it’s not any more true now than it ever was.

Even the differences follow pretty predictable and typical patterns. The young generation always is more savvy with current technology and more vulnerable to turns in the economy, not to mention war.

Let’s say I’m underwhelmed with revelations that my kids’ generation understands the digital age better than I do, and that the big recession right when so many were graduating from college has had a large impact on their lives.

Um, duh.

What have I been surprised to learn about this cohort? Well, they actually are staying in their early (largely crap) jobs longer than Gen X did at the same tender age. They tend to genuinely like their parents, and much more so than previous generations.

The most distinctive part of them is the size of their generation — not just larger than the Boomers now, but the largest in the history of our country. Yes, they will shift everything rather like the goat passing through the boa constrictor, much as the Boomers have changed everything at every phase of life.

But the two influences most responsible for bending the statistics about them are technology and the downturn.

The downturn has a lot to do with higher numbers attending college and graduating, along with Millennials having the highest proportion among the generations at their age aiming to start their own businesses. Reduced home ownership and later marriage can be tied to the economy more than anything, I suspect, although ease of renting rooms and cars have been greatly enhanced online.

The timing of the digital age fits their penchant for social media, crowd-sourcing for approval as well as funding, and gamification. Today’s Boomers would have done the same had these tools been available to us. Actually, we’re far more adaptable to this new world than our parents ever were to ours.

The revelation isn’t the divide, but how much these two largest generations are bridging it.

Millennials are beginning to enter their peak spending years, and so the tech overlay on their lives will become ever more significant. They will make up 75 percent of the work force in a decade as the boomers phase out. Poor Gen X is outnumbered at each end all the way through.

The Millennials also are the least plagued by war, which shaped the Greatest and the Boomers in turn. We’ve gone as a country from embroiled in World War II to doubtful about Vietnam to pretty much absent from Iraq and Afghanistan — even with 9/11’s horror. Few compared to earlier wars have served or died. The marvel is the lack of real impact the longest active war has had at home.

An apparent misconception is Millennials are less interested in making higher dollars than previous generations. The statistics don’t bear that out if you look at the Boomers and Gen X at the same age. We all had a much higher interest in making a difference at that age, as well. Ah, naivete enjoys its bloom with us all in turn.

As far as work ethic goes, the Millennials in my shop tend to be the harder workers as I count through our individuals. I don’t think age has much to do with this. Working at less than full potential knows no specific generation. Neither does ambition.

Let’s see, what else? Well, this is the most ethnically diverse generation, perhaps the least prejudiced, and women seem to really be stepping up in educational attainment, which can only lead to improvements in gender success for them demographically.

Actually, I’m bullish on this group. Our future is in great hands — frankly better than what’s led to them. The kids are going to be all right.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.