My Response To Simon Sinek: There Is No “Millennial Problem”
Below is a video starring inspirational speaker Simon Sinek talking about “The Millennial Question.” I’m sure we’ve all heard a rant or two about how terrible millennials are, and I feel bad for picking Sinek’s video, because as far as the anti-millennial crowd goes, he’s moderate at best.
Unfortunately, a lot of the statements he makes regarding millennials in his presentation infuriate me. So while, in his own words, he thinks the millennials were “just dealt a bad hand,” some of the characteristics he has problems with make no sense.
Simon divides the Millennial problem into four sections: Parenting, Technology, Impatience, and Environment.
Opening up the video Simon says that parents taught their kids that they were “special” that they “Could have anything because they wanted it.” So firstly, yes we were taught we were special, and I never understood how this is a bad thing. We were told that there was something unique that only we could bring into this world.
This ideology may not have worked when unskilled labor was how most people earned a living. However, now that skilled labor is becoming more and more dominant, this idea that you have something individual to contribute is invaluable to both the employer and employee.
Which brings me to that next statement. We were told we could have/be anything, but not because we wanted it. Think back to every movie where the evil person is the rich snob who demands everything now, for no other reason than they want it.
I’ll use Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an example. Veruca Salt is a spoiled brat who constantly whines that she wants something now. She of course, gets sent to a “probably inactive” incinerator (man that movie is darker than I remember).
On the other hand, our hero Charlie only receives the chocolate factory when he has done an action that proves he is worthy of the title. This is the lesson we were taught: that if you work hard enough anything is possible.
Simon continues by saying that there were people who got into honor classes because their moms complained, rather than earning it. This is true, there are indeed some people whose mothers pushed them into classes that they shouldn’t have. From firsthand experience I’ve heard my mom (a math teacher) rant about this.
However, let’s not pretend like this is something new, or that it’s some large majority. There’s always been the cliché of the rich parent “helping” there kid advance because they donate to the school, and parents pretending their kids are smarter than they truly are, is hardly a new concept. So technically true, but not unique to millennials.
His final point is the participation trophy argument. I hate this. As he admits, no one who received a participation trophy ever felt proud of it, and the people who won, still boasted about their much larger trophies. So please for the love of god STOP TALKING ABOUT PARTICIPATION TROPHIES.
This is always a fun one. He starts out with the common talking point that on social media we present the best forms of ourselves, as do others. This causes us to build up walls and not be honest about our feelings.
So my question is this: Before social media existed, was everyone just open and honest about how horrible their lives were? When you went over to your neighbor’s house did he speak about his spiraling depression? Or did he show you his new fishing rod? People have always presented a false image of themselves, because we want to impress one another.
It existed long before Zuckerberg was a twinkle in his mother’s eye. And yes, the longer you scroll through Facebook, the more depressed you will be, but that’s just because you’re constantly looking at people’s “perfect” lives. Simon does bring up a good point here. Moderation is good.
Here’s where he starts spouting pseudoscience about dopamine. He says when you receive a text or a like on Facebook you receive a burst of dopamine. He then tells the audience dopamine is the same drug released from: gambling, drinking and smoking. See how bad it is? Of course dopamine is a chemical released in your brain when you receive pleasure. Of any kind. Eating food you like? Got a good nap? Getting attention?
That good feeling is dopamine. Dopamine is not some evil chemical. Of course you receive dopamine with a text or a like, you’re receiving attention, the same as if you were having a face to face conversation with someone.
This is why his next point is invalid. He claims kids can’t form meaningful relationships because they just don’t know how to talk to people. In his exact words, “many of their friendships are superficial,” because of course they are. Most people don’t have more than one or two friends who they can really trust and talk to.
This also isn’t new. 30 years ago it was just, work friends, neighbor friends, real friends; while now it’s Facebook friends and real friends. His idea that we should make social media age restricted because it releases dopamine is ridiculous.
Now, if you told me we should restrict it because twenty-year-old you will hate what angsty eleven-year-old you wrote on social media, then I’d say it makes more sense.
I’m going to skip a lot of what he said here, because I probably indirectly dealt with the points he raised. In short, he believes that the internet and apps like google and tinder have made us expect things instantly, and when we have to wait we get frustrated. Honestly, this very well may be true, I don’t know. I feel like twenty-somethings have always been impatient, but whatever.
I wanted to talk about a specific point he made: that this impatience is driving up suicide rates. This is not only wrong but it is negligible. There is almost no way that he didn’t know that, while suicide rates have risen the past twenty years, the age group that has increased the most is 45-64 in men and women (New York Times). You know, not the millennials, those other perfect generations. He saw the statistics and mangled them to prove his point.
I’m not going to get into Simon’s last point, because it’s mainly about what corporations should do to help us “poor millennials.” Here’s some actual facts from the US Chamber foundation, an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce. Millennials out of all other generations have been shown to be the best multi-taskers, and the most studied generation ever.
Are we perfect? No of course not.
But, so many of the claims levied against millennials are either false, or have been said to every single generation. Millennials are told Video games will rot your brain, X’s and Y’s were told that about TV and before that it was something else. There is plenty wrong with the world, go direct your anger at that, instead of telling the next generation how useless we are.