Monthly Archives: January 2008

It’s like Amazon made babies on my counter

It's like Amazon threw up on my counter

What does my voice sound like? And what does yours?

I’m so excited to tell you about two things:

1) Hear my voice. If there was ever a way for you to get the New Year started off right, this is it. Andrew Rondeau has interviewed me as part of his Great Successful People package. There are 41:50 minutes worth of me talking and I give some good advice, if I do say so myself. And I even talk about you, my dear reader!

I’m not the only person interviewed, however. Others include John Kotter, Penelope Trunk, Ben Casnocha, Scot Herrick, and oh-so-many more. PLUS, Andrew has a great British accent that is much fun to listen to.

All of the interviews are available for a discounted price before February 15, and Andrew has kindly offered to share his profits with the interviewees, so support me by checking out Great Successful People today >

2) Develop your voice. The third issue of Personal Branding Magazine is also out, which I again helped to edit. Dan Schawbel, personal-brand-expert-extraordinare, has put together a great collection of articles, and the third issue is a huge improvement over the first and second (which were also great).

This issue is focused on brand influencers, and includes articles from several of my blogging friends like Ryan Healy at Employee Evolution and Tiffany Monhollon of Personal PR. Check it out>

Thank you for supporting both projects!

Generation Y is too quiet, too conservative

I was sitting in a classroom. The walls were covered in plaster and moldings, but behind all that was red brick, so red that the color seeped through the cracks of the old windows, and the sun, and the light, and the energy filled the almost summer air.

It was a time when I was – more or less – happy, and we were seated, twenty or twenty-five of us. Our desks outlined a jagged circle, and I was trying not to check out the young man three desks to the right, because I was still dating my first real boyfriend, trying to make it work from four hours away.

We sat and spoke of our beliefs, the environment, of possibilities. It was the discussion I had come to college for. One that I had looked forward to since the movie Dead Poet’s Society. One that I thought I would have again and again when I moved into my own apartment someday, with paint on the floor and ink stained on my fingers, groups of friends visiting at all hours. Rules would be broken, the establishment dismantled, dreams fulfilled.

But soon, too soon, the imagination of the discussion in that classroom petered out like a mandatory orgasm. And we didn’t stay long after either, filing out of the room like an Orwellian army.

No yelling, no protest, no change. Not even the slightest smell of melodrama lingered in the air.

That was the day that I learned we weren’t like other generations. And it wasn’t all gravy.

Thomas Friedman calls this phenomenon – our generation – quiet. Too quiet, in fact. Penelope Trunk calls us conservative. Not like politically conservative, but lifestyle conservative. As in none of us, except me I guess, are found in dark corners balling our eyes out. Generation Y is balanced like vanilla. Idealism with a cherry on top.

You know, that’s not all bad either, contrary to my sarcasm-infused tone. We’re vanilla vocally because we mainly agree on things. It’s not like the Vietnam war, or women getting the vote, or abolishing slavery where there were clear sides, right or wrong, multiple or few . You know, like, opinions – impassioned and defining.

We don’t really have opinions much anymore. We have beliefs. Opinions are contested. Beliefs are “the acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something,” and offensive to question.

These beliefs include that global warming is a problem. The Iraq war sucks. We should all be treated equal. We’re nodding our heads in unison like bobble heads lined up on a bookshelf. Smiling bobble heads, of course. We can’t forget about our idealism.

We are a teamwork generation, fully in line with each other. This, again, is a good thing. Top-down management will not survive the knowledge economy. And so, teamwork, and thus, Generation Y, is inherently conservative precisely because there is consensus, Trunk argues.

But when you seek only consensus and you don’t strongly encourage- nay, require – opinions to be voiced, challenged, turned upside down and explored like a mother searches for lice on her child’s head, then you aren’t coming to a rousing, exciting, and motivating consensus.

Generation Y is so overly focused on the yin of consensus that we’ve lost its yang of conflict. Like Seinfeld’s black and white cookie, the idea of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy is that positive and negative forces act together in order create energy. They are in constant battle, each trying to gain dominance, and if one succeeds in doing so then we are left without balance.

So, without conflict, consensus is a less than thrilling one-night stand.

Nowhere is this as painfully obvious as it is in social media, where we think we’re making a difference by adding the “Causes” application to Facebook, commenting on blogs in such a way as to not offend, where mediocrity reigns supreme, and we insist on engaging in a large amount of narcissistic navel-gazing every Monday morning.

“Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms… Virtual politics is just that – virtual,” Friedman states.

Ah, when will we learn? Conflict is good, fabulous even! Patrick Lencioni builds an entire fable around this exact idea in his popular book Death by Meeting. He discusses why most meetings suck, the main crux of his theory being that there is no conflict, no drama. No one voices their opinions loud enough in order to be hypothesized, tested, revised.

Think about decisions by committee (read: team). It’s a long, drawn out, excruciating process. The resulting consensus is often a watered-down version of what could have been.

This is the status of Generation Y – a watered-down version of what we could be.

We’re all about the team, but don’t exactly know how to use that effectively, preferring to be quiet, conservative, coloring inside the lines. Meaning, we play by the rules to create change and aren’t aware of what those rules are. Meaning we’re perfectly content not to push boundaries or ourselves.

There is good reason for this. “There is a strong, strong millennial dislike of ambiguity and risk,” Andrea Hershatter says. If the directions aren’t clear, we’re not going on any road trips.

This hesitancy creates a lack of urgency. Change is necessary, but there are no sands through the hourglass urging us that these are the days of our lives. No, we believe our children will deal with it, or someone will deal with it, somewhere, and we’ll just try not to make it worse, and probably – hopefully – make it better. We hope.

Hope. Guffaw.

Screw hope. Where’s the outrage?

If Generation Y is “not spitting mad, well, then they’re just not paying attention,” Friedman argues. “That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country.”

To light a fire, you have to have conflict, and to have conflict, you have to have an opinion.

That’s a good place to start for now. Stop being so nice.

Respect other viewpoints enough to challenge them.

Respect other ideas enough to disagree.

Moon the entire left side of the highway from your car window with your opinion on your backside. Put it out there for all to see.

Look to the cookie.

Found in the closet

Found in the closet

We’re all connected, don’t you know

We're all connected, don't you know

Woodcut print by Nick Wroblewski.

My non-advice for the New Year

I’ve been writing a lot of crap lately. No, really, I have. You don’t know because I have been gracious enough not to post it, but it’s been crap. Complete and utter sh*t.

I think it’s because I feel obligated to write an inspiring New Years post, but regurgitating what the rest of the world is saying makes me nauseous. And also, I haven’t been too inspired lately, and this blog is supposed to be happy, angry, inspirational, controversial, exciting – anything but depressing – but depressing is the only way to describe my writing as of late.

I was going to show you my calendar of the nineteen meetings I have this week, which is typical. Perhaps too typical as I’ve discovered it’s fairly easy to become fairly crazy fairly quickly.

And speaking of that, has anyone else noticed that it only took a short two years out of college for you to completely lose the ability to go to sleep at 5:00 am one night and wake up absolutely fine, refreshed and ready to face the day the next morning? Because I tried it recently and I can’t do it any longer. I’ve lost this valuable skill at the ripe old age of twenty-four.

But anyway, I was going to explain the masterpiece of scheduling that my calendar is, and describe my system of scheduling meetings according to existing meetings, all packaged nicely and neatly in a pretty list, but it was really boring. Really.

Moreover, it seemed a little misleading to sell you my tricks of the scheduling trade, when I’m so utterly exhausted. And if nothing else, I’m honest.

Honesty has gotten me in trouble lately though. I’m starting to say “no” more often, and stand up for myself, and people don’t really like that. And I’m still figuring out how to deal with that, because I’m saying “no” and I’m standing up for a reason, good reasons, but I’m not sure the other parties feel the same way. And the transition from sugary-sweet observer to strong active leader is blaringly still en route.

Then I thought I would tell you about the resolution I made one Monday afternoon and subsequently broke this past Saturday night. And there’s no point now, which is cool, you know, because it’s cliche fun to break your resolution a week after you’ve made it. Er, whatever.

I also thought about writing how I feel like I can’t trust many people lately, which is bad, because trust is really important to getting things done. Mostly I feel this way because someone I look up to let me down. But to be honest, I had him on a pedestal, so it was only a matter of time before I found out that he didn’t like where I had told him to sit.

Other posts included how listening to old-school music makes me happy, and that exercising is good, but better when the cute personal trainer guy talks to you, or how your number one resolution should be to start a blog in the New Year. And at one point, I even thought about just copying and pasting the lyrics to all the music I was listening to, because it just seemed to say everything that I could not.

But time after time, the posts didn’t make the cut, because there is so much advice out there on how to start your New Year off right, and the sky is still blue (or gray in Madison’s case), and you are still who you are. So don’t worry so much.

This is, after all, the year of the Rat. That means it’s “a lucky year, a good time to start a new venture. The rewards will not come without hard work, but with careful planning they will arrive.”

Great things are going to happen this year. And you’re going to make them happen.

That’s all you need to know.

Get to it.

Thank you notes

Thank you notes