Archives For Generation iY


I make it my job to keep up with the statistics on kids—from middle school to college students. In fact, we are now attempting to help companies on-board new employees who’ve recently graduated from school. One of the biggest disconnects I see between adults and adolescents today is social media. Both are on it, but it’s increasingly becoming a difficult place to have honest interaction.

Here’s a new one. Last week, I noticed a friend who offered some completely honest and not-so gratifying remarks about himself in social media (both Twitter and a Facebook post). He made candid comments about how he’d failed at a job interview and how he got angry with his son, to the point he felt he had to apologize for it. I could tell he wasn’t doing it for attention; he wasn’t using reverse psychology to get his son or anyone else to like him. It wasn’t false humility. It was simply someone finally being honest in social media.

It got my attention because today—that is rare indeed.

Think about it. Millions of people Instagram their perfect life everyday. They tweet about how great their vacation was. They use Pinterest to subtly brag about their life. They post photos on Facebook that make their life look stress-free. In fact, you’d swear they were on vacation every week. In the process, you’re getting depressed just looking at it all, but inside…you have to wonder: is their life really like that?

Nope. Of course it isn’t.

Journalist Shauna Niequist writes, “The danger of the internet is that it’s very, very easy to tell partial truths—to show a fabulous meal but not the messy clean up afterward. To display the smiling couple shot, but not the fight you had three days ago. To offer up the sparkly milestones but not the spiraling meltdowns.”

This is spot on. So, why do we do it? For some, they’d simply say they want to put their best foot forward; to display the good times, not the bad. After all, who wants to hear that we forgot to take out the garbage on Monday? This makes sense. The problem is—this fiction is sparking negative emotions in millions on social media, because we don’t separate reality from virtual very well. Photos don’t lie, we tell ourselves. But—that just isn’t true. They do lie, because they don’t tell the whole truth. They literally represent a snapshot of a world that’s consumed with appearing happy and confident and in-control. But that’s not what social media should do.

What if we used social media for redemptive purposes? Instead of using it for some narcissistic promotion, what if we utilized it to build a community of people who supported each other, in both the wonderful moments and the non-glitzy moments? I wonder if we really could help each other, through social media. What if it was about collectively growing and getting better, not about getting more famous, more followers, more hits and more likes? It is just too easy to fall prey to the seduction of other’s partial truths and “heavily filtered photos” (thanks Shauna), that makes everything look amazing. Sadly, it makes the rest of us feel not amazing at all.

What if we stop comparing and start connecting? I’m just asking.



Creativity in a right brain child

 I remember an activity from my early childhood.

When we were in elementary school, my sisters and I used to play “school.”  We’d get the chalk-board, the chairs and a map out—and one of us would be the teacher. Sometimes, we’d get the G.I. Joe’s or stuffed animals involved, to enlarge the class size a bit.  When we didn’t know what we were doing, we never lost our passion. We just got creative and made something up. It was a blast.

I noticed over time, my whole perspective changed. School became somewhat of a drudgery. I stopped “playing” school. More than that, however, I stopped looking forward to it and began looking for ways to get out of it. Sadly, I was like most kids. School and learning were fun when we were young, but eventually they came to mean toil and boredom. For many, school is even repulsive.

I know what some of you are thinking. Education isn’t meant to be fun. That’s not its’ purpose. I agree, education is not just entertainment. The purpose of school is not pleasure and amusement.  However, based on our research, education that sticks in the minds of students is usually connected to three elements:

  1. A healthy, trusting relationship with the teacher.
  2. An interactive learning community.
  3. Creativity and innovation that stimulate the “right-brain.”

Maya Angelou wrote, “We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”

Right Brain Students

Daniel Pink shares some helpful insights about how our brains function in his book, A Whole New Mind.  He describes the difference between left-brain and right-brain thinking. He argues that the old world is a left-brain world. The new one is a right-brain world. Part of our dropout problem can be summarized in one phrase: we are preparing students in “Left-Brain” schools to enter a “Right-Brain” world. The school does not resemble the world they’ll enter after graduation. If they graduate at all.

The left-brain is about FACTS. The right-brain is about CREATIVITY. The left-brain is calculated and definitive. The right-brain is innovative and dynamic. Certainly both are necessary. But more and more, our world is driven by right-brain thought. Sadly, consider what’s happening today in schools. With a poor economy, budget cuts are being made across the country. The first courses dropped by public schools are right brain courses: art, music, and drama.

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” What he meant was this: knowledge is finite. Imagination can take a person into the infinite. Knowledge includes only what has been already developed. Imagination is about our dreams, which have no limits. Unfortunately, our educational institutions revolve around self-contained silos of existing information. They’re about lecture, drill and test. Testing involves students regurgitating facts they’ve heard from instructors that semester.

How about you?

When you teach students, are your more of a left-brain teacher or a right-brain teacher?

More on this tomorrow.



 Learn more about right-brain and left-brain thinkers in:
Artificial Maturity 




Despite the poor opinions you may have about teens today, it’s important to note that part of their struggle might be because they’re the most “stressed generation in recent history.”  More than 9 of 10 college students say they are absolutely overwhelmed. High school students feel pushed by parents to “make them proud” and by teachers to make the grade, so they can increase funding for the school. In addition, many put pressure on themselves to get into the right college.

The good news is, more and more high schools nationwide are taking innovative steps to alleviate this, by hosting “Stress Reduction Days.” Don’t you love it?  Unlike normal days, these school days are filled with teachers leading their classes while wearing red clown noses, student’s favorite music blaring in the hallways as they dance between classes and blowing bubbles.

I know. It’s not the high school you remember. Me neither. But because pressure is higher than ever, and we (adults) have failed to help kids navigate stress well, these measures are helping them put things in perspective. For instance, Lexington High School, in Massachusetts sponsored their second stress reduction day allowing students to play, enjoy yoga classes, music, sidewak chalk and games. The educators agreed it had to be done, since student stress levels were “alarmingly high.”

Five Big Reasons Why This is Good

1. This kind of activity produces endorphins.

When participating in exhilarating activities they enjoy, students experience endorphins flowing through them, enabling better thinking and engagement.

2. This kind of activity often generates exercise to address obesity.

We all know kids today are struggling with obesity because they are so sedentary. Stress reduction days push them to get up and do something physical.

3. This kind of activity allows educators and students to connect.

It’s been proven that students learn more from teachers with whom they have a genuine relationship. Laughter connects the two and fosters honest interaction.

4. This kind of activity enables students to rest and become creative.

Winston Churchill said, “Change is as good as rest.” Doing something different not only rests parts of the brain, but it causes our brains to think creatively.

5. This kind of activity will ultimately produce better performance.

European nations, like Finland, have surpassed U.S. test scores. One way they do it, is they allow for physical exercise several times a day. It’s a proven producer.

“Everyone has extreme goals and they want to do really well, and stress is a part of that,” one senior class president Zach Strohmeyer told the Boston Globe. “It’s just important that we recognize it’s there and have ways to deal with it.”

Question: Is there a step your school could take to reduce stress?






Some years ago, I watched an unforgettable documentary on TV. Michael Weisser and Larry Trapp lived in the same town, outside of Lincoln, Nebraska in the early 1990s. Michael noticed diverse ethnicities moving into town who weren’t getting connected socially. So he began to create welcome baskets for them. He knew they were feeling like outsiders, since most of the locals were not African American, Asian, or Hispanic.

Larry Trapp was the Grand Dragon of the local Ku Klux Klan. He stood for everything opposite what Michael Weisser was doing. He was anonymously calling those new people in town and demanding that they leave, or there would be hell to pay. He’d threaten them if they didn’t move out. When Larry Trapp heard what Michael Weisser was doing with the welcome baskets, he decided to call him…and threaten his life.

Michael returned home one night to hear this threat on his telephone answering machine. Hmmm. Do you know how he responded? Instead of fueling the conflict, he never even called the police. He decided every telephone call deserved a callback. So, he did some homework on who might have made such a call (it didn’t take him long to figure it out; Larry Trapp had a reputation in town). Michael called Larry back. This is what he said: “Larry, it’s Michael Weisser. I got your phone call.” Then, without making any mention of the threat, he went on. “I wanted you to know that I did some homework on you and heard that you were a diabetic. And, I heard that you were confined to a wheelchair. (Both of these statements were true). I just got to thinking that maybe someone like you could use the help of someone like me. You see, I have a big van, and I would be glad to drive over, pick you up and run some errands for you if you ever need that. What do you say?

Larry Trapp was stunned. He was quiet for a few moments. Then, he mustered the words, “No thank you…but, thank you for the offer. I have never been offered anything like that before.” As fate would have it, the next day, Larry called Michael back and took him up on his offer. These two men began spending time together over the next several weeks. These two became friends, which led to Larry Trapp’s resignation from the Klan and his public denouncement of all he had done with them. Larry Trapp ended up moving in with Michael, where he stayed until he eventually died from his diabetic complications. But it wasn’t until that town had been transformed by one leader who acted instead of waiting on someone to authorize him.

The Spirit of Leadership

Michael Weisser is a case study for us. The very spirit he demonstrated is the kind of leader who attracts young people today. It wasn’t about tenure or titles, power or positions—but about influencing through service. Stop for a moment and contrast his style with the popular, power-trip leadership in so many corporations today.

Leadership that connects with this generation of paradox also seems paradoxical:

  1. It is organic…yet organized.
  2. It doesn’t demand titles…yet commands authority.
  3. It is more about serving a cause than sustaining a company.

These next generation leaders possess two qualities that make it work:

  1. Clarity – I see what must be done to solve a problem.
  2. Courage – I am willing to take a risk to do what must be done.

This is what leaders start with.



generation iy strengths

Recently I read a report from a youth coalition, published in 1935 during the Great Depression. “Youth Tell Their Story” was the voice of 13,528 youngsters (ages 16 to 24) and the American Youth Commission. While it was written nearly 80 years ago, the report sounds strangely familiar. At that time, a teen’s biggest worries were summed up by one youngster: “The problem is how to get married on $15 a week.”

Four out of five youngsters (including half of the married couples) were living with their parents. Only 3% of the unmarried ones wanted to leave home. Nearly all wanted to marry, have a home and children (but not as many as their parents). A huge percentage were out of work, and according to the report: “A large part of U. S. youth today is apathetic, discontented, increasingly prone to look to the Federal Government to do its thinking and planning for it. Three-quarters think the Government should regulate wages and hours, nine out of ten think it should give unemployment relief. Only one in ten is a rugged individualist…”

Wow. That could have been written last week.

How Do We Capitalize on the Strengths of Today’s Kids?

My point in writing this is that during that tough economic time, somehow the adults helped the kids come through it. Grown ups used the poor economy to build gratitude and solid values in kids. Those youth turned into a generation that learned to appreciate hard work, save money and volunteer. Many fought in World War II. Tom Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation. They were my parent’s generation, and likely your grandparent’s generation. They did quite well.

Likewise, if we’re going to help our young people come through this tough time, we must understand their strengths and capitalize on them, just like adults did 80 years ago. So, let’s take a look at the “upside” of Generation iY, the kids born since 1990:

1. They are self-confident.

With some exceptions, the majority of teens and twenty-somethings are confident about their talent and skills to change the world. When led well, this trait can be channeled to empower them to take on new projects or new research.

2. They are social.

While relational skills may be lacking, they are very social, connected to friends via texts or social media. When led well, this trait can be harnessed for sales and marketing efforts, as they have connections everywhere.

3. They are tech-savvy.

Perhaps not all of them are tech-savvy, but in the land of “tomorrow” you are the immigrant, they are the native. When led well, we benefit from their intuitive mind when it comes to new devices, social media and apps.

4. They love creativity.

They love innovation. Creativity is their middle name. To them, anything new is appealing enough to check out. When led well, you can make the most of this trait by pairing them with older staff, allowing their fresh eyes to evaluate your methods.

5. They love family.

Instead of being independent as former generations were, these kids absolutely love the family community. In surveys, they voted parents as their number one hero. We can profit from this by creating a family-like community in our workplaces.

6. They want to positively influence their world.

Most of them sincerely want to feel like they’ve done something to improve the world…now. They are aware that their tweets or videos can go viral and impact many. We must take advantage of this spirit and help them tell their story.

So…what will you do to prepare this generation to be the next Greatest Generation?





Read more about how to find practical solutions to equip Generation iY to lead us into the future in Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future