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How The Last Five Generations Have Changed Us

Folks talk a lot today about Millennials. For that matter, we’ve talked about younger generations ever since the Baby Boomers introduced the “generation gap” in the 1960s. The unique realities each generation faces as they come of age (shared tragedies, heroes, milestones, music, television shows and economy) shape us into the people we are as we enter adulthood. These realities, in fact, offer a paradigm (or lens) with which we view our world.

Today—I’d like to share some helpful observations on the five generations that are influencing our world. These observations may help you better understand a work colleague or a student with whom you interface each day. As you read the ideas below, reflect on how you might better demonstrate empathy for each generation and how you can better communicate with them. While there are exceptions in every population, I am sharing the bump part of the bell curve in the following comments.

I hope this big picture perspective will spark conversation.

Perspective Is Everything  

As students graduate into adulthood, each generation carries with it a primary lens which informs how they vote, what they buy, and why they believe and act the way they do. Consider the perspective of each new population:

The Builder Generation (1929-1945) These folks endured the Great Depression and World War II. In general, they’re frugal and know how to save money and resources. They tend to value holding on to what is right and good.

The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) These people represent the population “boom” after the war. As the largest generation to date, they felt large and in charge and expected life to be better for them than it was for their parents.

Generation X (1965-1982) This generation started with the birth control pill and Roe vs. Wade. This smaller population grew up in a broken, jaded world of Vietnam and Watergate. As realists, they know life can be hard and want to keep it real.

Millennials (1983-2000) Currently, the largest U.S. generation, they grew up in a time of helicopter parents, participation trophies, college degrees and options. They often see life as a cafeteria from which they pick and choose what they want.

Generation Z (2001-2018) This young population is still forming, but they have grown up in a time of terrorism, recession, under-employment and racial unrest. They tend to be hackers, navigating a tougher world full of social media and angst.

Personal Values as They Came of Age

The Builders – Think long term. We must plan ahead and conserve what we have.
Boomers – Anti-establishment. Don’t trust institutions; make your own way.
Generation X – Unplug and get real. Life is not full of sunshine and rainbows.
Millennials – Change the world, starting with the environment. We can do it.
Generation Z – We are aware, savvy and evolving. We value human equality.

Personal Message as They Came of Age

Builders – I’m Humble.
Boomers – I’m in charge.
Generation X – I’m scrappy.
Millennials – I’m awesome.
Generation Z – I’m fluid.

Personal Style as They Came of Age

Builders – Create the system.
Boomers – Take over the system.
Generation X – Avoid the system.
Millennials – Work within the system.
Generation Z – Work around the system.

Obviously, I am painting with broad brushstrokes. But these are the kinds of issues we’ll be discussing at our National Leadership Forum on June 22-23rd in Atlanta. Our theme is: Fast Forward—Racing Toward the Future as Y Shifts to Z. I would love for you to join us with some colleagues. CLICK HERE for details.


You’re Invited to the National Leadership Forum 2017
Fast Forward: Racing Towards the Future As Y Shifts to Z

When you attend the 2017 National Leadership Forum, you’ll get the key to…

  • Gain an understanding of the trademarks of Generation Z.
  • Adopt an educated plan for pedagogy to connect with teens today.
  • Enable students to practice metacognition, allowing them to own their learning.
  • Motivate young adults, enabling them to cultivate aspirations.
  • Improve the mental health and performance of students through social emotional learning
  • Prepare for where student engagement and education is heading in the future.

Learn More Here

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How The Last Five Generations Have Changed Us