Generation iY and the Winds of Culture Today

I saw a master sailor at work last year, when I was part of a team that trained youth workers in Egypt. During our stay in Cairo, we got in a sailboat for a tour on the Nile River. It was interesting to watch our guide navigate his way down the river. He struggled at first, attempting to figure out which way the winds were blowing at the time. Once he did, some turns were fast, and others—not so much. It was work. Twice he stopped to rest, and we almost drifted into the banks of the river. Needless to say, he stayed quite busy—but he did get us there.

In one sense, this new generation of young people is like the wind. They are gusting in all directions, causing quite a stir in the workplace, their schools, and at home. Sometimes their overconfidence or impatience can burst out of them with hurricane force. Yep, the generational winds are blowing hard.

Now, let me ask you a question. Wouldn’t it be strange for an experienced sailor to sense the wind blowing in the wrong direction and begin to yell at it? Please indulge me for a moment and imagine this scenario. Picture a sailor who gets so upset at the changing winds that he stands up in his boat and begins to shake his fist and scream in anger, lecturing the wind about proper direction and how it ought to help sailors while they are out at sea? Or wouldn’t it be pitiful for the sailor to simply throw up his hands and sit down, surrendering to the wind? Or worse, what if he told his crew that since the wind wasn’t cooperating, they were helpless; they couldn’t do a thing but let the wind take the boat wherever it wanted?

As ridiculous as this sounds, this is what many adults have done with young people today. They have shaken their fist at the wind, or they’ve given up trying to do anything with it. I have spoken to employers who told me they will never hire another recent graduate. I have heard teachers say they can hardly wait for retirement since they can’t do a thing about kids today. I’ve had parents confide in me that they don’t know what to do with their kids except scream at them.

Because I am a parent, a teacher, and an employer, I can identify with each of these reactions. But I’ve come to understand that the youth population is a bit like the wind on the sea—and good sailors know what to do with that wind. In fact, they actually use it to propel the boat where they want it to go.

They don’t change their goal, in other words. They just adjust the sails.

And that’s the point in what we do—not to vent anger at kids today, but to illustrate how the winds have changed for young people and how we, as adults, must adjust our sails if we have any hope of taking our society where it needs to go. I believe there is a potential for crisis if we don’t make some adjustments. But there is also incredible opportunity, and there’s plenty that we adults can do—that we must do—to make it happen.

Let me get personal with you. I am deeply concerned, as a dad and as a leadership trainer who is in front of fifty thousand students every year, about the iY generation that’s just beginning to enter the adult world. I believe in these young people, but I meet far too many adults who have given up on leading them well, and this scares me. These students have far too much confidence and far too little experience to be left to their own devices.

Generation iY has so much to offer, but they need direction—mentors who engage them in a relevant way, channel their energy, and provide them with the challenges they need.

For a guide on how to understand and lead Generation iY kids, grab a copy of the book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.  You can find it on or you can see the site:

Generation iY and the Winds of Culture Today