I’ve been thinking about this a lot since watching this viral Youtube video of Simon Sinek (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU) over the holidays where he lays out 4 root factors of the challenges many Millennials have in the workplace: failed parenting strategies, technology, impatience, and corporate environments. Of course, much of his scathing commentary applies to more than just Millennials — it applies to many of our children and young adults today. A lot of the comments I’ve been seeing are scoffing at the poor parenting that caused these young people to become this way. About how we adults were raised successfully to not feel so entitled. But I don’t think we should be so smug.
In particular I’ve been musing over the topic on impatience. We “adults” are modelling behaviours now to our children that reflect our desire to control our time. We want to maximize each moment and get more done, because increased productivity in work, home, school, friendships, is the goal, right? It may not be an explicit lesson or discussion, but through establishing “what is normal” every day life, we are teaching our children volumes:
Don’t want to schedule a phone call with a friend? Just text back and forth when it’s convenient.
Don’t want to wait for the specific time of the week when your favourite TV show is on? Just download it or wait for Netflix, and watch on your own schedule.
Don’t want to wait for the bus and deal with people even though your commute can be easily done by transit? Of course, use a car and control your own schedule.
Don’t want to make the trek to the store when both your schedule and the store hours align? Online shopping is there, with Amazon Prime delivery to boot.
The explosion of food delivery services, Uber, Tinder…there are more and more ways that companies exploit our enjoyment of instant gratification, and our desire to control our time. It’s a selfish desire that we all have. I’m not saying that all these innovations are bad and we should get rid of them. Obviously that is crazy. I’m a user of many of these things.
What I’m realizing is that the overall cumulation of all of these apps and services means is that it erodes our everyday practice of waiting. And being patient with situations and others. We are losing practice dealing with the daily invariable inconveniences of life, and forgiving those small trespasses against us, that allow us to live well with each other. All these things are practice for us to not be so self-centered. And to be resilient when things don’t go our way exactly when and how as planned.
This is happening to all of us, and not just Millennials or our children. Maybe it’s time to rethink how we might want to build back in the practice of waiting for things, events and people. Maybe it’s time to give up on a few of these conveniences, on purpose.
The calendar has turned over a new page to 2017, so it’s time to say “Goodbye 2016” with a look back. At the end of this year, I felt a certain mixture of dread, melancholy and cynicism. It’s hardly the thing to get into the holiday spirit. And no wonder, looking at the first list of things that brought me grief and despair. Thank goodness for the things in the following 3 sections that soothed my soul (from grief), spurred me to action (instead of cynicism), and brought me joy or wonder (instead of despair).
Grief & Despair
We’ll start with the negatives first to get it out of the way.
Probably the thing that dismays me most about the Brexit vote and the US Election is the triumph of populism over intelligent and rational discussion in big political outcomes. The attacks on the “intellectual elite” have been so blindly fierce that I can’t help but parallel it to China’s Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. When you can’t debate or discuss your opposing views using facts, logic and reason, it causes me great fear. “America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny” by Andrew Sullivan in the New York Magazine applies to more than just the US, it applies around the world in many countries. Just watch the next round of elections in countries around the world.
The ongoing civil war in Syria, causing the displacement of millions of their citizens. The fall of Aleppo in December is the most recent terrible milestone in that crisis. I know I can’t fully understand the roots of this conflict, or all the interconnecting web of factors at play that continue to stymie attempts for resolution. This excellent piece by Mark McKinnon of the Globe at least helped me to start to understand: The Grafitti Kids Who Sparked the Syrian War
That there had to be a Black Lives Matter movement to bring more mainstream coverage to an issue that’s long simmering. And the inability for many with the privilege to be sheltered from this reality to acknowledge their privilege in order to continue the conversation to make forward progress.
Terror attacks around the world. The maniacal Philippine president in his ruthless tactics in their war against drugs. The unnecessarily harsh law enforcement reaction to the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. All the terrible things that humans do to one another.
The death of so many artists this year. Music can have so much power in our lives. The right combination of melody, lyrics, and rhythm can stir us to move and dance, to fall in love, to stand and fight, or to cry for our loss. Actors and personalities allow us the fantasy of other lives, where their comedy and drama entertain us, and we are glad their plot points aren’t happening *to* us. The loss of these artists this year means the loss of the art they produce. The world feels dimmer without them.
Balms that soothe the soul
Belatedly discovering Maria Popova’s brilliant blog Brain Pickings. Here is a place where thoughtful, intelligent reviews and commentary on literature, writing, writers and artists, and “big ideas” matter. She celebrated the blog’s 10th anniversary this year, and her “10 Lessons from 10 Years of Brain Pickings” hit me like a splash of cold water to the face. So much so that I bought the poster that adapted the first 7 lessons (from when the blog turned 7).
Tai, my loving husband, is my best friend and confidante. And the best dad I could ever dream of for my girls. He is a true parent, both doing the fun things (building kites, bottle rockets) and the mind numbing tedious things (bed time herding, making school lunches, answering unending questions). He sets a great expectation of what they should expect and demand to be treated in their relationships.
E1’s lively imagination in her creative play. She is rarely one to say, “I’m bored” because she’s always making something up. Her flights of fancy never cease to make me smile.
Nuzzling into E2’s cheek after she sneaks onto my lap. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and her sweetness warms my heart.
The inspiring dedication of the groups of ordinary Canadian citizens who are sponsoring Syrian refugees to settle in Canada.
Having a great core group of friends who consistently make the effort to connect and spend time together. We swap parenting strategies, career advice, home advice…it all goes. Whether it’s trips to Great Wolf Lodge, camping, group date nights, excursions to Canada’s Wonderland, or house / swim parties, I’m grateful for our (real) social network.
Working at a great company where the work is enjoyable, the mission and our clients are aligned with the type of impact I want to make in the world, and a wonderful group of colleagues that I like, respect, and enjoy spending time with.
These are the things that spurred me to take action in certain areas of my life.
Digital Education for my children
The book Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle was transformative for me. It was the first I’ve come across that really discussed what was at the root of all these multifaceted symptoms of technology use that I’ve either felt and experienced personally, or read about. And then it pointed out more that I didn’t even realize. Some criticize this book as fear-mongering, ignoring the true benefits of technology. I took this book to be eye-opening and informative so that we use these tools with the fuller understanding of the potential downsides. It’s the book I purchased my own hardcopy after reading the library’s copy, and the book I’ve most recommended.
It’s particularly influencing how my husband and I are approaching the thorny issue of when to allow our daughters their own smartphones. Combined with the following particularly memorable or insightful items, my two actions were 1)putting away my phone more; and 2) refining my parenting strategy for smartphones and kids:
The youtube video of Simon Sinek’s talk about Millennials in the Workplace (https://youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU) actually applies to all of us, both in our own personal behaviour, and in how we raise our kids.
The World Economic Forum published Yuhyun Park’s “8 Digital Skills all children need and a plan for teaching them“. While it’s more of a framework than a plan, it is a helpful way to categorize the different facets of Digital Citizenship (the ability to use digital technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways) so we can plan our own lessons at home.
Organizational Structure at my work
I decided to start up a book club at GrantBook, where I work, because I found many of my colleagues have a similar love of reading and discussing the ideas within. Peter, the cofounder of GrantBook, suggested this book based on a recommendation given to him —Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux. Noone could have predicted the impact of this book on our company. We knew we had quite a unique company culture in the level of respect we had for each other, and how we operated. This book was able to articulate for us what some of our “secret sauce” factors were. And provided a vision on how to take it further so we’re operating as a “Teal” organization.
Some organizational theorists have different terms to describe similar concepts: Holacracy, Integral, Self-Management. I remember hearing about the concept of Holacracy back in 2012 or 2013 and thinking it was a crock of sh*t. But that’s a typical cynic’s reaction. I’ve dropped a lot of my cynicism in the last two years, and I’m really motivated by what our company can achieve together. Peter was a huge part of establishing our culture organically, but he is planning to start something else soon. We wanted to inoculate our company culture so it continues on being awesome regardless of what individuals are here or not. It’s been satisfying being one of the instigators to formalize what being a Teal organization means.
Joy and Wonder
Sometimes there are just things that make you stop, sit up, and take notice, because of the joy or wonder they inspire. These were the things that did it for me this year:
Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves all the awards and accolades it receives. It is so multi-layered and dense, and yet so approachable in it’s contemporary form, that it’s a revelation. (“You want a revolution? I want a revelation!”) Ever since late 2015 I devoured the soundtrack, pored over the Hamilton Annotation Project analysis over on Genius, and watched countless Youtube videos. Watching it in Chicago in November was incredible, and made me love the musical even more.
OK Go’s music video for “Upside Down & Inside Out” continues their creative winning streak. Whenever I’m having a bad day, a dose of OK Go videos is a good way to kick out the grumblies.
Wake Up Rosetta! Who says science and astronomy doesn’t have heart? I nearly cried watching this recap story of the satellite Rosetta, which just finished a planned crash landing onto comet 67P. Sleep well, Rosetta and Philae! https://youtu.be/lVKFyFbfpOI
Viewing the Super Moon just above on the horizon at dusk was incredible. For those fleeting moments on November 14, the moon looked huge and golden orange against the clear eastern sky. It brought back memories of seeing a harvest full moon in Winnipeg in my teens. Looking down the flat highway to the prairie, the rising moon in the early evening light looked like it swallowed a quarter of the horizon.
Diving off the dock into the lake at a friend’s cottage, and then floating on my back was a real summer moment. I was so content lying in the water, the sounds of our kids muffled, while the sun filtered in and out of the clouds.
Watching live dance (National Ballet of Canada, La Sylphide and Cacti in particular; Fall for Dance North and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in particular) and theatre (ARC’s Pomona, Soulpepper’s Alligator Pie)
Finishing off our 1000 piece puzzle of candies over the holidays.
And finally, reading books brought me joy! Is there anything more wonderful than being transported away by great story, characters, and language? These were my reads of 2016 that rise to the top of the list:
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle), Patrick Rothfuss
Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye
Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
The Martian, Andy Weir
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Well, I have fresh hopes for 2017. May you and yours have more joy and wonder in 2017 than cause for grief and despair. Happy New Year.
As I write this, E1 is 7 years old and E2 is 5 years old. Yes, definitely too young to be having mobile phones, but these rascals grow so quickly! It seems like yesterday they were still doll-sized, so I just know they’ll be pre-teens in a blink of an eye. And wanting their own mobile phones. So to avoid having to respond in a wild-eyed, unprepared and panicked manner, I think we gotta plan now for when to allow our kids to have mobile phones. (*ugh*)
I definitely think anytime before they are in Grade 7 is too early. But after they are going to middle school and extra-curricular activities by themselves? I don’t think that age alone should be the determining factor. Hence this haphazard plan below.
I don’t profess to have a grand manifesto that I’ve been planning for ages. These are just some of the random ideas and “risk mitigation strategies” that have been floating around my head lately. Maybe I’ll add to this list or take things away as the years pass. Definitely this post will be updated as things change. Looking at this list below, the daughters are going to have to do a lot of work to convince me! That might be enough to discourage it for a few years. But who knows, i’m writing this now in 2015 without knowing what the social and technological environment will be like when they are 13 years old. I’ll try not to be too hard on myself if this current best-laid plan doesn’t work out. Continue reading Parenting is hard: when to allow our kids to have mobile phones→
A deliriously fun music video using a car+instruments+desert track, a British puzzle book that was the “Lost” of that nation in 1979, lessons now for our cities’ future, artisan firewood, and learning to be lonely so we can learn to talk to one another – these are the Jeneral finds of the week for 2015-09-29!
Apparently I’m 10 years late being in-the-know, but I’ve found my new favourite thing, at least when it comes to music videos. I’ve spent the evening binge-watching all the videos of OK Go. They’re amazing in the sense of fun, wonder and joy they inspire, with real physical effects and often in single takes. One feels inspired that we can recreate many of the videos at home, if we happened to have the same dedication and creativity with the things laying around the house. Their treadmill video for their song “Here It Goes Again“, or the Rube Goldberg Machine video to “This Too Shall Pass“.
But this one is definitely my favourite one of all: “Needing/Getting”.
In 1979, Kit Williams published a book in Britain that was an illustrated fable—which also incorporated clues to a treasure hunt in real life. Imagine in the days before the internet and smartphones, this mystery is put before you. Would you be able to solve it? It took 3 years for it to be found, and even then it was not buy solving the clues in the book (the ones who did were too late). This article in Hazlitt provides an account of the story, but also delves into the human nature of desiring to find solutions to a mystery, even in convoluted and obsessed manner.
This article “8 Cities That Show You What The Future Will Look Like” from Wired magazine has some stunning examples of urban design and thinking. Even if they are not directly applicable to us here in Toronto, it shows that innovative thinking and political will can help solve the problems our cities are facing now and into the future. It’s just too bad that our current political focus during this October 2015 federal election campaign features very little to do with urban planning. Discussions about transit, affordable housing, and infrastructure have largely lacked much substance.
There’s definitely been a movement lately away from mass-production of products of dubious quality towards the hand-crafted, quality and bespoke. But perhaps the earnestness in some places is overwrought. This recent satirical video from CBC’s This is That program hilariously skewers it, profiling an artisanal firewood maker (the name may be the best part): https://www.facebook.com/radiocbc/videos/10153630196091913/
In “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk“, Sherry Turkle eloquently and convincingly describes how the constant distraction available from our smartphones is causes us to lose the skill of learning how to truly talk to one another. What’s surprising to me is that the argument takes a step beyond addicted to the distractions of the phone, and towards our ability to be alone and to process through the silences that are natural in any conversation.
But this way of dividing things up misses the essential connection between solitude and conversation. In solitude we learn to concentrate and imagine, to listen to ourselves. We need these skills to be fully present in conversation.
~Jen, aiming to be fully present in future conversations
Here are the good/interesting/provoking finds I’ve stumbled across this week: 2015-02-01
I don’t know if you’ve caught this story from the photo blogger Humans of New York (HONY), but it’s the kind of thing that restores your faith in the decency of the human spirit and the good of the internet. This is the first post that I saw, and I’ve been following each post since. Any of the posts featuring Vidal or Ms. Lopez beings me to tears. What a great story. The indigogo fundraiser to provide their scholars the opportunity to visit Harvard, has become so successful they now have enough to have 10 years of Harvard visits, summer programs AND provide scholarships to future grads
Glassbreakers—a Tinder-like platform to match peer women in the tech field in your area with the intent to create peer mentorships. Like networking, but with a discernible purpose. http://m.fastcoexist.com/3041529/change-generation/women-in-tech-this-platform-will-match-you-to-peer-mentors-tinder-style
“Why I Am Not a Maker” [The Atlantic]. “When tech culture only celebrates creation, it risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.” Hear hear. I think in today’s day and culture, this extends past the creation of tech, and includes the glorification of the creation of money. Now how do we bring balance back to our society to value these other highly important contributors to our society?
Last week’s announcement of the Apple iPhone 6/6S and Apple Watch got me thinking back to those early, innocent days of when a mp3 music player called an iPod was launched. At its design core it was a revolutionary way for people to interact with their music. Their marketing then capitalized on this through capturing the joy that people had when using it.
It was a cultural revolution. You could sense that there was this seismic shift happening, even though you may not have been conscious about it. No one wanted to miss out on being a part of the revolution into the future. And so the iPod was a gateway drug for getting us hooked to the desire and aspiration for personal electronics.
Then the iPhone was launched, and with the iPhone 3G version it brought the smartphone away from the paradigm of being a phone and email tool (predominantly associated with business and government) into the realm of a personal “life” tool. Gaming, snapshot photography, YouTube, and importantly, the rise of social media applications: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Anyone armed with the new smartphones could now create content for anyone else to view, anywhere, anytime. Another cultural revolution into the future. And boy you did not want to miss out on this one. Being left behind would not only make you out of touch with the cultural touchstones of the day, but also your friends and family. Addiction complete.
The ensuing versions of each of these products then dealt with making the devices smaller, faster, bigger storage, better cameras, etc, so the perceived utility of each subsequent version seemed to be increasing. And so we keep buying into it, because we are already addicted to the sexiness of being part of the future.