Sinek’s Millennial Question – Does He Have The Answer?

Simon Sinek is a British/American author, speaker and marketing consultant. According to his website, Start With Why, he is an ''unshakable optimist'' with a focus on inspiring others to feel fulfilled in their working lives. He gained attention recently for a speech he made about millennials and problems associated with them, entitled ''The Millennial Question''. I will be discussing this video and it's content in this post.

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Sinek’s Arguments

In his video, Simon tackles the notion that millennials (those born 1984 onward) are lazy, entitled and unfocused. They are viewed in some quarters as demanding in the workplace, wanting ” to make an impact, free food and beanbags

They are afforded these luxuries, yet they still appear unhappy. Simon put forth his own four part theory of characteristics to explain this – parenting, technology, impatience and environment.

Parenting

Simon targeted parents, blaming failed parenting strategies in forming the people their children grow up to be. Participation medals for coming last. Constant positive reinforcement. Telling their children they’re special. Excessive involvement with their child’s education, to the point of arguing with teachers over poor grades. Sinek made reference to science to show that these medals devalue a child’s worth, causing embarrassment, as well as taking away from the actual winners achievements.

Sinek expressed concern for millennials heading into the workforce. He states that because of these failed strategies, parents have created a false reality for their offspring , which is quickly crushed when they find they are not as special as they had been taught. There are no medals just for taking part, and their parents cannot fight their battles. They must work for what they want, and won’t be granted anything purely because they want it.

Sinek linked this parenting style to lower self esteem in millennials than previous generations, through no fault of their own.

Technology

Next, Simon emphasised the (destructive) role of social media in the lives of today’s youth, such as Facebook and Instagram. He spoke of the tendency to ”filter out” the undesirable aspects of our lives in order to create a facade of happiness and ”life is amazing” online. He also mentioned the trauma of being unfriended, and the pressure to reel in those all important likes on the universe Zuckerberg made.

Sinek again pointed to science to refer to social media addiction. Life’s pleasurable moments, like receiving a text from a friend, release a chemical called dopamine. This chemical is also present in engagement with addictive vices like smoking and gambling. Again and again, millennials turn to social media as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, to keep seeking those dopamine spikes.This is where addiction sets in.

He questioned the lack of age restrictions on social networking sites, why it’s not regulated in the same fashion as alcohol. He outlined the transition from childhood to  adulthood, where the approval of parents is replaced with the need for peer approval. But instead of confiding in these peers directly, millennials are flocking to Facebook for validation and temporary relief. These sites won’t let them down in the same way a friend might cancel plans last minute. It is deemed more reliable in their eyes. He feels that healthier coping strategies are what is needed.

Tellingly, Sinek was informed in speaking with young people that social media put strains on forming meaningful relationships in their lives. According to research, Facebook users are more depressed than those who don’t engage in it.

Simon listed a number of scenarios which suggest problematic, addictive behaviour. Texting at the dinner table to someone who isn’t there. Laying down your phone on the table in arms reach.Checking your phone before anything else in the morning.

He concluded his foray into technology by stating that technology can ”destroy relationships, cost time and money, and make life worse”.

Impatience

Simon mentioned instant gratification and it’s prevalence in modern life for millennials. Next day delivery for goods bought online. The rise of Netflix binging, and skipping whole television seasons just to binge watch at the end.

He targeted Tinder as a detriment to dating, the ”swipe right” phenomenon acting in lieu of real, live dates where social skills are developed. Being able to hold a conversation with someone you’ve just met, and navigating the awkwardness of the first encounter. Why leave your house when you can swipe to your heart’s content? It’s instant, that’s why.

Sinek stressed that there is no app for job satisfaction or strength of relationships. Speaking with young graduates, he learned of their unhappiness, and desire to quit their roles after as little as eight months in the company because they’re ”not making an impact

These things are slow, meandering processes, he stresses. Millennials need to learn patience, things take time. They see the summit, but not the mountain. If they don’t learn to wait, they may never be fulfilled, and find themselves wafting through life.

Environment

Simon criticised the corporate attitude to young people in the workplace. They care more about numbers than the individuals. There is an over emphasis on short term gains rather than the long term lives of youth. These environments aren’t teaching them coping skills, leading to self blame among millennials when things go wrong. He expressed disappointment at the lack of good leadership in the workforce, hurting a generation which was dealt a bad hand, and now companies are left with responsibility to pick up the slack.

He finished off his fifteen minute monologue with a plea to create a better environment for millennials by ditching phones in conference rooms, leading by example. Simon himself leaves his phone at home when heading out with friends,and charges his phone in the living room. He urged us to do the same, removing temptation to enjoy the world, where ideas and innovation happen.

Is he right?

Sinek definitely makes a number of interesting, relevant points on where millennials are heading because of social media, but we must remember that this is a problem that lies not just with young people. They were just the first to experience it, and have not known it any other way. The need for likes and validation is surely not confined to millennials, though it may be more prominent because of a sense of vanity and insecurity in younger users. Older people can appear more sure of themselves through decades of life experience, as opposed to millennials merely starting out in life, with less of a sense of identity and direction.

I liked his mentioning of dopamine and his linking in with social media use and addiction, it’s certainly got me thinking of it’s effects on the mind. Is it really all that safer than booze and cigarettes?

Sheltered parenting creates entitlement in some, but not all. It felt like a generalisation from Simon. I do agree though that these parenting strategies do more harm than good.

I relate to his points on impatience. From my own experience, I get impatient having to wait a couple of days for online goods, and have battled the urge to stop watching shows week to week in favour of an end of series binge.

But again it’s not just a millennial problem. It’s just what we’ve all become accustomed to as a result of advancements in the world. I’m sure older folk get just as frustrated at having to wait longer for deliveries, when we’ve come to expect quick service.

You can view Simon Sinek’s ”Millennial Question” here

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