In Defense of Millennials (and Three Things I Learned Working with Them)

Two years ago, Millennials became the largest segment of America’s workforce. It will be that way for a long time. You’ve likely heard the complaints: Millennials are lazy, entitled, demanding, impatient and need to be coddled. I find the complaints annoying.

I attended a workshop about how to deal with different generations in the workforce. The presenter was really condescending toward Millennials. The crowd was eating it up. At least most of them. Not me. And not the Millennials. At one point the presenter said, “Millennials do not trust our institutions.” I thought to myself, “Who does?”

Then one of the Millennials in the audience said, “Yes! And we’re going to dismantle those institutions and rebuild them to be better than before.” I did a fist pump in my mind.

The Millennials are the next Great Generation.

According to the methodology developed by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, there are four generational types that cycle through history in order. Howe and Strauss are often given credit for coining the term Millennials to describe those born between 1982 and 2004. In their book, they identify Millennials as a “Civic Generation,” the same as the GI Generation that grew up in the depression, came of age in World War II and put a man on the moon.

I believe the Millennial generation will have a similar impact.

Simon Sinek’s interview on “Insight Today,” has gotten over six million views on various platforms. He details the forces that have shaped Millennials, including parenting, technology, social media and the fact that they came of age in the worst economy since the great depression.

Where I agree with him most is he says a lack of leadership is failing Millennials in the workforce. But he doesn’t share what to do about it. Here is what I’ve learned and why I think it’s great to work with Millennials.

Millennials need their work to have purpose.

It’s ironic that Simon Sinek wrote the book, Start with Why. He says people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It’s the same in the workplace. When you are able to articulate vision, where you are headed and why you are doing it, Millennials respond with passion and commitment.

Actually, I’ve found this to be true for most people. It’s just many in previous generations would put their heads down and grind without complaining. That may be admirable, but as a leader that doesn’t get you off the hook. Just because somebody will work without purpose doesn’t mean you don’t need to articulate it. Regardless of the generational make up of your team, you will get better results if you can explain why you want them to do what you are asking.

Millennials need to make a difference.

Everybody wants to have an impact. This goes beyond explaining why you want them to do something. It also includes providing feedback to show the difference their work is making. Are people better off? Are you solving a problem, avoiding a disaster or perhaps just doing things a bit more efficiently? Whatever it is, say it. Connect the work to the difference it makes.

Again, I don’t think Millennials are any different than other generations in this respect. We all get more satisfaction out of our work when we are making a difference. Bu tor Millennials, it’s essential. They are less likely to respond if they don’t think it makes a difference. Regardless, you should be helping everyone you work with to see their impact. It’s good leadership.

Millennials need to see continual improvement.

The knock on Millennials is they are impatient. They want it now. Actually, we all want it now. If I can’t order something online and get it in two days, WITH free shipping, I don’t want it. We are an instant gratification society, so don’t put this on Millennials.

My experience is that Millennials don’t expect to be made CEO right away, as some suggest. They are willing to work and willing to wait. But they need to see continual improvement, especially with their own skill set.

Sinek maintains that we need to be teaching patience to Millennials. I would say we need to be teaching Millennials. If you invest your time to help someone else improve their abilities, no matter their age, they will be more engaged and more capable. It’s no different for Millennials.

They are doing it on their own anyway. They are constantly learning new things, trying to get better. This is the positive side of the internet, in general, and Google, in particular. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a boss who helped them along the way?

So, if you’re a Boomer or an X’er, there’s no need to complain about Millennials. Just be a leader. Everybody you work with will appreciate it.

If you’re a Millennial, go change the world, with or without us.

Questions for Reflection:

How often do you articulate purpose to those you work with? How can you do it better?

How can you show your team the difference their work makes?

Are you investing in making someone else better? If not, how can you start?

The Three Most Important Things in Life

I’m going to share what I have found to be the three most important things in life. It may be different for you, but this is my experience. What you won’t find on the list is work. Stephen Covey famously said that nobody, at the end of their life, wishes they spent more time at the office.

It’s not that work is unimportant. The ministry I serve is important to me. When I do focus on the most important things, it has a positive impact on my work.

The most important thing in my life is my relationships.

As a Jesus follower, that starts with God. The deeper my relationship with God the more I want to give myself to others to make their lives better. This includes family, friends, my church community, the people I work with and people in the community, including the least among us.

The more I seek to make the lives of others better, the more meaning and joy I have in my life. I think this is how we are created. And, as Jesus says in Matthew 25, when we do this for the least among us, we meet him face-to-face

Next, there is my health-spiritual, emotional, physical.

The first two are directly connected to my relationships. Making my relationships the top priority greatly improves my spiritual and emotional well-being.

My physical health is something I took for granted for most of my life. When I turned 37, my brother, who is 11 years older, said age 37 was his physical peak. After that, things didn’t heal as quickly and aches and pains started showing up without provocation. He was right.

There are many things we can do to keep healthy. Good nutrition, exercise and sufficient sleep are essential.  Even so, illness or injury can impact our lives. Regardless, the rest of life is much more difficult if you don’t have your health.

Finally, there is time.

Everybody gets the same amount of time each day. The use of time is integral to relationships and health. How we use it has the biggest impact on our quality of life.

In his book First Things First, Stephen Covey writes about the law of the farm. He uses the experience of a farmer as a metaphor for quality of life. The farmer tills, sows, waters and waits. There are factors beyond his control that will affect the quality of the harvest. But one thing is certain, if the farmer doesn’t invest his time, he won’t have a harvest. And the farmer can’t cram all of these activities into a single week, like a student studying for finals, and expect to have a harvest. He has to invest the time and do so over the course of time.

If you don’t invest time in your relationships on an ongoing basis, you won’t have any to speak of. Even worse, you’ll have a crisis or conflict that can drag you down.

If you don’t invest time in your health on an ongoing basis, your body will drag you down and you won’t be able to accomplish the things God has in store for you.

So what can you do to re-order your life to focus on deeper more meaningful relationships and better health?

How can you be more intentional about the use of your time so you can invest in these things?

And what can you do so that God can make you all that you were created to be?

Go with God. And be with God.

Not Enough Time? Synergize

Here is the lightly edited video transcript:

Hi, I’m Jack Shitama. Do you feel pressed for time? Most people I know feel like they have too much to do and too little time to do it. One of the things that you can do to make your life more productive is to synergize.

Now I know that’s a buzz word, like “I don’t have enough bandwidth” or “I’m going to reach out” or “we need to drill down,” but the term synergy was actually coined as a productivity term by Stephen Covey several decades ago, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

What Covey meant was “two heads are better than one.” He was talking about teamwork and the fact that when people work together they can achieve more than they could individually. But he also talked about synergy as combining important activities to get the most out of our time.

So, I mentioned in the previous post that I meditate while I run. Meditation helps me spiritually. Running helps me physically and emotionally. When I do those together I get more out of that same time block. I also pray when I’m in the hot tub. Well, most mornings. As long as it’s not raining or really windy, when I get up I’m feeling sore because I exercise a lot, my body is aging and so I get in the hot tub. It makes my body feel better and prayer gets me grounded spiritually.

Another thing I do is I listen to podcasts while I’m driving. I have a 45-minute commute to and from work. I used to listen to sports radio all the time. What I realized was that knowing who all the free agents that my team could sign or knowing the prospects for their top draft pick wasn’t really adding a lot of value to my life. So I started listening to audio books and podcast and they have helped me to grow in a variety of ways.

I heard about a man who walks his daughter to and from school each day. It’s a 15 minute walk. So think about this. He’s getting an hour of exercise, 30 minutes round trip in the morning and in the evening each. He’s spending 30 minutes of quality time with his daughter each day. He’s also spending 30 minutes of alone time when he’s walking either to school in the evening or from school in the morning.

So what do you do to synergize in your life? What can you do? If you’ll post what you do already in the comment section, I think that would help each of us to get better in making the most out of our lives. And if you have other ideas that you want to try and you want to share with others to give you more accountability, post that too.

When it comes down to it, being effective in life is not about been efficient, it’s about making the right choices. It’s about focusing on the right things. And synergy helps us to do that. Go with God and be with God.

Three Ways to Meditate to Connect with God

I’ve included the following links to help you go deeper.

Here is a great explanation of Contemplation or Christian Meditation

This explains contemplating scripture in the Ignatian tradition.

Here is the transcript. Even though it is lightly edited, it will still read more like a discussion and less like formal writing.

I’m Jack Shitama. I’m going to share with you about meditation and how it can help us to connect with God. We know that even as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation can increase our ability to focus. It can reduce stress and anxiety. It can help us to better control our emotions and help us to think more creatively. In the Christian tradition, meditation, or what is often called contemplative prayer, is really a way that we deepen our connection to God.

Each of the three ways I’m going to share with you today has two common elements. One is deep breathing. Deep breathing is a practice that actually can be helpful throughout our daily lives. Any time that we might feel anxious or frustrated or angry, we can stop and breathe deeply for just a little while. It actually has a physical effect on us and helps us to release stress. So deep breathing is breathing deeply into the diaphragm, filling the belly and then exhaling fully. Meditation or contemplation includes deep breathing however you do it.

The other element is having an objective of reaching a deeper state of consciousness that goes outside of ourselves. It helps us, ultimately, to see things as they are, not through our own biases. It’s trying to see things as God sees them. It doesn’t necessarily happen in the meditation time. It may, but the more that we meditate in this way, the more that we are focused on God and able to see things outside our own biased viewpoint.

The first type of meditation is called centering prayer. It’s sometimes called breath prayer because as we’re breathing out we’re uttering a phrase. So you chose a short phrase that’s focused on God. It might be, “Lord, have mercy” or “Not my will, but yours.” As you’re breathing in, you’re breathing in God. As you’re exhaling out, you’re exhaling out yourself and you’re uttering the phrase. You do that over and over and again. You breathe in and then as you’re breathing out you utter your phrase. You can do that silently or you can do it audibly. Depending on where you are, you may feel comfortable with doing it audibly or you might just do it in your mind.

Either way, you are focused on God. And you’re saying that phrase in an intentional way that’s really connecting you more deeply to God. If your mind wanders it’s okay. That happens often in meditation. The idea is that when your mind wanders you bring it back to your phrase, to focusing on God. This is actually a form of meditation called mindfulness. It’s designed to help you focus more effectively.

The second form of contemplation or meditation is called contemplating scripture. When I did the last post about intercessory prayer and meditation, my wife said “What about scripture? Scripture is also a foundation of leadership.” This is where scripture is included in meditation.

One of the more well-known ways to do this is called Lectio Divina. It’s contemplating the word of God. The way you do it is to start by reading a passage of scripture. You sit silently breathing deeply and you contemplate that phrase, looking for a word or even a sentence that jumps out at you. You contemplate the passage and you’re looking for that word or phrase that jumps out at you. You don’t have to interpret it; it’s just what stands out.

After you do that, you read the passage again. This time as you’re listening to it you are asking, “What does this mean to me now? What am I hearing God say to me?” You can stop there or you can read it a third time and you can ask the question, “What will I do with this now? But in either case, however you do it, you’re focusing on the scripture and, as you’re breathing deeply, you’re asking God to enlighten you, to help interpret the scripture for you.

Another way of contemplating scripture is called Gospel contemplation. This is a little different in that you’re trying to really enter or engage the passage. I actually did this practice at a retreat that I was leading a few weeks ago. Another pastor led the exercise. We started with five minutes of silence, then we read the passage. We listened to the passage and then spent 20 minutes of silence entering into or engaging the passage. Depending on who you are, you may view the passage like a movie. We were doing a passage with Jesus and Peter in the boat with Peter’s fishing nets. I was picturing it like I was watching a movie. Or you might actually enter into the story and be in the boat with them. You might be in the passage with them. In either case, you’re engaging the scripture in a way that invites you to really experience it and then take away meaning from it.

Finally, the third form of meditation or contemplation is called practicing the presence of God. The idea is not to focus in on a particular thing but to really open up and just let the presence of God be with you. It’s really about surrender. It’s about surrendering yourself to God. Hopefully, you are creating a deeper awareness of the greatness of God and the presence of God in your life. Instead of avoiding thoughts, you’re allowing thoughts to come into your mind. When they do you offer them to God.

This is actually the form that I practice most often. When something comes into my mind that enlightens or illuminates me I say “Thank you, God.” When something comes into my mind and I realize maybe I messed up or something that I need to do but I’m not sure, I say “Help me, God.” And so in those ways, I’m offering those things back to God. It really helps me in discernment. It helps me to have my deepest and most creative thoughts in a way that helps me to attribute them to God and to help me follow God.

In all of these ways, even though people practice in a certain way, you need to find a way that will work for you best. I’ll confess to you that I actually do the third one, but I do it while I’m running. My eyes aren’t closed, but I’m breathing deeply. I am focused on my breath. It’s  the time that works best for me. We’re all busy. This happens to work best for me. My wife, Jodi, does it while she’s in her car. She has an hour commute each way to and from work. She doesn’t close her eyes but she does allow God to enter into her thoughts.

Whatever works for you is what’s going to make the difference. Because if it works for you, that means you’re going to be able to do it regularly. And when you do it regularly that’s when it’s going to be most effective.

This is a hint about the next post, which is going to be on synergy. Synergy is when you’re able to do two different things that have two different purposes and bring them together at the same time. For me, running has the purpose of helping me physically and emotionally. But, because I’m meditating it’s helping me spiritually, as well. Until next time, I hope you can take the time to meditate daily. I know you’ll find it makes a difference. Go with God and be with God.