As we roll into 2020, the American lifestyle defies classification as we mix and match all the disparate choices offered to us daily.

On TV, we’re presented with reality shows that have no boundaries in terms of topic and are focused only on shock value. Social Media offers a platform from which anyone can spew anything with no consequence and there are no boundaries in terms of topic or target. People and families are destroyed every day in the name of whatever theology or reality one wants to embrace, especially relative to politics and religion.

These days, people seem to migrate between different ways of living with a focus on only one thing: I want what I want regardless of how it affects or influences anyone. Nothing is sacred anymore and no one is safe from either being ostracized, marginalized or otherwise neutralized, especially if they’re deemed a threat or obstacle to what one wants, despite the cost.

In such an environment, the way we monitor social change (demographics, attitudes, behaviors) is no longer enough to chart social progress because no one can define what progress really looks like. The only real measure that seems to matter is Did I get what I wanted? 

This is why I continue to focus on core values as the best approach to leadership, not only professionally but personally. While attitudes and opinions change quickly, core values are enduring and often last a lifetime. There are some values that change over time based upon environmental influences, but there are a core few that last a lifetime. They represent the guiding principles in our lives, such as achievement, helping others or individualism. Our value system strongly influences our views of how we should live and the decisions we should make. They affect the jobs we do, the people we spend our time with, and how we spend our money.

Our value system is the sum total of all the choices we make.

Two thirds of Americans say that having close relationships is always on their minds. More than half say the same about security and stability. The responses are the same regardless of age, sex, race, income or region. Overall, the respondents are less concerned about me oriented values. Only one third are thinking about having the power and influence to get what they want in life or about developing themselves as individuals. I bring this survey data to attention because it flies in the face of what we know about the fastest growing demographic in the US.

Today, with the majority of the workforce and the consumer base are populated by those we now identify as Millennial’sThey represent a values group called self-navigators based upon their rejection of tradition and conformity and their belief that there is no safety net. However, it’s important to understand that they’re forming their value set around the same four influences all of us before them have, do now and will in the future.

  1. Events: There’s no denying that 9/ll (just to name one) influenced all of our lives and our values. 
  2. The Economy: There’s no denying that the US financial collapse in 2008 (just to name one) influenced all of our lives and our values. 
  3. Technological Advances: There’s no denying that the continued evolution of the Internet (just to name one) and the technology it spawns, influences all of our lives and our values. 
  4. Parenting (or the lack thereof): There’s no denying this for anyone on the planet.  

As a result, Millennial’s are forming their own reliance network with others, who prove themselves worthy allies. These self-navigators have concluded that the traditional formula for happiness doesn’t happen for very many people. You’re seeing this belief take hold also with other demo-graphical generations as evidenced by the desperate search online to find a group to relate to, align with and belong to. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, anyone? Think about it. As long as you can sit behind a computer or pick up a cell phone, you’re never alone!

The one common characteristic Millennial’s share with the rest of us right now is that none of us trust corporations, government leaders or anyone else simply because they’re in a position of authority.

In today’s environment of corporate downsizing, lack of affordable education, and ineffective governance, where a diploma doesn’t guarantee a job, getting a job is no guarantee of keeping one and retirement may never come, it’s kind of hard to argue with them, isn’t it?

Truth be told, better to try and understand them, thereby becoming a worthy ally! Who knows? We might learn something and in turn, become an influencing partner in the relationship. 

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