One author argues why the “instant gratification mentality” is the biggest challenge facing Gen Y and its future leaders.
by Joshua Fredenburg
Over the past few years, I have not only read and heard several experts talk about a variety of different things as they relate to Generation Y (those born between 1977-1994), but I have been involved in many different discussions that revolve around this emerging generation in America. Although most of these conversations and articles about Generation Y increased my knowledge and understanding of Generation Y immensely, the one question that has been hardest for me to answer is, “What is the greatest challenge facing Generation Y?”
The reason this question challenged me so much is because I believe there are several different challenges that are facing this emerging generation in America. For instance, we have many Americans living in poverty, many men and women without health insurance, an education dropout rate that is staggering, an economic crisis that is horrendous, and some of the strong morals and values that have been built for years in America have been lost. Although these challenges along with many others are serious issues that need to be addressed by the leaders of our generation, one of the challenges that I believe is greatest amongst our generation is an “instant gratification mentality,” which is believing success is an overnight thing rather than a process that can take quite a bit of years. In essence, this mentality that success in life comes quickly rather than through a long process is an issue that our generation will have to overcome in the years to come if we desire to build a greater future for generations to follow and make a greater impact on our community, nation and world.
Even though there are many different reasons why our generation has adopted this attitude, one of the key reasons why I believe we have this belief in life is because my generation has grown up during a time where things are given to us much faster than to previous generations. For instance, we’ve had the microwave oven that warms food up in minutes, we’ve had fast food restaurants that provide food for us immediately, we’ve had an Internet that allows us to research lots of information instantly, we have cell phones that allow us to contact someone at any moment of the day and we have been bombarded with many role models and celebrities that have became overnight successes within one year.
Although these stories, inventions and experiences have been great for our generation, the reality is that most people who become very successful are developed over time rather than born overnight. We know this statement is true because when you study great companies, organizations and people, you will always find that there was a long process that took place before these companies, organizations and people became very successful. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, confirms this notion when he states in his newest book that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice before a person becomes a success.
Even though many successful men and women understand this concept, based on my research and experiences with Generation Y, I do not believe that many men and women of our generation share this important aspect of truth. For instance, over the past few years, there has been more talk about a quarter-life crisis amongst 20-somethings because they are frustrated with things not manifesting the way they had planned in high school and college. In another article that I read about in reference to the Generation Y worker, I found that many men and women of Generation Y not only love instant gratification and expect frequent rewards for their work, but can become disengaged with their work if there are not advancement or rewards within the company for their work. Although I do not believe it’s bad to want things done quickly and to be rewarded for your efforts frequently, in order to build a stronger nation for generations to come and to bring about great change within our communities, nation and world, it’s crucial that the leaders of our generation understand that great things will not always occur overnight, but will take hard work, diligence, patience and time to manifest most of the time.
As many leadership experts continue developing leaders of Generation Y, I not only believe it is important for leaders to develop the common leadership qualities that we hear about consistently, but I believe it is essential that we develop an attitude that is contrary to the “instant gratification mentality” that I have seen amongst many different members of our generation. Listed below are three key things that leaders of Generation Y can do to help develop an attitude that does not think in terms of instant gratification, but long-term success:
When you assist men and women of Generation Y in setting goals, do not just have them create short-term goals, but have them create long-term goals as well that take at least 10-20 years to accomplish. This one exercise will challenge these emerging leaders to think bigger and think further down the line.
When you talk to emerging leaders about great leaders of the past, do not just talk to them about the accomplishments of the leader, but talk to them about the process as well so that they can see the good and power that comes to leaders who can make it through the process.
Make sure that every emerging leader understands that great leaders who leave legacies for future generations and make a positive impact on the world had to possess endurance to survive the challenges of things not happening as quickly as they may have preferred at the outset of pursuing their vision in life.