Positive Attitude and Breaking Rules Is Why The ​Ben Franklin Generation (Millennials, yo!) Are Going To Make Excellent Leaders

“An America led by the Ben Franklin generation is likely to be a more stable, patient, values-driven and realistic place than the one led by the boomers. It’s a place where technology is expected to solve problems, simplify life, and strip inauthenticity out of the sales process. They don’t want to beat the system; the success of Wealthfront and others says that the Ben Franklins want a fair system they can be part of, and that can benefit everyone in it.”

In a world led by older generations, I’ve often wondered how my generation can do better. Surely we can, right? A world led by selfish Baby Boomers who have wasted everyone else’s savings as the only ones who will have enough for retirement, and by Gen X’ers who profited from better market conditions when they graduated from college and university, it seems that we Millennials have to pave our own way to success in order to fix the mistakes made by those before us.

Given that we feel fooled by large institutions into having us believe that education alone was a key to success as it was for our parents (have you noticed a BA degree won’t get you through the door to be even a lowly receptionist. Even my law degree (worth $180k) afforded me three years of receptionist work (at $15 an hour), and legal work clicking through documents mindlessly for hours.  All without benefits, a contract for any specified period, or the right to be paid time and a half for overtime (because of the “professional” exception under US wage law).

Good question, Leo, How am I supposed to live with all this debt? - gif via
Good question, Leo, How am I supposed to live with all this debt? – gif via

Many of us have struggled to find work to utilize our talents and hard-earned degrees, all in the while compensating us as fairly as our parents and grandparents were compensated for similar education and pedigree. However, upon graduating from school, we found ourselves in murky waters for which we were unprepared. A mixture of a bad economy and inadequate preparation for the realities of the world taught us to be skeptical of others.

“The Pew Study “Millennials in Adulthood” confirms the Wealthfront thesis finding that “… just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.” If you can’t trust people in general – which was the question – what hope is there for the conniving financial advisor?”

We don’t trust others to shape our future or offer us answers, especially not our parents’ generation which offers us what we view as useless and outdated advice on job searching (Yes, we have mastered networking and resume-writing, but that does not guarantee a job anymore!). Jobs that existed and thrived in our parents’ lifetime are no longer profitable or in existence.

The classic example is the legal field. Everyone still thinks that lawyers are money-making machines. People think that putting yourself through three years of misery and fierce competition to get through law school will be well-compensated. Consider law schools artificially inflated salary and employment statistics, my generation had no way of knowing that the work was no longer there. I’m a living example that while people think that being a lawyer is a profitable enterprise, it is simply not the same as it was even ten, fifteen years ago.

Lawyers are being replaced by computers, outsourced to India and compensated less and less every year, despite increasing cost of living. Gone are the days when law firms charged clients astronomical figures unchecked, provided attorneys lavish meals and hired many lawyers every year. Clients do their research and are willing to shop around more – and good for them! But this has really dwindled resources for law firms, which are, after all, profit-driven entities.

We fight back and stay positive - gif via
We fight back and stay positive – gif via

But ironically, instead of becoming bitter or panicking due to some unforeseen and cruel circumstances, Millennials are surprisingly very optimistic in terms of our future prospects. “Yet despite their personal debt and experiential context, Millennials are surprising long-term optimists, which explains their willingness to park their money in tracking ETFs. On this subject, Pew notes: “ Millennials are the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists. More than eight-in-ten say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want (32%) or expect to in the future (53%).”” We don’t expect others feed us using a silver spoon – instead we have realized that we need to find our own food to grow.

I’ve found that those of us who are succeeding despite obstacles and colossal failure have had to pick ourselves up from often humiliating circumstances, think outside the box (rethinking traditional jobs and rules of the game) and often invent our own jobs. We haven’t been afraid to take risks (except for the few who are too afraid of falling on their asses like the rest of us who prefer to live in their mothers’ basement rather than facing reality and trying something new) (see my blog post on the Quarter Life Crisis).

It’s no coincidence that bloggers have been able to monetize their creative ideas to build their own empires and fan bases, the tech industry has allowed techies with little formal education to not only succeed, but take over the world, and overworked professionals have even been able to leave their soul-sucking careers to lead adventurous lives of travel.  These are all things our parents’ generations would never have dreamed of in their time.

Wink - gif via
Wink, wink! – gif via

Given that the economy and other factors have forced us to change, it’s no surprise that we are forcing outdated models and traditional institutions to change in their turn.

“For traditional financial institutions – who for decades have sold themselves on outperforming the system – this is decidedly not good news. The regulatory language “Past performance is no guarantee of future results” was created because banks, mutual fund companies, and others would manipulatively scream “Up 75 percent” and investors would see that as a go-forward promise.”

For instance, instead of trusting people (whom we’ve seen firsthand as lying to and failing us – think Enron and Goldman Sachs) to manage our money, we are trusting complex algorithms and technology with our financial well-being, as the Huffington Post article I’ve been quoting all day has noted. We aren’t going back to the old ways as we are a generation that looks forward, with optimism. Onward and upward! (As my friend Mary Poppins might say).

I really agree with the author’s view that Millennials just want equity and a system that works for everyone, rather than benefiting the corrupt few: “An America led by the Ben Franklin generation is likely to be a more stable, patient, values-driven and realistic place than the one led by the boomers. It’s a place where technology is expected to solve problems, simplify life, and strip inauthenticity out of the sales process. They don’t want to beat the system; the success of Wealthfront and others says that the Ben Franklins want a fair system they can be part of, and that can benefit everyone in it.”

And with the following saying, he’s just rubbing my belly, as I know that Millennials love being called quirky and intellectual: “Even so, the quirky but intellectually consistent confluence of Ben Franklin values and Larry Page technology will come to disrupt the embedded architecture of corporate finance.”

Omg, right? - gif via
Omg, right? – gif via

And so, I, as a Millennial, am excited to reinvent myself in time for the New Year and seek out new ways to shape this world that I am in! Won’t you join me?

Do you agree that Millennials will turn this world upside down? Will we be equitable leaders, or fail to be inclusive like the generations ahead of us? Or are we just silly children without a clue?

Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!

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