Baby Boomers & Millennials – What about Gen X?

Perhaps this revelation that I came to, everyone else realized a long time ago.  But while recently attending SXSW I was in the closing keynote, where the speaker was talking about the future.  Specifically about how the future was in the hand of the Millennial generation (roughly, those born 1982 or later), who are taking up the charge, “owning” Web 2.0, starting all sorts of new companies and overall driving society forward right now (at least technologically, according to this speaker).  He specifically said for the Baby Boomers to step aside, and to follow the lead of the Millennials.

Interestingly enough, I had just seen the documentary “Something Ventured”, talking about the ‘old way’ of doing business, and the first venture capitalists that started changing the rules of the game.

Oh, plus I’d attended some talks throughout the week that constantly spoke, of course being SXSW, of people founding companies, getting out there, taking risks, etc.

The thing that clicked to me, when in the closing keynote, was that at least from my own point-of-view, Generation X (that’s me) has been put in a slightly odd place.  At least in the industry that I’ve become connected with, that of ‘The Web’.

The Baby Boomer (and earlier) generations, were brought up with the mindset of finding a good company to work for, working long, moving slowly up the corporate ladder and eventually retiring.  I know that’s what my parents did, as did everyone else around me during that time.  In the documentary, there was this clear understanding (until it began to change, with the likes of Apple Computing), that people didn’t just go and found companies.  Or at least if they did, they were already well established in their field before they considered doing so.  Most of the people in that film that founded companies, had a lot of experience first, were older therefore and then went off to found a company as the next step for them.

Now, I think it’s safe to say, that almost every kid in college in a technical field (if not in high school), is firmly considering the idea of starting their own company with their friends as soon as they graduate.  It’s the ‘new way’ of doing business.

Which is where Gen X got left in an awkward state.  We had the rug pulled out from under us.  We were brought up with the world preparing us for ‘find a job, work your way up the ladder’.  Now suddenly the tables have turned, and we’ve spent so many years of our life doing that, trying to work our way up.  To realize that all the Millennials are just going out and starting their own companies, short-circuiting the process.

Basically we were born too late, to have lived in the world of ‘stability’.  We were born too early, to have been indoctrinated into a world encouraging risk early in your life/career.  Now we are all middle aged, with kids, families, commitments.  While millennials do exciting things that we wish we’d have had the ability to do when we were that age.  But noone was.

PS.  I wish the Millennials well, Please go out there and make amazing things!  I realize that this post may have sounded like a rant, or jealousy.  It wasn’t meant to be.  It was sadness inspired, I guess, at looking back and realizing at how the timing of life causes interesting side effects on it.

5 Responses to Baby Boomers & Millennials – What about Gen X?

  1. ylandra says:

    Hey Eli, let’s… start a business.

  2. Eli says:

    Well ya know ylandra, I just might be already working on that 😉

  3. Ylandra says:

    Cool – can I play too?

  4. It’s odd for some of us in the middle too*

    I was in college for the entire dotcom boom. Despite being a technical school and 90% of the school in that Boomer mindset, I spent a huge amount of my time in business & entrepreneurial classes. A huge incubator started at the school but wasn’t off the ground by the time I graduated. Regardless, I’d been through two startups – one slightly funded – so I had some more of the basics.

    And then graduated in May 2001 just in time for the hardest times of the bust. The company I was hired by disappeared before I moved to DC 6 weeks later. By the time 9-11 rolled around, most of the startups I was watching were gone. Suddenly, all those things that I’d learned about and studied for and worked to understand disappeared in a few months and I was for a beltway bandit with the Feds.. which has the ultimate Boomer mentality.

    My only solution was to dabble on the side and jump when it made sense. That’s probably why I never had a “job” more than 2.5 years. 😉

    * I was born in ’79 which is either X or Y/Millenial depending on which study you like as the transition is always in the 1977-1982 timeframe.

  5. Eli says:

    *nod* thanks for the input Keith. It’s interesting to hear your experiences. In my case, there were no ‘entrepreneurial’ classes in college for me. I don’t think I’d ever even heard that word until much later.

    And I was solidly into my ‘big long term job’ like I was supposed to get, during the dotcom boom, and so it only (directly) effected my investments/retirement at the time.

    I never got involved in the first dotcom bubble, since again that started just after I left college and was in my first post-college-job. Plus that bubble was very ‘SF Bay Area’ based, and this was before Remote Work was such a possibility 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing.

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