We Made The Experiment, And The Fruit Is Before Us

Jim Blasingame

For more than 20 years in our online poll, we’ve asked our audience for their thoughts on a wide variety of Main Street subjects. Recently, we asked the following question with four response options, and results in parenthesis:

“Based on your observations, will younger generations – currently under 45 – be able to take full possession and manage the transfer of America’s business?”

• Absolutely. Just as well as any other group – maybe better (23%).

• Not looking great so far – high in entitlement and low in work ethic and critical thinking (26%).

• It seems they’re behind, but there is a minority – about 20% – who could save them (28%).

• Time marches on and each inheriting generation shapes their own future (23%).

In the hundreds of polls we’ve published, rarely has the tightness of the spread of responses been as noteworthy as the leading vote options. For now let’s set aside the 23% who defend the younger generations and the same group who equally defends humanity in general, and focus first on the leading responses.

The first of the two breakout groups, with 26%, came down pretty hard on Gen Y and Gen Z. In my reporting on the younger generations over the past 20+ years, including hundreds of conversations with individuals who, like me, are sometimes not-so-lovingly referred to as “Boomers,” “entitled, and deficient in work ethic and critical thinking” is almost invariably the appraisal of these newest members of the workforce. Of course, their indignant defense of such a broad, generational indictment is that we – the Boomers – “are the ones who raised us.” Ouch.

The largest cohort in our response this week is at once illuminating and exciting. Twenty-eight percent allowed that there is a minority of the youngsters – 20% – who could save their generation. This is a position I’ve formed over many years of working with members of Gen Y as a kind of demographic Pareto Principle.

But in the hundreds of times I’ve invoked this ratio, I’ve always preempted my observation with this demographic pre-appraisal: These two generations are probably the best crop of human beings ever produced.” Then, after dropping the hammer with those generational shortcomings listed earlier, I’ve added this: “But there is about 20% to 25% who do not fit the Millennial generation narrative. They work, don’t make excuses, take responsibility, and solve problems.”

And even though my fellow Boomers have generally agreed with me in the past on all three points, it’s encouraging to see that this “hope for the future” perspective prevailed in our poll against the other three.

Now back to the macro response. It’s heartening to see that more than seven-of-ten of our folks are positive about the kids (under 45) going forward.

In summary, I can think of no better way to culminate this exercise than to appropriate the immutable wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Based on his many assessments of once and future America, we have reason to believe that Mr. Lincoln would have found himself aligned with our three groups who aggregated to the optimistic 72%. So, thanks in advance for forgiving my paraphrasing of one of Abe’s immortal moments, this one from eight score and five years ago.

Write this on a rock … We made the experiment, and the generational fruit is before us. Look at it, in its aggregate grandeur, of the extent of country, and numbers of population.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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