A Letter to the Next Generation: A Fundamental Life Changing Suggestion

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ARCOMPANY  shares excellent advice and explores other topics concerning cross generational attitudes. Their “Think Tanks” allow everyone to share opinions in an open and non-threatening way. They provide fantastic overall discussion and I have personally learned a lot from all of them. I want to thank you all and especially Hessie and her team for pulling this all together.

It has become clear that you face many issues that I, and the rest of my generation, have not fully appreciated. As a Mid-Boomer, parent and grandparent, these insights are extremely helpful in more ways than you can imagine.

I now appreciate that, as Millennials…

  1. You are the most educated, skilled and knowledgeable generation yet.
  2. You, or at least many of you, are buried in excessive student loans.
  3. You rightfully feel unappreciated and undervalued.
  4. You feel that often people aren’t listening to you.
  5. You are affected significantly by gender, age and race discrimination.
  6. You have found that the nature of employment is changing and not what you were led to expect.
  7. You are experiencing a velocity of continual change that has never before been experienced.

When ARCOMPANY asked me to develop a message to “the next generation”, I decided to focus on what I, and others of my generation, could do to contribute to your life. What we could possibly do that would make a difference and help reverse these disturbing problems. Something that would truly help you make a difference in your lives no matter what path you chose to follow.

What is the “Silver Bullet”?

Since I am nowhere near experienced or familiar enough with what each of you wants and expects from your life, the best I can offer is how to capitalize on a factor that has not changed since the beginning of mankind. It is a factor that likely will never change unless we begin to genetically alter human DNA—not a possible solution at this time!

It makes no difference what communications tools we use or how technology evolves.

It doesn’t matter what your age, gender, race, career or life choice is.

Have you ever wondered why some people just “make it”? Why are they always on top? Why do these people always chosen for the best assignments and always get the best jobs?

Do you continue to ask yourself “Why not me”? You ask questions like, “Why do some businesses succeed while others fail?” and “Why do some seemingly terrific products and strategies get drowned out by mediocrity?”

Here’s why:

This IS the “Silver Bullet”…

Only 20% of life success is based on skills learned through schooling or the game of life. Yes, the 80/20 rule is alive and well – see here, “The Zipf Mystery” for more fascinating examples.

But a full 80% is how effectively you can communicate them.

No matter what you choose to do with your life, mastering effective communicating is the key to achieving it.

The same is true for businesses. Your first step is to think deeply about why some content marketing efforts succeed while others fail: Why is Facebook the juggernaut it is… while Twitter is floundering… and MySpace is virtually irrelevant?

Why has the consumer market perception of Blackberry gone from Crackberry to Crapberry in four short years?

Yes, some have “it” intuitively. But, most don’t – or at least they don’t realize it. It can, however, be learned. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert, an extrovert or any other kind of “vert”. Your age, skill set, gender or race has no bearing on your ability to capitalize on this.

It is instinctive to us all from birth but as one gets older, life becomes more complicated. This fundamental truth gets lost in the intensity of “reality”.

Learning effective communication skills is the one piece of advice I can provide that is universal.

As proven for centuries, this skill will help you leverage everything you are, to achieve whatever you strive to accomplish… no matter what life may throw at you.

You can easily master this, leverage your own unique personality traits, apply your skills and comfortably address all of the 7 issues discussed earlier – and any others I may have missed.

Is it easy? Actually yes! There are thousands of publications that can help you render communicating skills from within fairly quickly. And the wonderful thing about getting started down this path is that you will see continual improvement from the time you begin.

Simply start applying these simple fundamentals now. You will see the early results. This recognition will fuel your advancement into a fantastic new perspective and open doors you never thought possible.

The following books are examples of some of my favorites that can quickly get you headed down the right path. They are all easy reads and great reference guides which you can re-visit regularly to continue refining your personal abilities. You may well be able to apply some to specific situations you may be facing right now.

  1. Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People. This classic book, written in 1936 in the height of the Great Depression, is still on the New York Times’ best seller list. Understandably many of the examples are dated, but they clearly show a historic view of how to master effective communicating. It proves that this skill is, always has been and always will be fundamental to effective human to human interaction. It teaches how to communicate your ideas so they will not only be heard, but acted on. It applies as much then as (if not more so) it does now.
  2. Leil LowndesHow to Talk to Anyone. This is only one of Leil’s many books on communicating. What I like most about her work is that she has taken the fundamentals of these principles and applied them to many “real life” circumstances with easy to understand examples, observations and specific “how to” guides.
  3. Lolly DaskalThoughts Spoken From the Heart. This book will help you gain the confidence to execute effective communicating skills, evolve yourself as a leader and create success for yourself. It is relevant no matter what your definition of “success” is.
  4. Malcolm GladwellDavid and Goliath. This is only one of his many books on achieving success. The reason I like it is that it focuses on “changing the rules of the game”… changing them in ways that allow your skills to make a difference. Combine this with effective communicating and this book will help you see that you can make a difference and overcome adversity, no matter what roadblock you feel is holding you back.

If English is not your mother tongue, you will find all of these books translated into numerous languages. Millions of people worldwide have discovered them helpful in achieving whatever they want in life. This is regardless of what position, philosophy or culture they may exist.

These books, and others like them, are “silver bullets.” Reading them is the best piece of advice I can give to substantially impact your future and quality of life.

Please remember that people are the fundamental reason everything happens–good or bad!

Again, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the ARCOMPANY cross generational discussions. You have taught me a lot about you, life and quite frankly, myself. How I wish I had access to something like this 40 years ago!

We are all seeking concrete actions to help make a difference in our lives. I welcome your suggestions and comments below. They will help everyone continue to learn from our collective thoughts and capitalize on the vast opportunities ahead.

14 thoughts on “A Letter to the Next Generation: A Fundamental Life Changing Suggestion

  1. Jayme says:

    What a great piece, Steve, and one I appreciate. I nodded all the way through. Let me give the upcoming generation some examples of communications gone awry and how improving upon these skills will make a better bridge to the Gen Xers and Boomers?

    I hired a consultant to help with a web design project; all was decent to give him more work with a list and vision for long term ‘partnership.’ Sadly, that person never confirmed he was interested, never wanted to meet me in person when I traveled to his city, never had the decency to schedule a meeting because he was busy with other things. Its been 3 weeks with no comms, and as of today, we need to find another long-term partner I can PAY and grow with.

    Another example of a person I’ve been paying for IT work is similar. An issue arose with a client’s site and after a series of emails, I CALLED (gasp). NO RETURN PHONE CALL OR EMAIL. Crickets ever since I phoned. I am the paying client and millennial customer service and comms are dead. That’s my deduction.

    I have a real need in business. I need talented team members to outfit my vision for growth. I PAY, and I’m PATIENT. Is anyone interested in relationship building? Steve, before any perceptions are altered, based on experience, there needs to be AN INTEREST shown in improved communication.

    Tell me I’m wrong; give me a new approach. I can do that. But, you know what? It wasn’t too long ago that I toiled in the workplace myself as a noob and nobody held my hand.

    • Steve Dodd says:

      Hi Jayme! Thanks for your thoughtful response. Great to hear from you! And, I totally agree with your thinking that there needs to be an INTEREST in improving communications. I hear this interest every day but people don’t really understand what they are asking for. The problem manifests itself in many ways. Your examples are unfortunately very typical. The key point is that if people are not happy with the results they are getting, they need to explore new approaches. In your case, those you are trying to reach obviously don’t understand the value they are losing because they are not addressing your needs and effectively communicating with you. The result of their failure is a lost, highly valuable client (and likely many others just like you). The ROI for them changing their approach is rather obvious.

      I’m guessing you will find other partners who DO communicate with you effectively and as a result will earn your business. You are an effective communicator so others hearing this kind of advise and real world impact examples will be very helpful.

      My hope in writing this piece was to help raise the interest in improving communications as I’m sensing that our use of “tools” seem to have overtaken the underlying thought of how to actually say something to achieve a desired result. Therefore, many are not necessarily achieving their desired results though the use of these “tools” but not understanding fundamentally why. They tend to focus on the “tool” as the issue, not the message itself.

      Thanks again for your valuable guidance.

      • Hessie Jones says:

        Steve, do you think this is generational? The amount of channels available today for messaging, and communications is far greater than 20 years ago. I find myself continuously filtering and scheduling when I’ll respond. There’s too much in my inbox. I even find myself using a feature that brings in an email to me when I have time to read it.

        • Steve Dodd says:

          That’s an interesting question, Hessie. I don’t believe this is generational at all. Results from the use of effective communications has been proven for centuries. However, I do feel that recently (over the past 10-15 years) the rapid evolution of online correspondence has unfortunately overshadowed the use of these basic fundamentals. There is an “urgency” attached to our new way of interaction that has made responding very reactionary. Unfortunately, this has created a situation where the “thought time” we once had along with access to other “communications” senses (like body language etc) has been severely reduced. Additionally, we are individually getting far more correspondence and engagement with others than we ever have had before which has forced us to focus more on the “What” than the “How”.

          IMHO, what makes learning these fundamentals even more crucial in today’s society is the simple fact that because of “online” interaction, we’ve lost the opportunity to capitalize on our other human communications senses.

  2. Hessie Jones says:

    Everyone’s busy… At least that’s the excuse I have to those who don’t respond to calls or emails. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. But I was persistent, even to go as far as saying, “Did you get any of my emails?”

    These days, perception is everything. Someone said in one of our Think Tanks, “I will trust you until you give me a reason not to”. That works in life and in business. I over-communicate, to a fault. Sometimes I have to resist sending that email and waiting a day or two, and drum up the patience for the other party to read it, digest it and adequately respond.

    I guess we derive expectations based on how “we” would act. I would rather the client knows what’s going on, be late instead of going dark. I will follow-up and ignite an email thread that has gone cold, conscious that the ball was inadvertently dropped.

    My patience only goes so far Jayme. I don’t even know if I go as far as the third strike before I decide to just abandon ship. NO ONE today is that valuable. Everyone is expendable. That is why Steve’s advice is so important. We can’t ever take our value for granted. We need to keep selling ourselves and be conscious of the other party… and understand how one bad experience or one damaging perception of will impact us now and in our careers.

  3. Audrey says:

    Great post, Steve! I am presently reading How to Win Friends and Influence People and have found it to be full of wisdom that feels forgotten. It’s fantastically practical and I can read about a strategy and practice it the next day. It’s delicious application of knowledge that for some reason isn’t taught. I’m excited to add the other titles you mentioned to my bookshelf. As a Millennial surrounded by self-focused individuals who suffer all the disappointments entitlement affords- mastering communication seems like a unique edge to have in the market. And this part feels oddly obvious but still worth stating – approaching communication in a way that recognizes the humanity in others and seeks to understand their needs – has brought much more joy to my life and deepened my personal relationships.

    • Steve Dodd says:

      Hi Audrey, thanks so much for sharing your thinking!

      I totally agree with your point that given what’s happening around us, mastering communications will certainly provide an “edge”! It is truly unfortunate these kinds of skills are not taught through the normal educational channels. I’ve personally never understood why given the value everyone would gain from them. And, I love your phrase “surrounded by self-focused individuals who suffer all the disappointments entitlement affords”. That is the best summary of the situation I’ve ever heard!. It’s sad but so true!

      As a Boomer, parent and grandparent, I apologize for guiding your generation in that direction. We thought we were doing the right things but unfortunately I believe it’s been a huge misstep on our part. Like most, we dealt with symptoms, not root causes. We focused all of our guidance around learning skills, not how to leverage them. I believe (which is why I wanted to write this) that learning effective communications, and all of the subtle underlying extensions to these principles, will go a long way to helping millennials better cope as they work their way though this.

      Thanks again for your invaluable insights!

  4. Leil Lowndes says:

    Brilliant insights, Steve, ones from which all generations can benefit. As you so wisely pointed out, most of us boomers think we are listening to the younger generation, but we are obviously not hearing them. In my opinion, this results in further driving them back into their comfortable cyber-shell where many have been practically weaned. They are more confident when their primary communicating is done with their thumbs.

    Everything you say is spot on. But sadly the majority of gen-x and gen-y people don’t have the opportunity for as much human contact in business as we had. Sitting in front of a screen all day isn’t the same as our in-person casual office discussions. Yes, Dale Carnegie et. al, had winning suggestions. However, it’s almost impossible to transform many of Dale Carnegie’s wise points into an Internet based world. Smiley faces don’t cut it as a *smile.* How can you make *sincere eye contact* and give a *strong handshake* online? How can you prove you’re *hearing what the other person has to say* when you’re communicating through texting or email? How can you *dramatize your ideas* as you write? When it’s blogging, texting and emailing, it takes more than a few written *compliments to make the other person feel important.*

    In addition to the excellent points you made, I feel that we often not-so-wise elders must discover is how to transmogrify the good communicating skills we were weaned on to the new way of communicating. I, for one, find that challenge mind-boggling.

    • Steve Dodd says:

      Hi Leil! Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your observations. I cannot agree more that the challenges here are mind-boggling! We didn’t have “online” and “social media” services so we were forced to deal with direct interaction right from the start. This gave our generation the opportunity to learn over time. In the new world, connections are made online before anyone meets personally (if they ever do). However, eventually people do meet and then what? This is certainly where these specific skills will make a difference. Unfortunately, now they cannot as easily be learned through the trial and error opportunities we had. I believe this is why learning these skills through authors like yourself become even more important to these “next” generations.

      Now, I would like to introduce an alternative concept to all of this. Clearly it is not a simple problem to address when thinking about “electronic” versus “physical” communications but I do believe many of the fundamentals still are very relevant. And, since we have lost the value of non-verbal communications in this new realm, to me, this means that our verbal (OK, let’s call it written) skills need to be all that much better. Not only better, but also adapted to the new language of the online world as well as considerations for the new, very multicultural societies we have evolved.

      People are still people and the basic fundamentals of psychology still exist. We just need to better understand how to deal with them through this new domain. I believe having a clear understanding of these fundamentals is the first step to helping address this mind-boggling issue.

      Leil, thanks again for stopping by! I hope you and other experts in the field are up to the challenge to help people through this.

  5. Leil Lowndes says:

    Steve, you shot another bulls-eye when you introduced a key issue in today’s communicating—writing skills. Ninety percent or more of our business interacting today is not face-to-face. And today who uses their smart “phone” mainly for telephone conversations? So writing has become more vital than ever.

    I agree with you that improving writing skills should be at the top of everyone’s list. I also have a slightly different take on “writing skills” which I’d like to share. It’s not the type taught in schools. I prefer to call it “writing personality” which, usually unbeknownst to the writer, shines through every email message or post he or she writes.

    Email gives me a special joy and new insights because I now have the opportunity and pleasure of hearing from many of my readers. Not having met most of them in person, I can’t confirm whether their writing expresses their true in-person personalities. But I (and you too) pick up a sense of them—and in business, perception becomes reality. You can fathom the writer’s confidence or insecurity. You can recognize his sophistication or lack of it. Her sincerity or disingenuousness. His politeness or rudeness. Her honesty or duplicity. The list is endless. Very little of it is obvious. But their tone shines or glowers through their words, what order they are in, and many etceteras affect your instincts about the writer. You can’t put your finger on it. But it’s as telling as the “vibes” you feel when first meeting someone.

    Your tone, punctuation and words create a feeling in the recipient about you and whether they want to work or socialize with you. We are aware of such subtleties as: Too many sentences she starts with “I.” (Self-centered.) Using the recipient’s name too often. (Obsequious,) or not at all (Unfriendly.) Including too many unnecessary words. (Insecurity.) Or using passive verbs instead of active. (Boring.)

    An important generational issue also permeates people’s email. Living in the US or English speaking Canada, we are juggling an issue that European countries faced not terribly long ago when various regions spoke in different dialects. In the worst case it created misunderstanding, prejudice and bred fear. More commonly it resulted in people “sticking with their own.” Now Gen-Xers and Boomers face a similar chasm in their writing.

    We should all analyze and perfect our written form of communicating as much as Dale Carnegie et al did their personal communicating.

  6. Steve Dodd says:

    Thanks Leil, I couldn’t agree more. This was the fundamental reason for writing this blog in the first place! As you have so clearly stated, these fundamental concepts will help people be more effective with all forms of human interaction, no matter what their purpose, intended response, choice linguistic style or technology.

    Isn’t it amazing how “the more things change, the more they stay the same”?

    I am hopeful we hear from others who feel comfortable sharing their examples and ideas as well. The more we “hear”, the more we can all learn and help each other.

  7. Hessie Jones says:

    Hi Leil, Steve

    Thank you both for your thoughtful comments. As a Mom I fear for the current education system that not only has eliminated cursive from the curriculum, it also has hampered the progress for our kids. They say “Who needs cursive when everybody is on their phones or computers these days?” Cursive is a “creative” element to our brain that boosts individual creativity and expression. Both my kids print and I daresay, not to the same level of effort or care that we were taught.

    New media formats are being consumed through video and pictures. I don’t know whether reading is fundamental anymore, especially among the teens. That stalls knowledge, the ability to express and articulate (in writing and in voice), and overall stifles learning.

    I’m trying to get my kids to read more but perhaps there is something in these new formats which we are unaware that will change the way they learn and grow.

    • Steve Dodd says:

      Thanks Hessie, very interesting perspective! And, you’ve actually touched on one of the fundamental, yet most difficult issues to address. I hope you don’t mind “taking a swing” at this and hope you’ll let me know if this makes sense.

      Let’s consider separating “Substance” from “Style”. This is an ancient (well at least something I learned early on) concept. It is based on “style” being the individual skills that are tied directly to individual personalities and capabilities. Each individual (or in this case perhaps generational) communications method of choice and preference is absolutely different. As an example, Leil used email as a primary example. Others use instant messaging, tweets, facebook, blogs, video or pictures. These are all “styles” or vehicles used for communication.

      The focus of this blog was more about the substance or the underlying techniques to ensure that messages, no matter what style or communication vehicle is used, gain the desired response.

      I totally agree that the vehicles of communication are changing but unfortunately the emphasis is on the technology (style?) not the substance. What i hope people are seeing here is that these substantive communications techniques are even more important to ensure that whatever vehicle is used to deliver the message, its impact will be improved through leveraging fundamental human psychological motivators.

      A classic example I (aka old guy) can relate to is the introduction of PowerPoint. People initially focused on the style of presentations, fancy graphics and detail creating situations where audiences used these presentations as nap time. Only recently are we seeing presentations being designed with the focus on the messaging and delivery, not the fancy tech tools. To this day, many are still forced to sit through a 30 minute presentation of 100 technically advanced slideware and never get the real meaning of the presentation itself.

      My belief is that if we can educate people on these psycological fundamentals (substance), they will apply them to their own communication approaches (style) to more easily and effectively accomplish their desired goal.

      Does this make sense?

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