My wife was talking to our neighbor, Uncle Joey, the other day. She was telling him about how much I’m working lately. The neighbor, a sixty year old banker, looked back at her and said “well, isn’t it a good thing to be working hard?”
When Ashley told me that, for whatever reason, a light bulb went off, and I realized that I’ve been craving the “good life.” I’ve been trying to live the kind of life where I could actually work four hour work weeks. But when I heard Uncle Joey’s words, something stopped me. It was one of the first times in the past few years I asked myself “am I thinking about work incorrectly?”
I am a millennial, and I can’t tell you how many times over the past few weeks I’ve been in conversations with either other friends who are CEOs or people who are executives at large companies (both in and out of the States) where they are ripping on millennials. And we’ve seen all of the studies. Millennials love work/life balance. They love collaborative cultures, and they’re all about mission. All of that stuff is great.
But it feels like we’re at a crossroads. You can almost sense that the non-Millennial generations in the workforce are becoming increasingly frustrated with their younger coworkers. They don’t understand our obsession with living the good life and need for unlimited time off.
I don’t blame them. We leave work at 5:00 or 5:30, and if we’re being honest, most of us would rather be hanging with our friends instead of being at the office.
When you think about this, there is nothing really wrong with any of those things. It’s natural to want to go home and be with your family and friends. Work/life balance is a good goal. But I think all too often my fellow millennials and I start from the premise that all of life should be about relaxing.
I’m worried too many millennials look at our work — as just work. We work in order to do the stuff we really love. The truth is, our jobs are about more than just work. It’s through our jobs that we actually get paid to create the beautiful and helpful things that add value to this world.
What that comment from Uncle Joey helped me to realize was that by primarily craving the ‘good life,’ I’m not doing as much as I can to create value. Even more impactful for me than that is I’m coming to realize that primarily craving the relaxing, four hour work week life feels self-serving.
So what does this mean for millennials?
Instead of focusing on creating the optimum time split between our work and personal life, millennials can focus more on being fully present in both. If we’re not focused and present, then our time at the office and the hours we spend with our family and friends both lose their value.
And this means actually showing up for work. That means putting in the hours and thoughtfully engaging with the task at hand, rather than checking Twitter or iMessage every five minutes or always leaving at 5:00 to hang with friends. Work should be the place where we incessantly focus on making things other people can use. Doing that is the only way we can make or provide something valuable.
This blog post is actually a quick example of this. I was debating leaving the office at 5:00 today or sitting here and trying to create some content that’s helpful.
The way I see it, by staying a little bit longer, I’m hopefully providing something that’s valuable to someone. That’s worth it — even if it helps just one person.
If we’re trying to escape work to be with our friends all the time, we’re giving up our chance to change the world. We’re not having it all, we’re just living for ourselves.
I’m hopeful for my fellow millennials. Instead of being known as the Me Me Me Generation, we can be known for our ability to not only imagine a better world but put in the hard work to make it reality. We should be known for our ability to create beautiful things. If we can do that, we’ll live in a world that’s in a lot better shape than it has ever been in before, all because we actually showed up and worked hard to change it.