Fighting change is the folly of seniority
Christmas is almost here and thank god. I can’t take any more of this Baby, It’s Cold Outside bickering.
Where do I stand in this argument? I agree that yes, the lyrics of Baby should make people cringe. Does it describe date rape? It sure sounds like it. And if not, it’s about a young woman who is saying no when she really means yes. Neither scenario is acceptable.
Now, that said, just because times have changed doesn’t mean we need to condemn the past. It’s easy to self righteously apply today’s values to the reality of life for past generations and declare that we never would have stood for such things. Those who take such positions have their hearts in the right place but lack the perspective of time.
Still, that doesn’t mean we need to cling to a song that no longer represents our values because we’re sentimental. It’s time to put this one on the shelf.
Baby was written in 1944. A lot has changed since then. Back in 1944, drinking and driving was still legal and lobotomies were frequently used to cure homosexuality and female hysteria. It was legal to beat your wife in many states, and date rape wasn’t even a thing yet.
I prefer Big Band music to today’s Top 40 and wish everyone still ate from backyard Victory Gardens, but for the most part, I think life is better today and I embrace it. I’m also excited for what’s yet to come.
That wasn’t always the case. I used to loudly sing the baby boomer and Gen X chorus that bemoaned the snowflake millennials, what with their incessant preaching against rape culture, their need for meaningful work in entry level positions and their childish safe spaces.
I scoffed at their perspective. After all, GenXer feelings were never validated in childhood. Our home life was unsatisfying, to use that iconic line from The Breakfast Club. We worked our way up, grinding away for years doing thankless work for crappy pay. And we turned out just fine.
Or did we? I wonder.
According to new research released by the CDC this summer, suicide rates for people in middle age are higher than almost any other age group in the U.S. and rising. The suicide rate for women aged 45 to 64 jumped nearly 60% between 2000 and 2016 and for men of that age, it increased 37%.
For those of us still living, many seem to just be going through the motions. Not nearly enough of us are living our best lives, as the kids say on the Instagram machine.
When change makes us uncomfortable to the point of anger, that’s a sign that it’s probably long overdue. We often feel anger because a situation triggers painful feelings of rejection, abandonment or shame, and anger is easier to deal with than those emotions. Anger at someone or something rarely has anything to do with them. It’s all about us.
What does any of this have to do with credit unions?
As middle aged leaders, we need to be more willing to sing along to the millennials’ kinder, gentler song sheet. We also need to open our eyes to the way they are using technology to change everyday life.
This year, one of my clients reshuffled executive duties and my primary contact changed from a GenXer to a millennial. Wrapping my head around that was difficult, I admit. Kind of like the first time you go to the doctor and the person in the white coat looks like Doogie Howser. (Millennials: Instagram star Neil Patrick Harris got his start on that relic called “network television.” It was all we had, by God, and we liked it.)
At first, I bristled at his preferences for infographics and the way he organizes content. But then I put my ego aside and looked at the end result. It was better. I mean, really, really good.
Huh, go figure.
The next time you find yourself bristling at change, take a moment to think about why it bothers you. Are you really opposed to change? Or is it your wounded ego talking? Are you refusing to consider flexible work schedules because they really wouldn’t work, or because you’ve spent your entire career showing up in the office at 7:30 a.m. on the dot, so everybody else should, too? Are you fighting new checking account structures because that’s not what your members want, or is it because it’s not what you want?
When younger people push for change, they may foolishly condemn the past. But that doesn’t mean their ideas are completely foolish. Let’s use our wisdom to openly and thoughtfully consider change. Together, we can create a more fulfilling world for everyone.