With all the stereotypes about millennials trailing behind us, it can be hard to see the value in learning from the same people that choose to criticize our generation.
Of course, not all Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have negative views of Millennials, but it seems that lately that’s the idea perpetuated online and in the media. The overwhelming message is that Millennials are too entitled to listen to the generations before us, and that the generations before us have nothing nice to say about our accomplishments. *sigh*
But, are we all able to swallow our pride and learn from each other?
Breaking Down Generational Walls
Let’s all admit it – the stereotypes go both ways. Most of us don’t mind playing along, participating in heated discussions, and sharing articles like “You Know You are a Millennial If…”. At the same time, a lot of us have rooted beliefs about the generations before us. This prevents us from really tapping into the knowledge they may have to offer, particularly around entrepreneurship.
Stereotypes, about any demographic, are usually based on presumptions, assumptions, and maybe even a bit of truth. It is natural for us to try and classify each other, and our behaviors, into neat little boxes, but this is only helpful to a certain extent. Overtime, they become seen as truth, and can build walls between groups to that prevent them from truly identifying with each other. It can be difficult to cast pride aside and overlook these in order to find common ground.
Putting Pride Aside: Learning from the Previous Generations
As hard as it is to admit it, our parents, and our grandparents, paved the way before us. Whether they did the best job they possibly could is up for debate, but is, quite frankly, beside the point. All of us operate within a system (society, economy, government, etc.) that often evolves and molds us whether we like it or not. It is quite possible that the reality we find ourselves in now had less to do with the everyday people, and more to do with the powers that be. Wrestling with that is a much bigger issue.
All of that aside, we must recognize what insight the previous generations have to offer – both so we can learn terms for how to be successful, and learn what mistakes to avoid. If we truly believe that the previous generations set us up for failure, then there are lessons to be learned there on how to prevent that from happening again.
What Millennial Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Previous Generations of Entrepreneurs
Having a chip on our collective shoulder will only hurt us in the long run. Many millennial entrepreneurs are recognizing this, and are quickly casting it aside. They are seeking out mentors, reading books from thought readers, and even reaching out to seasoned entrepreneurs in their network. They are seeing that despite our differences, the entrepreneurs before us have value to add, and can help us be successful in our own business endeavors.
1. The Value of Mentorship
Truth be told, a common trend in the “younger generation”, no matter the time period, is that they just don’t want to “listen to their elders”. The appeal of wanting to forge a new path makes it easy to discount the experience and expertise of those before us. Though this tenacity is a key component of innovation, we may be hindering ourselves by not tapping into this invaluable resource, through mentorship.
Fortunately, the value of mentorship has been talked about more and more lately. Millennial entrepreneurs are recognizing that there is much to learn from those older than us who have pushed through entrepreneurship, despite all odds. We can find living, breathing examples of people who built their business from the ground up, and have even scaled it across multiple economic climates.
Sometimes being able to see someone else’s mistakes and learn from them can makes all the difference. Mentors can also help you see through the BS, and can hold you accountable when times get tough.
2. Freedom from Digital Distractions
As the “generation of social media”, is can be easy to get caught up in the distractions that come with constant contact with the online world. There is no doubt that the surge in new technologies has been astronomical in providing us new tools, particularly for entrepreneurs. That being said, it can be difficult to break away from social media to really focus on the important tasks that are pivotal for growing a business.
With so much access to information, millennial entrepreneurs often find themselves falling down a rabbit hole of tutorials, courses, and blog posts. While these resources can do much to set you up for success, they can also turn into significant distractions. Over time, you may find that you are spending too much time “learning” and not enough time “doing”.
Baby Boomers and even Gen Xers are less likely to fall into this vice, even if due merely to the fact that this technology was not a fundamental component of their experience growing up. Regardless, being able to “check out” of social media can be a valuable skill to have. Less time scrolling means more time focusing on the stuff that really matters.
3. Meaningful Connections and Support
One assumption that many people have about millennials is that we have lost what’s “truly important in life”: our connections with other people. We are criticized for being individualistic, and for not being able to have meaningful friendships (presumably because all our friends are through social media). Though this is clearly a broad assumption, it worth recognizing it as something that we call perhaps work on in our daily lives.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. You often face criticism or confusing from those around you. Even more, you may feel like your friends can no longer relate to you or your goals.
Instead of trying to do it all on your own, it is really important to seek out a network of support. Part of this could mean cultivating better relationships with family, and networking with groups of people more like us. So, though the older generations are often regarded as being too traditional, perhaps they are on to something when it comes to valuing the support that comes with solid family and friend relationships.
4. Knowing the Business Basics
There’s no doubt that there’s something exciting about jumping into entrepreneurship head-on. Many of us entered the world of business with little formal experience, and have made our way with help from mentors, online courses, and good ol’ fashioned trial and error. Bu if there’s one thing that the older generations may have a one-up on us, it’s their value in higher education – and specifically having the business basics prior to entering entrepreneurship.Perhaps the more cautious approach, the generations before us were more likely to have an education or professional experience in business before venturing off on their own.
This may not be the case anymore, but instead we find that a lot of young business owners are lacking the fundamentals of small business management- such as accounting, an understanding of legal issues, project management, and finances. These are essential components of running a business – and requires either some degree of education, or outsourcing to an expert.
This is not to say that one path is particularly better than the other, but we should take this as food for thought. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed with all the ins and outs of business, it could be that you have a need for brushing up on the basics. Platforms such as Udemy can be great for learning more about the fundamentals.
5. Hesitation Can Be a Good Thing
You should never let fear be the sole thing holding you back from entrepreneurship. That being said, many entrepreneurs have fell victim to the idea that to start a business you simply have to jump in head-first, sink or swim. Having that degree of passionate and ambition is necessary for starting a business, but is this “all in” mentality really the right approach?
Many industries today have a low barrier to entry that makes leaping into entrepreneurship quite easy. At the same time, we see many entrepreneurs scrambling to make their business work because they haven’t spent the time to get the necessary components in place. For example, knowing if there is a market for your product or service is a great place to start.
The older generations perhaps had a bit more to lose, and faced greater risk, in starting a business flying off the seat of their pants. Today, our digital world keeps costs low and accessibility to business tools high. However, a little preparation can go a long way in setting your business up for success.
Learn, and Do Better
Despite pervasive stereotypes, it could be that Millennials have more in common with the previous generations than the media would make us believe. Entrepreneurial in nature, Millennials are forging a new path in entrepreneurship – and that’s exciting! But rather than cutting each other down, it is clear that there is much that the various generations of entrepreneurs can learn from each other.
Learn from their mistakes. Follow your passion. Create a business that shines better and brighter.