Today’s Generation Rewriting Life’s Rules

Life, I’m learning, is not necessarily meant to be lived in a narrow, linear fashion.

I’m thinking about this as I watch my once-children-now-adults move throughout life. Both are discovering the world on their own terms – turning over random rocks of experiences or exploring forks in the road as if not to miss an opportunity.

What odd, however, is that it might’ve taken me over 50 years to understand something their generation takes for granted – there is no singular, narrow formula of successfully navigating the road of life.

Growing up as child in the shadows of the Baby Boomers, the formula of life was somewhat defined as study hard, get good grades, go to college, get married, acquire a mortgage, invest decades working in a specific field, and retire just before the shot clock in life expires. Admit it – that was the formula millions of us were spoon fed by our parents. And to a certain extent, they were only selling this because not only did the statistics bear out the results, but because the wanted us to be successful in life. Simply put, they loved us and wanted us to have the best opportunities as they saw them.

But today’s generation is different. To them, material items don’t simply carry the gravitational pull they held on previous generations. And as for security, they’ve learned if they don’t go out and leverage themselves – both financially and career wise – they can pretty much live life on their own terms.

My son still owns – and wears – a pair of black skateboard shoes he wore to freshman classes in high school. His default setting is securely set to money is best when expressed in numbers in his bank account than on a bill asking to be paid. And his investment in a career is more attuned to part of the country he’d rather live than where he can put in 30 years of service.

His sister, similarly, is living life as if she is picking through a box of holiday chocolates — quickly tasting and deciding which ones are worth finishing while tossing others aside after a single bite tells her all she needs to know.

My generation can learn a great deal from those coming online in today’s adult world.

There are those of my generation who may find these new attitudes reckless and possibly immature. But as I’m watching this newer generation take hold, I’m beginning to recognize an amazing sense of courage and confidence. They just might be the first generation to understand a full life is more about the sum of your experiences than the collecting of physical items or accumulating countless hours with singular employer while living in a single zip code. To them, life is not a straight line – nor is it designed to be so.

Don’t get me wrong — I do not regret how my generation navigated life. But today’s generation seems to view life in a more self-actualized manner, one where the cumulative return on investment just might include a few more detours or a couple more bumps along the way. But in the end, the final product just might result in one heck of a rewarding story.


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