“And you, of tender years/ Can't know the fears that your elders grew by/ And so please help them with your youth/ They seek the truth before they can die.” ~Graham Nash, from the song Teach Your Children
A guest post by Jon Giganti of 1440.
Editors Note: As I've created my blog and built my online business, I constantly realize how much there is to learn — and that most of the brilliant teachers are years younger than me. In fact, my entire lifestyle outlook has shifted as a result of connecting with these younger online experts. I asked Jon to write a post about what he believes his generation can teach those older than he is. Here's what he has to say.
It’s 1940. My parents haven’t been born yet. They’re soon to be part of the baby boomer generation and grow up in an age of many changes. TV’s, moon landings, leisure suits, Rock n Roll, Vietnam. Many in this generation came from immigrant parents (as did mine).
They were taught to put their heads down and grind out their lives. Take a steady-paying job and support your family. Don’t rock the boat – blend in. They also grew up in a time where men still ruled the world (check out this Good Housekeeping article about being a good wife in 1955).
The times, they are a-changin'
The world has changed. Someone in Chicago can connect in an instant with someone in Hong Kong. Many times it’s the woman who’s the breadwinner. We will see a day in the not too distant future where a woman is President. It will happen.
Typically, we talk about what we can teach the “future” generation. I’m about to tell you what we can teach the generation before us. My parents are in their 60’s. I’m in my mid 30’s.
Sometimes I think life was easier, so there’s a lot we can learn from this generation about slowing down. There’s also a lot we can teach our parents.
Life lessons for our parents
1. Work is not life – This generation was a lot more blue collar than the current knowledge worker group. After many learned from their immigrant parents that working hard was the way to go, they remained a victim of that mentality. Nowadays, it’s about performance and efficiency. Get the work done, but it’s not all about blood, sweat and tears (although commendable). A former colleague of mine used to say “work smarter, not harder.” I didn’t understand this for a while and found myself at the office at 8pm on Friday nights. As I learned to focus on performance and efficiency, I finally understood the value in this.
2. Tough love is okay, but real love is what’s most important – A lot of parents, especially fathers, prided themselves in being old school. I don’t remember hugging my dad that often (although we do a lot now). I’m sure his dad hugged him even less. Sure, as a parent, you have to teach your children to be disciplined and respectful. There is, however, a way to do this in a more loving, affectionate way.
3. Spend quality time – I mean real quality time with your kids. I’m not talking about watching TV together. I’m talking about real conversations. I’m talking about a walk in the park for no reason. Getting to know your kids on an intimate basis. Ask questions and be authentic. Relationships are the key to life. Too many times, even today, they are transactional. When in doubt, focus on experiences over stuff. It’s the experiences that last a life time and that you remember on your death bed. By the way, it’s never too late to do this.
4. Create a legacy – Similar to the “work is not life” idea, it’s not all about working hard. In the blue collar world, it was about putting in an honest day’s work. The world has changed. We all have a legacy to offer the world, and it’s about creating something that others can find useful and valuable. For example, I started my site, 1440, as a platform for creating content to inspires others. It’s fulfilling, to say the least.
5. It’s okay to be different – A lot of folks wanted to blend in and not rock the boat. Screw that. Don’t settle for being commonplace. Try new things. Be adventurous. Question authority when necessary.
6. It’s not all about retirement – Our parents grew up in the era of the retirement planning and the 401k. While very important, this shouldn’t be the driving force behind what you do. Sure, you have to make sure there’s enough of a nest egg to live comfortably, but don’t sacrifice precious years with your children, spouse, friends and family. Take that vacation. Go out to a nice dinner every once in a while. Buy your wife a new dress just because – you don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day or her birthday.
7. It’s not a man’s world – Women shouldn’t settle if they want more than changing diapers and cooking meals. Some of the most successful people in this day and age are women.
8. Stay current and engaged – As part of my research in writing this post, I talked to my mom. My parents divorced about 15 years ago, and my mom gave up her teaching job to help raise my brothers and me. This left her in a bit of conundrum post-divorce. She felt like she lost her identity and wasn't prepared to join the “real world” and fend for herself. She wasn’t prepared to be on her own. She wished she would’ve maintained her independence enough to support herself. Make sure you’re prepared if things go awry.
A new perspective
This is an interesting way to look at things. Usually, it’s all about passing advice down to the upcoming generation. The fact of the matter is that each generation will learn different ways to go about their days. There’s no doubt that my generation will learn a lot from my children’s generation. Look at my kids (ages 2 and 3). They love to play on my ipad. Are you kidding me? I can’t imagine what they’re going to be able to teach me about technology and connecting with others. As scary as it sounds, I look forward to it.
In closing, I may have outlined some advice, but the truth is that I’ve learned a lot from the prior generation. Maybe what not to do on some occasions : >). For that, I say thanks!
What comes to mind for you? What can you teach your parents? What have you learned from your parents that you’d never take back? Please leave a comment and we’ll have a great discussion.
Jon is dedicated to learning and helping others optimize performance and productivity. Visit him at 1440 where he writes about making the most of your 1,440 minutes each day. You can subscribe to Jon’s future articles and download his free eBook, Achieve a Week’s Worth of Productivity in a Day. Connect with Jon on twitter or facebook.