Simon O. Sinek is an author and motivational speaker who raises awareness about, amongst other profound subjects, the impact of media on everyday lives. On an episode of Inside Quest (a series discussing how particular people have managed to reach a position of success), Simon Sinek conveyed his attitudes (now a new one) regarding millennials in the workplace. Yet, while the title of this episode did attempt to focus on the workplace environment, the real subject of this talk was another: media. In fact, Simon seems to stress the importance of the youth in reducing their exposure to technology, specifically to phones and specifically in a social surrounding. Make sure to watch the interview here.
Interestingly, Simon does not waste time in this interview, and instead is straightforward about a topic he considers worrying. He begins by saying, “Apparently, millennials as a group of people, which are those born from approximately 1984 and after, are tough to manage. They are accused of being entitled and narcissistic, self interested, unfocused and lazy – but entitled is the big one.” He continues, “Because they confound the leadership so much, leaders will say “what do you want?” And millennials will say “we want to work in a place with purpose, we want to make an impact, we want free food and bean bag chairs.” Any yet when provided all these things they are still not happy. And that is because there is a missing piece. It can be broken down into 4 pieces actually. 1 Parenting. 2 Technology. 3 Impatience. 4 Environment.” Simon then goes on to elaborate on each of those four subpoints.
“The generation that is called the millennials, too many of them grew up subject to ‘failed parenting strategies’. Where they were told that they were special – all the time, they were told they can have anything they want in life, just because they want it. Some of them got into honors classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents. Some kids got participation medals, they got a medal for coming in last. Which the science we know is pretty clear is that it devalues the medal and the reward for those who actually work hard and that actually makes the person who comes in last embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it so that actually makes them feel worse.”
In other words, children who are given everything they want without having to put in any effort and work towards it are less likely to succeed in their future, independent life because they are not used to not receiving what they want.
“You take this group of people and they graduate and they get a job and they’re thrust into the real world and in an instant they find out they are not special, their mom’s can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it. In an instant their entire self image is shattered. So we have an entire generation that is growing up with lower self esteem than previous generations.”
Simon then adds how easy people can falsify their success/failure in this alleged futuristic life through the use of social media. “The other problem to compound it is we are growing up in a Facebook/Instagram world, in other words, we are good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I am depressed.” How relatable is that?
“We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text – it feels good. […] It’s why we count the likes, it’s why we go back ten times to see if the interaction is growing, and if our Instagram is slowing we wonder if we have done something wrong, or if people don’t like us anymore. The trauma for young kids to be unfriended it too much to handle. We know when you get the attention it feels good, you get a hit of dopamine which feels good which is why we keep going back to it. Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble. In other words, it’s highly, highly addictive.”
“An entire generation now has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine, through cellphones and social media, while they are going through the high stress of adolescence.”
Here is the harshly realistic part. Simon insists, truthfully, that “now because we are allowing unfettered access to these devices and media, basically it is becoming hard wired and what we are seeing is that they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. ‘Their words, not mine.’ They will admit that many of their relationships are superficial, they will admit that they don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends, but they also know that their friends will cancel on them when something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practiced the skillset and worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress begins to show up in their lives, they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device, they’re turning to social media, they’re turning to these things which offer temporary relief.” This is something that no one would ever admit until later life or under specific circumstances; but let’s be honest with ourselves, we can agree with this statement (perhaps not 100% of the time, but as a majority, yes).
Overall, what Simon is getting to is that “these things balanced, are not bad. Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, too much gambling is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with social media and cellphones, it’s the imbalance.”
Simon says this generation has “grown up in a world of instant gratification. You want to buy something, you go on Amazon and it arrives the next day. You want to watch a movie, logon and watch a movie. You don’t check movie times. You want to watch a TV show, binge. You don’t even have to wait week-to-week-to-week.” Instant gratification, is what he calls it and what it really is.
“Everything you want you can have instantaneously. Everything you want, instant gratification, except, job satisfaction and strength of relationships – their ain’t no out for that. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.”
This fourth point is “taking this amazing group of young, fantastic kids who were just dealt a bad hand and it’s no fault of their own, and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short-term gains than the life of this young human being. We care more about the year than the lifetime. We are putting them in corporate environments that are not helping them build their confidence. That aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation. That aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance. That isn’t helping them overcome the need for instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or even in a year. So we thrust them into corporate environments and the worst thing is they think it’s them. They blame themselves. They think it’s them who can’t deal. And so it makes it all worse. It’s not them. It’s the corporations, it’s the corporate environment, it’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.”
Simon explains what to do: “There should be no cellphones in conference rooms. None, zero. When sitting and waiting for a meeting to start, instead of using your phone with your head down, everyone should be focused on building relationships. We ask personal questions, “How’s your dad? I heard he was in the hospital.” “Oh he’s really good thanks for asking. He’s actually at home now.” “Oh I’m glad to hear that.” “That was really amazing.” “I know, it was really scary for a while there.” — That’s how you form relationships. “Hey did you ever get that report done?” “No, I totally forgot.” “Hey, I can help you out. Let me help you.” “Really?” — That’s how trust forms. Trust doesn’t form at an event in a day. Even bad times don’t form trust immediately. It’s the slow, steady consistency and we need to create mechanisms where we allow for those little innocuous interactions to happen.”
There you go. “When you don’t have the phone, you just check out the world. And that’s where ideas happen. The constant, constant, constant engagement is not where you have innovation and ideas. Ideas happen when our minds wander and we see something and we think, ‘I bet they could do that…’. That’s called innovation.”
Simon says to remove the temptation, and not even charge your phone by your bed. He insists that workplaces and other working environments should enforce the significance of balance between the four points mentioned above. If this isn’t done, people will be passing through the years of their lives never experiencing true friendship and love. They will take their last breath unhappy and displeased with themselves for they have not fulfilled their life and taken in hand its wonderful opportunities. All in all, they will have a lived a life that was not their own, and that was not a life, really. It is a perpendicular life they would have lived, one that began at birth, and one that could have led to a fulfilled, real one. It could have, but it didn’t. This is all because of stubbornness and ignorance.