Simon Sinek. The one guy who might convince you to keep your day job and tuck away those grand notions of early retirement. You may have heard of Mr. Sinek, especially if you’ve seen his YouTube talk about the problems with millennials in the workplace.
His TED talks are ubiquitous. His books are best sellers. For those of us armchair psychology nerds, interested in the anthropological arena of our wacky offices, Simon is “The Man”.
Simon’s background is telling. He’s a good egg. He went to good schools and got sweet gigs after achieving his diplomas. He looks young, but he was born in 1973, making him just a year younger than me. Must be the hair? At any rate, he’s spent enough time in the trenches and has done enough research to speak with authority.
And let’s be clear: It sure doesn’t hurt that he has mastered the art of speaking with authority. Give anyone that skill set, and he or she could sell you snow on January 21 in Minnesota.
So why am I writing about this dude today? I recently went through some intense training at work that focused on E.Q. There were admissions. There were high fives. There were tears. Of course, there were laughs. And in the end, we all bonded. All that was squeezed into three days, before we returned with gusto to our inboxes and back-to-back WebEx meetings…
Part of the training involved watching YouTube videos of Simon Sinek. You start watching, and immediately this guy’s presence, voice, and inflection hooks you. The anecdotes resonate. You feel you’re in the presence of an old-time preacher. Honestly, he could probably get the entire congregation to drink that fatal Kool-Aid.
Sinek makes his point that millennials are instantly dissatisfied with their jobs right out of the gates. Sure, he’s generalizing. We don’t know if this mainly applies to college grads in white-collar gigs, or if there’s a broader brush being painted across all 20-somethings. Sinek says that this generation is on a “scavenger hunt” to find the job they feel passionate about.
Pausing for a moment… The first person who comes to mind when I watched this clip: Jiro. There was no scavenger hunt for that guy. He just dove right in. And it was not pretty for him, for several years. And yet, Jiro stuck with it.
He fell in love with his job, and in his 90s, nothing satisfies him more than his work. See, it’s fun to be a student of this crap – you get to tie together these disparate themes to helps you make sense of it all.
And the bottom line is this: Quit searching for work you’ll love as if it’s some kind of scavenger hunt. This shit is hard. It’s WORK. And it’s exceedingly rare that you’ll have your brain fully wired for success in your 20s. Maturity requires a lot of experience and time.
Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace
Sinek throws out his “mountain” metaphor at the 5:40 mark of the clip linked earlier. Yep, you’ve got to strap on the crampons, and inch your way up to your career ladder “peak”. But he graciously allows for short-cuts (maybe because he took advantage of them??) For instance, you could take a helicopter to the summit.
But the point is, there is a summit. There is a mountain.
Life is not a flat walk in the park. It’s an up and down slog, with peaks and valleys.
But all too often, Sinek says, our bright and optimistic millennials see only the summit and ignore the treacherous mountain that lies before them. As if a scavenger hunt for the perfect “Valhalla job” could yield a summit-like existence from age 20 to 100. Or, if you’re an early retirement type, 20 to 40, say.
You have to do your time. Recognize the mountain and the journey that’s required to reach the shimmering summit. The good news? YOU are SMART. You’re a student of E.Q. and a devotee to becoming a stellar leader and employee at your workplace. (And you read this particular blog.)
At basecamp, you hitch a ride halfway up the mountain with a few promotions. Someone likes the work you do and asks you to come to join him or her further up the mountain. And on it goes. Honing leadership skills requires time and effort.
Simon Sinek Is Simply the Messenger
Some would even say he’s full of hot air. I prefer a more balanced approach. Again, the guy knows how to give a great speech. That is not an easy skill to master. And he is among the best. He’s also apparently a decent writer. Again, no small fete. There is nothing revolutionary in his theories or models though.
Simon’s is fairly straightforward stuff. You quite simply need to engage. You need to CARE. Not just about your work, but about the human beings around you. If you’ve never heard of the term “servant leadership”, then tune into Simon Sinek.
You’ll get an earful, and if nothing else, you should come away motivated and inspired to give a bit more of yourself. (And that applies not only to the workplace but at home too.)
So, is there “institutionalized impatience” among Millennials? Are they quitting en masse because they’re just plain not “feeling fulfilled”? I don’t doubt it. Plenty of Gen-Xers feels that way. Plenty of baby boomers probably did too, especially among the hippies.
Take Simon’s lessons on life and leadership with a grain of salt. In all likelihood, his generalizations still apply to YOU. And his anecdotes hold powerful lessons.
How Millennials Can Find a Path to Tolerable Careers
Sinek would probably support early retirement if it meant simply a five-year break to raise a child, start a blog, and fire up a business or two. (You know, like grandma and grandpa’s retirement? Haha…) I believe we’re all capable of making the most of our careers if we choose to engage, and if we choose to constantly learn, fail, grow, and take informed risks.
At the same time, millennials can do much to eliminate all the crap that complicates their working lives in Modern America:
- Live closer to the office. Kill the commute – don’t let the commute kill YOU
- Pedal to work at least when the weather is nice
- Watch and read your Marie Kondo (i.e., minimalize)
- Spend a lot less than you make (by avoiding big fat houses and big fat pick up trucks and boats and cabins and fancy vacations etc. etc.)
- Meditate (something I need to learn more about and practice myself)
If nothing else, follow the above and listen to what Simon Sinek has to say. Early Retirement is for many a far-out-there goal that may be several years in the making. The least you can do is attempt to grow, build some resilience, learn the game, and stay motivated in your job.
And when an early retirement option becomes available, you might be surprised that you’re not jumping at the chance to escape that daunting little hamster wheel, after all…
(Featured Photo by Sebastien Cordat on Unsplash)