Wednesday, November 6, 2013

#034 The Entitled Generation

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstance, to choose one’s own way.”
--Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning

Is anyone over the age of 30 as sick of that new moniker as I am?  The Entitled Generation.  I read a lot.  I read a lot of magazines, books, websites, and blogs and so on.  Sometimes I think I read too much. You really cannot go ten feet anymore without someone complaining about the entitled group of young people who have overtaken the world of education.  It seems that many have just thrown their hands up in defeat because the idea of entitlement is so over-powering.
 
I prefer to look at this perception from another angle.  I talk to a lot of kids and a lot of families every day.  I hear about their hopes, dreams, obstacles, frustrations, etc.  I don't hear what can you do for me? as much as I hear what do you care?  In reality, I think the parents are a helluva lot more entitled than their children.
 
The generation that I am witnessing isn't as focused on why others aren't giving them more as much they are focused on what to do now that they have given up on the hopes of anyone ever being honest and genuine with them.
 
The 12-17 year olds are the brightest and most confounding group of people on the planet right now.  Most are 100 miles ahead of their parents in regard to technology, information collection, and creativity.  It is not so much that they are entitled as it is they are bored.  It is really hard to challenge someone who is always 10 steps ahead of you.  It is tough to discipline someone with conviction when they don't do something exactly the way you did or want them to do it.  How do you get mad at a kid who figured out how to solve a problem more efficiently and effectively than you ever hoped you could?  So, when a parent or educator or coach asks them about their hopes and dreams or even their fears and concerns, the look on their face and the tone of their voice often sounds and looks like What do you care?  Are you honestly going to listen to what I have to say and respect how I truly feel?
 
So how do we deal with the Smart As Hell and Bored to Death Generation?  LISTEN!!!  Truly listen without judgment, contempt, and doubt.  I know how hard that it is...trust me, but, a 20 minute conversation where you allow them to fill the golden silence with their thoughts will pay mountains of dividends toward the relationship you are trying to build.
 
I can hear all of you coaches.  I know these kids are quiet, immature, introverted, and seemingly over-confident all at the same time.  Sometimes you just want to shake the nothingness out of their eyes.  The problem is that the perceived nothingness we see is a deep-seeded fear of the power of all of that knowledge they have received at such a young age.
 
Sex, crime, corruption, war, poverty, death, the devastation of the planet...they have gotten their eyes on these major adult issues well before any of us born before 1980 ever did.  On top of that, technology has given them the ability to never have to face any of their concerns or fears head on.  We can tweet it, email it, blog it, facebook it, and then hide behind the computer after we state it with utmost confidence.  These young people end up asking the questions and having the conversations with each other that they should be having with us.  The problem with all of that information on the interweb is that 90% of it is pure opinionated bullshit...see Diary of a Mad Coach ;).
 
Kids don't go to the library and open up an encyclopedia to get their information anymore.  They Google it and usually end up at Wikipedia for their answers to their most intimate problems and questions.
 
As I type this, I know how impossibly hard it is to do, but I hope you will try.  Sit down with your players, children, students and try and ask at least one genuine open-ended question each day.  Something like:
 
How does the thought of losing affect your preparation?
 
When you play poorly and the team wins, why is it hard to be excited?
 
If you could make what we are trying to do as a team easier, what would you advise and why?
 
The coach who takes the time to allow silence after those questions while encouraging those young people to speak their minds with conviction in front of their peers will end up being a hero to those young people.  They want so badly to have a real voice and a real conversation.  As much as they love to tweet and instagram each other, there is nothing more invigorating than speaking with conviction in front of those they respect.
 
What is the result?  Well, it may not come in the timely manner you hope, but what you are building in each of them is something no one will ever take away from them...an unbreakable self-worth!
 
Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary