Recently I’ve been dreaming of lying on the grass and staring at the sky. Just for a year or two. “Catch up with you later world!” I’d quip on Instagram (if I had an account). But I don’t dare, for the youth are breathing down my neck!
There’s nothing like living with a teenager to make you feel old. And nothing like working with technology to make you feel like everything you ever knew about business, or anything, will soon be redundant.
This is the generation that:
- Creates a website in two hours for a tech assignment
- Shoots, edits and publishes music videos on Sunday afternoon
- Runs businesses on Instagram during the school term
- Will never ever buy a newspaper or magazine
- Think email addresses are for old farts
- Can’t even compute the idea of scheduled television
And they’re fast graduating into consumers, employees and business owners.
Like dog years, Internet years move faster than earth years – four times faster in fact. So if you grabbed a Hotmail address in 1999 like I did, then you’re a 64-year old industry veteran with fading memories of floppies.
At this breakneck pace of change, if I stop learning now then 40 will become the new 70, and I’ll plummet into a generation gap wider than Silicon Valley.
As McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc famously said: “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”1
If this is true, then for me I see a few options:
1. Start rotting
Give in to the temptation to let my knowledge slide and lazily drift out of touch. Rant about the narcissism of today’s culture, use words like ‘in my day’, tut tut about the dangers of screen time, and wonder aloud why everyone is wearing yoga pants all day!
I’ll continue to check Facebook hourly but never post anything, take up cycling, get golf lessons, and feel that if I never learn another software program again it will be too soon.
Finally, I’ll dust off my shin-length cargo pants, advertise on telegraph poles and gaffer tape my radio dial to TripleM, safe in the knowledge that they just don’t make music like they used to.
2. Over ripen
Embrace the fact that food served on wooden boards tastes better*, wear fluoro sneakers with my skinny jeans, stop shaving, drink craft beers from jam jars, activate my almonds, take up surfing, join Tinder, put filters over my photos and listen to bands that don’t exist yet.
Operating as a digital nomad, I’ll pop my Macbook Pro in its leather satchel, find a shared creative space, ride my one-speed bike without a helmet, learn how to code and promote my crowdsourced startup across nine social networks – it shall be the Uber of peer-to-peer gaming.
3. Stay green and growing
Tempting as it is to fall into the comfortable cynical old man territory, or sprint even faster to find the bleeding edge, as usual I think the answer lies in between.
For experienced and established (i.e. older!) business owners – which our surveys show is most of us – the growing digital divide between ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘The Ancients’ is already impacting, especially when it comes to all things marketing.
As today’s teenagers enter the workforce, start consuming our goods and services, and even start their own businesses, I see no option but to continually re-invent yourself and your business. The moment you think your best days are behind you, it’s time to hang up the boat shoes.
Realistically, when you’re running your own show, there is no comfort zone and no room to stand still for too long. But isn’t that half the fun!?!
So, I’m going to make a conscious decision to embrace the change and uncertainty – even try to enjoy it! I might go so far as to start posting on social media 🙂
What are you going to do?
* Food On Wooden Board Same As Food On Plate: “While the food we tested on wooden boards was generally more difficult to eat and about 30-40% more expensive, we found no difference in the food itself.” Scientist Jeffery Coomb, on The Shovel