There’s a perception that older folks are stubborn and stuck in their old ways, refusing to acknowledge the shift towards cloud computing and emoji-based punctuation. While that stereotype exists for a reason (and you’re part of the reason, mom), I’ve worked with plenty of older people who are the complete opposite.
During my stint in visual effects over at Industrial Light and Magic, the veteran VFX artists were revered by the younger artists. Not just because they were the ones who built the original plastic models of the Death Star and the giant AT-AT walkers and figured out how to composite these creations onto live-action footage, but because they continually push VFX boundaries with new ideas.
When I was in advertising, my boss was probably the oldest person on the team but she displayed a voracious appetite for learning matched only by my 4 year old daughter and her classmates in play school. I’ve never met anyone who spends so much time consuming information about new tools and consumer trends and figuring out ways to apply them to our campaigns.
I was as comfortable talking to her about Snapchat and Instagram demographics and user behavior as I was with my Gen Y peers; I didn’t have to downshift my vernacular or anything.
Sure you’ll meet plenty of older workers who will use their “years of experience” and prior success as a defense mechanism to mask a complete drought of new ideas, but let’s be honest here: there are plenty of younger workers who display an equal level of inflexibility.
Can anyone not name an intern or junior exec they’ve worked with who will tenaciously insist that their microscopic experience of life and insular world view somehow supersedes generations of learning and development?
Pro-tip: You can’t disrupt what you don’t understand just because you watched a few YouTube videos.
I’m constantly inspired by the humility displayed by my seniors who are constantly reinventing themselves and their work, and you should be too. If we don’t learn anything else from them, we should learn this: you should never stop learning and improving. As the founders in my current workplace love to say: “We’re always less than 1% done.”
So before you write off that older colleague as a has-been complaining about those rascals on their front lawn, talk to them. If you find that they’re open to new ideas, it will serve you well to put on your listening cap too.
In the meantime, here’s a song that’s only ever sung by really old people like my dad: The Young Ones by Cliff Richard and the Shadows.