I’m a philosopher. Feel free to stop reading.
As a Millennial philosopher, I find myself rejected for the words I use – almost anywhere I go. This is not a lack of professionalism or knowledge. I have grown an incredibly strong professional filter and dampener, and the ability to show immense respect. My words are precisely selected as I consult to Boomers who may never understand the depth or breadth my soul has – and will – reach.
And I, despite genius, despite my creative demon, find another scenario all-to-often. My intricate ideas, in a moment of enthusiasm, come out in a moment of conversation with a complete hater. They take a whiz on my cheerios, frankly. But the joke is on them. I’m invincible to being misunderstood in the complexity of my ideas, I practically opted in!
To be great, is to be misunderstood.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
So really, I am completely at peace with the straight-up haters; and you should be too.
Because, cultural, there is a big difference between my philosophical relativisim and whatever it is that makes people commit to one view and reject every word that fails to serve their affirmation bias.
I probably lost another 3% of readers at “affirmation bias” – have a good day though, really.
Blessed are the shallow, for the depths they’ll never find.
Now I don’t mean a blanket moral approval of everything I see, especially misconduct that is counter to established social contracts (and don’t challenge needed half-truths). I’m not talking about The Purge in real life, gone wild.
I’m talking about the kind of cultural relativism that has to take place when someone from one generation and industry and function and corporate culture meets someone from a vastly different generation and industry and function and corporate culture. I’m talking about the conversations a Boomer manufacturing operations manager has with a Millennial lean-agile mobile architect.
It is so much easier to give up, and I admit that I’m not always sure, when I’m already a disruptive influence, what to do in that grey area between psychological safety and a meaningful challenge. That’s the nature of telling people 30 years older than me how they should change the way they do their job in order to stay relevant in the information age.
The haters, on the other hand, are diametrically opposed to all relativism.
It really isn’t about morality or politics if you really watch them (and I, as a philosopher, dutifully watch them no matter what ludicrous things they dish out) – if you really watch them, there is no “stance” they are taking. No ability to excuse them for what they believe in with total nobility.
The hater engages you in deconstructionism by default. They undermine your understanding of your own words, they play stump-the-chump, they make sure – however more intelligent, educated, or experienced on a topic – that they can make you feel like shit.
These haters don’t really believe in something and offend your beliefs because the two belief systems disagree. These are the people who start with saying they don’t share your beliefs, then tell you that you’re actually terrible at your beliefs, or education, or profession.
These haters are the people who will mess with you just to see if they can, who are incapable of understanding anyone above their level. You could feel a great deal of pity for them, in fact. They are pathetic, constantly happy people. But don’t do that. Hilariously enough, if you stick around a few weeks, with the strength to show them patience they’ll never accomplish – they’ll start spouting off your words! and not even now they ought thank you. What sad state of continuous dependency to be in. But – As Nietzsche said, “There’s enough pity in the world to choke anyone that feels it all.” Shake it off. Cuz haters gonna hate. They’re absolutely jealous – and terrified – of us.
Frankly, my mother was right.
You have to just ignore them.
On the other hand, empathy, dialogue, and an open mind will get you a long way – despite the culture shock – when you’re grappling ideas with people who care deeply about their craft and simply don’t understand the nuances of your craft. If you are like me, whether it’s just a postmodern millennial trait, or part of the tech industry in the digital age, you’ll see this quite a bit for the next few decade. Retirement age is going up, and most people aren’t keeping up.
They built their careers – their lives – around being taken seriously about just one thing. For them, a challenge to that one thing will be a disaster. They feel terrified they’ll never be taken seriously again.
Unfortunately, they’re right.
You don’t need to carry them as a free rider, but if you’re like me you probably weren’t sticking around long enough to let them do it anyway. Most companies, from my experience, aren’t changing much of anything – certainly not enough to hurt those out of touch Boomers, but – sadly – definitely not enough to make work meaningful for Millennials like us, who just want to leave the world better than it the way it is getting handed to us.
So you and I, as the vibrant, multifaceted, postmodern, global and digital millennial innovators – we must give them our care and patience, and truly listen. They may benefit while we gain nothing in the short term (at times), but we gain enormous insight in the process of we will do differently with the future.