This is a follow up to a previous Opinion piece (‘Anti-Vaxxers Are No Laughing Matter’). It again touches upon the different ‘mind-set’ that each and every generation has from the one that preceded it, and the divisions that then ensue. Little differences that, over time, tend to have huge consequences, both in the world and in one’s personal life. So I thought it well worth a second look.
Let me ask you: How often do you question your own mind-set? Because what you say ‘No’ to defines who you are and how you see yourself and the world.
I take an annual pilgrimage ‘Back to the Future’ to give my aging “Baby Boomer” mind-set a good wash and brush up. Not with another viewing of the classic sci-fi film ‘Back to the Future’, with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as his eccentric scientist partner-in-Time, Doc Brown, where they do, indeed, travel back and forth through Time and Space. No. I’m talking about the iconic ‘Mindset List’ that’s been released, annually, these last twenty years or so, by Beloit College, a famed liberal arts school in the State of Wisconsin, here, in the US.
‘The Mindset List’ is a compilation of references meant to reflect the “world view” or mind-set of students about to enter college for the first time. It details what has ‘always’ and ‘never been’ true for them and originated, in 1997, to help faculty members better understand their incoming classes of students. Since when, over the years, it’s grown, courtesy of two inspired Beloit College staffers; public affairs director Ron Nief and Professor Tom McBride; to become an invaluable marker of social, economic, and cultural change for each successive generation of students. And me.
I mean, being a “Baby Boomer” is difficult enough to cope with, at times, but you just try keeping all the many other generations in perspective: “The Greatest Generation”…the ones who survived the Great Depression and fought the Second World War; Generations X, Y, and Z; Millennials; Xennials (The micro-generation born on the cusp of Generation X and Millennials; typically late 1970s, early 1980s; the ones that had “an analog childhood” and “a digital adulthood.” It can be hard keeping up with all the changes in description, let alone the difference in mind-sets.
Long a magpie for words coined in the Twentieth Century; a direct result from working as an advertising copywriter for many years, on both sides of the Atlantic, I was introduced to ‘The Mindset List’, back in 2011, when I stumbled across a copy of: ‘The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal’, the really rather delightful book authored by the aforementioned Tom McBride and Ron Nief.
I’ve been a huge fan of ‘The Mindset List’ ever since. And use each new, annual ‘Mindset List’ as a way to update my own sometimes all too rigid patterns of thought; something that’s difficult to do in the abstract; much easier if provided with an astutely observed concise pattern of changes.
Of course, there are those who would pooh-pooh it all; who see ‘The Mindset List’ as being far too simplistic, much too patronising. But I think they miss the point. ‘The Mindset List’ doesn’t need to be earth shattering or startlingly revelatory. Its prime purpose is to point to the slow cultural creep that passes most people by. To point out all the many things that are constantly changing, that one simply fails to notice.
Many of ‘The Mindset List’ observations will tickle you. Others won’t seem at all relevant. But, collectively, they’ll challenge you, however, briefly to question your own mind-set. Maybe even push you, just a little out of your comfort zone. And you know that can’t be bad.
The most difficult thing in any discussion or argument; whether with family, friend, or in business; is to try and see the world from the other person’s perspective; and, even harder, to try and appreciate their point of view.
And, while, I’m sure, that we can all agree: “The map is not the territory,” nothing beats a series of clear signposts for helping you navigate unknown territory. Especially when those signposts clearly point out the world as other generations see it.
More than that, ‘The Mindset List’ is loads of fun. And all the best teachers make learning fun. And who better is there to learn from, than yourself, when perusing a ‘Mindset List’ or two or three?
Me. I’ve always been interested in ‘Generation X’ the one that followed fast on my own. The generation I couldn’t help but observe, and closely, being as it was made up of the sons and daughters of family and friends; as well as most of the people I hired and, sometimes, even fired. I always very much enjoyed working with…and learning from. Their boundless energy and quiet endeavour; their passions, both in and out of business; their oftentimes obsessive playfulness; their seemingly casual “it’s no big deal” astuteness; have always been the canaries in my coalmine of a mind; always the first indicators of change. And I’ve, unabashedly, done my best to observe them, listen to them, and learn from them.
Every reason, then, for me to be drawn like a moth to the flame to Tom McBride’s 2017 appreciation and analysis in his ‘The Mindset List® of Generation X’:
“Most Gen-Xers are now between 37 and 53. But they were also born during a time of low birth rates compared to those of the later 40s and the 1950s. The reasons are many: the Pill, divorce, more women working out of the home, and perhaps access to abortion.”
“Why has Gen-X been so often overlooked?” McBride asks. “Simple: Unlike ‘The Boomers’, who spearheaded the cultural revolution of the 60s, and ‘The Millennials’, who were in the vanguard of the 1990s High Tech revolution, Gen-Xers have really had no revolution to call their own.”
McBride goes on to list 50 different observations that have further enhanced my appreciation of my “favourite” Generation-X. Here, now, a half-a-dozen or so that caught my eye:
The Pill helped turn them into the Baby Busters, the smallest generation since the Great Depression.
The higher their parents’ educational level, the more likely they were to come home at 4pm to an empty house–except for the microwave and MTV.
The year the first ‘X’ kids were born, Marshall McLuhan announced: “a new electronic age” in which “we wear all mankind as our skins.”
They grew up with the highest divorce rates in American history—the Boomer “cult of the child” having shifted to the Gen X “cult of the adult,” seeking cosmic answers in Esalen and Transcendental Meditation.
They have little or no memory of Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King.
Attending post-segregated schools, they were the first young people in American history actually to ‘live’ the civil rights movement.
Assessments of them have ranged from the view that they are slackers to the current one: that they’re the most entrepreneurial generation in recent American history.
They were the last American generation to have had a low-tech childhood.
McBride and Nief, now aided by a Professor Charles Westerberg, are preparing even more ‘food for thought’ to be dished up this coming August. And if you have any notion to partake of “a feast for the mind”; you’ll also find ‘Mindset Lists’ for the years 2002 through 2019 already featured on the website, as well as two Tom McBride specials: the previously mentioned, ‘The Mindset List® of Generation X’ but also ‘The Economic Virtues of Millennials’.
You can access them all at: The Mindset List
Enjoy your ticket to ride ‘Back to the Future’.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.