The New Millennials

In the midst of all this discussion, debate and research on the millennials, there’s an entirely new generation emerging. But, strangely enough, no one seems to be talking about them. Yet.

A generation of “new millennials”, who actually have been around for a while.

Verdun Hayes.Robert Marchand. Man Kaur. Mieko Nagaoka. Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport. Adeline Brandenburg. Don Pellman. Fauja Singh. Hidekichi Miyazaki.  Ida Keeling

Names of eleven individuals that typify what this new generation is about. And what’s common amongst this particular set of individuals?

  1. They have displayed the most exemplary growth mindset.
  2. They are always on the move, active in their chosen passions
  3. They are all 100 years old + 

Yes. That’s right. One hundred years and counting. With no signs of griping or stopping.

This “new millennial” generation is not defined by the narrow advertising/market segmentation led period categorization of when one was born, but more by the mindset they bring to life and living every day. They are more defined more by their living life to the fullest, no matter what their age in elapsed time. Those for whom the lengthening shadows of Kronos fades and dies before the bright lights of Kairos. (Kronos and Kairos – the two concepts of time that the Greeks first proposed.Kronos being what we measure today in the quantitative passing of the minutes, hours and days (that's where the word chronology comes from); Kairos being what the moment is infused with, in significance and quality). It seems as though, for the “new millennials”, every moment is an opportunity, and not something to watch in passing. Plus like the millennials that everyone talks about so much, I see that this generation has its own set of unique beliefs & values, its own set of devil-may-care attitudes, that makes them stand apart from the crowd. As the adage goes, the “new millennial” generation refuses to be defined by the years in their lives but is much more vested in the lives in their years. And therefore perhaps it would be more appropriate to call this “new millennial” generation the Evergreens.

Evergreens, in botany, are plants that have leaves throughout the year,  are always green. This contrasts with other plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season. These are the human Evergreens.

Look around you, and you’ll see celebrity examples everywhere – especially in the creative arts.  Tony Bennett 88, sings love ballads with Lady Gaga, who is 60 years younger. The pioneer generation of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Guy, Jerry Lee Lewis are all well into their 8thdecade, but still on their feet and rocking like they’re 20. Chuck Berry is actually 90, and until recently played every day at a Las Vegas venue, is set to release a new album – after 38 years- this year, in 2017.

Climbing a few decades down the ladder, I recently saw the 74-year old  Paul McCartney perform non-stop for 3 hours in an arid California desert stadium in the vicinity of Joshua Tree National Park – without pausing for a break or a drink of water. The legend, the Beatle, the MBE, the man had more stamina than performers 50 years his chronological junior. And look to Mick Jagger. Father again at 73 (here’s a fun fact: his son with 29-year-old Melanie Hamrick is younger than his GREAT-grand son – son with Bianca Jagger). And how about the most recent biology-defying Janet Jackson – giving birth to a bonny baby at 50. 

The sap of life truly and literally flows through these Evergreens. Because they are passionate about what they do, and they do it every day. And are always looking at pushing the boundaries of their passion and therefore extending the length and depth of their lives. 

I’m sure if you look at other fields of creative endeavor you’ll find hordes of examples – from across the world. Here are some that come to mind. Kirk Douglas., Betty White, Stan Lee, Amitabh Bachchan, Buzz Aldrin, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks,  Kishori Amonkar, Woody Allen, Zhou Yougang (Zhou who you ask ? Look up the wiki link – he’s probably done more for  globalization without ever having received due credit for it. Look up the other names as well, if they’re not as familiar)

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, typifies the Evergreen mind-set. Even at age 87 he still has the energy and the drive to try all kinds of new things, from hitching a ride on a whale shark, at age 80, to appearing in "Dancing with the Stars" at 85, to trying all kinds of everything new at every turn. The account of his life and philosophies of living that he lays out in his 2016 autobiography “No Dream is Too High”, make for some delightful reading. A paragraph towards the end of the book totally summarizes his Evergreen mindset, and to quote the great astronaut“I am not afraid of dying, but what concerns me is that I might run out of time before I get everything done that I want to do. And there is so much more that I want to do! There are so many things I want to accomplish and people I want to impact. I’m not done yet. I have more to contribute. As a matter of fact, keep your eye on me; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.

That, my friends, is the new millennial mindset, the Evergreen outlook.

But being an Evergreen is not just in the domain of the famous and accomplished. There are several ordinary folk who continue to live their lives well into their eighties and nineties as if they were still very much in their twenties and thirties. One such person, I recall with fondness, was my 6th-grade geography teacher, who we knew as Miss. James. She was probably in her late fifties at that time, and was as fit and sprightly as a 30-year-old would be. A strict disciplinarian, she inspired a strange combination of fear and admiration with her electric energy and her sharp wit. At a recent teachers reunion, she was well into her nineties, Miss James was still seen dancing away well past midnight. She passed away a few years back, but from what I hear she was still up and about and running around till her very last days. A few years ago I happened to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of a close relative. After the ceremonial speeches, which were quite moving in themselves,  It was amazing to witness these Evergreens racing on to the dance floor, gyrating to music from the fifties – the average age of the couples on that stage was no less than 75. All totally immersed in the bliss of Kairos, none acknowledging any sense of Kronos.

So why are the “new millennials” or Evergreens an important generation? Why is understanding what makes them tick important for us? Three main reasons, in my reckoning

  1. We may all be centennials: I believe anyone alive today is in a very blessed position. With the advances in medicine, science, and technology, we are soon going to see mankind get the best of scourges such as cancer, diabetes and the likes. Living up to a 100-years of age is going to soon be the norm and not the exception or outlier. We may be centennials, but will we be an Evergreen ?
  2. Bye-bye jobs - The robots are coming: Lifetime employment in a single entity or career are soon becoming things of the past. The skills that earn us our keep today might no longer be relevant in the near future. If we will alive well into the eighties and nineties, the question that looms is “how will we continue to be productive and give back to the community, even in our last few decades?”
  3. VUCA with a vengeance: Everything is going to continue to change at an even more accelerated rate. Education, money, governments, pensions, savings are perhaps are on their way to be topics of nostalgic conversations. They really “ ain’t what they used to be”. Take money for example. When all our money becomes block chain algorithm, under which blanket, real or proverbial are going to hide our cash? Also, I don’t know about you, but I am not aware of any pension plan on this planet that is capable of seeing us through the changes we will see in the next 30 years. How are we going to keep ourselves current and abreast of the constant waves of VUCA?

We have the opportunity of living a long life, but how are we going to keep ourselves current, engaged, productive and relevant, -  like the “new millennials” / the Evergreens have?  That’s what we can learn from a closer examination of the Evergreens. What habits, attitudes, practices can we learn and adopt from them that we can then use, as we seize our opportunity to then grow into the next generation of Evergreens. And that’s what I’m curious about. And that’s where I seek your engagement.

And here’s therefore, the call to action.

If you know anyone who you think is an extraordinary Evergreen, I’d like to hear their story if they’re keen to share it - ideally those are in their eighth decade or beyond, and are still remarkably active and passionately engaged in their endeavours and actions, please do ping me on Linkedin or my email - I’d love to connect, hear their life stories and learn from them !

And in the words of one immortal Evergreen, child of the sixties, and Nobel Laureate

“May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young”

Hope to see you in many decades from now on the Evergreen side!