Leading from the Middle

I know I am not alone when I think, “Doesn’t every generation feel sandwiched in the middle?” Not being a scholar on the subject but aspiring to be generationally-empathetic, I’ll just say, “Yeah, probably.” So is there anything that makes GenX “special” (with ironic quotes)?  From a demographic perspective, the answer is a firm, “Yes.” We are a thin slice of olive loaf in a Texas toast sandwich between the Boomers and GenY.  So…yes.  We are sandwiched in the middle of these demographically fat generations. While thin, we are complex, representing the lips-and-assholes sensibility of baloney and the Mediterranean “je ne sais quoi” of olives and pimentos.

I agree. That analogy is over the top. Don’t let it stop you.

The pain of being sandwiched in the middle—regardless the thickness of the bread or the moniker of generations—is that feeling of wanting to do something meaningful…something that makes sense to you and the folks that you identify with. This is the pain of every generation. How do you create change? The pain for GenX is that we are demographically small and relatively underrepresented in organizations. So that… to be honest…sucks. For GenXers in small non-profits it often becomes a question of how do you create change in which sometimes only you believe?

Do not despair. Despite the thinness of our olive loaf (i.e., generation), we demographically represent a numerically and financially important demographic for fundraising and earned income for museums. I know. Retch retch. Puke puke. Gag me with a spoon. “I am more than fundraising and earned income!”

You’re right. Every generation represents the link to which it is sandwiched between. You know how the venerable Fresh Prince once said, “Parents just don’t understand?” I strongly believe that GenX is the generational bridge between the demographically dominant Boomer parents and their kooky, creative and demographically boomin’ kids in GenY.

This idea isn’t popular amongst GenXers. We are doggedly “more than that!” Don’t get me wrong. I am with you brothers and sisters. I too am personally more than a bridge between two demographically dominant generations. We have apeloads of assets (and baggage) associated with the cultural milieu of our times that make our generation good leaders and managers. That said, from an organizational perspective we have some very tangible “intergenerational” perspectives that allow us to bridge our sandwiching demographic giants. Capitalize on all those unique assets. Lead from the middle as a generation and an individual. Smart organizations will (eventually) recognize the long-term benefits you represent to the mission.

Interesting F#ck!ng Session

If you missed the GenX session at AAM, then you missed good times and people. The moderators weren’t too far into their slides when someone dropped an “F-bomb” from the podium. I remember turning to the person I was sitting beside as we both raised our eyebrows in a silent smirking, “Aw shit! This is going to get crazy.” And it was…in a “crazy like a fox” good kind of way. Imagine mixing an AA therapy session with an Occupy rally and you start getting toward the vibe in the room.

Which brings me to Gen X and cursing. Gen Xers curse, period. We are socially savvy foul-mouthed sailors, but I reckon we push the boundaries. We aren’t alone, boomers started paving the way here. You have to go back to the “traditionalists” to get where cursing is almost never appropriate. I tried to do a bit of research on generational differences in profanity to see if there is anything from which to learn. Then I realized I have a real life and a short attention span. But before I gave up I found one abstract that I will leave you with:

Public swearing research reveals that swearing is a common conversational practice resulting in no obvious harm. “Common sense” (folk psychology) views of swearing are mistaken and inadequate for some decisions regarding harm. Meanwhile, efforts to restrict speech in media and instructional settings continue, despite the lack of a convincing need to do so. Harm from offensive speech is contextually determined; therefore attempts to restrict speech on a universal basis are misguided. Psychologists’ research needs to be informed by public policy and courtroom practices, and public policy and litigation need to be better informed by psychologists’ research.

I also learned there is a “Journal of Politeness Research” which I think is fucking hilarious. What say ye? Any parables or proverbs about the subject?