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An Open Letter to the Younger Crowd

Dear Mr. & Ms. Millenial:

You came and you went, after just a few short months.  You left because you need more…  ROS and ROI  wasn’t of interest and “you’re more than just a number.”  You have a yearning need to “change the world, and it’s all a bunch of BS,”  you say…!  Afterall, you ARE a college graduate, don’t we know.

Unfortunately, the fact that you graduated from college isn’t enough.  You have the degree, but it is really just the beginning.   And here is what I learned over 30 years.  

Long ago, I wanted to be a Naval Aviator.  Before I could do that, though, I, too, had to graduate from college, with a meaningful degree and attend Officer Candidate School (aka boot camp) where I encountered some of the Marine Corps’ finest drill instructors.  I remember those times, well.  

Upon boot camp “check-in” I, and all my college educated classmates, became nameless.  We were simply referred to as “Candidate” and were not allowed to use our first name or call our fellow classmates by theirs.  It was BS… but if we did it, we got our ass kicked.

We started with learning how to make the bed, with tight hospital corners, perfectly folded sheets et. al.  The Harvard grads had to do it, too, and it was BS…  Every time we did it wrong, we got our asses kicked.

I, and all my buddies, had to learn how to march in formation and sing dumb songs, and we did it for hours each day.  It was BS.  Every time one of us got out of step, we got our asses kicked. 

I had to learn how to spit shine shoes, polish brass buckles and iron my uniform – all in less than 10 minutes.  It was BS…  And when there was a smudge, wrinkle, or scuff, I got my ass kicked. 

If we saw something amiss – anywhere- and didn’t actively work to correct it, we got our asses kicked.  It was BS…  And, after we corrected whatever it was that was amiss, we got our asses kicked, again, for not fixing it the first time. 

We all got thrown into a cold swimming pool where we had to swim a mile in our flight suits.  After that, we had to tread water for 30 minutes wearing 25 pounds of flight gear.  It was BS…  And if we didn’t do it well, we drowned – or got our asses kicked.

During the next 10 or so weeks we had to learn a whole bunch more. It was all BS… And if we didn’t learn it well, we got our asses kicked. 

Fifty percent of my class, who shared the same career desires as I did, thought it was BS, and they quit…   Not only did they quit, but they went home with really bad haircuts and told their friends that they quit.  And they left their dreams of flying fighters behind. 

After Officer Candidate School we became Naval Officers and were sent to squadrons where we got to fly trainer aircraft.  But, the routine was pretty strict; 10 feet off altitude or 2 degrees off heading during a training flight, you failed.  It was BS. 

And so on…  and so on… and so on…  and it didn’t stop until we graduated from flight school. 

But flying fighters (or aircraft of your choice) was not guaranteed.  There is this thing called “the needs of the Navy” and since the Navy just invested a million bucks into our training it was “they” who chose the airplane we flew.  I got my last choice of airplanes… which was BS.  When that happened, I complained.  And, I got my ass kicked…

And here is what I learned from all the BS…

Making beds perfectly is learning how to master the basics, and doing it consistently. If you can’t do the little, BS,  things right how can you be trusted with the bigger stuff?  

Marching in formation is learning how to master the art of teamwork and helping the team find cohesion. If one person is out of step, everyone is out of step.  The military is ALL about teamwork and if one person “gets out of step,” it can cost someone else their life.  Interestingly enough, Corporate America is the same.  Yes, there is room for individuality.  But cohesive organizations function well.  

Shining shoes, buckles and ironing uniforms in a quarter of the time needed is teaching how to set priorities. When your buddy is shot, you are being shot at, and the air cover is frantically asking you to pop smoke so they don’t drop bombs on you and your buddies, requires strong priority setting skills. In Corporate America you will always be asked to do more with less and stretch the organization’s limited resources.    When layoffs need to happen, you will need how to prioritize what is best for the business against what is best for the employees getting axed.    

Fixing stuff that is broken is called “taking responsibility.” Take action, without being told, and make whatever is broken, better.

Swimming in your flight gear teaches you to have stamina. Flail too much, you will get tired and drown.  Sometimes, it’s okay to roll over and float on your back.  It also teaches what gear is important when you’re swimming in the middle of the ocean after you ejected from your aircraft 10 miles from the aircraft carrier.  Hint:  You can take off your boots…   In Corporate America you will need to have stamina, and learn what is important.  Otherwise you will get tired and burned out.  

10 feet or 2 degrees may not seem like a lot… but it can mean the difference between a bomb falling on its target, or on a school full of kids. In Corporate America, the extra few bucks you spend on American Airlines, because you’re a premier flier, when you could have flown Jet Blue, adds up over time.  That difference can determine whether Joe in the stock room will have a job, or go on unemployment.  

You may not get exactly what you want, but you have an opportunity. Your ongoing success is now 100% dependent on you and how aggressively you pursue it.  Will you get the most out of it, or will you just quit?

Nobody should be treated as a number. But, sometimes you’re just that until you prove yourself.  Work hard and prove yourself and you become a NAME.  When you quit, you’re nothing more than “that young kid who quit after 6 months…”

After 8 years as a Naval Officer who was in charge of $100M dollar machines, I joined Corporate America.  And guess what!  I had to prove myself all over again.  And it was BS and I got my ass kicked.  And I was impatient, and I whined and I wanted to quit…  But I couldn’t.  When you have a wife and young kids, quitting is not an option. 

Today, I have a business and I work with other business leaders.  Here is what WE want YOU to know.

WE DON’T HIRE YOU BECAUSE YOU WANT A JOB. We hire you because we have a need.  We have a need to drive profits, take care of customers, engineer products and fix broken processes that bottleneck our businesses.  We are now marching together to drive commerce.

YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER. You are a person.  But if you want me to pay attention to you, you need to make a NAME for yourself in a positive way.

WE HIRE YOU TO FIX PROBLEMS. If you have to be told what to do all the time, we don’t need you.  When something is amiss, FIX IT! 

WE HIRE YOU TO HELP US MAKE MORE MONEY. The mission is to make money.  If you don’t want to help us make or save money, you are overhead.  We don’t need your services. 

WE HIRE YOU BECAUSE WE ARE SELFISH. We hire you because YOUR efforts are going to help US earn OUR bonuses… and OUR Mercedes.  If you help me earn MY bonus, you WILL get yours, too! 

WE WANT YOU TO LEARN. What we ask of you may seem like a bunch of BS.  But, if you take a moment to learn from the BS, you will get where you want to go a whole lot quicker than if you just blow it off, and quit.  Learn to make the bed and show us you can do it, and we’ll give you more. 

WE CARE. We may focus on ROI and ROS and all of the stuff you hate.  Unfortunately, this is what business is about.  We care about our customers, employees, teammates and the lunch lady, too because it is they who help us find our success. 

WE WANT YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL. Do great work, be on time, be resourceful and dependable and get stuff done.  If you do what we ask, we will help ensure your success…   I thought my drill instructor hated me.  The reality is that his tough love was helping me to succeed.  And if I couldn’t handle it, he was happy to see me quit so he could focus on someone else who simply wanted it more. 

But, if you still think it is all BS, you can quit.  And you can keep quitting until you realize that your quitting accomplished exactly – ZERO.  By then, however, your best days are probably behind you.

Respectfully yours,

A Boomer

PS:  I hate the terms Millenial and Boomer…  can we just bury them, now?