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Millennials, Success, and the Perils of Cereal

Jul 20, 2016 Tim Cook, JD
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A study published earlier this year, “Why Millennials Won’t Eat Cereal,” premised that this 20- to 30-something demographic shies away from the breakfast food because it’s too much work to prepare and clean up.

Articles bemoaning millennials have been in vogue for some time now. Why millennials are slackers. Why millennials feel entitled. Why millennials are to blame for natural disasters. You get the idea.

My day job involves interacting with millennials on a regular basis. In particular, I work with a lot of tech companies, many of whom were either founded by millennials or who have millennials in key leadership positions. My experience with this generation is a far cry from these undesirable stereotypes. The millennials I work with day in and day out are not slackers; they are superstars.

Take Santiago Jaramillo, CEO and founder of Bluebridge. The first time I met Santiago he was interviewing me about helping Bluebridge with its growth. Within a couple of minutes of our conversation, I instantly recognized (as do most people who meet Santiago) that he had the qualities of someone poised for great success. His questions about my industry (his first foray into it) were perceptive and smart. His interpersonal skills were those of a seasoned professional. And his blueprint for Bluebridge’s success clear and well-reasoned. Bluebridge has since become one of Indy’s great tech success stories. Santiago will be the first to tell you his team deserves the credit, but his leadership and vision are leading the way.

Tom Hanley at Nine13sports represents another remarkable facet of millennial entrepreneurs. Unlike some of my contemporaries who see the wealth they accumulate during their careers as a vehicle to give back after they retire, Tom is like many millennial entrepreneurs making their career their vocation, literally giving back to the community in the work that they do. In Tom’s case, that work involves using his love of bike-riding to promote wellness in today’s youth through Nine13sports Kids Riding Bikes programs. Running (or should I say biking) this not-for-profit is Tom’s day job. He’s not waiting until he retires to do great things for the community — he’s doing them right now.

The spirit of millennialism was prevalent at a recent event hosted by Dustin Sapp, CEO and co-founder of Octiv (formerly TinderBox). I was privileged to be on-hand for the rollout of Octiv’s rebrand, and was struck by the youth, vigor and passion in the room. Dustin and his team have populated Octiv’s workforce with millennials from new hire positions to key leadership roles. With their recent announcement of plans to create 200+ new jobs over the next several years, Dustin sees the future of his company in millennials and has doubled down on their promise.

Fearlessness and impatience, two adjectives often used as pejoratives to describe millennials, are the fuel driving some of their greatest success stories. For those of us who make up the 40 and older crowd and are taken aback by the impudence of millennials, wanting them to wait their turn to be successful or remake the world, my message is this: It’s time to get over ourselves. Millennials are a critical part of our future. And cereal is overrated.


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