In Sinek’s opinion, a world of instant gratification has devalued the meaning of time and steady achievement.
Simon Sinek on stage at TED2014, Photo: James Duncan Davidson
Any young person who has had a job interview in recent years will have realised that in this shifting, often multidisciplinary market, soft skills and versatility have become all important requirements. Millennials are, however, particularly prone to underestimating the importance of one of these skills: patience.
In a hyper-fast world where an instant is now so crucial – whether on social networks or in the news – it may seem paradoxical, but patience really is a virtue to be cultivated and re-evaluated.
British-born writer and essayist Simon Sinek is of the same persuasion and, for many years, he has taken an interest in how young people approach the world of work. His target group are those very Millennials, the cohort born between 1984 and 2000, who he described in a now famous interview that went viral on social media just a few years ago.
“I have yet to give a speech where somebody doesn’t ask me the Millennial question,” is Sinek’s opening remark. So, let us get straight to the point. “They are accused of being entitled, narcissistic, lazy, unfocused and self-interested. They’re not happy, there’s a missing piece,” he continues. The picture he paints is not a very optimistic one, but he believes there are clear reasons for this.
The first is education: “Too many of them grew up subject to failed parenting strategies, where they were told that they were special and that they could have anything they want in life.”
The first obvious problem with this is that such expectations soon clash with reality: “They get a job and they’re thrust into the real world and, in an instant, they find out that they’re not special. Their mums can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last, and by the way, you can’t just have it because you want it.”
“When Millennials are thrust into the real world, they find out they’re not special at all”
The problem is that they have grown up in a world of instant gratification. Sinek goes on: “You want to buy something – you go on Amazon and it arrives the next day. You want to watch a movie, log on and watch a movie – you don’t check movie times. You want to watch a TV show? Binge, you don’t even have to wait week to week.”
But when it comes to work, instant gratification doesn’t apply and it doesn’t help to build meaningful relationships in life either. “There is no app for that, they are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.” In a nutshell, you need to be patient. Sinek tells an all too familiar story: “I keep meeting smart kids that just graduated. They’re in their entry-level job. If I ask them how it’s going, they tell me they’re thinking of quitting. If I ask them why, they tell me they’re not making an impact. But they’ve only been here 8 months.” Let’s take a powerful metaphor: a mountain. Millennials want to get to the top – “to make an impact” – but they do not see the mountain or the way to the top.
“What this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really matter – like love, or job fulfilment, joy, love of life – all take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it, but the overall journey is arduous and long.”
So much so that perpetual dissatisfaction and an addiction to social media networks may often lead to depression and low self-esteem.
Learning to be patient is the key to accepting ourselves as we are and understanding that if we fall (or even fail), it is all part of the journey. When you are 20 or 30 years old, it is very likely that you will get a second chance, you can make amends and start again. So, in a working world where patience is appreciated, it is well worth placing it firmly in the centre of your skills set.