I’m fascinated and a little tickled when I run into a BFO, and if the term is new to you, a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. I mean seriously, every day some blogger, columnist or talk show person is gushing over the next “new thing” that is being exalted to Holy Grail status as if it was actually an innovative discovery! Shattering revelations like (are you ready?) “A simple Thank You is the greatest motivator of all!”, or “People Matter!” The truth is we KNOW these things but somehow in spite of everything; we fail to live them consistently – if we live them at all.
Here’s something that has gotten a lot of press from serious minds lately. (Get this!) Young people can teach older people a lot! No kidding? It even has a fancy name now, “reverse mentoring”. And it is hot, trendy and gaining popularity in major companies. All over, senior executives are syncing up with a junior executive, often many rungs down the ladder, with the goal of learning from them. At the heart of the trend is hope that an old dog really CAN learn new tricks. (And I assure you, we can and we do.)
Forgive me for being simplistic but hasn’t this always been how it is? Is it really news? I find it sort of incredible how our unique new “multi-generational” work place has everyone so shook up. Throughout history and across the globe, families and communities have been living with a healthy mix of young and old, each with incredible wisdom to share with one another. The BFO? We have forgotten just how valuable it really is.
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with college students and to have close friends younger than my children. I’m delighted to have their input and being around them helps prevent a deadly disease of our later years, “hardening of the attitudes”! Their fresh perspective helps silence the dreaded refrain, “we’ve always done it that way” (which by the way are fighting words to me, too). They are great about trying new approaches and unafraid of failing. That alone is a powerful thing because fear of failing or looking stupid is incredibly crippling.
This youngest working generation has never lived without technology. They are completely comfortable with all the newest devices and have no concern about sending them crashing like late adopters fear. They explain how things work in a completely comfortable and natural way and make us feel much more confident ourselves. They utilize every tool invented to stay connected at all times and seem to have a genuine concern for others which is amazingly refreshing.
Best-selling author Jon Gordon encourages us to “Think Like a Rookie”, to maintain an attitude of positive expectancy and possibility. He tells his audiences that rookies are not tainted by rejection, negative assumptions and past experiences. Those limitations can blind us to opportunities that fresh eyes often readily see. Sometimes we need to leap again and remember the way it felt when we did because in that leap, we often discovered we could fly. Yes, young people keep us young.
There is another side to all of this, of course. My smartest young friends recognize there is great wisdom to be found in listening to the voices of experience and maturity. It helps them to understand there really is a long view; that things generally do work out and that ultimately even the worst crisis ends. We can truthfully tell them the greatest insights often come just beyond what appeared to be a complete disaster.
We can also share a lot of with them about the human element. That there is no connection that can ever take the place of a handshake, a comforting touch, real eye contact or an encouraging word spoken at the right time. Thank goodness for each other, we both become stronger and wiser in the sharing. Old dog, young dog. Both have wisdom to offer. Let’s never forget we were created to learn from each other.