Ask a Boomer: 5 things I admire most about 20-30-year-olds -- or ‘M’ words

Michael J. Solender, left, and Joanne Spataro. Courtesy of Michael J. Solender
Michael J. Solender, left, and Joanne Spataro. Courtesy of Michael J. Solender

Cross-generational disconnects get lots of air time, yet many Boomers find much to respect about their younger cohorts.

A lively discussion broke out at a work-related dinner I attended the other evening about challenges and rewards of working in a multi-generational workforce.

The group of 10 at my table was evenly split between Boomers and 20-30-year-olds (notice Katie T. — I avoided the “M” word). While there was some patter regarding stereotypical and oft overblown generational disconnects and dichotomies – technology reliance/avoidance, wanderlust/homebodies, and spenders/savers – the conversation took a radical turn when one of the 20-somethings asked the Boomers at the table: What characteristics do Boomers admire most in younger generations?

It turns out, quite a lot. Wisdom and knowledge is not a one-way street, and while most intuitively recognize this, many can miss out on some fantastic learning from other generations if they are not paying attention.

Here are five characteristics this Boomer admires most about 20-30-year-olds:

(1) Fearlessness

I’m continually amazed at the risk tolerance, specifically regarding career pursuits, most of my younger friends are open to. Punch out and move across the country for a possible dream job while leaving a secure and better paying one? – YOU BET! Take a year off after grad school to cruise Europe and turn down that one-time-only job? – OF COURSE!

Many Boomers – particularly this one – are very rooted in financial security and are/were reluctant to take the type of career risk that seems routine for younger generations. Looking back I wish I had that courage and recognize now the experiences gained from taking these risks early in one’s professional life pay big dividends.

(2) Inclusiveness

I absolutely LOVE the inclusiveness and welcoming of all comers I see embodied in regular events like #INSTABEERUPCLT, Creative Mornings Charlotte and the numerous meetups around the QC. I’ve noticed even in formal work settings – an oft competitive zone for my generation – there is a much greater willingness among non-Boomers to go out of their way to help and include others. I find this refreshing.

//><!--(3) Curiosity//--><!

Far from killing the cat, the natural inquisitiveness as to explore how and why systems, organizations and technical things work seems to be innate for younger generations. Many Boomers can learn from this to challenge the status quo and look beyond standard explanations to really explore what makes things tick.

(4) Quality friendships

While the youngsters don’t have a monopoly on this — many Boomers have deep and abiding personal relationships — the sheer number of close friendships young peeps have today is encouraging. You can never have too many good friends.

(5) Community service orientation

Organizations like the New Generation of African American Philanthropists, Circle De Luz, and Education For Liberia founded and supported by post-Boomer generations demonstrate the impact and power of community service. Yes, Boomers are philanthropic, but later generations seem to start earlier, and give more of their time and talent in addition to dollars to make a difference.

Now it is your turn: Write in with what you admire most about Boomers and I’ll share your responses in an upcoming column.

Send your responses and/or a question for the Boomer to: with the subject line “Ask a Boomer.” 

Photo: Michael J. Solender