@guykawasaki: Generation X Blogs

A little while ago I posted an open letter to Guy Kawasaki asking him to add an Alltop group for Generations. @JenX67 added on with a suggestion for a Generation X(born 1961-1981) category (Boomers already have a category). Guy responded and asked that we put together a list of good Generation X blogs and he would make it happen. Here is our list (in no particular order):

If you need writeups on why each of these deserves to be on the alltop list of Gen X blogs, we can provide. But suffice to say that they are great examples of “Blogs about Gen X, by Gen X” and they do our generation proud!

If you need more than this list, let us know and we will dig up some more worth Generation X blogs.

Made for the Millennial Generation: Barney and High School Musical

This post is potentially more embarrassing than my commentary on the American Girl Dolls. Last week we watched the first “High School Musical” and I was struck by how similar the themes in the film were to the old Barney and Friends shows. Then I realized that they are made for the same generation: the Millennials, born 1982-200?.

Check out these lyrics from Barney:

You’re remarkable – you really are
You’re the only one like you
There isn’t another in the whole wide world
Who can do the things you do
Because you are special- special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way
Yes you re special -special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way!

And from “We’re All in this together” lyrics from High School Musical:

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (each other strong)
Were not the same
Were different in a good way
Together’s where we belong

The message from both is consistently about specialness and teamwork, both characteristics often ascribed to Millennials. This is definitely what the Boomer Generation (born 1943-1960) wants their kids (the Millennials) to be about, and these shows are like a pop culture love letter between generations. Of course, most of us Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) almost puked when we saw Barney for the first time (even if our kids loved it). And, believe me, High School Musical is no different in that regard. If you were born from 1961-1981, I dare you to make it through this entire clip without rolling your eyes:

(in case you’re counting: that video has 38 Million views on Youtube)

Or how about this one:

Directions for the Silent Generation

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) are leaving the stage in the upcoming crisis. Will their last act have a positive outcome?

In The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“. At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. I already posted the script for the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?),  Generation X (born 1961-1981) and the Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960). The script for Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) is shown below (emphasis, items in italics and links mine). “Artist” refers to the archetype of the Silent Generation.

Having witnessed the last Crisis as an anxious child, the Artist will approach the next one as an anxious elder. He will see its catalyst and feel its mood shift but will probably pass away before learning how it turns out. In the Fourth Turning, therefore, the Artist must disengage and refrain from interfering as other archetypes do their necessary work. In an Unraveling (the Culture Wars from 1984-2005) , the old Artist sees little of his own empathic quality in the Nomad (Generation X in this case) who (he fears) will ignorantly shatter his own achievements. The Artist may even worry that refinement and sensitivity are themselves dying with him. He is unaware that a new Artist archetype is soon to be reborn in the Fourth Turning, nurtured by the Nomad to possess exactly the traits the old Artist wishes to preserve.
In the Fourth Turning, the Silent will be fading from power, with less chance to act than to veto (or, as always, to entangle) the actions of others. Their vestigial powers will reside mainly in courtrooms. If they block the Next New Deal, Silent jurists would follow in the Crisis-aggravating saecular footsteps of Roger Taney in the 1850’s and the “nine old men” in the 1930s. They should avoid intruding on the moral judgments of Boomer legislatures and avoid using detail, complexity, and delay to stifle the recrudescence of civic authority. Crisis-era antagonisms will not be amenable to being smoothed over, and warring sides will refuse mediation. Decisions will not be improved by adding new layers of procedure, and urgent problems will not await further study. The Silent should defer to the X’er view that experts can be dead wrong, that professional elites can stumble over simple choices, and that kind intentions do not always produce kind results. As the Crisis deepens, X’er-style survivalism will trump Silent-style procedural democracy every time.
Through the remainder of the Unraveling, however, a Silent dose of what the Progressive Generation’s Ella Wheeler Wilcox called “just the art of being kind” could usefully help America prepare for the challenges ahead. With measured checks and balances, the Silent can artfully deflect Boomer anger and challenge X’er apathy, preventing those two generations from imprudently plunging America into dangerous rapids before the Fourth Turning arrives. At the turn of the Millennium, the election of an empathic Silent president might stretch out the Unraveling era just long enough to restrain Boomers and X’ers from engaging their worst instincts until both have had a chance to mature further. Once the Crisis catalyzes, however, the time for Silent leadership will expire.
Though eager to mentor youth personally, the Silent should realize that Millennials are not like X’ers and are even less like Boomers. The rising generation will not want to expand the frontier of individualism and introspection. They will want the opposite—teamwork and construction. The child’s world is just now recovering from what Silent parents, educators, and pop-culture leaders did to it back in the Awakening in the name of reform. Millennial nurture depends on this change continuing. The kindest thing the Silent can do for Millennials is to be the helpmate. Perhaps, by dint of their smaller numbers, the Silent can sneak through unnoticed with a GI-style elder reward. Rut by acceding gracefully to requests that they relinquish some of their late-life public reward, the Silent could prove that good intentions can make a difference, that nice people can alter history.
If the Silent play their script badly, they will end their lives like Webster, Clay, and Calhoun, fearing that the national greatness hoisted by others in their childhood will pass away with them. If they apply their script well, however, they can go into history’s good night like those who reached their eighties in the Great Depression, old Progressives like Louis Brandeis and John Dewey, who (in the latter’s words) remained “committed to an end that is at once enduring and flexible.”

Silents are certainly stepping aside now (see my post on the makeup of the legislature). Unfortunately the Silent Generation did not get it’s president at the turn of the Millennium – we got another Boomer (George W. Bush), which did seem to push us further into crisis. And that last item I highlighted is why Generation X will always be cynical about the role of parents, educators and pop-culture leaders.

Directions for the Boomer Generation

The Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960) have a critical role to play in the upcoming crisis. Are they up to it?

In The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“.  At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. I already posted the script for the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?) and Generation X (born 1961-1981). The script for Baby Boomers (born 1961-1981)  is shown below (emphasis and links mine). “Prophet” refers to the archetype of the Baby Boomers.

The Fourth Turning brings special meaning to the Prophet, because the seasons of the saeculum exactly match those of his own life. From spring to winter, history’s seasons are those of his life cycle as well. Where the Prophet’s shadow (the Hero) had his greatest trial young, the Prophet will find his in old age. To achieve late-life glory, the Prophet must harness the civic duty and skill of the old Hero (The GI Generation, born 1901-1924, whom he rewards but does not honor) and child Hero (The Millennial Generation, born 1982-200?, whose temperament he nurtures but does not understand). In the current Unraveling, though, the Prophet is damaging the civic culture created by the old Hero, thereby making it harder for the child Hero to thrive and pursue his destiny. It is the Prophet’s challenge to confront his shadow, offer the old Hero respect as well as reward, and instill the old Hero’s virtue in the child.
As the next Gray Champion, the Boom Generation will lead at a time of maximum danger—and opportunity. From here on, Boomers will face the unfamiliar challenge of self-restraint. Having grown up feeling that GI Generation could always step in and fix everything if trouble arose, Boomers have thus far pursued their crusades with a careless intensity. In the Fourth Turning, GI’s will no longer be around as a backstop, and the young Millennials will follow the Gray Champion off a cliff. If Boomers make a wrong choice, history will be unforgiving.
The continued maturation of Boomers is vital for the Crisis to end in triumph. These one-time worshipers of youth must relinquish it entirely before they can demand from Millennials the civic virtue they themselves did not display during the Awakening. This will require a rectitude that will strike some as hypocritical, yet it will be no more than a natural progression of the Prophet’s life-cycle persona. When the Crisis hits, Boomers will need to defuse the Culture Wars at once. Their pro-choice secularists and pro-life evangelicals will need to move beyond their Unraveling-era skirmishes and unite around an agenda of national survival, much as Missionary elders did during depression and war.
Boomers must also display a forbearance others have never associated with them. By nature, they will always tend toward self-indulgence in their personal lives—but if they allow this to overflow into public life and demand generous public benefits, they will bankrupt their children financially, themselves morally. Unlike the Silent, sneaking through unnoticed will not be an option. Worse, if Boomers become pointlessly argumentative and let their values back them into a corner, their current talk-show hyperbole about annihilating enemies could translate into orders to use real doomsday machines.
Come the Crisis, Boomers will face the utterly un-yuppielike task of presiding over an era of public authority and personal sacrifice. This generation must squarely face the threat its unyielding moralism could pose to its own children, to the nation, indeed to the entire world. “When people repeat the slogan ‘Make love not war,’ ” historian David McClelland has warned, “they should realize that love for others often sets the process in motion that ends in war” But if aging Boomers can control the dark side of their collective persona, they can look back on their role in the Fourth Turning the way old Ben Franklin looked back on his. When asked what image belonged on the national seal of the United States, the old man replied: the inspiring image of Moses, hands extended to heaven, parting the waters for his people.

Generation X as Parents: Wildly Overprotective

Photo Credit:  Pak Gwei
Generation X’er are definitely over-protective when it comes to their kids. But do they give a damn about anyone else’s kids?

This interesting article in MSN by Susan Gregory Thomas describes parent’s attitudes today. The article makes some great points about the nature of Generation X’ers of parents, but I think it misses the marks in regards to their children.

A couple particularly good quotes:

“Generation X parents seem to have mistaken emotional ‘enmeshment’ for ‘attachment parenting,’”


“Our parents, the Boomers, didn’t pay so much attention to us — they were getting divorced and working and respecting independence, so they left us a lot of times to Scooby Doo,” says Calhoun. “But we’re going a bit far in the other direction and paying so much attention that we’re picking up on every blip in our kids’ whims.”

(note that many parents of Gen X’ers were actually of the Silent generation born 1925-1942)

But this one totally misses the point:

As for today’s little kids? “No one will want to hire them,” says Brody. That’s not an encouraging thought, especially in these economic times.

The kids described in the article are the generation AFTER the Millennials (born 1981-200?), tentatively known as “Homelanders” (born after 2003 or so). They are likely to follow in the footsteps of the Silent Generation by becoming conformist young adults. How is this possible? Consider that most Gen X parents are not particularly permissive with their children. They often enforce strict rules and boundaries for thier kids inside and outside the home. But Gen X parents don’t really care what society thinks about their parenting or whether their kids obey society’s rules.  So the kids get two messages: my parents will protect me from the outside world as long as I follow their rules (and they will be there to enforce them).

The message that Gen X’ers give their kids is, “Follow MY rules and there will be a good outcome”. Once translated into an adult mentality (in the Homelanders) that sounds a lot like a recipe for conformity (“Follow the BOSS’s rules and there will be a good outcome”). I think that some of the psych’s interviewed are confusing the permissiveness of the Silents and Boomers with the “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks” of the X’ers. Just because we don’t care whether Johnny takes away your kid’s toy, doesn’t mean we are permissive: it means we don’t give a damn about YOUR kid.

American Girl Books and Generations

I have been meaning to write this post for some time, but perhaps I am a little embarrassed about the topic. My 8 year-old daughter is into the American Girl Doll Books and we often read them to her during the day or as bed-time books.  At first I rejected the whole American Girl Doll thing as terribly mainstream. Since our kids go to a Waldorf School, we are fairly counter-culture in how we go about parenting. Just look at the things:


They reminded me too much of the whole “Just Like Me” dolls and the hyper-narcissism that they imply. Our daughter did manage to get two American Girl Dolls (as gifts) but I really started to balk when the books started showing up in the house (from the library).

But then I took the time to actually read one of them to my daughter and I realized they were fairly interesting. Each book is based on a specific girl from a period in history (I think there are several based on current times as well).  All the girls in the stories are between the ages of 10 and 12 (I think) and are based in different eras and generations:

Julie, 1970’s (Generation X, born 1961-1981)

Molly, 1940’s (Silent Generation, born 1925-1942)

Kit, 1930’s (GI Generation, born 1901-1924)

When my wife and I were reading through the “Julie” stories we were struck by how well the reflected the times we grew up in. Of course it did not hurt that Julie lived in in the San Francisco Bay Area (where my wife grew up) and she was in exactly the same age group. But the portrayal of the times, with divorced parents and rebellious older siblings was a good picture of those times. Likewise the world of Kit, growing up in the Depression Era gave a very clear (and different) picture of what those times were about. The books have a somewhat moralistic tone (the kids are mostly do-gooders) but the times they live in are fair representations of history.

Reading the stories about the 1930’s were a particularly interesting lesson. One of the important concepts of generations is that we often repeat generational cycles because we don’t have a living history of those cycles. But books that give a 10-year-olds view of the Great Depression (a time similar to our current part of the cycle) are a great window into how to view that era and the people living in it. Hearing the compromises, fears and triumphs of kids living in the Depression (who would later go on to be the WWII heroes) is a unique perspective. Giving kids a perspective on what other children their age, in different times, have dealt with is a gentle introduction to how generational cycles work. My daughter did roll her eyes when she heard me say something about generations after reading one of the books. The kids hear enough about that stuff with Dad around…

It is also interesting to note that although the GIs, Silents and Generation X are represented in the series, there are no stories about the youth of the Boomers (born 1943-1960). Did Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best cover that period already or was their childhood just so boring that no one would be interested?

6 Reasons You Should Listen to Boomers (even if they drive you crazy)

Do Baby Boomers drive you crazy? Here’s 6 reasons you should listen to them anyway.

Baby Boomers (born 1943-1961) are a fairly opinionated and outspoken bunch. I read somewhere in reference to the Boomer generation “Never has a generation said more and done less than the Baby Boomers”. As they enter Elderhood (age 63 – 85) they are beginning to feel the need to express their opinions more vehemently, knowing that they have precious little time left to do so. Although they often drive Gen X’ers (1961-1981) and Millennials (born 1982-200?) with all their talk, there are some reasons why we should consider listening to them.

  1. Some of them actually know what they are talking about. The plethora of opinions coming from Boomers almost guarantees that at least some of them are right. Figuring out which ones can be an onerous task, but it is still important to not dismiss them all.
  2. They are, for younger Gen X’ers and older Millennials, our parents. Gen X’ers may not see this as much of a qualification (since we were largely ignored in our childhood), but your parents probably know you better than most (doesn’t that drive you nuts?).
  3. They were not the only ones responsible for our current crisis. It’s easy to blame older generations for your problems – the Boomers certainly did this with the GI Generation (born 1901-1924) in the back in the 1960’s. Although the excess of the Boomers (and yes, X’ers) in the 90’s and 00’s is seen as the cause of our current problems, the issue goes back much further. Truth be told, it is probably what Tom Brokaw called the “Greatest Generation” (The GI’s) that should shoulder much of the blame for our current problems. They are the ones that built the ideal of the “American Dream” with ticky-tacky houses in the ‘burbs, superhighways, mass agribusiness and a culture of consumerism. They may have not been responsible for the extremes, but they set the ball rolling. The Boomers sure got that right.
  4. They want to leave their mark. Although this can be frustrating at times (see my previous post for the problems related to leaving a legacy) it means they are uniquely motivated to take action at this time in their lives. Many Boomers are tired of talking and want to DO something.
  5. They often want to mentor younger generations. Part of this relates to the Boomers moving into Elderhood, but it is also the nature of the style of this generation. They like to be leaders, and leaders need followers. I have personally found that Boomers make great mentors. Sometimes you may need to stroke their egos, but they have a lot of valuable life experience to give.
  6. They have fond memories of their youth. The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) were “old” right from the start, never having much of a chance to shake things up in their youth. Generation X was latch-keyed from an early age and had a tough time as young adults. But Boomers were cherished as children and threw a wild party in their young adulthood. Let them tell you some stories, you might learn a thing or two.

It pains an X’er like me to admit: They may have talked about doing more than they actually did, but they still are great teachers. Lend them an ear and you might be surprised at what you find out.

Is the Millennial Generation a bunch of Cylons?

Battlestar Galactica is a modern myth, in the vein of the original Star Wars. Each generation is represented in the series, including the Millennials.

Spoiler alert: If you have not watched any of Battlestar Galactica, or have only watched the first season, there are plot spoilers to follow.

“The cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan”

I was watching the first few episodes of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica last night and got to the point where they find the “map” to Earth in the form of the 12 zodiacal constellations. Until that point I had been seeing the story as a myth that portrayed the Cylons as the believers in the “One True God” (e.g. Christians) vs. the humans who believe in a multi-pantheon (e.g. New Age Spiritualists). Others have said that the humans represent the United States and the Cylons represent modern terrorists. But last night I realized it might be a more subconscious modern myth that symbolizes the current living generations.

Science fiction has a history of taking on social concepts, from Star Trek with it’s strong social themes to Star Wars which was profiled by Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell as the modern telling of the Hero’s Journey. Thinking in those terms, of the mythical meaning of the Battlestar Galactica, (which is produced and directed by Boomers and X’ers), I couldn’t help but wonder if the battle going on right now between the generations is represented in the story.

Let’s look at the current living generations and then compare with some of the characters.

  • Silent Generation: Born 1925-1942. This group is starting to fade from prominence right now, but they had a reputation as being an expert, if overly conservative generation.
  • Boomer Generation: Born 1943-1960. Moving into elder leadership now, this generation represents the “Prophets” who have a strong vision of the future and will argue their opinions to the death.
  • Generation X: Born 1961-1981. Moving into midlife right now, this generation is practical and pragmatic, but often cynical. They are individualistic and do not particularly care for large institutions or dogmatic leadership.
  • Millennial Generation: Born 1982-200?. Moving into young adulthood now, this generation is optimistic, empowered, team-oriented and at times a bit arrogant about what they will accomplish.

For those of you that are fans, can you see the connection between the various characters now? The Silents are not well represented, but the other groups are definitely in there.


For example, Bill Adama, commander of the Battlestar and President Laura Roslin are both of the elder generation, similar to the Boomers. They are highly opinionated and have their unshakable vision in what needs to be done. The President literally believes that she is a prophet, destined to take the human race to a new and better future. Adama is driven by a desire for honor and order as prescribed by his military background. Both are willing to attack each other to defend their view and control of the future. That, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the Boomer/Prophet generation. Strong opinions, a visionary view and and a righteousness in the face of adversity.


The Commanders’s son, Lee Adama, whose call sign is Apollo, as well as Starbuck (and many more of the crew) are all much more pragmatic in their approach. Although they will take sides if forced to, they judge everything by it’s practical implications. Starbuck is a loner, alienated from most of those around her. Even though Apollo is the golden boy son (hence his call sign) of the Captain, he refuses to believe in the Commander’s ideals. This is very much in character with Generation X, a generation that is practical, pragmatic and don’t really care about ideology or following rules. They are the nomad generation.


So that leaves the Millennials. They are represented by the evil Cyclons. The Cylons believe in “One True God”, one perfect ideal that they must create. They are literally “of one mind”, having a serious case of group think. There are only a few models of Cylon, and that means that they mostly think alike. They work together flawlessly as a team and are moving towards creating a world based on their singular vision. They are optimistic (perhaps overly so) about their future and see their success as pre-ordained. This represents the stereotype of the Millennial generation quite well. Millennials are generally seen as having a strong civic nature, a desire to rebuild society based on their ideals. They also work together very well and tend to be optimistic and at times arrogant about the likelihood of their success. They are the “Hero” generation, but clearly not portrayed in that light in the series.

The interesting thing to note if you buy that characterization is that the Cylons are considered EVIL and are out to destroy the entire human race! What does that say about the Millennials? It actually says a lot more about the Gen X/Boomer bunch that created Battlestar Galactica than it does about the Millennials. Although even by the start of season two there are some humans who are starting to sympathize with the Cylons, they are still very much considered the enemy. The same can be said for the attitude of many Gen X’ers and Boomers towards Millennials. There are a few of the older generations that believe in the positive qualities of the Millennials, but most are pretty put off by what they believe is a sense of entitlement and brazenness. Books like “Dumbest Generation” and “Generation Me” point towards a belief that “kids today ain’t no damned good”. The other parallel is the idea of the Cylons being machines that look like humans. The Millennial generation is also categorized as being the “digital” generation, networked to each other through their devices and constantly in communication with each other.

I think that Battlestar Galactica is a good example of the sort of modern myth that Cambpell and Moyers identified years ago in Star Wars. The first Star Wars series was really about the path of the Boomers (think Luke Skywalker) overthrowing the GI Generation (think Darth and the empire). Like all myths it was probably not consciously made with this connection to the current social forces, but they were embedded in subconsciously.

Should we trust the Cylon/Millennials? Like the characters in Battlestar Galactica we probably don’t have much choice in the matter. And unlike the Cylons, the Millennials ARE going to take over the world eventually (unless Boomers and X’ers figure out a way to magically extend their lives). So perhaps it is time to figure out how we can work together to build something better. Boomers and X’ers control pop culture right now and trying to feed a message to society based on their values. The Millennials have a different take and that makes those in control uncomfortable. But make no mistake, Boomers and X’ers, the Millennials will win this battle (eventually) and treating them like they are babies, less than, or unimportant will not help matters.

I haven’t seen this comparison anywhere else on the Internets. There is a book on the philosophy of BSG. There are also several analysis of the cylons as an analogy for modern terrorists, here, here and here.

I would love to hear people’s comments on the concept, but I have one request: don’t spoil the rest of the series for me by giving away plot lines beyond the first few episodes of the second season. Also, any of you generation types out there have a guess as to who represents the Silents in the series?

Legislative Generations

The generational makeup of our legislature is shifting, and it will definitely affect our future as we move further into the crisis.

Our leadership is constantly changing, not just in their political party, but also in the generation they represent. If you look at this chart from the Strauss and Howe website, Lifecourse.com, you can see the shift in the generations over the last 100 years:

Source: Lifecourse.com

This covers only up until 2005 (you can also download a spreadsheet with their source data – very cool!) so I captured the information for 2007 and 2009 from the Congressional Biographical Directory and created a couple charts showing the recent trends.

The first is the number of congressmen (including both house and senate) from each generation in the last three congresses:
You can see that the Boomer (born 1943-1960) numbers hold quite steady (there are more in 2007 than in 2009) and the GI generation (born 1901-1924) is almost non-existent (there are just two or three in congress, so they don’t really show up on the chart). The shift that is beginning to happen is that the Silent (born 1925-1942) are giving up ground to Generation X (born 1961-1981). The chart below isolates these two generations:
Generation X now equals the Silent Generation in Congress, up from around only 35% just four years ago. The shift from Boomer to Generation X will likely take many more years.
The significance of this shift is important. The Silent generational leaders are very knowledgeable, but are not known for decisive action. Generation X, on the other hand, is very practical and won’t get caught in “analysis paralysis”. Gen X leaders often go with their gut and are willing to try things out and evaluate as they go along. This will probably make for faster decisions in congress, but might also mean that those decisions are not as well thought out. You may also notice that there are not any Millennial generation (born 1982~2005) leaders in the Legislature yet, but I expect there will be several in the next congress.

Does Generation Jones Exist?

A recent article in USA Today has popularized the concept of a “Generation Jones” born between 1954 and 1965. The idea is that there is a generation between The Boomers (born 1943-1960) and Generation X (born 1961-1981) that has traits of both but does not really feel it belongs to either. Although the concept is gaining in popularity as many people born during the Jones timeframe feel it resonates with them, I wonder if the concept really has much value.
The dates I mention on this blog for the timing of generations is drawn from the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, who are well known for their work on generations. Their landmark book “The Fourth Turning” gives clear definitions of the cycle of generations and how they have evolved in the US over the last 500 years (going back to England). The value of their research is partially in understanding our personal roots (“Oh, now I understand why my Boomer friend acts like that…”) but more importantly in understanding the direction of our society overall. My question about Generation Jones (and other divisions) is whether it helps in that effort or just confuses.
Here is a chart showing the roll of generations since 1900 (click on it for a bigger version):
According to Howe and Strauss, the marks between each generation are very clear and are based on their surveys of people born in these years. Each generation has a specific character, and these are shown on the chart by the various colors (the “archetype” for each of these generations is shown in the legend on the right). The concept is that, for the most part, each generation is about 20 years (give or take) and they follow each other in a specific pattern (Hero, Artist, Prophet, Nomad and so on). This pattern has (mostly) held true for the last 500 years of history, although some of the timeframes vary by a few years. If you accept this theory, at least in part, it allows you to extrapolate into the future based on the ages and attitudes of the generations that will be alive. I go into this concept further in my two presentations on turnings and generations (Part 1 and Part 2).
But it does seem fairly unlikely that EVERYONE born in 1961 would have an “X” attitude when compared with EVERYONE born in 1960, who would have a “Boomer” attitude. But I don’t think that is the point. Let’s look at an analogy.
In 1984 Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory in the race for the Presidency against Walter Mondale. Mondale got only 13 Electoral votes vs. 525 for Reagan, in what, I believe was the most lopsided victory in US History. But what was the Popular vote? The result was around 59% to 41%. Again a strong majority, but it does mean that over 37 Million people wanted Mondale to be president. Without going into how silly our electoral system is, I think there is a parallel to how we perceive the change in generations.
Let’s look at that chart again, but this time with Generation Jones put on top to show the span of years.
It falls fairly neatly in the span between Boomer and X’ers on Howe and Strauss’ system. There are probably many people in this period that feel like they favor either Boomer or X’er attitudes, or perhaps feel like they combine both. But the important thing is that a balance point is reached where over 50% of people would favor the attitude of one generation or the other. Just like in the 1984 elections, when grouped together this slight shift in the balance can have large effects on our overall society.
Perhaps the more accurate chart should look something like this:
With a gradual shift from one generation to the next, but a “tipping point” that results in a large perceived shift in generational attitude. This would explain the “Generation Jones” effect (along with other theories that break the generations down even further), as the period of transition lines up with that proposed generation:
I am a Gen-X’er (born 1966), and I fit the generational stereotype in that I am very pragmatic. The value I see in this generational research is in understanding where, as a society, we are going based on where we have been. Breaking down the system into smaller parts may make many feel they can identify with the roles more clearly, but I am not sure if it helps our predictive ability. So its not that I doubt that many people born between 1954 and 1965 feel they are caught between generations, its just that I am not sure that clarifies where our country is going in the future.