A reader named John sent an email to me after reading my column from last week about the new Apple products, taking me to task a bit for my reluctance to embrace the many advantages of modern technology.
In that piece I wrote how I would not be pre-ordering the new iPhones or Apple watch and made a little too much fun, I suppose, of not only the latest and greatest but also myself and my inability – or lack of desire – to keep up.
The reader’s note was polite and good-natured, and he gave me some helpful suggestions for making the technology on my phone work better for me rather than having it “acting in the ways you are now passively accepting.”
One of the suggestions, which he assured me he was not making in a snarky or condescending fashion (and I did not take it that way), was to “find a young kid to set up your preferences and security stuff exactly like you want them.”
And in my equally good-natured response to him, I agreed that was probably not a bad idea.
I have to admit that particular comment was timely. As regular readers know, I recently became a grandfather. While I am elated with this new role, it’s a reminder of the steady advancement of time.
In a few weeks I will observe a milestone birthday. And with a handful of friends who have already retired and more than a handful contemplating it, all around me I see evidence of how, to put it in understandable terms, “I ain’t getting any younger.”
With these thoughts in mind, it was particularly intriguing for me to sit through a recent session titled “Bridging the Generation Gap.” I joked to a few people who report to me that it should help them in dealing with an old manager. In reality, it was educational for all who attended.
The speaker explained that in today’s working world, there are four generations – the Traditionals, the Baby Boomers, the Gen-Xers, and Gen-Yers (or Millennials). She gave a factual, albeit sometime humorous, description of general characteristics among each.
The Baby Boomers today make up the majority of the “older” workforce, if you will, but there are still some Traditionals, those just ahead of we Boomers, who are around, some still fulltime, but more in a consulting role.
And close on the heels of the Millennials are the current teens who will join the workforce in the next decade. (I can’t wait to see how the Millennials handle a generation who might dare to challenge their thoughts and ideas, but we will talk about that another time).
I don’t have the space to recount all I learned in this brief session, but the prevailing idea was that each generation has something to offer and we can all learn from each other.
I know this is not anything new, but humor me. I’m a slow learner.
A while back I went to have a tooth filled. I knew my dentist had recently brought in his son who had finished dental school.
But was the young dentist really doing things like filling teeth? Wasn’t this person the age of my children still peering over his dad’s shoulder for a while before poking around in mouths and, God forbid, drilling in them?
Of course not. He proceeded to fill my tooth and he did an excellent job. That was a big step for me – to believe a person that much younger than I can perform a professional task like filling a tooth.
My reluctance to accept it has much more to do with me than with him.
I suppose all of this is roundabout way of saying I think I still have plenty to contribute, but so do the Traditionals above me and the Gen-Xers and Millennials below me.
A Traditional can explain to me why it’s still important to look my best and write a handwritten note from time to time.
I can tell a Gen-Xer that it’s not going to destroy his/her “work-life balance” if he puts in an extra hour here and there, and a Millennial why she shouldn’t send a casual text message to the CEO.
And members from both of these can help me by showing me how to save tons of time by taking advantage of technology rather than being afraid of it (and seeing to my medical and dental needs).
And what’s really cool is the fact I can still learn from my peers — guys like John, the fellow Baby Boomer who sent me the email, who is obviously still learning and growing each day.
There are still plenty of lessons out there if I’ll be smart enough to learn them.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.