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More Lies

August 5th, 2010

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Chapter seven of the book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, discloses a handful of “lies” that adults have told children unwittingly. We didn’t think we were lying to them…but we were. As children, we said things like:

  1. You can do anything you want to do.
  2. You are the best!
  3. You are a winner, no matter what.

The fact is, these are lies that kids figure out once they reach their tween (ages 10-12) and teen (13-19) years. Sadly, they become disenchanted with the adults who told them these lies. To read why they are such damaging lies, you may want to pick up a copy of the book.

Below are three more damaging lies we’ve told young people that could cause damage unless we explain what we mean by the statements. 

Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. You are an independent individual.

 This is a phrase we have said to Generation iY to make them feel strong as individuals. We don’t want them to be swayed by peer pressure, and we certainly don’t want their identity to be wrapped up in the opinions of others on Facebook. I share this sentiment, and I certainly said, “Don’t worry about what your friends think,” to my kids while they were in Elementary School. There is a tender balance we need to strike, however. While I agree, a young person needs to be themselves and not be swayed by the others’ opinions, we must all understand we’re part of a community and are interdependent with them. Some young people need to hear this line—but for others the line creates a harmful, renegade spirit inside of them that refuses to cooperate with others.

Perhaps we’ve told our young people this lie because we observed how connected they are to their “community” on-line or through text messaging. Often, they appear unable to act alone if necessary. This isn’t healthy either. That’s why adults (whether parents, coaches, teachers or employers) must discern how the young person thinks and what she values. If they are too dependent upon other’s opinions and cannot seem to think on their own—you likely don’t need to worry about this lie. However, if they are self-absorbed, feeling entitled to their own way, and never feeling concerned about the preferences of others, they will make a poor marriage partner and team member at work. Just like Morgan. She has been told all her life that she doesn’t have to worry about other people, what they think or want. She is the master of her own destiny. It sounds great on paper. Morgan, however, is now a selfish young woman, who recently divorced and lost her job for the same reason. She now hates her life because she bought into this lie.

Everyone is equal. There’s no difference between race, gender or culture.

I recognize why we say this—but it’s a lie. No race or gender is better than another, but they’re different, and add different value, even if this truth isn’t politically correct. I grew up hearing this phrase: “Everyone’s equal. Everyone’s the same. There’s no difference between people regardless of where they’re from.” It was a response to prejudice against ethnic or gender minority groups, or socio-economic minority groups. Of course I believe every group of people should experience equal rights and opportunities. Our nation was built upon this foundation. Unfortunately, this simple statement has evolved into a lie. We have begun to believe that we really are all the same; that we all add equal value and that we all have equal gifts. That’s just not true, and in organizations, salaries should reflect the contribution and talent of a person—which has nothing to do with race or background. People are not the same. My wife has many gifts I do not have and it would be foolish for me to argue that we are the same. We recognize we each add different value to our family. We are different. We do well to acknowledge this and play to our differences. I believe each individual possesses certain strengths and gifts. We should celebrate the difference, but not pretend the talent is equal. We must build adults from this emerging generation who are realistic and mature about this issue. 

I have enjoyed traveling the world, and teaching leadership to folks in over forty nations. I love the differences in culture and color all over the world. I usually fall in love with the unique characteristics of each country I visit. So much variety! But it’s time we stop hiding behind “everyone is the same” and begin to celebrate that “everyone is not the same” which can lead us to play to each other’s strengths and unique contribution. When Barak Obama was elected president of the United States, I called and congratulated some of my African-American friends: the first black president in our history was a milestone. Hopefully one that will open doors in the future for African-Americans. However, I think everyone would agree that with the economic crisis we face—color is not the issue. It’s the wisdom and gifts of a leader, not the color of a leader that will make the difference.

You can change your life today, in a few easy steps.

Wrong again. Students desperately need the truth on this notorious myth. You can start a change today, but real life change normally happens over time. The media has fed us this lie to sell products. Genuine change is a process. The older a person gets, the more they realize the fallacy of believing much can happen in an instant. But Generation iY has seen things occur quickly—like messages or photos sent over the Internet becoming viral and spreading around the world in 24 hours; or like a young adult becoming famous overnight on a Reality TV show. So, they actually may believe that they can change their life, from bad habits to good ones; from obese bodies to toned bodies; from no study skills to straight As…overnight. Real time has defined their lifestyle from day one.

Hannah bought into this lie, and spent more than $6,000 of her money over the last year as a high school student. She wanted to lose weight so boys would ask her out. She wanted to transform her hair (both style and color), she wanted to enhance her breasts, she wanted a tummy tuck, she wanted to speak better and she wanted to change they way her feet looked. She pursued most of those goals, but did it believing that transformation could happen easily. What she really wanted could be achieved, and it had little to do with outward appearances. She needed the discipline to work on her diet and exercise. She needed to sharpen her relational skills, not augment her breast size. She may have known this deep down, but those changes would have taken too much time and effort. Image seemed to be more important than substance. How is she doing? Not so good. Few of the changes she wanted to make occurred and none of them helped her socially. The biggest change that happened? She lost over $6,000.

The reality is—cosmetic change can, indeed, happen overnight, in a few easy steps. Why? Because it’s about changing the outside. It’s about image. However, authentic change is organic. It’s about changing from the inside out. It takes time. It’s the difference between an artificial plant and a real one. Real plants grow organically and it doesn’t happen in a day. There’s nothing glitzy, or glamorous or sexy about it. Growth is slow but it is real. This is the kind of growth we must foster in Generation iY. Organic growth not programmatic growth. 

Tell the Truth

We believe its time to speak the truth to this emerging generation. Instead of lies that boost a false sense of self-esteem, let’s cultivate a solid, healthy esteem in them, by building the following ingredients in their character.  We recommend the following six priorities for students today as they mature.  Work with them on the following targets:

1. Know Yourself. 

(Seek to become self aware of your identity; your personality; and the value you add others.)

2. Develop Your Gift.

(Experiment enough to figure out where your major strengths, talents, skills and gifts lie.)

3. Find Your Passion.

(Explore the needs of the world around you and see if any spark a passion inside you.)*

4. Value People.

(Determine to invest in others; people are the most important part of any enterprise or project.)

5. Learn Perseverance.

(Try enough new things that you experience both failure and tough times. This builds character.)

6. Pursue Excellence.

(Remember you don’t have to be great at everything but you should excel at something.)

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