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Gen Z Needs To Be Trusted More

To grow, you need pain. Muscles need resistance (pain) to grow larger. Learning new skills requires the painful process of practice and failure. Sadly, my generation (baby boomers) didn’t understand this as we raised our kids. Think about the things you learn as a child – to talk or …
By sethbarnes
To grow, you need pain. Muscles need resistance (pain) to grow larger. Learning new skills requires the painful process of practice and failure. Sadly, my generation (baby boomers) didn’t understand this as we raised our kids.
Think about the things you learn as a child – to talk or to walk or to socialize – everything has the pain of failure embedded in it. This is why language learning is hard for most adults – it can be embarrassing to make all the mistakes required. A top physicist put it this way, “jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret of success.”
As a generation, we boomers failed to trust our children with the pain they needed to grow. With the best of intentions, we tried to spare our children the painful experiences we had growing up. When our kids fell down, we were quick to rush to their side and console them. We bought them too much stuff and gave it to them too early, so they didn’t have the opportunity to do the hard work it takes to delay gratification – saving money to buy something they wanted in the future.
Author Freya India, who is 24, says, “My generation needs to suffer more” and makes a compelling case:

My generation is miserable. Gen Z, those of us born after 1997, are the saddestloneliest, and most mentally fragile age group to date, cursed with rising rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. How can that be? How can a generation with everything feel so desperately unhappy?

By almost every metric, human life is dramatically better today than it ever has been. The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from around 90 percent in 1820 to just 10 percent in 2015, while rates of illiteracymortality, and battle deaths are also in rapid decline. For the most part, Gen Z are heirs to an immense fortune: a utopian world of instant gratification and technological dynamism. In theory, this should be the age of happiness.

And yet, misery abounds. In the United States, 54 percent of Gen Z report anxiety and nervousness, according to researchers at the American Psychological Association…..for Gen Z women in particular, suicide rates have risen a staggering 87 percent since 2007.

No pain, no gain

Why is this? Pain is not only needed for growth, it’s also necessary to find meaning and purpose. Sebastian Junger noted that “humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

Take away a person’s sense of purpose and they become anxious. So Gen Z is conflicted, looking for purpose, but still lacking the resilience needed to go through the pain we humans need to find it. Prioritize comfort and remove struggle and you deprive people of an essential part of a meaningful life.

The hero generation

The good news is that earlier generations have gone through a similar phase and come out OK. They just needed a cause that required them to dive into pain. For example, the flappers of the 20’s went through the Great Depression and fought World War 2, becoming what we now refer to as “The Greatest Generation.”

The book, The Fourth Turning is Here, describes Gen Z’s as “The Hero Generation” that hasn’t found its cause yet. The author, Neil Howe, makes the case that we are already moving toward the crisis that will give Gen Z the purpose they are missing in their lives.

Who knows what that crisis will be – another war, economic depression, or epidemic? When it comes, our existence as a society will be threatened and we will be forced to embrace pain. Embracing the cause, young people will learn resilience and begin to grow – they will find the purpose they’ve been missing.

As Frieda India says, “My message for my generation is to dare to switch off Netflix, abandon your excuses, and bear the unbearable. It may not be what we want to hear, but it may be just what a miserable generation needs.”

I don’t know about you, but these days, we need a few heroes ready to take on the world’s biggest problems. I have seen that Gen Z is both practical, capable and eager to make a difference. I believe that they will.

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