5 Four-Letter Words to Generation Y


Tim Elmore provides understanding and insight into today's teens and young adults.

You know what a four-letter word is. It’s a bad word. It’s a word that mom taught you to never use. It was often a swear word (translate that as cuss word). It was evil.

Well, I have a list today that Generation Y (the Millennials) would say are four-letter words to them. Bad words. Ideas they hate and avoid. My son, Jonathan, and I met recently and discussed this list together. He is a member of Generation Y. If you lead students or even young adults—you will want to avoid this list of literal four letter words as you plan, manage, mentor and lead them this year. I will share five more words tomorrow.

1. Wait.

You know this. Students today, by and large, are not good at delaying gratification. I have said before, they have a “Google Reflex.” They’re used to getting feedback, food, answers, affirmation, toys and resources…now. Things are instant. They expect them to be. You’ll have to be intentional about teaching patience and pace.

2. Copy.

Students abhor thinking they might be a copy of someone else. To them, everyone is unique and awesome. They are all special. To simply emulate someone else; to be an imitation of another brand (while they may be guilty of this) is an idea they hate. Find unique features about the students you lead and tell them.

3. Dues.

I discovered in every focus group I’ve led, young people have a disdain for the phrase: “You gotta pay your dues. You don’t have anything to say yet, you’re too young. Get a little experience—pay your dues—and we’ll let you participate later.” They want to be listened to now, believing they have something to say.

4. Fear.

Even though nearly every Generation Y student I interact with admits to having fears and insecurities—fear is a word they avoid. “No Fear” is a term they grew up with. So, they exhibit and sometimes feign confidence and security in front of others. We must help them get past this pretense and help them genuinely face their fears.

5. Solo.

May I remind you this generation of students rarely does anything alone. They hate being disconnected. In fact, the average adolescent is disconnected from technology (Social networking sites) only one hour a day. They often won’t make a decisions without getting consensus from friends. We must teach them to stand on their own.

I recognize these words are anecdotal, but they come from years of working with about 50,000 students annually. And…a candid informal focus group with my son.

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