There is a unique yet not-so rare phenomenon happening lately that has me pausing to reflect. It is a tendency either spurned out by or because of Millennials. It’s mostly a social acknowledgement and appeal that now has me wondering not just why it has come to be but where such thinking comes from. The phenomenon is the tendency for peer groups, family members, colleagues, and others to want to celebrate too early or for an upcoming event or anticipated situation. Lately, I have been invited to a tad too many soirees, meetups, parties, celebrations, and gatherings of events that praise an upcoming person or organization on a project, initiative, cause and sometimes even an idea. While I do understand the need for acknowledgement on a worthy goal and pursuit this premature congratulating that invites friends and family to come out in an expression of gratitude and symbolism for potential is rather trite, if not mediocre. Examples of such events that I am alluding to involves premature celebrations like completing the 8th grade and getting ready for high school, or launching a business or nonprofit organization, closing a distribution deal without sales coming in, etc. The kind of stuff that really should get a nod of acknowledgement and the whisper of: “Keep going! Keep it up!” Celebrations and congratulatory moments that give tribute to a certain person or group must be posited on an achievement. Society needs to make achievement the worthy cause to celebrate not potential.
Milennials are–for good or bad–the first generation in human history to be taught and reared through childhood development that they can have anything they want, accomplish anything they put their mind to, and fulfill their dreamy lifestyle with exact precision with the consistent praise of being special. Contrary to the reality of the world where isms (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) lurk in civilization like that of pollution and humidity–Milennials are bent on entering the world with bountiful optimism no matter what background they grew out of. These products of the “participation trophy” generation has rendered growing youth to feel special and worthy of success. Molded in a milieu of caring teachers, parents, and peers Milennials battle the dichotomy of unyielding optimism and a stark reality that isn’t so bright and positive. This message of “getting whatever you put your mind to” shelters such youth-turning-adults into entitled men and women who are always looking for reminders of not only how special they are but what potential lies ahead for him or her simply by showing up.
I recently attended a panel discussion at a local film festival of a handful of young woman filmmakers speaking on diversity in the industry and accomplishing women success stories. While the message and theme was heartfelt and many ways on point I had an issue with the messengers. While the panel didn’t have the likes of Ava DuVernay or Kathryn Bigelow the panel’s little-to-no experience in the film industry and, more so, their lack of any meaningful achievement left much to be sought. I am a person who seeks incredible, brilliant people to follow for inspiration and motivation. But that person must be one of accomplishment and action not one who says all the right things. The choice to aim for achievement or potential parallels with aiming for action or words. Congratulatory events should be a worthy symbolic moment shared with close friends, families, co-workers, collaborators, etc. when an actual achievement has been established, a goal reached, a dream actualized. To put together a gathering where attendees look forward to what may come of someone is contrary to living in a world that looks up to winners and men and women of achievement.
A settling mindset begins to percolate and creep into the psyche and behavior of those who are honored and congratulated too prematurely. It will set ‘potential’ and what may be over realized goal-setting and the following through needed with hardwork and determination. We cannot afford to pat-on-the-back another generation of youth every time they attempt at something. An attempt does not equate accomplishment. An attempt is a first step. Eliminating premature celebrations like the ones mentioned makes clear that success is not guaranteed. Whether someone begins a goal and the initial process of that goal it is not enough for the awards and trophies to come out or the parties of congratulations to be held. Potential and talent may make for the initial process to get started but it must take more for accomplishment to come through. Here, is where I differentiate from the congratulatory appeal toward achievement versus success. A business’ short-term goal of sales, a young teens’ pursuit of making a team, and getting accepted to certain college are all worthy achievements that friends and family alike should acknowledge. Success in distributing one’s own independent documentary film, winning the state championship for your high school, and graduating college cum laude are examples of congratulations deemed appropriate. Achievement may or not be equated with success on subjective terms. However, the accomplishment of a given task and goal should be the focus in celebrating and commending rather than what someone is likely capable of doing and completing. Yes, grateful is the one who finally made it to the college of their desires. But, should that be celebrated in the same fashion and context as actually graduating from that college. Is their a theme of looking up to one’s potential as folks gather around or is their a sigh of relief and peace of mind that comes after a worthy pursuit has been attained–which can be shared with family and friends?