The Blank Generation

We are Generation X. We've been at the forefront of a changing world for decades, and few people--least of all ourselves--even know who we are.

For the most part Gen Xers don't like to be identified or labeled. We don't walk around wearing our team colors the way that some other generations do. We are sandwiched between two much larger and louder generations: the Baby Boomers and Millennials. In many ways, we are the shock absorbers between two very different demographic blocks.

I was inspired to seek out our generation's soul and purpose after sitting through several presentations about generational dynamics in the workplace. In every single one of them, Generation X was little more than an afterthought. Presenters and attendees all were extremely concerned about what drives and inspires Boomers and Millennials, but not so much Generation X. We were often briefly described as basically keeping to ourselves while working hard and making things happen.

An hour might be spent diving into how to engage with Millennials in the workplace, but I'm left to assume that most people think that all we Gen Xers need is a flannel shirt and a Pearl Jam CD.

I started doing some research and reading books and found much the same thing. It feels like most of the generation conversation goes right around X.

Even the name Generation X is, appropriately enough, a hand-me-down. The term appears to have first been coined by a Hungarian war photographer in the 1950s, describing alienated young men trying to find their place in society after returning from WWII. It was then picked up again in a book title by two British journalists covering the Mod subculture in 1965. Billy Idol later used the name for his late 1970s punk band.

It was Idol's use of the term "Generation X" that supposedly inspired Canadian author Douglas Coupland when he titled his 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It is from this novel that we get the modern understanding of Generation X as a demographic group of people born between 1964 and 1980.

Generation X was shaped by many things. Technology. Changing social norms. A world that was both growing in population, but shrinking through mass communication. We came of age through times of intense paranoia from the Cold War and a collapse of trust in institutions, but also a time of materialism and greed. We tend to see a future that is darker than the past. We are the first generation to believe that we likely won't do as well as our parents, and that our children won't do as well as we have.

But does it have to be that way? Are we at the mercy of the winds, like that feather in Forrest Gump? Or can we affect the world around us and make it a better place?

With this blog, I hope to dive into what made us who we are, but more importantly, I want to learn what makes us tick as a generation today. We'll profile all many of Xers who are out there making a difference in their communities, their workplaces, their families and the world at large. We may not wear our team colors with the same pride as other generations, but maybe we should.

Generation X has kept its head down, done it's job and plowed forward. Maybe it's time we stand a little taller and get those presenters and authors to pay a little more attention to us.


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