“We’ll inherit the earth but we don’t want it
It’s been ours since birth, what’cha doin’ on it?
We’ll inherit the earth but we don’t want it
Layin’ claim at birth, what’cha doin’ on it?”
Paul Westerberg nailed it when writing those lyrics what amounts to decades ago now. We’ve inherited the earth—we didn’t want it then and I’m not sure we want it now. We certainly haven’t made any claim or hard push to get to the top. And now, now that we should be slowly taking pieces of it we seem OK with letting the next generation the y’ers and millennial’s take what should have been ours.
I think that like so much, a lack of true motivation or maybe the knowledge that we were clever enough and smart enough and likeable enough that we could just claim it whenever we wanted stopped us from taking our place in the natural order of things. In every previous generation empires were built and empires were destroyed—new leaders emerged from the ashes and led their troops to victory and spoils. Not so much now. Look around and tell me I’m wrong.
There have been plenty of success stories to write about when discussing people from my generation. Google springs to mind, some reality tv stations I’m sure, a lot of sports marketing and tech firms were certainly all started by my peers. None of those though were tearing down the previous generation’s achievements so they could scream from the mountaintop. And now, well now we seem perfectly willing by and large to abdicate our throne if it means a little less stress and a little less grief. I of course can only speak about myself and the people I know. My friends and circle are all incredibly motivated individuals, everyone strives really hard at what they do, but none of us have ever claimed to want to be the CEO or COO of a corporation, none of us ever really wanted to burn the midnight candle and let our entrepreneurial spirit fly. My goal in life (besides being able to wear motorcycle boots with a rock t-shirt and sports jacket to work) was to have a house that was Parisian in influence—where wine flowed freely, where books were piled in built-in cases, where an acoustic guitar sat next to the arched entryways of the rooms—not exactly the most grand of intentions. I’ve pretty much accomplished those goals (except for the arched entryways, mine are squared damn it!). Those sort of goals are the same sort of goals most of my friends have.
I’ve had two moments of absolute clarity in my life. The first was the first day of Russian 2 in college. The syllabus was passed out and at the very top was the notation, 4 credits. 4 credits!! This was clearly a class that required more work than I was willing to put into it. The second was a job interview where the owner/president of the company I was interviewing said he loved his job so much he didn’t even mind being there on Saturdays, Sundays or evenings. Yeah, I knew it required more work than I was willing to do. Weekends and evenings, I used those for important endeavors like getting drunk or working on getting laid. Obviously claiming these as my come to Jesus memories I was never going to be the head of a large corporation. My hunt for money pretty much stops when I pay the bills each month and buy clothes and food for the family. I have simple goals, strive towards those and then the rest of my time is devoted to my family and our leisure life. I think the same holds true for most people my age. We saw our fathers work one or two jobs, our mothers work nights, we were latchkey kids that felt deserted, work in some cases contributed to the weakening and eventual disintegration of our nuclear family and in the end our fathers were still laid off when the downturns happened, the trickle down economy ignored us and we remained, like karma neutral Indians, firmly in the same social caste we had begun life. I think for most of us we decided that if that was going to be the case then we might as well be happy and chase our real dreams—to be an artist, to be a poet, to be a gymnast, to be able to wear whatever we want to work, to have kids and drive used cars, to start our own gaming companies, etc. Some of us may have gotten rich along the way but believe me, it was entirely coincidental.
At the present moment throughout the known universe baby boomer chief executives and small business owners that can afford to are getting ready to hand the reigns of stewardship over to the next generation. If they’re not, they’re busy looking for the visionaries who are willing to guide them through the desert and to the land of milk and honey. As they look out over their progeny my peers and I are ducking to tie our shoes so we don’t get stuck doing the work while the next generation is busy crawling over our backs as they scramble to the top. Let them do the work, we’ll make the movies and write the songs that chronicle their missteps and protest when they step out of line. We don’t need that pressure.