As my 44th birthday approaches I learn two new facts. First, that I was born in the same year (1966) as the new British Prime Minister, David Cameron (I wondered why he looked so young). Second, that makes Prime Minister Cameron and I members of Generation X (President Obama also qualifies).

I thought I should probably find out a bit about the generation I am a member of, partly to find out who I am, and partly to help me minister to my generation. I’m grateful to Tammy Erickson at the Harvard Business Review for helping me out. In her article on PM Cameron, she reflects on a New York Times piece about “Another X’r at the helm,” by describing the character traits of X’rs and the implications of each for leadership. Her full exposition is here, but the main points are:

1. Accelerated contact with the real world . . . inclined to meet commitments and take employability seriously.

2. Distrust of institutions and self-reliance . . . strong survival skills and the ability to handle change with resilience: a well-nurtured portfolio of options and networks.

3. A sense of alienation and a preference of “alternative” . . . an inclination to innovate, to look for a different way forward; outward-facing.

4. An awareness of global issues and multiculturalism . . . a more unconscious acceptance of diversity than any preceding generation and the ability to welcome the contributions of diverse individuals.

5. Skepticism and an ability to isolate practical truths . . . rich humor and incisive perspective.

6. Childhood experiences . . . fiercely dedicated to being good parents, raising important questions about balance beyond the corporation.

7. Pragmatism . . . a practical and value-oriented sensibilities, and the ability to serve as effective stewards of both today’s organizations and tomorrow’s world.

So, although it took me 44 years, at least I now know who I am.

But how do I now minister to my generation? How do I get X’rs to the cross?

  • Scott@fb

    Wow! The profile of “Generation X” has always been the aimless slacker of a lost and hopeless generation, not a self-reliant person who meets commitments and takes employability seriously. When did this change? I always thought this was funny because Generation X invented the Internet revolution as we know it, and ushered in the biggest societal change since the printing press. So much for predictions. I guess they had to change the definition of Generation X after that Internet thing caught on.I think the whole overgeneralization is silly, since someone born in the 1960s has zero in common with someone born in the 1970s. Saying “Generation X” is people born from 1960-1980 is creating a made-up and silly grouping. No one born in the early 1960s would have any real common experiences with someone born in the early 70s. Anyone born in the early 1980s would grow up in a world I would no longer recognize.

  • TF Roberts

    Interesting blog, David. But I must point out that virtually no actual experts anywhere have said that Cameron or Obama are part of Generation X. By contrast, a long list of prominent experts have said that they are part of Generation Jones. Reasearch Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten lots of media buzz; in fact, the Associated Press’ annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. Here is an article on ePolitix.com about GenJones arriving at 10 Downing Street: http://www.epolitix.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/generation-jones-arrives-at-no-10/ Here is a 5 minute YouTube video with over 20 nationally influential pundits talking about Obama as a GenJoneser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ta_Du5K0jk Here is an article discussing the importance of Clegg & Cameron’s identities as GenJonesers in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/jonathan-pontell-cleggs-rise-is-the-sound-of-generation-jones-clearing-its-throat-1961191.htmlHere is site with an overview of GenJones in the UK:http://www.generationjones.org.uk/

  • David Murray

    Well, this is getting confusing! The author of the article that placed Cameron and Obama in Generation X has authored a book called “What’s next, Gen X?” So I presume she knows a Gen X’r when she sees one.” Maybe we should just call ourselves “Generation Sinner” and be done with it. The Bible is so simple at times, isn’t it!

  • TF Roberts

    Actually, she is not on any serious list of experts in this field anywhere. Anyone can write a book these days, but that doesn’t mean they are an expert. When you look at the views of the actual experts–those whose work is reguarly cited in academic journals, who give the keynote speeches at conferences in this genre, etc., you find that they overwhelmingly support the Generation Jones construct, which inculdes Cameron and Obama.

  • Andrew Flokstra

    Wether Obama is a GEN X’r or not, I do think the above description describes him and many others in his age group. More appropriatley he and we all are of the “generation Sinner” as David mentions. As this world becomes more and more “reliant” on its modern technology, it will become more and more dim to the modern man for his reliance on our Awesome Lord and Saviour. Thanks David for your interesting Blogs and such things. Its easy to say there are many evils on the internet, but there are some many blessings and accesses to fellow believers.God Bless!