On My Mind

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“On My Mind” is a new series I thought I’d start on the blog. I’d like to share interesting things I’ve read/heard/experienced every couple of weeks, that have stuck with me or made an impact. Feel free to leave a comment and reciprocate 🙂

simon sinek on millennials

“It’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called ‘impact’ that they want to have on the world, which is the summit. What they don’t see is the mountain. I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain. And so what this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really, really matter, like love or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence, a skillset, any of these things, all of these things take time.

 Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it, but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult and if you don’t ask for help and learn that skillset, you will fall off the mountain. Or the worst case scenario, we’re seeing an increase in suicide rates in this generation, we’re seeing an increase in accidental deaths due to drug overdoses, we’re seeing more and more kids drop out of school or take a leave of absence due to depression. Unheard of. This is really bad.

The best case scenario, you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep, deep fulfillment in work or in life, they’ll just waft through life and it things will only be ‘just fine.’ ‘How’s your job?’ ‘It’s fine, same as yesterday…’ ‘How’s your relationship?’ ‘It’s fine…’

That’s the best case scenario.” 

Simon Sinek’s outlook on millennials is quite generalized, but I do agree with most of what he is saying. The part that hit home for me was the snippet I copied and pasted above.

I don’t find that I struggle so much from addiction to social media – I make a conscious choice to turn it off, especially with friends or when I’m on a date with Azim. I also reflected deeply last year about this blog – I didn’t like being on Instagram, counting followers, and trying to keep up. Once I realized that this blog still has value and merit without trying to compete and grow, I was so much happier.

No, the part that made my heart drop into my gut was this: “The best case scenario, you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy.” This is my greatest fear! I try to live with passion and by spreading joy every single day…but there’s always that lingering feeling: what am I going to do with my life? Why do I STILL not know what I want to be when I grow up? What if I live my life with intention but nothing turns out the way I want it to?

If you ask me about my job at this moment in time, I can absolutely tell you that I am happy. But I don’t know what comes next, and that is really scary! I’m scared to make safe choices that lead to complacency and I’m scared to take risks that rob me of my financial independence. Right now I’m happy, but I can’t stay here in this place forever or I won’t be any longer.

Going back to Simon’s outlook: he preaches patience. That my generation has to learn the skillset to climb the “mountain’ in order to realize job fulfillment, self-confidence, and joy. This makes me wonder – what did the generations who came before mine do to learn these skills? Are millennials really that much worse off than they were? What can I do to practice and improve? Is being self-aware enough? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

burnout generosity

Some of our favorite recent data points come from more than 400 second-year teachers (from pre-K through high school throughout the United States). At the start of the year we asked them a series of questions about their approach to helping; their answers allowed us to predict how well their students would do on end-of-year academic achievement tests.

Here’s a sample question:

Imagine that you’re teaching a geometry class, and you’ve volunteered to stay after school one day a week to help one of your students, Alex, improve his understanding of geometry. He asks if you’ll also help his friend Juan, who isn’t in your class. What would you do?

  1. Schedule a separate after-school session to help Juan, so you can better understand his individual needs.
  2. Invite Juan to sit in on your geometry sessions with Alex.
  3. Tell Alex that it’s nice that he wants to help Juan, but he really needs to focus on his own work in order to catch up.
  4. Tell Alex that Juan should ask his own teacher for help.

Teaching is a helping profession, so we knew we’d find plenty of highly motivated givers. We wanted to see how much they would sacrifice themselves. We gave them 11 scenarios — some with requests from students, others with requests from fellow teachers or administrators. The more times teachers chose answers like (a), the worse their students performed.

[…] People often make the mistake of confusing generosity with selflessness. As the writer Caroline McGraw observes, “We’ve been conditioned to believe that being kind means being available 24/7.” Being an effective giver isn’t about dropping everything every time for every person. It’s about making sure that the benefits of helping others outweigh the costs to you. Finding ways to give without depleting your time and energy — as in choice (b) in the sample question — is generous but not selfless. The teachers who took that approach didn’t see their performance suffer the way their peers who made a habit of going way above and beyond did.

I have been criticized by my (male) colleagues for being a “selfless giver” – this is someone who has high concern for others but low concern for themselves. By ignoring their own needs, selfless givers exhaust themselves and, paradoxically, end up helping others less.

Lately I’ve felt super out of touch with my best friends and even family, and I’ve realized it’s because I’ve been prioritizing work more than anything else. I give my job 110% and have little energy afterward to respond to texts right away, or even commit to plans. I find myself fighting off headaches and canceling on others due to fatigue.

We’re going through a busy period at work, so I can’t just stop putting my hand up and volunteering to pitch in. It would feel wrong to me, not to help! I also work on a team with other selfless givers, so I’d feel ungenerous for not raising my hand. Besides, I know I can do a great job and I love my job, so why not offer?

Do any of you suffer from “Generosity Burnout”? I’m genuinely curious to see if this is common, and if so, are more women than men afflicted by it?
I think it’s important to learn how to find balance. I hate feeling like I’m letting anyone down, and this complex has caused me a lot of unnecessary stress – both at work and in my personal life. How do you cope? Do you just say no, and move on? Have you learned to re-prioritize what matters?

Direct-to-consumer

By selling directly to clients via websites and standalone storefronts, this business model has shifted the fashion industry’s focus from the magazine editors, influencers, and fashion bloggers who occupy the front seats at fashion week shows back to the consumers who actually buy the clothes and don’t want to wait months for a style to appear in the stores.

‘Direct-to-consumer means that the customer really is central to everything we do. That’s a shift—we’re not designer-centric, or brand-centric, or distribution-centric. The customer calls a lot of the shots in our business,’ says Maggie Winter, co-founder and CEO of AYR (which, in the subtlest of winks, stands for All Year Round), an impossibly cool brand that designs with the independent women in mind. ‘There is no doubt that the fashion calendar is completely antiquated. Major department stores don’t control the game anymore. There are many more players and many more fields to play on. The fashion cycle doesn’t trickle down from top to bottom, it’s radical, it’s global, it’s instant.’

[…] With the shoppers forming more of a relationship with brands over social media in real time, one can see how direct-to-consumer model can seem like a more appealing option for the digital consumer rather than waiting six months for the fashion calendar to catch up. Fulop refers to the model as ‘the evolution of retail’ and ‘more modern way to do business.’ Shah adds to that sentiment: ‘This model allows brands to be more innovative and to provide unique experiences—whether online or in person—that are personalized and memorable. The consumer has gotten used to being able to ‘see now, buy now,’ and it will be hard to reverse that back to the traditional fashion calendar.’ Besides the organic shift to reflect the modern day, some point to the unique products that have filled marketplace gaps as the driving force behind the success of direct-to-consumer businesses. ‘Advances in technology have made starting a business in this way very easy, and it has upended industries from eyewear to mattresses. Ultimately, though, it is less about the model and more about the problem you are solving for your community, and that will always be the most important thing for any new business,’ say Brown and Zwillinger.”

The previous articles caused me to reflect inwardly (typical millennial, it’s all about me! 😉 ) whereas this piece made me think about how much our world is changing. In particular, how our consumption and shopping habits are evolving.

I think it’s incredible that these start-up companies are disrupting retail so significantly by taking on monopolistic brands in huge markets. As a sort of complement to this piece, I listened to the NPR “How I Built This Podcast” featuring eyewear company Warby Parker. That they can compete with a conglomerate like Luxottica (which pretty much dominates the eyewear industry – watch this) is both awesome and satisfying – and their whole idea started with the customer in mind.

It makes me wonder how retail could have functioned any other way before this! Social media is definitely the great connector, allowing customers to get to know the brand before they buy. It also helps the brand market themselves at a much lower cost.

It makes me think fondly of when I would wait anxiously for my next issue of Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle, and Fashion magazine so I could flip through with my sharpie and circle all the outfits I loved. Then I would hit the shops (Eaton Centre, Queen Street, and Kensington Market for vintage) to try and recreate the looks. We live in a different time now!

Reading this article made me wonder what the future of department stores like The Bay and Nordstrom will look like. And what about boutiques, and shops like my favourite Mendocino, whose businesses are primarily focused on curating and selling a collection of third-party brands? Some of these brands have a better online presence than the boutiques and department stores themselves, so what’s stopping them from cutting costs and going straight to the customer entirely? Retail and fashion are definitely entering a new playing field, and I’m excited to see what comes next.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to know what you’ve been thinking about lately. Have you read any interesting articles lately? Or any good books? Or maybe you can’t get a song or movie scene out of your head? Let me know 🙂

One last piece to share with you – my dad sent me this article, written by one of his favourite arts and culture journalists, Russell Smith: “Selfies Blur the Line Between High Art and Social Posturing

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  • Love your blog today. Love how you are so open with your thoughts and feeling.
    My constant thoughts are how lucky I am to have such wonderful kids.

  • Interesting, I like the first quote about millennials a lot. I do think many people our age, with all of the information available to us on the state of the world, want to make a big impact to make it better. But it’s easy to be idealistic and when we lose patience as Simon suggests we need to be, we become complacent and settle. Living in a world of constant gratification doesn’t help with this either!

    Overall though, I think the millennials who manage to be patient and maintain that desire for positive change will end up having the biggest impact and if there are enough of us then it outweighs the complacency of the rest I hope!