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Alicia Blain


Last week, I had the rare treat of being around NINE 20-somethings for 7 whole days. As many of you know by now, I love watching Gen Yers.In fact, I learned to figure them out by creating a living, breathing lab years ago as I started hiring them. They frustrated me so much that I knew that I either had to figure them out or put in for early retirement. I chose the first option. Putting Gen Yers under the microscrope changed so many things in my life but most especially it changed the way I saw them and the way I led them.

Last week, I had a chance to observe nine of them in a personal setting instead of a professional one. Although I’ve been able to do this in the past, I didn’t have the opportunity to do it for long periods of time like I did last week. Seven glorious days!

So let me give you the quick backstory. My fiance’s mother, June, turned 90 in June. Isn’t it cute that June’s name is her birth month? Anyway, I digress. June’s daughter decided to host a family reunion in August so the entire family could make it. It’s a pretty big family so you can imagine how difficult it was to get busy schedules to align.

What was so amazing is that June’s daughter and her husband PAID for the entire reunion!! And I mean everything from renting the house next door, to stocking refrigerators full of food, to paying for dinners, a suite at a Padres game, tickets to the local outdoor symphony featuring the Beatles and Rolling Stones, to a beautiful sunset birthday dinner at a golf course. It was a magical week full of wonderful memories and all made possible by the generosity of June’s daughter & husband. I know the karma gods will reward them generously for their beautiful and selfless gesture and we are all indebted to them for everything they did.

So, the nine 20-somethings were mostly June’s grandchildren and a couple of their friends. I got to talk to them, observe them, understand what was important to them and just immerse myself in their world. In doing so, I realized that today’s 20-somethings are just like we were at their age – but with a 21st Century twist. I also realized just how much I had forgotten what it was like to be 20-something. Here are the 3 things that stood out:

1. They love having fun. Whether it was playing bananagrams in the dining room table or making signs to take to the Padres game or rocking out to the Beatles & the Rolling Stones at the Pops concert, 20-somethings live their life to the fullest. Seeing their zest for life and the dreams they had for the future, reminded me that I was exactly like them at their age – I had just forgotten.

Here’s the  twist:  At the same time they were playing bananagrams, some of them were playing scrabble on their smartphones with either someone else at the reunion or a friend online.  Before going to the Rolling Stones concert, they went to iTunes to listen to some Stones hits so they would recognize them at the concert.  Remember, the Beatles & Stones aren’t bands they listen to but yet they were totally cool about getting to know them & going to a concert that showcased their songs.  At 20-something, I know I wouldn’t even dream of going with my parents to a supper club to hear Frank Sinatra.  How about you?

2.  They love to Party.   While the boring Boomers would scramble to bed exhausted at 9:00 or 10:00, their evening was just beginning.  They would either congregate in one of the houses or they’d go to a local bar.  Sometimes, I’d hear them getting back at 3 0r 4 in the morning.  It reminded me of how I’d do the same thing in my twenties. But again, going to bed at 10PM makes you forget the days when 10PM meant you were getting ready to go out and party the night away.

Here’s the twist: Unlike their parent’s generation, I found that 20-somethings today are more aware of the hazards of drinking and driving. Instead of putting their lives and those of others at risk, these 20-somethings chose to let someone else do the driving instead. I find that 20-somethings today take cabs after a night of partying rather than get behind a wheel.  For a group that’s considered to be immature and irresponsible, that’s a pretty responsible thing to do and it’s smart too. How many times did you call a cab after a night of partying?

 Through all of their partying, these 20-somethings are connected at all times to their smartphones/cellphones.  They are either letting their friends know where they are, or finding a place to go eat afterwards or taking a picture to put on their facebook page, the technology is always with them and utilized all the time. Boomers will never know what that feels like.  We had to find our way to a payphone and prayed that it worked if we wanted to make a call.

3.  They love their families.  One of my fondest memories of this reunion will be how well all the generations – Veterans, Boomers, Xers, Gen Yers and iGen (yes, there were even children under the age of 11) got along.  There was love and respect even when understanding a certain way of thinking was difficult.  After all, what someone in their 90s thinks is important is very different than what a 20-something thinks it is. I loved how everyone laughed and interacted with one another and the genuine interest the 20-somethings had in the stories told by the older generations.  I thought back to the family reunions I attended in my twenties and how despite our differences, I respected and loved my family.  I still remember the wonderful family stories that were told that I still remember today.   I had just forgotten where I first heard them.

Here’s the twist:  20-somethings today really like to hang out with their parents.  They didn’t congregate in a group removed from the older folks, they got right into the conversation and the action.  In  my twenties, I distinctly remember how the younger group would separate themselves from the older folks and hang out separately.  Not so today.  Here’s an even bigger shocker – these 20-somethings didn’t even mind if their parents hung out with them at the bar or late into the night.  That NEVER happened when I was in my twenties.  Parents were simply not allowed into our space.  Not so with this crop of 20-somethings.  They include everyone… at least to a certain point.

It seems like every day I read or hear someone highlighting how different or strange these 20-somethings are.  After spending seven fun-filled days with nine of them, I can tell you they are more like us than we give them credit for.  It’s just very hard to think back to the days we were their age.  Also, they have their own unique twist that makes them unfamiliar – but not different.  From the generation that lived the  sex, drugs & rock n’ roll mantra, imagine how frightening we must have been for our very proper and “square” parents?

I think that if we start from a place of acceptance and commonality, the differences among us aren’t so stark. They add flavor to the rich fabric of our personal and professional lives.  And we are all the more blessed because of it.

To all the 20-somethings out there – You ROCK!!

Can you believe that in 154 years, Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans have only been canceled 13 times! According to the Numerolgy columnof the March edition of Fast Company titled “Mardi Gras Mambo” & written by Margaret Rhodes, some of the reasons for canceling have been Yellow Fever & riots during the Reconstruction.  Not even Hurricane Katrina stopped the festivities.  I had no idea Mardi Gras had been celebrated so far back in the day.

The article has some great facts & figures.  It’s a fun read. Check it out.  Mardi Gras is next Tuesday.  How are you celebrating Fat Tuesday!

Happy Friday & Happy Mardi Gras everybody!

I was talking to some Gen Yers this week & we were talking about TV.  Just like every generation before me, I get amazed at how much the younger generation takes for granted. In the case of Gen  Yers, their world has been so technologically rich from such an early age that they can’t even relate to the limited technology choices many of us had growing up.  Not that we saw it as a limitation.  Quite the opposite.  I was sharing how excited I was when as a young teenager, my parents bought me my very own small COLOR TV.  This meant that I no longer had to watch TV in the gigantic TV fixture in the living room and could watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I had to explain to them that “whatever & whenever” were extremely limited back then and didn’t mean thousands of cable channels, TIVO, Blockbuster options we have today. I had to explain that we only had 3 or 4 Network stations to choose from and that they didn’t run 24/7.  The idea of having a  “Late Show” & “Late, Late Show” & then nothing more was difficult to grasp for a group that knows no boundaries or limitations in TV selections.

The Gen Yers were clearly appalled.  One of them looked at me and said “How did you survive all those years without your own TV? Another one asked “You mean TV had a curfew back in the day”  A curfew!  I had to laugh because for Gen Yers that would be tough to get used to but for us, it was wonderful to be able to stay up late & catch the “Late, Late Show” in the summer.  One of them had a laptop handy so I thought it was a good time to show them what life was like back in the day.  I told him to enter the “Past is a Blast“  and click on the 1950′sFun Facts tab.  When the page came up, they all circled around it and starting commenting & giggling at the highlights of the time. 

Such things as CBS started broadcasting in color, there were thousands of drive-in movie theaters, Walt Disney’s Cinderella debuted in movie theaters and my personal favorite, an attachment for 45 RPM records became available.  I still have  a fairly large collection of 45s that I keep in a very cool 45 record case in my garage. And yes, believe it or not, I still own a stereo that can play 45s & “LPs”. 

The Gen Yers couldn’t believe I had 45s. “What’s an LP” ? one of them asked me. I had to chuckle.   Since none of them had seen a 45 record, I promised to take a picture of one of my 45s & text it to them.  They were totally excited and I know the next step will be a visit to my home so I can actually play the 45 records on my stereo. Oh, show & tell!  It’s wonderful thing.

So what are your memories growing up in the 50′s?  It’s amazing how much you forget until you go back in time by either talking about your childhood or visiting sites like the Past is a Blast. We have great stories to share & I think it’s valuable to share them with Gen Yers.  I think it puts things in perspective for them & they appreciate how far things have come and how lucky they are to live with so many conveniences.

Happy Friday, everybody!!

By now people know that I use this post to take a look back in time & appreciate where we’ve come from & how far we’ve come.  Someone sent me this link to a site that honors the past.  In fact, the site thinks the past is a blast.  So for all Veterans, Baby Boomers & even early Gen Xers, there is a page on the site that relives our growing up years.  I enjoyed reading it and know you will too.  It’s called “We are Awesome” .  How apropos, right?

It’s a great walk down memory lane, especially our childhood years.  Share it with your Millennial kids & grandkids to really shock them.  They’ll think you really did live in the stone age.

Enjoy & happy Friday, everybody!

Sometimes you take a look at something and you can’t help but say “You’ve come a long way, baby!” That’s what I said recently when I saw the slideshow that Benj Edwards put together on CIO Magazine titled “A brief history of computer displays“.  They go way back in time to the 1940′s to show the various computer interfaces that have been used over the years.  Seeing some of the displays has brought back many memories of working back in the day.

Three of the displays, in particular, caught my eye.  The first one were the early mainframe computers.  In the 3rd or 4th slide , they show a mainframe computer & a keypunch next to it.  Believe it or not, we used to have a keypunch machine in our apartment in Astoria, NY in the early 1960′s.  Why you might ask?  Well, my dad was a computer programmar.  He was one of those people who saw early on how computers could change the world & he wanted to be a part of it.  He was working as a computer programmer at the time for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital.  Back in the day, it was just called Memorial Hospital. He was given a fairly high profile project which was to move all the billing for Memorial Hospital onto the new IBM mainframes at the time.  Millions of dollars on the line – no pressure! 

My dad worked day & night on this project and luckily for him, he had a perfect assistant to help him get the project out.  The assistant was my mom.  As it turns out, my  mom was a keypunch operator & was able to key in all the code my dad was creating for the project.  My dad had a keypunch machine brought in from work to our apartment.  I remember stacks of keypunch cards that my mom fed into the key punch machine that would make these markings as she typed on a keyboard.  I remember a drum where she would wrap a special card with special instructions for a particular run.  I remember  the loud sound that keypunch machine made when my mom entered the information and the cards started to get punched.  I also remember how fast my mom was entering the information that looked like gibberish.  Well, after a lot of hard work & testing, my dad’s project was a huge success.  So huge, that the head of Memorial Hospital personally congratulated him on the great work.  As a matter of personal pride, my dad’s billing system was so effective & so good that Memorial Hospital kept the system for many, many years. Such a smarty, my dad was!

The second display that caught my eye was the dumb terminal.  Believe it or not, that is what I worked on when I first started working at Citicorp after college.  The mainframe guys would have us enter & test stuff on those clunky terminals.  All this information would get entered & then we would have to go to the computer room, ask a computer operator that worked on the other side of a glass window to get us a computer printout of what we had just entered.  I remember the printouts were in that lined computer paper & even back then I remember thinking how  much paper we were wasting. Those dumb terminals were the only semblance of technology allowed for us, the mere “users”.  Otherwise, we had pen & paper.  No PCs until the mid 1980′s f0r us.

The 3rd display that caught my eye was the teletype.  Another unbelievable tid bit.  Again going back to my early corporate days in Citicorp,  every month the monthly financials were sent to the corporate office by our accounting people via a telex machine.  Yes, you read that right – a telex machine.  Someone would sit there for hours, typing away on this telex that would spew little holes on a long, narrow piece of paper.  When that narrow piece of paper was passed through a special machine, you would see words begin to get typed on triple part paper.  You would actually see your month end financials printed on the paper.  One of the copies would be sent to corporate as a backup to what they already send via telex.  Because you see, those holes being created by the machine – the telex itself –  was updating the mainframe somewhere in one of Citicorp’s data centers.  The accounting folks would keep the second part of the triple part paper & I forget who got the third.  This was in the early 80′s. 

When you look through this slideshow, try to think back & picture where you worked & what was going on in your life when those displays were in their heyday.  As I did that, I have to say it brought back some great memories, especially the one about my dad.   Who knows what great memories it will bring back for  you.

Why don’t you share the slides with your Millennial kids & tell them stories of you back in the day.  They will probably be shocked to see what technology looked like but I’m sure they will appreciate what they have today.  I know I do.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Welcome to Black Friday and the start of the hectic and crazy holiday season!  I can’t believe the end of the year is almost here.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving in the company of their friends & family.  As you can tell by some of my posts this week, I have been busy reading Fast Company which is one of my favorite magazines.  I always like their Numerology section which appears on the last page of the magazine because it gives some cool statistics on a particular topic.

This month’s pick was the Peace Corps. and for me that took me back in time.  According to the article, the Peace Corps is celebrating it’s 50th birthday this month.  For every Baby Boomer, the Peace Corps has some significance and relevance.  We have either known someone who has served in the Peace Corps. or have done so ourselves.  I remember it having a presence in my college and in fact, according to the article, 60 US universities include a tour with the Peace Corps as part of their master’s degree curriculum.

The article has some fascinating facts about the Peace Corps. but the most impressive statistic is that it still exists and is going strong.  The majority of volunteers today are Millennials (makes sense, right?)  and given their strong attraction & involvement in worthwhile causes, I am confident the Peace Corps will be around for many more years. 

During a week that has been full of thankfulness & appreciation for what I have, it was nice to see this article and reminisce about such a wonderful organization that has been a part of the Baby Boomer experience and has done so much good around the world.  Indeed there is a lot to be thankful for and the Peace  Corps. is one of those things.

Happy Black Friday, everybody!!