Tag Archives: Gen X

Significant People of a Generation: Gen X – Michael Jackson

   “Think about the generations and to say we want to make it a better world for our children and our children’s children. So that they know it’s a better world for them; and think if they can make it a better place.”  Intro lyrics to “Heal the World” from Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous

Michael Jackson is an American music icon, who rose to unbelievable fame during the 1980s. Know as the “King of Pop,” Jackson was an inspiration to people of many races and generations, but particularly to the Gen X generation, who were coming of age during the height of his career. If Generation X was the MTV generation, Michael Jackson is accredited as being the first artist to use the music video genre to break racial barriers and produce a stylized art form.

Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He was the eighth child out of ten children: Maureen “Rebbie,” Sigmund “Jackie,” Toriano “Tito,” Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Brandon, Michael, Steven “Randy,” and Janet. The Jacksons were a working-class family, sharing a three-bedroom house. In 1964, Michael, Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine formed a band called the “Jackson Brothers” later called the “ The Jackson 5.” Their father, Joseph, was known for using abusive and brutal tactics during rehearsals. Later in life, Jackson attributed many of his psychological issues to the abuse he received as a child, but he also argued that his father’s strict discipline contributed greatly to his success.

At the age of eight, Michael Jackson began to share the lead vocals with his brother Jermaine. In 1966, the “Jackson 5” won a major talent contest in the Mid-West and recorded several songs for the local Steeltown label in 1967, followed by a contract with Motown Records in 1968.  The group set a record when their first four singles (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There”) all skyrocketed to number one. As lead vocalist, Michael was praised as being a prodigy and his charismatic and magnetic personality on stage made him a nationwide star.

In 1975, the Jackson 5 left Motown and Michael separated to pursue a solo career. In 1978, he partnered up with songwriter Quincy Jones, a musical collaboration that would last for the rest of Jackson’s life. Together they produced several albums that skyrocketed Michael Jackson’s into the position of pop superstar. Off the Wall, their first album recorded in 1979, included contributions from famous artists such as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney and won Jackson three awards at the AMAs. In 1982, his album Thriller was released, and quickly became the best-selling album of all time, selling 42.3 million copies. The album included such hits as “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” and “P.Y.T” and earned Jackson seven Grammys and eight AMAs. The music video for Thriller was the first and only music video ever to be inducted into the National Film Registry.

In 1983, Michael Jackson performed at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special. The legendary performance debuted Jackson in the iconic sequined black jacket, single rhinestone glove, and introduced his moonwalk dance move to the world.  The impact of the performance has been compared to the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  Michael Jackson was famous not only for his catchy songs and singing voice, but also for being one of the most talented dancers, choreographers, and overall performers of all time. Many considered Michael Jackson’s music videos and stage productions to be works of art.

As well as becoming a superstar during the 1980s, Michael Jackson devoted much of his influence to philanthropic causes. He donated $1.5 million to the creation of the “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in Culver City, California, after a pyrotechnics accident left him with second-degree burns on his scalp. In 1985, Jackson and Lionel Richie released “We Are the World,” a charity single created to raise awareness and money for people suffering from poverty in the U.S. and Africa.  Other songs, such as “Man in the Mirror” 1988, “Heal the World” 1991, and “Black or White” 1991 are examples of Michael Jackson’s inspirational musical contributions towards social equality and change.  In 1992, Michael Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation, which donated millions of dollars to help children in poverty around the world. He was also one of the first major celebrities and public figure to speak about AIDs/HIV and to publicly promote charities and research in a time when the stigma surrounding the topic was very controversial.

Along with his great musical and philanthropic successes, Michael Jackson suffered many personal controversies towards the end of his career. Rumors and speculations about his bizarre private life, plastic surgery, and skin color, painted Jackson as mentally unstable. Allegations of pedophilia arose during the 90s, and reemerged in the 2003 People vs. Jackson trial, which found Jackson unanimously not-guilty on all counts. However, despite his health issues and unfavorable public image, Jackson planned on completing his final world tour This is It in 2009. The concert had record-breaking ticket sales, selling over one million tickets in less than two hours.  However, on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died suddenly of cardiac arrest in his bed in a rented mansion in L.A.

When news of Michael Jackson’s death surfaced, the immediate response of fans and media worldwide was monumental. The overload of simultaneous website searches resulted in crashes for major media sources such as twitter, Wikipedia, TMZ, and the LA Times. News coverage lasted for weeks, tribute concerts popped up all over the world, and over 31 million people tuned in to watch Jackson’s memorial service. Posthumously in 2009, Jackson became the best-selling album artist and was the first artist to sell over 1 million song downloads in a week.

Over his career, he was awarded the World Music Award’s Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards), and has earned 31 Guinness World Records. Many fans and critics believe that Jackson was a genius and one of the most influential artists of all time. For the Gen X generation that witnessed his amazing accomplishments and listened to his messages of hope, he was a beloved and mysterious icon, linked intrinsically with their coming-of-age.

Cultural Quick Tip #6: Multi-Generational Awareness

Today is the sixth installment of a new series for the Global Voice Blog. At the end of each week I will be posting a Cultural Quick Tip to promote broader thinking on the company and individual levels. These tips, along with their accompanying action steps, are meant to encourage everyone to work more effectively in a diverse workplace.

Cultural Quick Tip #6: 

Multi-Generational Awareness

For the first time, there are four generations present in the workplace. Each generation brings its values, shared experiences, and perceptions of the world, which frame interactions with coworkers. Acknowledging the existence of generational differences is the first step in creating high-functioning, multi-generational teams.

The next steps are to raise awareness about the strengths each generation brings to the workplace and to draw upon those strengths to create more dynamic teams.

Discussing generational differences provides opportunities for everyone to examine the values and norms maintained by each generation and how these values might cause conflict on a multi-generational team.

Action Step:

Gather information on the values, experiences, and perceptions of each generation. Share knowledge about the generational styles with employees to facilitate better understanding among the different generations.

If you are interested in more quick tips, please visit our website for more information on the book 101 Cultural Quick Tips for the Workplace at: http://www.culturecoach.biz/CCI%20Store/ccistore.html

The American Dream: A Generational Perspective

On Tuesday night during President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address the ‘American Dream’ was once again put front and center on the world’s stage.  Though Obama referenced it as “the basic American promise,” his true meaning was clear by this description of his grandparent’s post WWII belief that, “if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”  Obama brought up the subject of the American Dream to reflect on the current state that it is in, and according to the President, it is in peril due to current economic trends and the state of the US economy.

While the faltering economic condition of the United States has been at the center of many hearts and minds for the past four or so years, my own thoughts became preoccupied with Obama’s description of the America Dream. The President’s description made me stop and consider how the concept of the American Dream must have evolved over the years.  The American Dream that Obama described was certainly compelling to the Baby Boomer Generation and even to many from Gen X, but I have to wonder if this description is as compelling to Gen Y and younger generations?

In doing research on the current state of the American Dream I came across the man who originally coined the term in 1931, John Truslow Adams. In his book The Epic of America, Mr. Adams described his 1931 American Dream to be:

“…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” 

While the idea of the American Dream surely existed long before Mr. Adams penned the above phrase, I think that his statement has a compelling modernity about it.  For me, a member of Generation Y, Mr. Adam’s version of the American Dream is a much more compelling vision than the “American Promise” described last Tuesday night.

Besides my own opinion, there are other reasons that I have my doubts regarding the future applicability of Obama’s version of the American Dream. Those other reasons come out of the work that our company, Culture Coach International, does around the four different generations in America today. Specifically, we work with companies on the topic of generations in the workplace.  One of the reasons that so many companies come to us with requests for consulting and training around the issue of generations is because of the fact that each generation has such distinct “generational personalities” that workers from different generations often times come into conflict with one another and this affects productivity, teamwork and employee engagement.  These conflicts arise from the different values, communication styles and work styles that workers from different generations possess.

Given this logic and my understanding of the basic profiles of the different generations, it stands to reason that the post WWII American Dream as described by Obama in his State of the Union Address, might not be as compelling to the Millennial and post Millennial generations as it is to Gen X and the Baby Boomers.

After all, Gen Y is challenging many ideas in the American workplace that are considered to be sacrosanct by the Baby Boomers, such as long meetings and hierarchy.  Not to mention the dramatic social changes ushered in by Gen Y such as Facebook and smart phones.  Our groups of friends now span the globe and we rarely speak to anyone on the phone – two social changes that have dramatically affected the way Americans live their lives. So would it be any more surprising if Gen Y started to challenge what are considered to be the essential elements of the American Dream?

Interestingly enough a 2011 survey by Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream found that the top five most important elements of the American Dream are as follows: “a good life for my family”, “financial security”, “freedom”, “opportunity”, and “the pursuit of happiness”.  On the surface these five elements do not seem to challenge the version of the American Dream as Obama depicted it in his State of the Union address.  Though I could not locate a breakdown of this survey data by generation or age groups, it would be interesting to see if there are differences in the rankings according to age group.  Would Gen Y and Baby Boomers have a significantly different order for their top five most important elements of the American Dream?

While we can survey and analyze the current state of the American Dream as well as look back and chart what has become of it over the years, we can only wait and see how current and future generations will come to define it.  Will it continue to look like the American Promise that Obama described last Tuesday?  Or will Gen Y and the Post Millennial Generation take the American Dream in a different direction?  Only time will tell but given the way that Gen Y is already dramatically reshaping the reality of American life I would guess that in another five years we will hear a markedly different version of the American Dream being described during the 2017 State of the Union.

2012 Petronas Malaysia Chinese New Year Advertisements Sheds Light on Generation Gap

Every Chinese New Year, Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad), the Malaysian state owned petroleum and gas company, puts out an advertisement (TVC) for the celebration of Chinese New Year given the diversity found inside the nation. It is always a touching message about culture and family that is sure to provoke self-reflection of what one really values in life.

I was most moved, however, by the 2011 Petronas Chinese New Year ad as it struck me as not only a message about the importance of culture and family in Asia, but also shed light on how the prosperity of the Asian nations has led to a noticeable gap in the way the younger generations rank their priorities in life.

In the advertisement, all of the young adults are so busy working that to take time out of their day to spend more time with a loved one seems like a burden. While the same Generational labels (Generation X and Generation Y) have been shown to be pan-global, the corresponding characteristics are slightly different in Asia as compared to the United States. It is noticeable through the advertisement how the younger generations in Asia value modern comforts and money more than their elders, who value a slower lifestyle and quality face to face time with their children. In the United States we are witnessing the younger generations, particularly Gen Y, moving away from monetary compensation as their first priority in favor of a healthier work-life balance.

As the year of the dragon is ushered in promising to bring an entire year of good luck and fortune, these ads remind us that all of this would mean nothing with family.

Happy Chinese New Year, 恭喜發財!

If you are interested, here is a link to the 2012 videos, which are part of a 6 video series on Petronas’ Official YouTube account.