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Jen X Is In Charge

In a nutshell, I am very Gen X. I was a latchkey kid. I loved Lelaina Pierce, the character Winona Ryder plays in Reality Bites. My parents got divorced when I was 16 years old, and I learned to fend for myself early in life. 

I remember one night in high school driving home from a party (way past my curfew) when my car burst a tire on the back roads of rural Connecticut. There were no cell phones and no gas stations to walk to. So I learned to change a tire in the dark with the car manual I found in the trunk.

I also grew up first-generation American with parents who knew little about navigating systems. College tour? What’s a college tour? The first day I saw my college campus was the first day of school. And I drove there by myself in a Ford Fiesta, a 15 hour journey from my home. 

Yes, I put in my 10,000 hours in grit before I hit the workforce. I lived the stereotype of Gen X. And I find that most of my Gen X colleagues – especially those who have risen to the CEO level - have similar grit stories.  

As someone who started a business in their 20s, I was never the right age to run a firm. Now I am. Apparently, the average age of an incoming CEO is right smack in Gen X land (54). I am finally around the age I am supposed to be to run this business.  

The New York Times recently published an article about Gen X being in charge. I’m biased, but I have to think this is going to be a good thing for business, employees and the markets. If stereotypes are true at all, these will be bosses who have miles of grit and have handled personal and professional strife with a Teflon shield. 

They are also not too old school (we like a hybrid model at work). As much as we probably have all sacrificed way too much for our careers, as leaders we are committed, and we stick to the task at hand until it’s finished. Sometimes to a fault. 

And as parents, I would suspect if they are at all like me, they are productively paranoid about their kids not getting enough grit experiences the way we did. Maybe, like me, they are even manufacturing small risks so their children can get some of the experience we did (without the personal strife of being left alone in our homes for such long periods of time). 

As much as we all struggle with the concept of aging, I am excited to see what the Gen X CEO brings to the table. I admit I’m not the most objective observer, but I think it’s going to be a good run. In other words, I am betting on Gen X in business. 

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