According to demographers, I am a Gen Xer, meaning I came of age in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. I watched Brat Pack movies, I played video games in arcades, and I remember having to get into my car and drive to Blockbuster to rent a movie. If you are a Millennial, there are words in that previous sentence that are as foreign to you as terms like “ghosting” and “throwing shade” are to me. I get that every generation is different, has their own uniqueness, and firmly believes the prior generation to be old and out of touch. The last thing you want is to hear some advice from an old dude, and I understand. I throw no shade at you for that attitude.
However, I’m worried about you. Seriously worried. And I really wish you’d keep reading.
The generations prior to mine thought we were going to be screwed up by MTV. Perhaps it did some degree of damage, but, ultimately, watching those strange cartoon delivery men moving around while Dire Straits sang, “Money for Nothing” failed to destroy an entire generation. When the music videos ventured too far into the immoral quagmire, parents had the ability to either say, “That’s it, turn off the television,” or, worse, “Can I sit here and watch this George Michael video with you?” Awkward. Really awkward.
My generation faced sexual temptations, struggled with alcohol and drugs, and had many of the same issues you are facing today. However, your struggles are on steroids, and it’s all because of technology. My fear is that the millennial generation is slowly (or sometimes quickly) being destroyed because of three things.
My promise to you is this: If you will do three things, you will stand head and shoulders above your peers. Want to one day be the CEO of a major company? Want to have a great professional career? Want to have a marriage that thrives? Want to be happy and well adjusted and enjoy your life? Then I highly encourage you to do the following three things:
1) Limit Your Time on Technology. The average American is spending far too many hours each day looking at screens. This is certainly not restricted to your generation, but has become as natural to you and your peers as breathing. Think about how much of your day is spent looking at a screen. You’re constantly checking your Instagram feed. Or you’re texting. Or you’re playing online video games for hours. If you ever find yourself bored for even a moment, you reflexively grab your phone and start scrolling. Just mindless moving your thumb and looking at whatever.
You’re killing your creativity, your concentration, and your ability to socialize with a real, live person. You can’t read a book because your attention span won’t go beyond a picture with a phrase and a hashtag. You can’t carry on a normal conversation with someone because you are distracted by the phantom vibrations in your front pocket. You’ve lost any ability you once had to be innovative, inventive, or creative.
Here’s my promise: if you will limit your screen time to an hour or less a day, you will become wildly successful in life. You’ll get the job because you actually know how to engage someone in an interview. You’ll be leading the company because you are the creative one. You’ll stand out among your peers. You’ll be the one noticed by your supervisors and tapped for the big job promotions.
2) Stay Away From Porn. Sure, pornography was around when I was in my teens and 20’s, but it generally took some degree of effort to procure a magazine or video. It was available, but not widely accessible. Pornography had to be ordered through cable, or you had to ask a person working behind the register at a convenient store for a magazine, which would be followed with the question, “Now how old are you, exactly?”
Obviously, all of this has changed. The internet has given us pornography literally at our fingertips. What once took a degree of effort to acquire is now obtained without the embarrassment of talking to a cashier or a person on the other end of the phone asking for a credit card number. So, when the hormones are rushing through your bloodstream, you’re able to quickly satisfy your urges with a cheap, counterfeit imitation of the real thing.
And it’s killing you… in so many ways.
Here is one: this habit will destroy your future marriage. You will, most likely, meet “the one” at some point in the future and decide to get married. Your physical relationship with this person will not measure up to the images and videos you’ve watched online. It just won’t be as erotic and exciting as you’ve come to expect. What you’ve viewed is fake, polished, and exaggerated. As a result, you’ll have issues, and your marriage will suffer. As you deal with that at home, your career willget bogged down as well. Anyone whose ever had serious marriage problems will tell you how it bleeds over into every other area of life.
So, do this: stay away from porn like it’s the Black Plague. Not that avoiding pornography guarantees you a healthy marriage, but it sure will help. Your marriage will be better, your family life better, and your career will be better as well. And while your peers are crashing and burning around you, you’ll stand out as emotionally and relationally healthy.
3) Just Say No To Drugs. I know, that’s a phrase from my generation. Thanks #NancyReagan. Drugs were a big deal back then, too. It’s really not a new issue for your generation; it’s just a continuation of the problem we’ve been facing for the last half century or more. Perhaps it has grown some with the flood of opioids now in the mix, or maybe we as a society have just traded the illegal drugs for the cheaper prescription drugs. I’m not sure.
What I do know is this: if you want to wreck your life, then go down the path of drug use. I’m seeing more and more in your generation fall victim to this addiction. I’m hearing from some that it’s a coping mechanism. You’re stressed out and anxious, and this is a way to relieve at least a little of the pressure. Even if it brings more problems later, you need just a few hours of the pressure valve opening and letting some steam escape the boiling insides of your life. I get that, but you are going to regret that choice later. Here’s my advice to you: if you’re feeling stressed out, go run a mile. If you’re still stressed, go another mile. Or three or five or ten. You’re young and your knees and back can handle it. Run like you’re Forrest Gump. I know, another reference from my generation. Great movie if you haven’t seen it. Or take up painting. Or play Pickleball. Whatever you choose, avoid going down the drug route. I’ve seen too many teenagers and 20-somethings having their lives and future careers derailed by addiction.
Again, I know you think I’m way too old to be giving you any advice. I don’t get your generation and your stress and all that you are facing. I know. But I’ve sat with a lot of young men and women in your generation who have wept bitterly to me about the choices they’ve made. And I’ve spoken with others who are facing the consequences of their bad decisions. And I’m seeing an entire generation that, generally speaking, is not living up to its potential.
So, here’s my encouragement: Be different. Be the outlier. Don’t make the same decisions of your peers. And when you’re in your 40’s (like, really old), you’ll be the successful, healthy, happy one from among your friends.
And you’ll be thankful for the advice you got from the old guy.
Kevin Mills is the Lead Pastor at Northway Church in Macon, Georgia.