I recently read an incredible book called A Millennial World: Understanding the Drive of a Rising Generation, which explores the journey of Andrew Rosenstein, a 17 year old from my hometown of Plymouth Meeting, PA. Andrew has struggled with dyslexia since elementary school, and attends a school specialized in teaching children with learning disabilities called AIM Academy. In the book, he shares how this struggle inspired him to start a business, therefore catalyzing his thriving career in entrepreneurship. Now, he does everything from speaking at massive conventions to building strong relationships with eminent business executives. Most importantly, Andrew confidently attributes the success he has achieved today to his identity as a millennial.
This is not a traditional blog post, where I try to answer a common question through science. This post is a creative attempt to aid a better understanding of the scientific process and the identity of a scientist by comparing it with something we can all relate to: being a millennial. Everyone enrolled in SC 200 is a millennial, as it is the generation born between the late 1980s and the early 2000s. However, there is far more to being a millennial than simply our birthdays. We are millennials due to the the unique traits that we embody as a product of our upbringing. For example, we have grown up with constant exposure to technology. Therefore, we are prone to documenting our daily lives on social media. In addition, we are able to be more productive and resourceful when given a task in our education or in the workplace. Overall, millennials have a distinctive way of thinking and behaving that defines our generation, which Rosenstein refers to as our “millennial mindset.” After reading Andrew Rosenstein’s book simultaneously with listening to Andrew Read’s lecture in SC 200, I have come to the conclusion that the millennial mindset and the scientific method is more similar than I previously thought.
Both scientists and millennials follow an innovative process of thinking. They are not the “cubical” type of workers, who wait for a problem to be presented to them by a higher authority and then work towards a traditional solution. As Andrew mapped out in class, scientists follow the procedure of questioning the world around them, identifying a problem or curiosity, and then creatively generating possibilities to form an explanation. They think outside of the box, broadening their horizons to a plethora of unique approaches and revolutionary ideas. Next, they take action! Science requires testing and trying each possibility in order to identify a unique solution, which isn’t always an easy or straightforward process. For instance, this National Geographic article describes how an experiment testing the solidity of tar started in 1944 was recently finished in 2013. In A Millennial World, Rosenstein shares his concept of refusing “no” as an answer, a similar process to scientific thinking and experimentation. He gives an example of how he was trying to contact Simon Sinek, an eminent marketing expert. He emailed Simon countless times, yet received no response. One day, he picked up a call from a random number that said, “Hi Andrew, this is Simon Sinek.” When he didn’t get immediate results, he did not give up. Like a scientist, Andrew was determined in his pursuit despite how long it took or how many failures it involved. Both scientists and millennials are eager for meaningful results, and they are extremely driven to achieve their goals.
Along with similar mindsets and motivations, the scientific process and the millennial mindset are both geared towards searching for the most accurate, most efficient, and overall best way to explain or do something. Albert Einstein once said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” In other words, science is an ongoing process of advancement, disproving the old and developing the new. Furthermore, Andrew lectured about how scientists invest their time and emotions into this process in hopes that our greater understanding will advance as well. Millennials act in the same manner, always searching for cutting-edge ways to reach their goals more efficiently. For instance, Rosenstein touches on how the desire for the overall best is the reason for Snapchat. Some non-millennials are baffled by the idea of Snapchat. I’ve heard from my dad too many times, “What’s the point of sending faces back and forth?” Andrew believes that Snapchat is the most authentic form of communication, which is why millennials utilize it so often. In addition to sending a textual message, you can also pair it with a picture that expresses how you feel about what you’re saying. Better yet, you can even send a video to encapsulate everything into one message. Snapchat, along with every millennial targeted good or service, is constantly evolving in order to satisfy the generation’s desire for the most ideal way of expression. This is analogous to the evolution of science and scientific theory.
In addition, millennial and scientific nature thrive on collaboration. As Andrew Read explained, a scientific theory will only stand if it can hold it’s ground against an overwhelming amount of peer criticism. According to this research article, division of labor is an extremely important scientific strategy because each scientist can contribute a unique perspective and skillset to the group. Therefore, scientists usually work in teams. Likewise, so do millennials! Andrew Rosenstein makes a bold statement in his book pertaining to this idea, as it goes against the traditional idea that we must improve our weaknesses to be the best version of ourselves. Instead, he claims that people with the millennial mindset are more successful when they hyperfocus on their strengths and surround themselves with a circle of people to make up for their weaknesses. In essence, improving their weaknesses through sole collaboration.
Finally, millennials and scientists usually aren’t as widely appreciated as one would think. They constantly have to withstand harsh criticism, and prove their potential in order to gain the praise they deserve. On the first day of SC 200, Andrew asked if anyone could name a living scientist… the room went quiet. Scientists generally go unnoticed unless they propose or discover something that earns positive feedback from others. Furthermore, even the most revolutionary discoveries, breakthroughs, or theories face an extreme amount of condemnation. Thus, scientists are motivated by this peer criticism to acquire merit and recognition. The same goes for millennials, as they often are extremely misunderstood and underappreciated. For instance, Rosenstein relates this concept to the stereotype that millennials are addicted to technology. Non-millennials might argue that we are dangerously submerged in technology to the point where we are losing our sense of real communication. They would call social media “useless” and call us “lazy” or “self absorbed” for using it. In opposition, Andrew writes in A Millennial World that millennials have mastered the appropriate and resourceful utilization of technology. He claims that millennials actually turn to social media for “productive entertainment” and news. For example, this American Press Institute article states that 88% of millennials use Facebook as a medium for staying informed with the news. Therefore, they must prove this by showing non-millennials how their absorption in technology is a positive, keeping them more informed and allowing them to complete tasks more efficiently. Millennials, as well as scientists, work hard to defy the criticism they face in order to express their true power and influence.
Being aware of the strong correlation between the qualities that millennials and scientists embody should allow each and every SC 200 student to better understand what it means to be a scientist and the power of science as a whole. If you’re interested, you can learn more about A Millennial World: Understanding the Drive of a Rising Generation and purchase it on Amazon! It is an amazing read, and truly inspired me to be more in touch with my own millennial mindset.