The Rise of Generation Z or iGen

iGEN.pngWhere has time gone? Generation Z is now the largest population group in the United States and has the greatest amount of disposable income. They are quickly becoming the new movers and shakers, while many are still focused on figuring out the Millennials.

This new generation is made up of an interesting mix of ideals since some of their parents are Gen Xers and others are Millennials. The first portion of the group (mid 90’s) grew up during the Great Recession with 9/11 driven security issues being a major factor in society. They are also the first group of individuals to be raised in a ubiquitous Internet society with 40% admitting to their smartphone addiction.

This unique positioning of the Internet in their lives has given rise to some calling the generation: iGen. They are also known as Post-Millennial, Homeland Generation, Plurals, The Founders, etc. The names come from published white papers in the advertising and marketing industry. It typically takes several years of observation for the group name to solidify, and since Gen Z started around 1996 and is still being birthed today, the final labels won’t lock in for some time.

Twitter and Instagram are their go to apps with Snapchat and Periscope following close behind. Gen Z does use Facebook, but only because they feel a commitment to community and that’s the place where most people hang out. With that said, it’s important to note that Gen Z enjoys following everyone’s shares, but rarely shares their own information. They prefer to keep things private.

In the U.S., 55% of Gen Z are non-Hispanic Caucasians, 24% are Hispanic, 14% African American, 4% are Asian, and 4% Multiracial or Other. As a group they are very diverse in their acceptance and prefer authenticity to polished imagery. They are opposed to “photoshopped” pictures, preferring real life imperfections.

The most important factor concerning Gen Z is their need for stability, something the millennial generation upset with its ever-changing community views on what’s right and wrong. In an attempt to stabilize their lives, Gen Z has become highly educated through Internet based self-education.

Gen Z is fiscally moderate to conservative. They fear huge college loans and many are jumping directly into the workforce to avoid debt. They seek stable jobs filled with purpose, where they can make a difference in society. They believe in continuing education, but not through the school system.

The workplace is becoming more complex because the things and processes that company’s finally figured out would work for Millennials does not work for Gen Z. Due to Gen X and Millennials parenting styles, leaving much of life for Gen Z to figure out on their own, Gen Z are quickly becoming more entrepreneurial. This trend leads to more start up boutiques that will function globally in order to survive. Gen Z’s Internet savvy will empower small global companies to pop up anywhere.

Bonds will develop between the boutique businesses to act like a large corporation on important projects. Gen Z’s drive for purpose and making a difference will give churches the opportunity to define purpose and help Gen Z’s to apply it in life. But if churches don’t fulfill the need, politicians will step up and gain political leverage by defining purpose.

The oldest of Gen Z turned 21 this year and is ready to make a difference in his or her workplace. They are also poised to impact our communities with a new perspective and purpose. The one thing we can count on is that the formal direction the generation will take will not be in keeping with the Millennials’ dreams or perspective.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Promoting without Purpose

CandyIt was a beautiful and warm day, perfect for long walks and meeting new people. I treaded carefully past the “No Solicitor” signs and came upon a business that flashed me back to my teen years. It was a detailing shop, which was all the rage back in my theater days, but are almost impossible to find today—well, at least quality shops.

The door was locked, so I moved to the next storefront to peddle my marketing pieces. But before I could open the door a little boy ran up to me and said, “We’re here. This is my shop.”

I must have had a perplexed look on my face because the six year old pointed to the door of the detailing shop.

“Your shop?” I questioned.

“It’s inside.”

The boy’s mother came up from behind him holding up a key. She wiped her hair away from her face to bring some semblance of order to her frazzled look. She worked hard to keep her family moving in the right direction.

“I’m sorry we’re late, we had to take care of some family matters,” she said.

The husband walked up with a baby bucket seat in one hand and reached his empty hand of welcome toward me.

“Please come in,” he said. “My son’s talking about his mini-business, just inside.”

“Okay,” I said as I followed everyone inside.

The front office looked more like a playroom than a waiting room for customers. The little boy grabbed nachos from his mother’s hand and sat down in front of the TV next to the curtain drawn display windows.

“You’ll have to excuse the mess,” the mom said. “This is a mom and pop shop and we don’t have anywhere else to take our kids.”

“No problem,” I said with a smile. “There’s nothing wrong with having a family business.”

The dad quickly interjected, ”It’s more like a nursery in here, but it gives our son more family time and we can keep an eye on the little one.”

“I used to have my son creating animations for my business back when he was in grade school,” I added. “Now he manages computer teams, speaks at conferences and makes the big bucks.”

“My son has become somewhat of an entrepreneur in his own right,” the father said. “This is his desk where he sells candy.”

The father pointed to a deep, black walnut desk with piles of boxed candy, cartoon business cards and handwritten receipts.

“He sells candy to help him understand the value of money,” said the proud dad. “He’s made $300 just this week and he’s going to give it all away to help others.”

“Wow, that sounds amazing,” I said. “Who is he helping?”

“We don’t know. He’s just selling right now.” The father paused, glanced out the door at a shop across the street. “Most of what he’s sold has been to a group of guys that work across the street. They come over here every day to buy his candy. They’re really great guys, and customers too.”

“They sound nice, to be able to help your son daily,” I said. “But, how exactly is your son learning the value of money?”

“Well, he’s giving it all away.”

“When I attempted to teach my kids the value of money, I had them take 10% out for charity, 10% out for savings, 5% out for vacation spending money, and so on,” I said. “I wanted them to learn how to manage money and learn of its value in the process.”

“No, he’s going to give it all away,” the father insisted.

“I’m sure there will be a lesson in the adventure for him.”

I turned to the little boy and asked, “Who do you plan on helping with the money you’ve raised?”

The little boy kept his eyes focused on the TV and shrugged his shoulders.

“Pay attention to the man,” demanded the father.

The little boy turned to me and said, “I don’t know.”

The mother chimed in, “He said he’d like to help the kids at a children’s hospital.”

“That would certainly be admirable,” I said.

“He wanted to give all the kids teddy bears, but then changed his mind,” said the father.

“I’m sure that whatever he does, it will be a blessing to the recipient.”

“Get over here,” said the father as he pointed his son to the desk.

The little boy ran around me and stood at his desk. He moved his hand across the candy like Vanna White revealing the Wheel of Fortune game board.

“It’s too bad I’m not a candy eater,” I said. “But it all looks good and the kids you help will certainly appreciate…”

Before I finished my sentence the boy ran back to the TV and flopped into his chair.

I’ve been know to purchase from kid’s sales stands and tables over the years. Sometimes I accepted the product and other times I pay for it and asked the seller to gift it to their next customer or someone in need. But, this candy table was different.

There was no purpose or intent behind the little boy’s candy sales that made it worth my support. Nor was I persuaded to think he was learning from the activity. And, aside from the generous men that worked across the street, I wasn’t convinced the kid even knew how to ask for the sale without his dad’s prompting.

I love to reach into my pocket and help young people who work hard for a cause, but when the moment is void of purpose, it feels pretentious and phony. I don’t like to support people that don’t have their heart in the matter. Show me a passionate person filled with specific intent and I’ll try to support them beyond what I should.

I walked out of the office wondering if I was the first person to withhold support from the father’s educational moment. After all, the cause appeared noble and the kid was cute. But when I turned back and saw the kid’s eyes still glued to the TV, I walked out of the building knowing that my money was going to be held for the next heartfelt project that’ll make a difference in the lives of real people.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Story — Endow Experience with Meaning

CFD81E31-5644-4EE4-A744-32C46B021CC0Persuading a person to your perspective is ascribed to two forms of communication: argument and story. Film is considered both an argument and story. Yet, many independent filmmakers never try to argue their point to a mass audience or share a story that’s saturated in experience and meaning. They simply want to create something cool, which adds to society’s noise.

The number of independent films, both short and feature, hit its peak and started to decline last year. The main reason for the drop was due to filmmakers leaving the industry. Many cited their inability to “break in” to Hollywood, as the reason for exit. When asked what changed perspective or infused meaning they had hoped to give their audience, none were able to answer. Their response suggested they had all been a part of the noise.

One filmmaker stated strongly that he didn’t make his film to persuade the masses, but instead created it to encourage like-minded people that agreed with his philosophies and ideas. He was asked a follow up question, “What meaning did you attach to the character’s experience for the edification of the audience?” His response was, “I had lots of lessons in the film.”

Having talked to thousands of independent filmmakers, I can tell you that a person who says they’ve put lots of messages in a film, has failed to provide the audience one clear understandable message. The film becomes a conglomerate of noise.

Story is a gift that allows us to turn meaningless activities into art filled with purpose. Without purpose, the artistry of a story fails to appear. It’s only when a single purpose or vision is conformed by artistry that a memorable story survives the test of time. When watching great story, audiences catch and embrace the meaning as their own, much like watching a good friend work through a crisis to success.

If you felt the need to label the outcome, we would call it a testimonial of the main character. After the hero overcomes his greatest obstacle, he is able to testify to his success. He lived through the painful process and not only landed on his feet, but also demonstrated to the audience a solution they can implement in their lives as well.

In other words, stories that stand the test of time are those that show a main character who attaches meaning to his or her experience. It is also a story that is easily shared with the masses because of its universal appeal. Whenever meaning is attached to a character’s activities, the story is of great interest to all viewers.

One benefit of losing filmmakers who don’t endow their experiential stories with meaning is the reduction of noise in the market. The less noise producing filmmakers, the easier it is for audiences to find the filmmaker who produces great stories.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers


Freedom from Beating Yourself Up

Everyone has experienced the deep cutting pain after saying the wrong thing to their boss’s boss or a loved one. It is that gut wrenching experience that causes us to condemn ourselves and feel terrible for 3-5 days. It’s also that dreaded pain that seems to resurrect itself at the most inopportune time years down the road, causing us to cringe once again – Always wondering if we’ll ever be good enough to get away from that dreaded feeling.

There are days when I feel like I’m destined to relive that nightmare over and over again. Those are the days when emotional and mental freedom becomes a greater desire than anything else in my life. After all, I get tired of being the weakest link in relationships or at work.

However, my viewpoint is distorted, as would yours be if you found yourself at the other end of self-condemnation. My friends actually have a healthier view of who I am and will clearly tell you that I’m my own worst enemy. The amount of pressure I put on myself to be perfect, when perfection is unobtainable, is absolutely ridiculous. But, I was fortunate last Wednesday night to finally understand why the problem exists and how to correct it.

My friend Scott, who is the CEO/President of Heritage Counseling Center, gave a talk that I attended on “Mindfulness.” He shared the exact steps I needed to disarm those recurring nightmares and I thought it was valuable enough to share with you.

To gain the freedom from beating ourselves up, we have to address the following:

1. Understand What’s at Stake: The answer is simply our pride. While I know that sounds a little odd, especially when we find our activity of choice in certain circumstances to be that of cutting ourselves down, the principles make sense. We find it important to protect who we are, causing our natural reaction to be one of defensiveness.

2. Let Down Your Guard: When we are defensive, we are not able to receive the assistance that will make us a better person. We block the truth from entering our lives, thereby hindering our ability to get past our recurring struggles. Once we get past it, we can change the behaviors causing our problems.

3. Accept Who You Are – The Good and the Bad: Instead of holding ourselves to a high unobtainable standard, we need to accept who we are. We need to accept that God made us exactly how He wants us to be for His purposes. The good to reflect His glory and the bad to allow Him to demonstrate His love so others can understand who He is.

To accomplish these three steps, we need to understand how our mind works. To start with, when an emotional moment hits our lives, we have a visceral or knee jerk response – A strong feeling hits us. This feeling is neutral, not good or bad. Its sole purpose is to inform us that the situation has triggered something important deep inside of our hearts. It is a warning flag that we have an unresolved issue that needs our focus, in order to understand what is truly important to us. It will also help us to make the right decision in how to proceed through the circumstance.

What fascinated me, was Scott’s comment that it isn’t until we judge our feelings that we place ourselves in a tailspin leading to self-condemnation. In other words, our tendency is to judge ourselves based on the feelings we incurred. That’s right, we take the neutral feeling used to alert us that the outcome to our situation is important to us, and we judge it to be good or bad, instead of taking time for introspection and addressing the situation without condemnation.

The feeling is neutral and it’s our judgment that turns it into a good or bad scenario. Once it is a bad scenario in our minds, we suffer with it until we find a way to disarm it. But, what would happen if we didn’t judge it? If we just viewed our emotions as a flag encouraging us to reflect on our circumstance and make a decision based on who we are, we would be able to accomplish great growth with less pain.

According to Scott, by accepting our situation without judgment, allows us to face the condition in a healthy manner, which produces growth. Demonstrating a high level of acceptance toward ourselves diminishes defensiveness. Without defensiveness, we open our hearts to the truth, and emotional and mental health. In facing the truth, we are able to receive grace and accept the good and the bad choices we make.

We no longer see ourselves as something terrible to avoid, but rather as a person who has behaviors that can be improved. Self-condemnation falls to the wayside and we find ourselves living life to the fullest. We become truly whole and healthy. More importantly, we learn how to not react or judge other’s bad behaviors, allowing us to give them grace in their hour of need. We become Christ like, but still not perfect.

Accepting ourselves doesn’t suggest that we approve of the situation or behavior, nor does it mean we agree with it. Instead, acceptance means that we don’t judge ourselves, cutting us off from truth and healing. Acceptance allows us to live life with happiness, while always addressing important issues residing in our heart, empowering us to change our behaviors to match up with who God really made us to be. There is no longer any condemnation.

The next time I face a situation that generates a feeling, I will not judge the feeling, but look inside of myself and find what is truly important to me. Then I’ll bring my future behaviors into alignment. Once I’m whole, I’ll be able to show grace to those struggling with unaddressed feelings.

I will truly be free from beating myself up.

Copyright © 2011 By CJ Powers
Photo © Mat Hayward –