At the end of 2016, a fifteen-minute video by Simon Sinek went viral in which Simon criticized the generation I so thankfully am a part of. You’ve probably seen it. Millennials, the generation born after 1984, are called entitled, unfocused, narcissistic, self-interested, and lazy. Moreover, Simon ironically states that millennials “want to make an impact” – whatever that means.
Simon Sinek’s video has been watched millions of times, shared throughout social media, and has been appreciated even among some at Deloitte. Based on the popularity of the video, you would think Simon has provided the world with an extraordinary insight about my generation: the generation “whose entire self-image is shattered”. The generation “who got medals for coming in last”. The generation “who has been dealt a bad hand”.
Who to blame?
If you listen closely to Simon Sinek’s message, you will notice that he accuses my generation of multiple bad characteristics, but seems to leave the responsibility for it at the society, corporations, and even our parents. If you have to believe Simon, my generation has been dealt a bad hand and we are not even in the position to do anything about it. Yet my generation is impatient to make an impact. Whatever that means.
Whatever that means
A muffled laughter fills the room when Simon Sinek used air quotes to say that millennials want to make an impact. Ironically he adds “whatever that means”, degrading any motivation to make an impact. But a society cannot degrade a millennial’s passion for making an impact when society itself wants everyone to make an impact. That would be contradictory. A society, including Simon Sinek, should encourage everyone, including millennials, to make an impact. Whatever that means.
Making an impact ≠ changing the world
Whatever that means implies that “making an impact” does not necessarily equal “changing the world”. It’s great to aim for the stars, but we shouldn’t be let down when all we’ve reached is the moon. Making an impact is making an impact whatever that means. Even the tiniest, most trivial impact is impact. Deloitte does projects for highly impactful organizations such as the UN, MSF or the World Food Programme, but impact can also be made by helping out your client by structuring an Excel file, or for example through Deloitte’s Impact Foundation. I’ve been working for Deloitte for barely a year now, and already I have been able to help a refugee with his economic integration by helping him out with his CV and job search. I’ve helped gathering data for a research project on the economic integration of refugees by doing interviews. There are initiatives that teach children how to wisely spend their money or teach autistic children to code. And last June, our team raised €10.000 for the battle against cancer by participating in the Roparun. These things have not solved the refugee crisis, fixed poverty, or cured a disease. But these things have made an impact. And there’s so much more to come.
Merely an impact
Simon Sinek is right to challenge the shadows of our generation and show us how our thinking may sometimes be unrealistic. He’s right to point the causes for it. And he’s also right to show us where to improve. But in my opinion Simon Sinek is wrong to degrade our motivation to make an impact when our society so desperately needs to be impacted. Because making an impact is not always about changing the world. It’s merely about making an impact. Whatever that means.
Robbin-Jan Haar started in September 2016 at Deloitte and is currently working as a business analyst within the Supply Chain Strategy team. Robbin-Jan enjoys having inspiring and meaningful conversations with people, and often cannot resist the urge to write down his thoughts.
His blog ‘whatever impact means’ is inspired by a sermon by Giovanni Veldhuis held in June 2017.