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Book review: Lessons from 'Zero Hour for Gen X'



With his subtitle – How the last adult generation can save America from the Millennials – author Matthew Hennessey is obviously being more than bit provocative to lure in Gen X readers. Poking fun at other generations is a tradition that has been around forever, but Hennessey makes some solid arguments for how Gen X can bridge the gap between Millennials and Boomers.


More than anything he makes the case for relevancy and taking action. As I’ve documented more than a few times in recent years, Gen X often gets left out of most conversations about the generations. With more than 65 million of us in the United States, we’ll be a powerful force in the workplace and overall culture for at least the next 15-20 years. Yet, everyone seems to have moved on without us. Need an example?


Wow. Zero births between 1965 and 1980. That doesn't seem right to me ...

As the last “analog” generation, Hennessey argues that Gen X occupies a unique space:


“Gen Xers will never be fully at home in this digital domain. We will always be exiles from the analog world. Most of us have acclimated and assimilated to life in the Internet forest, but it remains in our minds a dark, dangerous, mysterious and new place. We are like immigrants who find a way to live, even to prosper, in a land where we are never quite at ease.”


From that vantage point, there are a few areas where Hennessey thinks Gen X should make a stand:

  • Fight for our privacy – Resist the tradeoff of giving up our privacy for the latest cool toys from Silicon Valley. Say no to the "Internet of Things."

  • Keep it personal – Visit a real store. Talk to someone in person or on the phone. Make a personal connection. We miss a lot when we push all of our interactions online.

  • Put down our phones – We waste hours of time on the empty calories of social media and web surfing. Actively try to reduce these hours.

  • Keep print media going as long as we can Subscribe to a newspaper and magazines if you can afford to do so. "If you don't subscribe they will go away and your children will have nothing to read except Facebook, GIFs, Twitter memes and idiotic BuzzFeed hot takes."

Without inserting ourselves into the conversation, Gen X will become increasingly marginalized to the point of irrelevancy. As the screenshot above shows, it's already happening. Hennessey urges action in his closing:


"Stand up for regular order, face-to-face meetings, and systems that reward merit over all else. Celebrate experience. Find a way to promote humanistic values. Gen X may be small, but we are tough. Our specific experiences should allow us to punch above our weight."


As you can probably tell, I enjoyed this book a great deal. I encourage you to buy a copy - ideally at a local bookstore - and read it.


Zero hour for Gen X: How the Last Adult Generation Can Save America from Millennials.a

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