The New Art of Motivating Millennials

May 16, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

I have grown weary of motivational speakers. I bet you have too.

Awhile back I had a discussion with my mom about a recent event she attended. She went with some colleagues and seemed to enjoy the event until the motivational speaker went all self-promotional on the audience. She was pleased with his speaking ability, but she had a gut feeling that this guy was going to set a shameless self-promo record. Naturally, my mom did what any annoyed audience member would do, she began tallying the number of times he promoted his services. By the time he was done, she had counted 36 different times the speaker attempted to sell his coaching services! And… the speaker only netted one customer! What a shame… for those poor folks who had to endure such a self-consumed presentation by a dime-a-dozen “motivational speaker”.

Now, I am not against selling by any means, it’s uber-crucial to any business or brand! I do believe, however, that we are entering a new age of selling. We are moving from “ask and you shall receive” to “give and you shall receive”. Now more than ever before, we must always add value first before we can effectively sell in today’s hyper-cluttered marketplace.

The only giving that the 36 tallied speaker did was the selfish giving of his story. As my mom gave me a brief synopsis of the speaker’s story, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and feel my blood pressure rise. The speaker’s story was as such: “I came to this country with $40 to my name. And yet I persevered. I met the right people, succeed and now you can do the same. Blah, blah, blah.” The speaker was operating on the flawed assumption that his “rags to riches” personal story added significant value. Classic motivational speaker blunder!

This type of motivation is typical and soon to be dead. We’ve all heard different flavors of these “rags to riches” stories. Every now and again there is a truly unbelievable and unique story that is truly deserving of a standing ovation, but those are the exceptions these days.

Okay, so here is the bottomline: the “rags to riches” and “rise from the ashes” type stories are outdated as motivational pick-me-ups. These stories worked to motivate the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers due to the scars from the Great Depression, but it won’t have much effect on the Millennials.

If you listen closely, you hear the faint “I had it much harder than you” in the voice of the 36 tallied speaker and (to be frank) in the voice of most Boomers as they judge the Millennials for being entitled. (Ex: “We had to walk to school uphill… BOTH ways!”) Let’s not forget, Boomers took it upon themselves to nurture and shelter the Millennials so that they would have a better life than their parents. So it strikes me as hypocritical when a motivational speaker talks down or the Boomers point fingers at the kids “who have it easy” when it was their intention all along to ensure they have a better life.

Millennials need stories they can relate to. They need stories of people who rose above average. Many Millennials have had it pretty good (thanks to Boomer and Gen X parents!) so they can’t relate to $40 to their name and arriving in a foreign country. But, they can relate to being stuck in a dead end job, yearning for more out of their life, then committing to rise above and building a bulletproof brand or engaging in work that matters to wildly add value to people around the world.

Lets help the Millennials reach their aspirations for more. Don’t let the confidence and optimism you (the parent, teacher, mentor, boss or coach) invested in them go to waste.

Keep motivating smarter by embracing the new art: Stop with the “rags to riches” or “rise from the ashes” stories and start with the rise from the crowd stories. After all, the Millennial crowd is 80 million strong and will become the most educated generation in history. They need an effective blueprint on how to rise above.

Use stories of intentionality to inspire. Take my story for example. I was an average individual who had no special connections, financial situation or upbringing (other than rockstar parents), but I made a simple decision to become relentless in the pursuit of my strengths and passions. I leveraged blogs, YouTube, Twitter, local associations and my current job to build a business and platform that allowed me to rise above the crowd.

Stories of intentionality that offer practicality is the new art of motivating Millennials. “Rags to riches” stories offer fleeting motivation and false hope since the takeaways are intangible at best. Those stories are too broad and not specific enough to effectively equip. Millennials are perched on the shoulders of the Boomers and Xers, and they need relevant stories that equip them to stand and rise above the crowd.

Empower them to rise above the norm. Empower them to leverage quicker their abundant resources. Empower them to do even more with technology. Empower them to more often challenge the status quo. Empower them to lead the next generation as well as they will be lead.

Millennials are a new breed therefore motivating them must be a new art.
Equip them to rise.

Ryan Jenkins
Millennial Behavior Expert & Speaker

Ryan’s mission is to equip each leaders & organizations with a new mindset called GenerationEdge.

He works tirelessly to enhance your understanding of the Millennials (those punk kids born in the 80s & 90s) and emerging culture shifts (behavioral changes caused by specific social trends) so that you can elevate your influence as a leader.

Ryan would love to hear from you!
Contact Ryan at
Or just want more Ryan? Visit the vlog:

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