Sunday, April 17, 2016

The New Brain Drain

“There’s something happening in here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

 ~ Buffalo Springs, For What It’s Worth

There’s a quiet shift that seems to be going unnoticed by most. There’s nothing new about the retirement of the Baby Boomers, putting a strain on the world of commerce. However, what about the older Gen Xers; the ones who were born on the heels of the Baby Boomers (1965-1970)?

Ever since I publicly announced my retirement from nonprofit and consulting, I’ve been receiving numerous emails telling me I am not alone in my decision.  Most are people close to my age and born in the mid-60s and into the early 70s, from all sectors of the business world, not just nonprofit.

It is a cataclysmic, resounding proclamation of “I’m out!”

We’ve been going 100 miles an hour since the 1980s, with rare moments of refueling. We’re tired. We crave something that isn’t exactly clear, and we have never seemed to have had the opportunity to find out what it is for ourselves. We’re struggling with balancing the responsibilities for our children AND our parents. We’re barely holding it above water. In so many words we are stressed out, burned out and stretched to the limit.

In true Gen X fashion, when the game changes; we change the rules. We are re-defining retirement. We are taking the simplified lifestyle seriously. For many years, the idea of retirement always took on the persona of the old couple walking the beaches of Florida, or playing Bridge in a trailer down in Mesa, Arizona. It involved anything but working.

That being said, we aren’t dumb either. We know that we can’t retire like our grandparents did, and many Baby Boomers know this too. We know we will have to work well into our 70s, before we have a hope of not working at all. We also know that we don’t have to kill ourselves in the process.

This generally applies to people who are working at management and executive levels of any industry.


Where is that manager? Where did he/she go? Did you even notice they weren’t there anymore? Remember that woman who used to be at all the events and functions? She’s not there anymore either. What about the CEO, when did they leave? Oh, that Mom and Pop shop down on the corner is boarded up with a For Rent sign on the window.

I assure you this isn’t any conspiracy of alien abduction, and the Rapture hasn’t happened. Gen  X is recognizing the significance of  our own worth, and what it means to us. Life is precious and all too short to be spent stressed out, burned out and stretched to the limit. In our younger years, we believed that having everything was what we wanted. In recent years, we’ve learned it’s not what we need.

We’ve spent the last few years unloading debt at a rapid rate, trimming the budget to a more comfortable level. We’ve been selling our homes and downsizing, just like the Baby Boomers. And that is why no one seems to have noticed that older Gen Xers are retiring alongside the Baby Boomers.

What does all this mean? It means that Gen Y and the Millennials are going to have to pick up the slack. If they want to succeed they will have to get in the game and put on their running shoes. They will have to prepare themselves to run a hundred miles an hour for long periods of time, without rest. They will have to figure out how to run a business successfully all on their own.

But, don’t worry. We’ll be there in the shadows, working the entry-level jobs they don’t want. We’ll be there working right alongside them. The only difference being, they will have to make all the decisions, and bear the load of responsibility and accountability. We won’t offer our suggestions or ideas, unless asked. We will go home and sleep at night without concern about what the morning will bring. We’re retired.

Oh, and I'll be over here, blogging and writing my books too.