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How to be Passionate..and Compassionate

By Shlomo Maital


I once surveyed a group of 50 Israeli chip designers, gave them a list of key qualities that were important for innovators – and asked them to rank them.   To my surprise, “resilience” came up first, by far. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from failure, adversity, disasters, and continue on to your goal. It requires a great deal of mental toughness.

   Today’s New York Times column by David Brooks (Aug. 30) has many useful insights into this subject. “Making Modern Toughness” begins by quoting a common perception: “Today’s students are more accomplished than past generations, but they are also more emotionally fragile.”   Kids in earlier days were tougher, many of us in the older generation say.

     Brooks has second thoughts. “….let’s not be too nostalgic for the past. A lot of what we take to be the toughness of the past was really just callousness. There was a greater tendency in years gone by to wall off emotions, to put on a thick skin — for some men to be stone-like and uncommunicative and for some women to be brittle, brassy and untouchable.” The result, Brooks claims, was in some cases alcoholism or depression.

     So, if we rethink toughness, for the modern age, for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what do we get? What does Brooks suggest?

     “The people we admire for being resilient are not hard; they are ardent. They have a fervent commitment to some cause, some ideal or some relationship. That higher yearning enables them to withstand setbacks, pain and betrayal.   Such people are, as they say in the martial arts world, strong like water. A blow might sink into them, and when it does they are profoundly affected by it. But they can absorb the blow because it’s short term while their natural shape is long term.   There are moments when they feel swallowed up by fear. They feel and live in the pain. But they work through it and their ardent yearning is still there, and they return to an altered wholeness.”

   In short: “True mental toughness that entrepreneurs and innovators need desperately come from the passion of believing fervently in a goal or mission. That that passion, too, is driven by compassion, by caring for others, and by the desire to change the world for them. In this way of thinking, grit, resilience and toughness are not traits that people possess intrinsically. They are not tools you can possess independently for the sake of themselves. They are means inspired by an end.   …. We are all fragile when we don’t know what our purpose is, when we haven’t thrown ourselves with abandon into a social role, when we haven’t committed ourselves to certain people, when we feel like a swimmer in an ocean with no edge.”

   I begin all my classes by asking students what their true passion in life is. Many do not know. They have not been asked that question, nor have they tried many different things to find out experientially. But often parents push their kids to ‘get on with it’, rather than try things.

        When are people really tough?   Brooks writes, “People are really tough only after they have taken a leap of faith for some truth or mission or love. Once they’ve done that they can withstand a lot.”

         Have you taken that leap of faith?   Changed your job, your profession, your destiny?

       “We live in an age when it’s considered sophisticated to be disenchanted,” Brooks notes.   “But people who are enchanted are the real tough cookies.”

           Innovator! Be enchanted. Find your enchantment. If you do you will be able to undergo an almost unlimited amount of adversity. That’s toughness, of the right kind.

Managing the Mill-Aliens: The Bright Side

By Shlomo Maital  


The Millennials (generation born between 1980 and 2000) were so named by Howe and Strauss, scholars who write about generation cohorts. If you re-arrange the last few letters, and drop an ‘n’, you get Mill-Aliens. For many of us in older generations, these young people are indeed aliens. Their values, behavior, and personality seem to utterly different from ours, as if they came from another planet.

     Of course, every generation feels that way about the younger people. In the year 1254 someone wrote this: “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them…”  

I’ve just written an article for an Indian management journal about the “bright side” – the positive qualities that Mill-Aliens possess. In it I argue:

Here are eight ways in which Millennials bring positive qualities to organizations. These include: Their comfort with digital technology, their creativity and innovativeness, their embrace of the environment, their search for meaning rather than money, and their perpetual connection with their peers.

   Let’s be honest. Gen X and the Boomers have left the Millennials with a planet in a huge mess. As one Millennial observed wryly,   “Sorry our generation sucks, it’s not like we jacked up college tuition prices, destroyed the manufacturing industry, started two quagmire wars, gutted the union, destroyed the global economy, and left our offspring with an environmentally-devasted planet stripped of its natural resources – but we do text too much.”

To fully capitalize on the qualities Millennials bring, we in older generations have to open our minds and accelerate turning over leadership to them. The current trend toward later retirement is a negative one, in this sense. Let’s keep working – but let’s give the Millennials leadership roles. They can’t do any worse than we did.

Living with Generation Y

By Shlomo Maital

 Gen Y

Yesterday I made a short presentation at a one-day Technion conference on Technology, Education and Society. My main thought was: How can we leverage the Internet of Everything, rapidly emerging, where everyone, everything are connected all the time, benefit college students?

   An excellent presentation was made by the Technion’s head of student advancement, Sarah Katzir, who has been in this post for over 30 years. She recounted her experiences in dealing with Gen Y students. She had three interesting insights about Gen Y:

  • Gen Y is impatient. They do not tolerate uncertainty well, and lack emotional strength to accept situations that are vague, ill-defined, or even chaotic.       They seek fast solutions, a silver bullet, to situations involving discomfort. This is the generation of speed. They consume rapid MTV images, and want things to move quickly, especially, solutions to their problems.
  • Multi tasking:       Gen Y is perpetually multi-tasking.       In the Technion computer farm, where students spend much time, it is common to see them doing homework, following news on the Internet, sending SMS messages, Tweeting, writing their blog, and more. All at the same time. Their attention span, as a result, is very short.  It is hard to instructors to hold their attention for 30 minutes, let alone for 45. They read rapidly, but on the surface, lacking in – depth understanding.
  • Individual learning is now group learning. Even when Gen Y studies alone, they do it ‘together’ with ours, via smartphones.       Learning is done within chat forums. Being alone is no longer necessary, because through smartphones and other technologies, Gen Y is always always connected with others. SMS is their mode of choice for communicating.       Their thumbs are incredibly agile as a result.

At the conference, one of my colleagues noted that Gen Y has many advantages. Their discomfort with being uncomfortable leads to rapid creative solutions to problems.  

   And Gen Z? The new generation coming along? What will they be like? I’m looking for some good answers.


  Can Gen Y (Why?) Save the World?

By Shlomo  Maital     


 Gen Y is the cohort of people, twenty-somethings,  born roughly between 1980 and 1994.  They were preceded by Gen X (1966-80), the boomers  (1946-1965) and my generation Gen Baby Bust (born in the Depression and WWII). 

  There are very big differences in values across the generations, as scholars like Neil Howe and the late William Strauss (U.S.) and Tamar and Oz Almog (Haifa Univ., Israel) have found.  It’s not just because we older folks forget what it was like to be young, either.  Gen Y has the most names of any generation so far, and the names are revealing:  the Millenials, Internet Gen, Global Gen, Boomerang Gen (they come home to their parents after college), Gen Me (they are narcissistic), Peter Pan Gen (they don’t want to grow up), Gen Now (they live in the present), Gen F (Facebook).  

    The Almog’s will soon publish an 800-page study of Israeli Gen Y’s.  Their main findings, which seem to translate to other countries, because Gen Y is highly global:

* Narcissistic:  Oxford English Dictionary chooses a ‘hit’ word each year. This year’s word: Selfy.  Perfect.  A selfy, for Gen Old, is photographing yourself with a cell phone camera.  Gen Y’s do it all the time, instead of seeking autographs. 

  * Lack resilience: Gen X and the boomers hover over Gen Y, as ‘helicopter parents’, so Gen Y rarely have to engage in tough struggles. 

  * Lack testosterone:  The Almogs note that Gen Y is far less eager to go to war than Gen X; they are less driven by testosterone.  Perhaps in future we will have fewer conflicts as a result. Gen Y is also less nationalistic, less patriotic, more global.  This is true of the large Gen Y population in Arab countries as well.

*  Footloose:  Gen Y will not stick at a job they dislike.  Employers are beginning to adapt to this.  Gen Y will not sacrifice family for work, and give loyalty to themselves, not their employers. 

*  Connected: Gen Y do not make decisions on their own. They are permanently connected with others, and can quickly consult with parents, friends, peers, before deciding anything. 

*  Collective:  Gen Y are collective, almost socialist.  They like working in groups and are good at it.  Competitive capitalism will have to change to adapt to this. For example,  Gen Y in Israel is returning to the kibbutz to live.

* Unisex:  Gender differences are far smaller among Gen Y.  There is far more gender equality among them.  For some Gen Y women, this may be a problem (“I can’t find a REAL man!”, said one). 

 * Gen Why?   Gen Y questions everything.  They do not swallow whole the values of Gen X. 

   There is much hope for the future.  The Great Generation, born in the ‘20s, fought and sacrificed for freedom.   The boomers and Gen X ruined our planet.  The Almogs believe Gen Y may be another Great Generation; they may save our planet, because they care about it.      

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital