Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The Millenials – Our Next Generation

Bill Russell introduction at the Winthrop University Men's Leadership Conference

Introduction at the Winthrop University Men’s Leadership Conference

In May, I had the opportunity to speak to our Hough High School Future Business Leaders of America at their year-end ceremony about leadership and commitment.  More recently, I was having dinner with a close friend and her nephew Brian.

Brian is a rising tenth grader and we touched on school, summer activities, and movies before our conversation turned to football. Brian plays linebacker for his high school football team and I listened intently as he discussed his sport.

It’s been a long time ago since I was a tenth grader but I still recall the fun I had in neighborhood pickup games.  When we couldn’t play outside, we crammed into my room and played electric football on an aluminum game board made by Tudor.  My players were hand painted to look like the Green Bay Packers and when you turned it on, the board would vibrate and hum sending the players bouncing in all different directions.

Today, Brian plays Madden NFL on a Play Station 3 with state of the art animation which looks like it is taking place in real time.  Technology over the last four decades has advanced so that today, Wii U has a glove you can slip on to play your favorite outdoor sport – tennis, golf, baseball – in the privacy of your home on a hi-def TV.

While I might be impressed by this amazing technology, Brian and the Hough High School business leaders, products of the millennial generation, are rather unfazed. The millennials are emerging as the largest generation ever (80 million strong today in the United States alone) and will soon dominate our retail and service markets as well as the emerging workforce which will shape commerce worldwide.

They are a generation for whom connectivity has always been a constant.  They grew up with the Internet, smart phones, and high speed computers where the world is simply a key stroke away.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held an informative luncheon on “Motivating Millennials.”  Deanna Arnold with Employer’s Advantage pointed out there are tremendous cultural changes taking place in the workplace with the emergence of the Y Generation and the millennials.  This is a demographic where everything is immediate and the Internet provides billions of options. While Boomers like myself are loyal to rules and policies, and Generation X simply blended in, the millennial generation is a product of their environment and their environment has always changed daily.

They have lived in a time where the next version of everything was simply around the corner. Have a new IPhone?  The next model is simply six months away with likely updates every month.

The millennials also grew up in a culture where there are no winners and losers.  According to Arnold, “Everyone gets a trophy.” While there is individual recognition, everyone is treated the same. One of the positives is that diversity in the workplace and community is simply not an issue for a millennial.  They do not understand why anyone would make a big deal out of differences.

According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Millennials are entrepreneurial with 55% saying they would like to start their own business and that they believe (61%) that hard work is the key to success.  Millennials also have a positive view of profit and business competition.

When it comes to politics, Millennials believe more strongly in state and local governments, but largely shun party labels.  They care much more deeply about issues than they do candidates.

There is little doubt the next generation of business and community leaders will rewrite the rules when it comes to business and commerce. Studies show that the Millennial Generation needs detailed instructions regarding outcomes. Once provided, get out of the way and let them get it done.

That night after speaking to Brian, I reflected on my encounter with the young business leaders from Hough High and thought about when I was in tenth grade with my life before me.  One of my mentors was the late Senator Bobby Kennedy who was just 42 when he left an unfinished life.

Bobby reminded us, “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total — all of these acts — will be written in the history of this generation.”

Very soon, America will feel the power of her young people. The millennials are our legacy. Shaped by the experiences and culture of their time with a history that has yet to be written.


August 5, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Promise to Keep



The last few weeks have had many of us sharing our perspectives on the elections and the state of our economy. Nearly every day since the election, Chamber members have inquired what does the future hold for our businesses.   The more I think about today, and tomorrow, I cannot help but be drawn to the events of the past…

On April 4, 1968, two hours after the assignation of Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator Bobby Kennedy spoke to a crowd composed of black and whites in Indianapolis. He said to the angry crowd, “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and our people.”  Bobby’s words that night likely prevented a riot which swept other areas of our country.

Just a few months later on June 5th, Bobby himself was killed and the hope he spoke of during his 82-day campaign seemed shattered and for many of us the innocence of America was lost.

I was an eight year old and I still remember dad driving us home from the YMCA after a day of swimming and basketball when I heard the news.  I recall asking dad, “Why would anybody want to shoot Bobby?” as if we were on a first name basis.  To this day, I remember my dad’s ashen look back, trying to grasp words for the thoughts he struggled to find.  “I don’t know son.  I really don’t know,” he replied.

It’s been 45 years since that summer and even today, I wonder what might have been had history taken a different course.  I think 1968 was the year America lost sight of its greatness.  We had returned from a war to end all wars, became the world’s most influential country, and stood as a beacon of hope and freedom.  We loved Ike, visited Camelot, and had a Great Society.

It started to unravel with the death of a president, coming apart at the seams with Vietnam, and it was almost unbearable with the loss of King and RFK. We lived through Watergate and Nixon’s lies, betrayal, and malaise.  If Reagan encouraged us with his optimism and promises that America’s best days lay before her, Bill Clinton’s scandal left us to wonder if that promise was only a hollow dream.

I am not sure we have ever recovered from the summer of 1968 and today the partisanship in Washington threatens to drive a stake in our great republic.  A very real “Fiscal Cliff” with looming tax deadlines, an unsure economy, and a monumental federal debt faces our generation and the generations to come.

With the last election only weeks behind us, our country has not been this divided since the summer of ’68.  Yet, in the midst of uncertain markets and international unrest – there is hope and unbridled opportunity if we have the courage to seek it out…together.

ann marieAs we head into the season of giving, I cannot help but recall the words of President Clinton.  While he wrestled with personal challenges, his words spoke of promise:  “Somewhere at this very moment a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family and a hopeful future.  Let it be our cause to see that child has a chance to live to the fullest of her God-given capacities. Let it be our cause that when this child is able, she gives something back to her children, her community and her country. Let it be our cause that we give this child a country that is coming together, not coming apart, a country of boundless hopes and endless dreams, a country that once again lifts its people and inspires the world.”

As business and community leaders, let us enter the holiday season with a spirit of compassion for those who need a helping hand and approach the end of 2012 with a renewed promise in the future.  As Senator Kennedy asked, “Say a prayer for our country and our people” in a place called ‘Hope’ – a country of endless dreams which inspires the world…again.

Wishing you and your family a Blessed Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.


December 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment