Thoughts on millennials and new year’s resolutions

three images of New York Plaza Hotel, sparkling Happy New Year 2018, and Stony brook University logoMillennials – Seems I can’t go anywhere lately without hearing about the “millennial” generation and how their priorities are screwed up, their work ethic is lacking, and that they are “complacent.” I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I find most millennials to be brilliant but incredibly restless because they feel they are being held back by the generations that came before, who are in fact the complacent ones. It is critical that we stop complaining and help this younger generation succeed, and to do so, we need to change, not them.

First, our messaging to this younger generation, particularly in the academic setting, needs to change. We need to stop tip-toeing around and be consistent that the goal is for them to become more productive than we are, not less. We need to stop selling them myths about “4-hour work weeks” and stop telling them that competition isn’t important (every other country in the world is looking to kick our teeth down our throats through competition). We are the ones who have irresponsibly loaded them up with so much debt (and continue to do so); if they are not able to continue to grow enough production to sustain the debt service, the ramifications for them are fatal. We must be honest with them and prepare them to face that inevitable challenge, not continue to allow them to ignore reality in “safe spaces.”

Next, we must allow millennials to approach problems differently than we approach them, and have different experiences than we have, so that they can be inspired with new ideas. The older generations are not going to be able to get us much further, as the world is simply moving too rapidly. Today’s headlines are about driverless cars, Artificial Intelligence, and cryptocurrency, things I am intimidated by and simply can’t imagine using. I am an expert at using Pandora and Netflix to listen to and watch exactly what I want, having a customized newsfeed to read exactly what I want, and using Amazon to order everything else. While certainly convenient, the problem is that this homogenous world I’ve created limits new interactions, emotions, feelings, and experiences, the loss of which ultimately leads to fewer new ideas. And fewer new ideas is the death of innovation and ultimately of an economy (for a very interesting read on this, I recommend The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen).

Finally, we must encourage millennials to face the challenges of today the same way Americans always have: by taking pride in being the most innovative and productive people on the planet. The “Greatest Generation” earned its reputation by doing just that, and today’s young people and future generations need to continue to heed that lesson. There are historical similarities with the older and younger generations which should be studied and embraced: both generations suffered the pain of watching American shores be attacked by foreign invaders (Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center), and both have lived through the two most devastating economic downturns in our history (the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2008). My grandmother’s generation used this adversity to make it the strongest and most resilient society we have ever seen; I am hopeful my daughter’s generation will do the same.

I Wish You Bad Luck – It’s not every day that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wishes bad luck on someone (audibly, anyway). In the context of my previous article on millennials, I thought the comments that Chief Justice John Roberts gave at his son’s ninth grade graduation last spring were appropriate. Pointing out that commencement speakers traditionally wish the graduates good luck and good wishes, he said, “I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why.”

Among his most insightful remarks:

“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.

“I hope that you will suffer betrayal, because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.

“Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.

“I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life, and understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.

“And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.

“I hope you’ll be ignored so that you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.

“Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

(Check out Bob Greene’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal about his subsequent discussion with the Chief Justice about the genesis of those remarks here.)

I think these remarks are also relevant as we embark on a new year, when many people create lists of resolutions as long as the lines at the gym in January, only to forget them or give up on them in the ensuing weeks and months. I think the lesson is not to resolve to do grand, perhaps impossible things (“I’m going to triple the size of my business this year” or “No dessert in 2018”), but to take the Chief Justice’s advice and strive to be humble and compassionate in our interactions…


Christmas – I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. I enjoyed a beautiful New York City Christmas Eve at the iconic Plaza Hotel following some last-minute shopping (and window shopping) and a fantastic dinner at Boulud Sud Mediterranean restaurant by Lincoln Center. It really felt like Christmas to be surrounded by locals and tourists alike, all in a merry mood and full of anticipation for the day (Christmas never gets old, even if I have). I spent Christmas Day exchanging gifts and relaxing with family. It was just the break I needed.

Wednesdays with Sal – I met up with my good friend Sal Ferro of Alure Home Improvements for lunch at Mannino’s Italian Kitchen & Lounge in Commack during that strange week between Christmas and New Year’s when no one knows what day it is. (Pretty sure it was Wednesday.) Sal is a great Long Island business leader and we had a wonderful time catching up and discussing our plans for 2018.

Leadership Team Lunch – That same week I had lunch at the office with my CMM leadership team – my four directors, the two managing attorneys of the Corporate and Litigation departments, and my two senior associates. These people are my “boots on the ground” and advisors as we build our three-year, five-year, and ten-year plans for the firm, and I greatly value their input on new initiatives and where we should be focusing our resources as we move forward.

Happy New Year – I rang in 2018 with a stomach virus that helped me offset the extra pounds that mysteriously appeared during December. With going out and celebrating out of the question, I had three days to think about goals for 2018. I always enjoy a challenge!

Investment Opportunities – Once I recovered, I kicked off the new year at a meeting with Bill Borges, a great friend since my Stony Brook University days. I’ve partnered with him to invest in early-stage companies, and this week we deployed capital toward two new ventures. We’re looking for other investment opportunities in 2018. If you know of anything that might fit the bill, I’d love to hear from you.