Thursday, April 24, 2008

When Was Life Harder - Then or Now?

Older generations like to say that they had it tougher than the current generation. Many have heard the story of the elder who walked "ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow and uphill both ways." Of course, this statement shows the exaggeration that can happen when talking about the past:-)

For example, my high school football coach routinely told us how we weren't as tough as his undefeated teams from a previous generation. To note, our team was in transition (2-7-1) in our coach's first year and would soon become pretty good. We would be 7-2-1 the following year and make the state finals in the two succeeding years, winning in our second attempt. One day, while we were practicing offensive plays, the coach told us that his teams used to put their hands behind their backs and fall on their face masks for a warm up drill. One of our lineman named H----- said, "That isn't so tough." The coach replied, " H-----, that isn't something you would do," and proceeded to show us the play again. Suddenly, we heard a thud. H----- had put his hands behind his back and fallen on his face mask. The coach looked at him with amazement and exclaimed, "That's the first time I've ever seen anybody do that." H----- had outbluffed our coach. The players all had a great laugh that day.

Where does truth lie? For me, the answer is it depends on which aspect of life one considers.

I think the older generations, generally, had harder physical challenges. When I was a child, our family did all of our daily tasks ourselves, e.g. child care, cleaning house, yard work, and cooking. In many cases, there were fewer appliances and services to help do the work. We didn't have microwaves, computers or cable TV we now take for granted. In other cases, we didn't have the financial means. For example, for many years, we were a one car family and only had one black and white TV.

While shielded from many of the physical hardships, the current generation lives in a world that is much more complex and competitive, making life more challenging than for previous generations. When I played football, few of starters did weight training and we played other sports in the off season. Today, young athletes often work out year round, attend sports camps, and play on select teams to make the cut on their school teams. While doing well in school was important, the top students tended to take advanced courses based on interest, even if AP courses only gave a 4.0 for an A. Today, it seems that top students manage their high school curriculum to improve chances for admission to college. Finally, when I graduated, most college degrees enabled one to get a good job, and people could stay at one company for their entire career.

While I can't predict the future exactly, I know my three year old will face an even faster changing and more complex environment than today, requiring her to make different choices and decisions. Our challenge, as parents, will be to provide her an education that prepares her find the opportunities no matter what future is.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Saturday for a new segment.

This is not financial or parenting advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Each generation has its challenges. In the 1950s, people believed that technology would make life easier and that the work week would be condensed to a fraction of what it was. Obviously, that is not the case.