The best lessons I’ve learned from different generations, I’ve learned by watching how they use (or don’t use) Waze.

That’s right, some of the best lessons I’ve learned have come from observing how different aged people follow directions to a specific location.

Navigation Lessons

It may seem like an odd way to discern a personality type, but seeing how to figure out how to travel from Point A to Point B tells me a lot about them. On a regular basis, we set up appointments to meet somewhere or go somewhere. We describe locations via address, cross streets and nearby landmarks.

If you are having a dinner party at your house and invite a Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer and a Millennial, you will likely be asked for further assistance from those three, and there will be three very different ways you will provide that help. (On a side note: A Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer and a Millennial sounds like a fascinating idea for a Podcast.)

The Baby Boomer

A few years ago, in that weird time period between printing out directions and using Waze, many of us were using standalone GPS devices in our cars; those mini screens that were suction cupped to the windshield or dashboard. This was probably the Baby Boomers’ initial foray into this type of mobile technology, and it was a big jump from those printed directions.

Navigating via a GPS device meant dealing with a few more steps before beginning a drive (turning it on, typing in the address, waiting for it to locate). And it meant solely relying on that pre-Alexa sounding voice to direct them to their destination.

For my wife’s parents, this became such a nuisance they just stopped using it altogether. Even today, my own parents rarely use a navigational app on their phones. In both cases, they tend to rely on each other and their own memory of routes and areas they have driven before. Or they start making phone calls asking for directions.

We recently hosted friends of my in-laws (and some of their children) at our home. On two occasions, as people were arriving, I was handed a phone from a “lost” Baby Boomer. It was odd because I wasn’t even sure how to explain how to get to my home. I’m still not sure with 100% accuracy what my cross street is, and I’ve lived in this house for 14 years. The situation provided a chuckle among the Gen X friends in attendance. They shared similar stories: “My parents never know how to get anywhere, they just call me. I am their Waze,” one friend said.

The manner in which a Baby Boomer asks for directions reinforces that it’s okay to ask for help; it’s imperative to work together.

The Gen Xer

Ahh, me and my people. We are an interesting bunch since we’ve definitely used the printed out Mapquest directions (“What’s a Mapquest, said the Millennial?”), we definitely had a GPS device, we definitely used Google Maps on our phone, and we are definitely using Waze because our Millennial co-workers suggested it.

If I need to go somewhere that I am not familiar with, I look it up on a computer and check out a street view to get a visual of the surrounding buildings/houses. If it is a business, I even call and ask what landmark buildings are nearby; or I’ll ask someone if they’ve been there and what their recommended route would be.

I, like other Gen Xers, will rarely submit and ask for full-on directions. Maybe it’s a sense of pride (we should be savvy enough to use technology to figure this out), or maybe it’s sympathetic since we know what it’s like when someone calls and asks “how do I get to where you are?” (See above).

We’ve had or used all the navigational tools. As a result, Gen Xers are resourceful. I utilize everything available to me to embrace what works and get rid of what does not. This is the lesson I and my “slacker generation” colleagues can pass along to others.

The Millennial

This generation is the easiest to deal with when it comes to directions. Ask them to meet you somewhere, and you only need to give the address or the name of the location. If there isn’t a physical address, they will ask you to “drop a pin,” (I’m still figuring out how to navigate to those points myself). There’s also a 25% chance they will use Uber to get to you.

You’ll never wonder where a millennial is or if they are running late because they are either documenting their journey on an Instagram story or providing play-by-play via text messages.

The millennial mentality is “give me as much information as you have and I will figure it out.” While a Gen Xer is resourceful through various sources of information, the Millennial is resourceful with the one tool in their pocket, their phone. If a “Google Expert Level” badge exists, the millennials would own most of them.

The lesson I’ve learned from Millennials is problem-solving can be done without spending extra time gathering information from multiple sources. We don’t always need to call on others, and every so often, our accomplishments can be our very own.

When seeking a destination — whether spiritual or physical — approach it the way your generation or the ones before and behind you would. Ask for help, work together, be resourceful, trust yourself. Do all of that, and you’ll find yourself in the exact place you need to be.

Photo by Truman Adrian Lobato De Faria on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash
Sometimes lessons come from surprising places. These navigation lessons were learned watching different age groups follow directions to a specific location.

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