A Michigan Worker B

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I’m generally wary of overarching generational generalizations. The idea that there is or was a “Greatest Generation” is probably wishful nostalgia. If nothing else, it oversimplifies things greatly – for every birth year, there are good people and bad people, serious folks and clowns, patriots and traitors. During the sixties, not everyone under 30 was a stereotypical LSD-dropping, VW van driving, tie-dye wearing hippie. There were plenty of Doug Niedermeyers running around to counterbalance them.

Accordingly, when people talk about lazy and selfish millennials, I listen, but attribute part of the speakers’ angst to a certain “get off my lawn and turn down that rock and roll music” kind of myopia. Certainly those who study the hard data can figure out that large numbers of people of a certain age may act in similar ways, but those conclusions don’t always explain the underlying reality. For example, I frequently hear my forty- and fifty-something peers talk about lazy millennials. In fact, I’ve had two acquaintances that have had to take workplace training on how to work productively with millennials.

We’re told that millennials are “entitled,” that they demand more “balance” in their lives, and that they’re more likely to job-hop than prior generations. I suppose there’s some info to back that up, but I have also seen plenty of young adults working 80 plus hours a week just to get by. But let’s say for the sake of argument that their calls for more work-life balance and job-hopping are more than in past decades. Is it because they’re lazy or entitled? Surely some of them are. Is it because they saw their parents unfulfilled by the work-first-work-only mantra? Again, that’s probably a driver for some of them, too. But it could also be because they see their chances of a 30-year career with the same company evaporating quickly. If a round of layoffs or a corporate restructuring is going to put your butt on the curb immediately without an explanation or even a handshake, why wouldn’t you jump at the first better opportunity that comes along? There could be other reasons, too, but all too often I see people of every stripe trying to shoehorn these trends into their own preconceived narrative. It strikes me as remarkably intellectually lazy and dishonest.

I’m thinking about this because during our musky trip to St. Clair last week, Hanna and I had the pleasure of spending the day on the trolling boat operated by Fins and Grins Musky Charters. It was my second time out on the big boat operated by brothers Jason and Matthew Quintano, her first. Both times the mate has been Brandon Loundenback, Jason’s 16 year-old stepson. Anyone who believes that today’s teens are unmotivated and lazy needs to spend a day on the boat with Brandon because other than the occasional sip of Gatorade the kid never stopped hustling.

He has the baked-in advantage of being around his step-father and step-uncle, as well as their associated cadre of six or seven guides, all of whom work their butts off. Have you ever been with a guide service where they are guaranteed to be back at the dock at 3 or 4 o’clock on the nose, no matter what? The type that leaves fish biting because their day is officially done or hesitates to make a long run late in the day because of the cost of gas? These guys don’t operate that way. When they’re out there throwing the big baits, it’s sun-up to sun-down if you can handle it, too. During the heat of the summer, when there’s seemingly endless daylight in Michigan, by the time you add it all up they’re putting in 16 to 20 hour days, consistently. It’s the most professional and dedicated guiding operation I’ve ever seen, because not only do they put in the time individually, but they share precise information freely amongst their group. That means they can cover far more water and keep many more baits in the water, providing their clients with a better chance of success.

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Just by watching him work you can tell that Brandon absolutely aches to earn his keep with this elite group. When I fished with him last summer, he worked tirelessly throughout the day, checking lines, tuning baits, keeping everything organized and clean. While his stepfather may have put on a show to keep him in line, Brandon didn’t need much external prodding. He got the job done like a veteran. When I returned this year, he was even more on top of his game. There are worker bees who go through the dance steps in a technically perfect manner, and then there are those who do that, but also look for little clues and efficiencies that improve the whole process. Brandon falls into that latter category – throughout the day, not only did he ask Matthew how and why to handle certain gear a certain way, but he also made suggestions, several of which paid off handsomely.

And it didn’t hurt that each time I’ve fished with him, I’ve landed a 50”+ fish. Hanna got one too, this time, making it two trips with three trophies. She liked him because he was a ginger like her. I liked him because the kid’s a big fish magnet.

So if you’re worried about the slack-jawed teens leading us to the apocalypse when people like me approach geriatric status, you can take solace in the actions of a young man like Brandon. He could’ve been playing video games or lounging by the pool or lighting farts all summer, but instead he chose to be up at 4:30am and to work well past dark. A few more like him and we’ve got nothing to fear. The kids are all right.