1963 All Over Again

by Michael Drew on September 12, 2013

Michael Drew · Theory · September 12, 2013

By Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew

1963 All Over Again

I’d had an insight into societal shifts.

I’d realized that society moves in something like 40-year cycles. And at the time I’d had that insight, we were about to enter a new one.

Having had that epiphany in 2003, I decided to let my audience know about it. That audience was made up of folks to whom I send my Monday Morning Memo . Good things bear repeating – so I’m running that newsletter again here, even if it’s a little longer than what you expect from a blog post. I don’t want to break it in two – and I think you’ll find it so interesting you won’t mind reading more than a few hundred words.

Here goes:
“We’re about to finish 1963 for the second time.

“Forty years is how long a true ‘generation’ stays in power, during which time social change will be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. But in the waning years of each generation, “alpha voices” ring out as prophets in the wilderness, providing a glimpse of the new generation that will soon emerge like a baby chick struggling to break out of its shell.

“Ten years prior to 1963, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye were the alpha voices that gave us a glimpse of the emerging Baby Boomers. The musical Alphas that rang out 5 years later (1958) were Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Then, at the tipping point – 1963 – we encountered the Beatles followed by the Rolling Stones and the world began rapidly changing stripe and color. The passing of the torch from the duty-bound WWII generation into the hands of the Do-Your-Own-Thing Baby Boomers was officially underway.

“AOL and Google.com are the Kerouac and Salinger of the new generation that will soon pry the torch from the hands of Boomers reluctant to let it go. Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley have become Tupac Shakur and Eminem, and the Baby Boomers’ reaction to them is much like their own parents’ reaction to Chuck and Elvis. But instead of saying, ‘Take a bath, cut your hair and get a job,’ we’re saying, ‘Pull those pants up, spin that cap around and wash your mouth out with soap.’

“At the peak of the Baby Boom there were 74 million teenagers in America and radio carried a generation on its shoulders. Today there are 72 million teenagers that are about to take over the world. Do you understand what fuels their passions? Can you see the technological bonds that bind them?

“Baby Boomer heroes were always bigger than life, perfect icons, brash and beautiful: Muhammad Ali… Elvis… James Bond. But the emerging generation holds a different view of what makes a hero.

“Boomers rejected conformity and their attitude swept the land, changing even the mores of their fuddy-duddy parents. But today’s teens are rejecting Pretense. Born into a world of hype, their internal BS-meters are highly sensitive and blisteringly accurate. Words like ‘amazing,’ ‘astounding,’ and ‘spectacular’ are translated as ‘blah,’ ‘blah’ and ‘blah.’ Consequently, tried-and-true selling methods that worked as recently as a year ago are working far less well today. Trust me, I know. The world is again changing stripe and color. We’re at another tipping point. Can you feel it?

“No one on earth could read Egyptian hieroglyphics until Napoleon Bonaparte discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799. That stone – over 5 feet tall – told the same story in 3 different languages. Two of those languages we could read. The third language was hieroglyphics. Armed with insights gained from studying the Rosetta Stone, the wealth of a whole society, ancient Egypt, became available to those who took the time to learn the strange new language.

“If you are concerned about by the changes that you see happening all around you, there are basically two things that you can do:

“(1) Pretend that it won’t affect your business. (Let me know how this works out for you.)

“(2) Search for a Rosetta Stone that will give you a window into the minds of these barbarians at the gate, so that in the future at least you’ll know how to do business with them.

“If you choose option 2, I believe you’ll find the movie 8 Mile  starring Eminem, playing himself, to be a pretty good place to start.”

Some of the cultural references are different (Eminem isn’t the cultural figure he once was, for example, we’re all about Adele at the moment), but going on a decade later, the message is the same.

Society changes, and we change with it. What do you think?

What’s different for you, now, this year, compared to 10 years ago?


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