Do events such as the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, the assassination of John Kennedy or the 9/11 terror attacks leave an indelible mark and define a generation’s worldview?
This week, we’ve seen that One Thing can be a transformative moment, ranging from a short video about conservation and paper towels to the monumental shift in perspective that astronauts and cosmonauts have when they view the earth from space. It can also be one’s singular strength or focus, such as the harmonica music of legendary Bluesman James Cotton. It can also be a warning that success is never based on just one thing, as the leaders of Zingerman’s know.
We’ve also seen that One Thing has many interpretations. One reader asked, “Is this the same as The Last Lecture? Trying to sum up everything in 1 place, or like Einstein’s search for a grand theory of everything?” Another reader said, “I like looking at lists of epitaphs and eulogies.” Journalists who write obituaries have to sum up a life in a headline or a first paragraph. It’s the one definitive thing.
It turns out that generations do have experiences in their “critical years” (childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood) that define and shape the rest of their lives, according to a just-published paper by Howard Schuman and Amy Corning.
They compiled data from surveys in seven countries, including the United States. For Americans, they examined the effects of the Great Depression, Vietnam, the JFK assassination, 9/11—and more. They examined the effects of comparable events in other countries.
Their conclusion: Certain events experienced in the critical years have “a disproportionate effect on memories, attitudes, and actions in later life.” So, maybe there is One Thing for certain generations
Do you have a singular strength or focus that is your One Thing?
What’s the One Thing that shaped your generation?