The YOLO Movement is here

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But what does it mean for you?

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with good friends, fellow working parents who needed a break from their office and their home (for most of us, those are one in the same). It was during dinner that one of our crew mentioned how her organization is reacting to the “YOLO movement”.

You might already be familiar with YOLO, but just in case, it’s an acronym for “You Only Live Once.” Typically, it was used by Millennials as a way to rationalize a behavior and was popularized by the rapper Drake about 10 years ago. For example, “I have to work tomorrow but my favorite band is doing a show two hours away and it’s been five years since I last saw them. I’ll be exhausted tomorrow but… YOLO!” You get the idea.


The Impact of COVID and the Great Resignation

Earlier this year, The New York Times published a piece on the “YOLO Economy”. In it, Kevin Roose explains why Millennials, in particular, are leaving the jobs they have worked so hard to obtain to follow other passions. Many are taking jobs that allow them to work remotely or on a more flexible schedule while others are taking a break from work entirely. And, why shouldn’t they?

After all, during the pandemic many Americans were able to pay off debt and save money. With this added financial cushion, many can afford to take a break and so they are. As my colleague Mandy Haskett wrote in August, “I’m a recovering hustler.” A lot of folks don’t want to hustle [at least like they used to] anymore and now they don’t have to.


What does it mean for employers?

What leaders need to understand when it comes to the YOLO Movement is that it’s the result of a shift in priorities. The pandemic caused millions to pause and consider if they wanted to continue with the way life was going for them. And, for many, the answer was no. Thrust into a world where our mortality—and that of our loved ones—is much more top of mind, we have changed as a society. While the pandemic may not have changed the plans of retired Baby Boomers quite so much, Gen X’ers and Millennials who never disconnected from their office or business travel before realized their priorities and values were no longer aligned.

For example, I’ve taken my laptop on a family vacation. I’ve checked my email during my kids’ sporting events. I’ve taken a call from work long after 7:00pm and even been on calls before 6:00am. Yet, I also say being a “present parent” is important to me. I value a job that allows me to take a break in the middle of the day to go on a field trip with my kids.

Personally, the pandemic helped me realize my executive ambitions and how far I was willing to go to reach the corner office didn’t jive with my personal values and what matters most to me: my family. And, I’m not alone. Many have left high-stress, high-salary jobs for more flexible work schedules and unlimited paid time off with organizations whose values align more closely with their employees’.


The YOLO Movement is REally about culture

Take a look at your organization’s values. Are they reflected in your culture? If you value continuous learning, like ADVISA does for example, can you point to any examples of it in action today?

  • For our team, we have a Teams channel where we share articles and resources on a daily basis that help us all to stay on top of new trends and data related to leader effectiveness, organizational culture, and employee engagement. Additionally, I can name at least two people who have taken a course in 2021 in an area in which they’d like to grow professionally.

Now, take a closer look at yourself as a leader. Do you embody the values of the organization? After all, leaders are culture carriers. So, are you walking the walk? Saying you value family but then never taking time off to be with your family is contrary. And your employees see that.

  • At ADVISA, our leaders take time for themselves and their loved ones and aren’t afraid to share that with the greater team. As an employee, I know I can do the same because of that and it’s one of the many reasons why I love my job.


You can survive this

The YOLO Movement is alive and well but your organization can whether this storm just as you did the pandemic that spurred it. Here are three steps you can initiate today.

  1. Start with your organizational values. Are they accurate? Could there be more or maybe one isn’t as important now?
  2. Then, examine your culture. Are your employees and leaders aligned with the values? Are your leaders (and you) shining examples of the culture you claim to have?
  3. Lastly, it’s OK to ask for help. If you’re not sure whether or not your values are true or if your leaders are culture carriers, chat with your Leadership Consultant. Often, an outside perspective can shine a light on areas we can’t see because of our proximity to the situation.

And remember, all our lives have changed since March 2020. For many, going back to “business as usual” is impossible or, at the very least, unappealing. I’ll leave you with this quote from Zero Dean:

“Living life to the fullest means continually reaching out for newer, richer, deeper, life-changing experiences. It means using those experiences as a means for personal growth and pushing the boundaries of yourself.”



Looking for more content on intentional culture? You’ll enjoy this article from ADVISA’s President Heather Haas on the importance of re-boarding your employees.

You may also want to check out “How to build work-life balance into your company culture”.