Imagine if Diana Nyad, the endurance swimmer who swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64, had decided to tap out after her first failed attempt at age 29.
Even better — imagine walking up to Elon Musk and telling him that at 46, he is both too old to be working in tech and too young to be a billionaire.
A cursory glance at today’s news sites and blogs reveals something strange about our culture these days: an obsession with defining people by how old they are. But every day, there are also countless stories about vibrant people achieving success despite their age.
We live in an era of labels. Folks seem to think they have every generation figured out. As some would tell it, Millennials are entitled and disruptive. Baby Boomers are stubborn, unmoved by innovation and technology. Generation X falls squarely in between, yet often gets overlooked.
As consumers, we are constantly siloed into strict categories based on age. Stereotypes and market studies seek to catalogue and homogenize our interests, our spending habits, even our values and moral baselines — all to determine what we’re worthy of being sold and how.
But for many of us, reality doesn’t always neatly line up with our assigned labels. Demographics rely on objective factors such as age, race, and gender, but human beings are made up of many subjective feelings, attitudes, and attributes — psychographics, if you will.
And there’s a whole unique psychographic out there that is starting to get traction.
While the world argues about who is relevant and who is outdated in stark, black-and-white terms, Perennials have been quietly blooming in an age-defying array of vibrant color.
What is a Perennial?
Like their namesakes in nature, Perennials are hardy people who can survive all manner of changes in their environment because they are constantly seeking to adapt and evolve. Every year, they grow anew. They transcend stereotypes, and they don’t let age define their interests, tastes, or social behavior.
Most importantly, they are a force to be reckoned with.
The term “Perennial” was coined in 2016 by Gina Pell, tech entrepreneur and founder of The What. It has since taken root in the public conscious due in no small part to the fact that many of us are tired of struggling to recognize ourselves in the labels society has assigned us.
So, who exactly is a Perennial? Well…anyone who decides to be one, really.
In Pell’s original essay published on Medium, “Meet the Perennials,” the category is not defined by age or specific subcultural interests. In fact, that’s exactly the point.
Perennials, Pell writes, “comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.” They are naturally curious and innovative, often the first in their social circles to embrace new technology but seldom the ones to construct their lives around trends. And you won’t find a Perennial surrounded exclusively by people just like them — they enjoy friendships with people from all different walks of life.
They are not their age. The year they were born doesn’t limit who they are. The technology they did or did not grow up with doesn’t define how they interact with the world around them. Perennials are ambitious, open-minded, and unconcerned about being too old or too young for the things that make them happy.
Why Perennials Matter
The world is more connected than ever before. We have more resources at our fingertips than previously thought possible. And so the Perennial asks: Why should we limit ourselves?
Separating the generations only results in unproductive tribalism. It assumes that people born before a certain point can’t make smart investments in the future. It assigns early expiration dates to many who are actually primed to hit their stride in so-called “mid-life.” By internalizing these labels, we do limit ourselves from our full potential.
Luckily, Perennials aren’t very interested in “acting their age.”
And so they just do it — they innovate, create, and push boundaries. They make us reconsider our preconceived notions of what age means. And in doing so, they inspire us to wonder what we might accomplish if we too sought to be ever-blooming, ever-growing, ever-evolving, right in the place we’ve been planted.