My Uncle David calls himself an “Old Dog”, but the reality is he’s one of the most youthful 70-somethings I know. Not only that, he’s managed to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. In fact, he is a valued senior advisor to a successful tech company CEO.

Most recently, he gave some sage advice to my daughter’s Millennial friend – let’s call him Brian.

It all started when Uncle David asked Brian for help reading his Rand McNally map (yes, the paper kind!). Having forgotten his reading glasses, Uncle David needed Brian’s help to figure out the best route for getting to a restaurant in LA.

Being 25-year old techie, Brian hasn’t ever used a paper map – why would he?

So naturally, Brian asked, “Why don’t you just plug the address into your phone app and get the directions that way?”

That’s when Uncle David said, “I’m an ‘Old Dog’ and Old Dogs still prefer the old paper map system for navigating roads.”

Uncle David then talked about how he tries hard to keep up with the latest technology and stay fresh, but made the point that the younger generation – the “New Dogs” – can also learn from the “Old Dogs” like him.

They had a great discussion and here are the three takeaways that Brian told me he’s decided to adopt from the “Old Dog world”:

1.  Be invested in work

This means two things:

  • First, caring about your colleagues and taking the time to understand their traits and personalities instead of just thinking of yourself and your own concerns, and
  • Second, taking work seriously as a commitment rather than thinking about it as just a paycheck. This means thinking about how to make your work product and workplace better even when you’re not in the office, and not turning off at 5pm.

As Brian said, it’s the opposite of what he’s seen other junior people do: arriving at 8:29 for an 8:30am start, and then being out of the door at 5:00pm whether or not the project is done.

2.  Still rely on face-to-face communication

In an age of email, SMS, SnapChat and FaceBook, it’s the personal touch that counts. Too much is lost in translation when you lack the in-person interaction and clues.

Face-to-face is still the best way to build trust, connection and relationship which is what “doing business” is all about.

3.  Be selfless

This means giving help without expecting anything in return. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa, but you’ll be more effective if you focus on doing the right thing rather than viewing what you do as part of a transaction.

This is great advice and kudos to Brian for taking it on board.

More than that, I am fascinated by these three takeaways because I spend much of my time coaching senior executives and high-potential professionals on the rise, and they’re working on just the opposite:

  • Being a little less obsessed with work,
  • Learning to harness the power of new modes of communication, and
  • Being a little more “selfish” with their time and negotiating for what they want.

So, I’m thinking we all have much to learn from the “New Dogs” too.

In the end, Old(er) Dogs and New(er) Dogs both have something useful to share, and the ideal is to have a blend of the best from each “world”. And yes, the best discoveries often live at the intersections…

What have you learned from someone from a different “world” than your own? And what wisdom have you shared with them?