These Millennials probably grew up playing Super Mario

Passing the Baton in a Super Mario World

If you’re a CMO, chew on this: Chances are, your direct reports grew up playing Super Mario Brothers. And I’m not talking about the Millennials trying desperately to land their first job in marketing. I’m talking about the Gen-X, 30-to-40-somethings who are chomping at the bit for your job, hoping you move on, or retire, or screw up.

It’s especially scary for the Boomers, who are now outnumbered as a workforce. (Yes, outnumbered for two reasons: because Gen-Xers grew up in an era when all of them expected to work instead of caring for children, and because the Boomers are, well… getting old.)

But it’s scary for all CMOs for a much larger reason. By the time you get to the top of the corporate Marketing ladder, you’ve developed a keen appreciation for the ever-present threat of failure. You’ve come to appreciate the fact that Porter’s Five Forces are largely out of your control, and that losing a major battle for marketshare – whether it’s your fault or not – could mean the end of your career.

And whether you like it or not, Gen-Xers just don’t look at life that way. Because when you’re playing Mario, even the most fatal decision can be erased with a push of the [RESET] button. To GenerationX, life has an endless supply of resets. So they’re not nearly as concerned about outcome as their predecessors were. And that’s enough to strike fear into most CMOs – and CEOs alike.

But there’s a bright side.

By removing the consequences of failure, Mario seems to have greatly dampened, if not eradicated, the fear of failure. And that just may be the recipe for success in a volatile age. If nothing else, social media has certainly taught us that in order to gain meaningful control, you have to let go, and letting go can be frightening.

So, pass the baton with confidence. And if you can’t muster confidence, at least have hope. Tomorrow’s leaders will inherit tomorrow’s markets, just as you inherited yours.