On August 4, 2005 in the breathtaking Tuscan Hall of his 21-acre campus, Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, introduced the thesis of Generational Cycles. According to this thesis, every 40 years our civilization oscillates between two fundamental ways of being; one characterized by Idealism (which emphasizes individuality) and one characterized by Civic duty (which emphasizes community). These great cycles permeate every aspect of civilization. Their characteristics are first adopted by the society’s youth and “trickle up” to the mainstream. In a lively multimedia presentation, Williams outlined the past 80 years with milestones from music and literature.

Williams credits discovery of the generational thesis to Strauss and Howe in their book: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069). He presented examples from music, literature, and technology that demonstrated the distinguishing characteristics of each cycle, explaining how their onset, waxing, waning, and collapse can be recognized in the popular culture of our world.

The year 2003 closely mirrors 1923 and 1963–the previous two onsets of a new phase in the world. Watch for prosperity, growth, and incredible coming together of the people on the earth. These themes are reflected in the growing connectivity of the world via internet, cell phones and instant messaging, and the wonder of the Open Source movement that brings together talented techologists from far-flung countries.

In their book Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World Dudley Lynch and Paul Kordis describe these cycles with the terms, “sacrificial”, and “expressive”. I feel that meaning of the terms relates most closely to the notions of “service-to-self” and “service-to-others.”

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