Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quit Making Excuses for the Millennials

Quit making excuses for the young adult generation.

It feels like my generation has full time lobbyists who are busy clarifying to the world as to why we do not have jobs, have not reached the American pinnacle of success, are not financially prosperous, still live in our parents' basements and just overall have an air of irresponsibility. Whether via voices in the media, academia, marketplace or local neighborhood, these lines have become oh too familiar: "The economy is so bad to be looking for a job right now and jobless rates are so high! College graduates can't find jobs in their fields. This is a tough time to be starting a career and a family."  Please, stop making excuses for my generation.

Now, don't mis-understand me. In no way am I highlighting those of my peers who are working to find a job and the doors keep closing. I applaud them for their fortitude and perseverance! Instead, I'm highlighting a general cultural mindset of older adult role models to the Millennials.
A wise man once said "Children will rise to the level of expectation."  Have you considered what expectations you have of us?  

Even among our own peer group, an assumption is perpetuated that those with college degrees absolutely cannot work at the jobs obtainable without a degree. My question is: Why not? Since when did we become too proud to work a less than ideal job, so to have income? Where did we miss the lesson to love working in general, and recognize the reward of it? How did we meld into this mindset that working two jobs, getting our hands dirty and humbling ourselves to work outside our trained field – is impossible?

Instead of focusing on the “poverty” of what we face as a generation, we should be looking at this hour in our culture as opportunity!! Check out these young people in history who did not sit back and let circumstances dictate their success:

Louis Braille, born in 1809, went blind when he was 3 years old; if he wanted to get more out of life he needed to learn to read. By the age of 15 he had developed an alphabet that can be read with your fingers. This was his zeal: "Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about." He discovered a problem, and had conviction to solve it. Ask those who use this brilliant mode of communication if they wish Mr. Braille had sat around playing a victim.

Joseph Bombardier, born in 1907, was 15 years old when he designed his first snowmobile. He opened a garage at 19 years old and soon after obtained his first patent, with over 40 more to follow.  "For 10 years Joseph-Armand toils determinedly on the project, often late at night and even on Sundays. His trials and research multiply, eating into his savings and attracting mockery from observers when partial advancements end in failure." But, his hard work paid off and he ended up being a very influential entrepreneur – “a man who changed history through revolutionary innovations in snow transport.” He made a vehicle for military use, another to serve school children, and the familiar Ski-Doo. Yes, it’s true because of his hard work he definitely improved the artic culture and expanded possibilities for the economy. I am guessing many people in the northern part of the world are grateful for his tenacious refinement of his skill.

Bill Gates: a current day success story, Mr. Gate fell in love with computers at an early age. He started programming computers at 13; started a company at 17; at 20 co-founds Microsoft and at 31 years old was the United States’ youngest billionaire. Through his brilliance and hard work, he opened up a whole new industry and workforce opportunity for Americans. One can only wonder who he would be if he’d been surrounded by role models who leveled the playing field, expected little of him, and told him to sit still until opportunity came knocking.

These are only three examples of leaders who could have embraced their positions in life, their weaknesses, even their human dispositions to laziness. But they didn’t! And because of their hard work, people can read books, others can traverse the snow in safety and with ease, and others can explore a whole new world through technology.

What Millennials should be doing right now is using their time in between college and career to create new industries for a need they have discovered. We should recognize “holes” in the market place and use the free enterprise system to create a place for ourselves by providing a service that no one else has discovered yet. We should look at the skills of our hands, and the knowledge in our mind and ponder what job industry could I create, or develop?   

Leading voices attribute the economy's woes to the reasons we can't find jobs. But, what if we can? What if we could create jobs, but we don’t? What if we've allowed ourselves to rest on our laurels within the safe walls of your enabling permission? You must challenge your young adults to stop living within the confines of expectations. Push them to dream a little more, work a little harder, pray a bit longer and network with others who have the pieces to their puzzle.

Maura Pennington, writer for Forbes Magazine wrote about the Millennials: “You can say the deck is stacked against this generation...To that I say: Be someone who solves the harder puzzle we’ve been given. Consider that this isn’t the first time young people have faced a sluggish economy and then investigate what made growth possible in the past." 

Circumstances break us or cause us to rise to greatness. Success does not come without a price. Reward does not come without investment. Answers do not come unless we ask. Solutions are not obtained unless we seek. And for some, children will not rise to great heights without the high expectations of hard work and individual responsibility. And, some young adults need your help to get there.

To my fellow Millennials: slap yourself with a bucket of cold water and wake up. You are not a victim. The world is a playing ground waiting for you to apply your God-given skills to a market that needs you. Let’s not be the “weakest generation” but let’s go down as Greatest Generation 2.0.

What expectations are you holding for your children? No more making excuses for the Millennials. It's time we all got back to work to making the American dream our reality.