Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of professionally dressed, intellectually competent and extremely respectful young people. These young people, male and female, whom I am guessing ranged from the ages 18 to 25 were a far departure from the narrative routinely used to describe millennials.
These young people were a part of a larger international movement known as the YPR, Young People Revolution. Converse to the voluminous negative reports and articles written about millennials, I did not find any of these young people to be spoiled, disingenuous, lazy or rude.
Actually, each person – in their own way – was just the opposite! These young people were dialed into life perhaps more so than their parents. They understand how different the world is today than when their parents were their age. It is this realization coupled with their own self-awareness that has them endeavoring to discover how they can become fiscally independent and altruistically responsible.
Capitalism Doesn’t Have To Be Bad
The YPR are a group of young entrepreneurs which means they are unquestionably capitalist. Yet despite their entrepreneurial drive, they seem more concerned about doing good for humanity than they are about simply doing well financially.
Since my presentation on Saturday, I have been contacted by a couple dozen of those in attendance. Some have asked for academic guidance; some have requested professional counsel; others have sought a non-judgmental sounding board; many wanted only to say thank you; and still others desired a friendly voice who could inspire them to believe that all things are possible.
While I am happy to serve in any capacity that I can, I don’t believe that I have done anything significant to encourage continued contact. Instead, I believe the true genesis for the follow up from the young people is the same for all.
My life story resonated with them. Not only was I able to impress upon them the accuracy of one of my favorite personally authored quotes and beliefs, “before anybody was somebody they first were nobody”, I told them the truth about life.
I didn’t lie to them. I didn’t pretend as if I never knew what it meant to struggle. I didn’t act as if I was perfect. I didn’t talk down to them. I didn’t prejudge them. I didn’t deny knowing what it felt like to be discounted or ignored. I didn’t deny knowing – all too well – the bitter taste of failure. I didn’t forget to share with them that the greatest thing – the one thing they all can and should do with their life – is to make the world a better place than it was when they arrived. I didn’t forget to share with them authentically and genuinely the same lessons I lovingly share with my own son.
Humbled and Honored
Throughout the day, I heard various members of the YPR repeat several times that half the world’s population is under the age 30. For them, this fact is their mantra – a group call to action.
They are willing to embrace their responsibility. They understand how and why young people getting it right today is critical for all people tomorrow. In retrospect, I surmise that proof of their recognition about the role they play for everyone’s future was part of the reason the other presenters and I were invited to speak. They value those with life experiences and share an almost communal reverence for those who are happy to set aside any and all adult pretense to help them become better caretakers of the planet.
And yet for as humbled and honored as I was to have garnered their confidence and respect, I am a bit saddened. I was troubled when I left the hotel and remain so even today.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the other young people who are not a part of movements like the YPR. I wonder how the other young people who need a shoulder to lean on, a sounding board for discourse or a spark to ignite action will seek aid. I ponder who will assist those young people who didn’t or can’t seek help from resources like me. I contemplate the fate of those too introverted to ask for help from someone.
Young and Old
While I had to admit that the YPR’s slogan was new to me, its significance was not lost on me. Half the world’s population is under 30. Half the world’s population – the part of the population that will soon be responsible for the entire world – is so often misunderstood, underappreciated, and unsupported.
Half of the world’s population lacks life experience. Half of the world’s population will hit speed bumps, fall into potholes, and detonate life’s minefields unnecessarily because they will not receive worthwhile guidance from those of us 30 and over. Half of the world’s population will suffer pointlessly and wander needlessly unless and until the other half – the over 30 crowd – decides to start a revolution of our own.
Our revolution – the revolution for those of us over 30 – requires that we begin by treating every child as if they REALLY matter; that we willingly give of ourselves if for no other reason than because we recognize that giving to the young people is an investment in the old people; that we stop criticizing millennials and start being a champion for ALL young people; and that we too embrace our responsibility of leaving the world a better place than it was when we arrived.
As I looked out into the crowd on Saturday and as I reflect on Saturday today, I continue to wonder how many parents realize that half the world’s population is under 30. I wonder how many parents are actively and purposely raising young people capable and prepared for a revolution. I wonder how many parents are knowingly leaving their young people powerless and ill-equipped to progress in a continuously changing globalized world. I wonder how many people over 30 would parent differently if they recognized that the future depends on how we treat and raise young people today.
Are you capable of preparing your child for the future? Can you set aside ego to make sure your child gets the help that they need to navigate the future?