The Road Ahead for Millennials

Inheriting both the best and worst of the modern world, the millennial generation is coming of age and looking to make its way in the world. Most are already out of college and beating the pavement looking for work and opportunity. Armed with lofty ambitions, this generation is talented, creative and well educated, yet millennials face a challenging future encumbered by high educational debt loads, an aging workforce, and a plethora of caricatured stereotypes.

Born during a fateful quirk of recent history, millennials arrived at the intersection of a transformative technological genesis, the tail end of one of America’s strongest periods of economic growth and stability, and shortly before the cascade of economic, political, and social crises that have rocked the world. They grew up in an environment of constant and rapid change. The world they came into was filled with growing wealth and opportunity, increasing global access, and largely committed – if overbearing – parenting. In their younger years, Millennials were pushed to explore, develop new talents, pursue athletics both for fun and for competition, and to engage the world around themselves with open and eager minds.

As millennials left primary school, the fundamental nature of communication changed with the advent of the internet, cell phones, and cheap user friendly electronics. Hardly more than middle school aged, this generation adapted to this technology instantly, melding seamlessly with the new socio-technological paradigm, while their parents and older siblings took a bit longer – in fits and starts – to catch on. Before MySpace and Facebook caught up with them, Millennials were busy building websites, creating online forums, pestering politicians, using resources like Wikipedia to learn and maybe cheat on their homework, buy and sell goods, and fact check the world around them. As a generation they are the living definition of “early adopters”.

Middle school and high school years for this generation were filled with high expectations in academic and extra curricular pursuits. For many, college was never a question of if or when. Rather it was an expectation, a fundamental right of passage into adulthood and the economy. The explosion of after school programs and extra curricular sports and clubs in middle-class high schools, coupled with collegiate aspirations exposed them to the type of leadership and collaborative roles generations before rarely experienced until after they entered the work force. Studying in classrooms far more diverse than previous generations instilled in many a sense of equality and a value for appreciating the multitude of individual and cultural experiences.

Fully immersed in the digital world before graduating high school, millennials intuitively understand how to use technology to break down power barriers and connect with politicians, CEO’s, journalists, academics, and other leaders across society. As a result they are imbued with a natural, perpetual sense of activism and engagement on social and political issues unlike any generation before, while at the same time holding a critical if not often cynical view of power and its frequent abuses by the slick, gimmicky, and ignoble among society. President Obama won the democratic nomination in 2008 largely by tapping into the digital power base of millennials. A few years later the Tea Party (at least in its earliest forms) grew largely out of the online grassroots work of libertarian minded and war weary millennials who backed Ron Paul in 2012.

Millennials have been the first generation since World War II to come of age during a period of prolonged economic, social, and military crisis. These crises have simultaneously exposed the generation to the need for comprehensive solutions to global challenges, while simultaneously changing the basic economic rules before their eyes. The new economic realities bear no relation to the ones their parents and grandparents grew up in. As the title of a popular book declares: “Average is Over”, and millennials know it their bones. In a short period of time, the old guarantee of a good job out of college has evaporated. Meanwhile, military aged millennials have been busy picking up the tab of an aggressive foreign policy with their lives, limbs, and long-term medical problems. Compounding these issues, the collapse of the global economy in 2007 forced many retirement-aged workers to remain in the workforce thus clogging up the corporate ladder for millennial graduates.

All these experiences have gifted this generation with a unique set of skills and perspectives. Born during an economic golden era, they have in innate optimism even in the face of overwhelming challenges. Having grown up with advanced technology at their fingertips, millennials are incredibly adept at managing, learning from, and exploiting technology for profit, pleasure, and higher purpose. Pushed from a young age to excel academically, they are the most educated generation in history, and are eager to use their knowledge. Engaged in leadership and team-based activities from a young age, millennials are driven to seek out responsibility and are adept at quickly integrating into collaborative enterprises. Maturing during an era of crisis and uncertainty, they have developed a flexible and resourceful entrepreneurial mindset coupled with a keen moral and ethical vision.

Unfortunately, there are still many that do not see the value inherent to this generation. A common refrain is that millennials are lazy, unmotivated slackers. There certainly are a few lazy millennials out there, just as there are a few lazy boomers and gen x-ers. As a cohort, however, this generation is high achieving, entrepreneurial, and highly skilled. Yet there are quirks to the generation that make them look a world apart to the generations that came before. When Boomers came of age their role models in business were the likes of Warren Buffet, Jack Welch, and Lee Iacocca. A group that embodied a nose to the grindstone, corner office hunting, corporate and brand loyalty mentality. Millennials, however, look to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. They are forward thinking, innovating disrupters, who create value by exploiting untapped opportunities and out of the box thinking. For a generation raised doing things the way they have always been done, this way of thinking looks and often sounds ridiculous, but it also drives impressive bottom lines.

Forged in an era of constant change, millennials are inherent risk takes willing to try and fail at new things. As a generation, they are one of the most entrepreneurial in a long time. Starting a small business, or launching a start up is no small feat, and it is one that has a high likelihood of failure. Yet, the practice of going it alone in the business word teaches an enormous number of lessons and imbues those who do with a deeper set of skills, knowledge, and experience, while building broad professional networks and fostering a healthy competitiveness. Success or failure, millennials bring those hard won skills into the economy. Smart CEOs and business leaders are already tapping into them to the benefit of their companies.

Bombarded by staggering amounts of information from a young age, millennials have become experts at slicing through BS to get to a point. Millennials understand better than most that time is money. More so: time is precious and limited. They watched their parents work long hours and end up unhappy as a result. The children of the divorced generation, they are eager to avoid the work/life balance mistakes of their parents. Motivated by this understanding of time scarcity, they vigorously protect their personal time. At the same time, they are productivity addicts who want results now and are willing to tear down impediments that slow progress. For those stuck in old ways of doing things or locked into comfortable business structures and routines, these traits are certain to cause conflict. However, embracing these traits leads to aggressive efficiency, and rapid engagement.

The combination of these traits will allow this generation to overcome not only the roadblocks that they face in their personal lives, but also the challenges faced on national and international levels. Millennials are burdened by high student loan debt and a job market that is finicky and bottle necked. They live in social and political environments that are cracking under the weight of outdated policy, inefficient and ineffective implementations, and rapidly changing conditions.

Burdened by collegiate debts, millennials have had to stave of big purchases of cars and homes, in addition to delaying a marriage. Yet, as a result they have pioneered the sharing economy, dividing the cost of expensive items over many users, enabling many more to leverage those resources in ways that were never possible before. Think of services like car sharing and AirBnB. Additionally, millennials are largely rejecting the traditional suburban model of living, opting instead for walk-able or cycle-able neighborhoods with higher density and greater connectedness. As the effects of their choices reverberate through the economy, towns and cities are likely to get denser and friendlier driving economic and ecological benefits to society at large. Oddly enough it is the cell-phone-slash-selfie generation that will re-create the city with an eye towards deeper social interconnectedness.

Surrounded by political failure on the left and right, millennials are taking the reins of political activism. Unswayed by political pandering and sound bite messaging, they are working to hold elected officials accountable and engineer new methods of engaging in the political process. True to form they are also looking to disrupt existing political structures and innovate new political solutions. Millennials are just now entering their 30’s en mass. While the impact of their political activity is yet to truly be seen, hints what could be possible abound, from Occupy Wall Street, to Black Lives Matter, to the dark horse campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Evan McMullin. They are still young, disorganized, and probably a touch too idealist (as every generation once was). However, each year they get more politically mature, more organized, and more tactically practical. Now more populous than the boomers they will be bringing that demographic cachet to a district near you in short order. It is inevitable that they will soon be reshaping American politics. The smart money is on working with them to meet our challenges, before they figure out they can just take the reins of power for themselves if they really want to.

Millennials are often a mystic breed to older generations. Articles abound trying to discern what they are and what they want. In reality, they are, like every person from every generation, merely the product of the time and place they were born in, shaped and molded by the social, political, and economic forces that surround them. Understanding the world we grew up in shines light on how we are forging ahead in the present and the vision of the future we look forward to. Like the generations that came before us, we have our unique set of challenges. Similarly we have developed our unique set of skills and talents for meeting those challenges head on. The path ahead won’t be easy, but the rewards will be tremendous.

 

 

 

Why Today’s Women’s March Is Important, Especially If You Disagree With It

“Just give him a chance” has been a common refrain leading up to today’s Women’s March on Washington. As I write this, in hundreds of cities and towns across America, the largest protest in American history is taking place. In Washington D.C. alone half a million Americans are getting ready to take to the streets to challenge the policies of the incoming president. As this massive display of free and peaceful speech takes place across our beautiful nation, many are voicing their disapproval of these protesters and calling for them to “Wait and see” and to “Give the President a chance”, comments that are themselves a display of free and peaceful speech.

It is important to remember however that the freedom of speech and assembly are precisely the freedom to not be silenced, even when the ideas presented may support views that you or I find distasteful. Today’s stunningly large national protest is both a fight to preserve that right as well as a reminder to all of us all that we have it at our disposal. Voice your disapproval of these protesters, loudly if you wish, but know that your constitutional right to do so is being championed and protected by those same protesters. And when the pendulum ultimately swings the other way and your disapproval of those policies mount, the avenue to speak truth to power will lay itself out before you.

In a democracy, it is the responsibility of those who see their leaders embark on what they fear to be the wrong path or the wrong side of history to voice their concerns early and often. Indeed it is this constitutionally enshrined pillar of our public life that has kept our democracy thriving through good times and bad, war and peace, prosperity and crisis. To “Wait” in the face of errant means, or to “chance” the policies of an unchecked power is to fundamentally revoke the single most important aspect of democracy: our voice. No president that has ever held that high office has done so without protest. Sometimes meek, sometime mild, and sometimes like today: history making. All protests, left, right and center have moved our country forward. They have checked power, curtailed belligerence, and mitigated injustices.

The gatherings we are witnessing today will attempt to be dismissed by some as nothing more than entitled Millennials whining about losing. But I urge you to look closely. Those crowds of hundreds of thousands and of tens of hundreds all across America are filled with both women and men. Young and old. White collar and blue collar. White, and black, and yellow, and brown, and every single shade in between. There are Republicans marching and Democrats marching. Libertarians and anarcho-socialists. Political hacks and the politically agnostic. Every color, creed, religion, orientation, and social class is present today in coming together to say, “We have our eye on you”. In a nation as divided as ours what could possibly bring so many disparate voices together and bind so many of them in patriotic unison?

Obviously, the first and clearest reason is to protect the rights of women. The path towards gender equality has made massive strides, yet an enormous amount of work remains to be done. Pay inequality and workplace gender discrimination are still very real. Compounding this reality is a president who has shown absolute impunity towards respecting the women around him. His outright bragging of serial sexual assault is merely the tip of the iceberg. As a matter of public policy he has been equally dismissive of women’s rights.

Regardless of your personal opinions about women’s rights and feminism, the policies the marchers are fighting for today have the power to positively impact your quality of life, regardless of whether you are rich or poor. Policies like parental leave, quality access to reproductive services, early childhood care, and low cost health screenings have been shown to make societies healthier, wealthier, and more productive.

Even better, for pro-lifers, these polices are some of the most powerful tools available at reducing abortions. So powerful even, they have been proven over and over again to reduce abortion rates better and faster than simply banning abortion access. For those who care deeply about fighting to protect the unborn and quality of their lives, the women marching today are challenging the President to do just that.

Moreover, those marching today are calling upon the president to preserve health care for all Americans. The Affordable Care Act is a contentious piece of legislation, and fixes are desperately needed, but Trump’s plans, so far as he has laid them out, will not only deprive nearly 20 million people of healthcare, directly lead to tens of thousands of deaths per year as well as the shuttering of rural hospitals, but also will likely destroy Medicare in the process. Even if Medicare does survive the ACA takedown, Trump’s appointments have left little doubt he will be pursuing Paul Ryan’s Medicare phase-out plan, which will place senior citizens at the mercy of private insurance companies.

On top of this bad news, congressional republicans have already introduced legislation to effectively cut social security benefits for the foreseeable future. While Trump campaigned on protecting Medicare and Social Security, the only thing standing between a republican controlled House and Senate and these ideas becoming law is Trump’s pen. Given his infamous inability to maintain the same policy position for more than a few days it seems reasonably prescient to be worried.

While healthcare and poverty are universal issues that touch all of us, ultimately the failure to ensure high quality low cost healthcare and social security protection to Americans affects women the most. Furthermore, programs like social security and Medicare are responsible for keeping 22 million Americans out of poverty, a significant portion of which are women. Those marching today are not only fighting to protect themselves from very real and existential harms, but also to protect you from those harms as well. The marches today are under the banner of Women’s Rights as they stand to lose the most under the current administration. However, their fight is also for your benefit, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or Christian.

Many in America see Trump as a threat. His demagoguery and bombast have inspired a pervasive sense of fear, dread, and horror, while his appointments have demonstrated complete disregard for the foundations that have built this country into the great nation it is. Whether he is the threat many of us perceive him to be or the agent of needed change others hope him to be, only the arch of history will be able to settle the score. What we do know without a shadow of a doubt is that silence is the fastest route to political tragedy. If you are Trump supporter I want you to know that while I personally and deeply dislike the man, I am rooting for him, because for better or worse he is now the personal embodiment of the nation, and I will never root against my own nation. His office commands respect, but also demands scrutiny and accountability. In President Trump’s inaugural speech he proclaimed, “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.” The protesters today are doing just that, and we owe them our ears.

 

What Is Net Neutrality and Why Is It Important?

Free and open. These are the guiding principles of the Internet as it was conceived many years ago, and as it mostly remains to this day. The freeness and openness of the Internet is what gave birth to Netflix, Google, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, Facebook … really anything you love about the internet, almost everything you access daily on the internet, everything you see and read and share is probably the result of the level competitive playing field that is the open and free internet. That openness and freeness is due to a concept called net neutrality.

In essence net neutrality means that no company or entity can impede what you want to access when you browse the web. The company that delivers Internet accesses to you, whether to your laptop, or phone, or iPad, must treat all content exactly the same. From Wikipedia articles, to Buzzfeed quizzes, to corporate about pages, left wing media, right wing media, and mainstream media, Netflix, or Hulu, or YouTube, every bit and byte must be delivered to you on equal terms. With net neutrality in place no one gets to choose or obstruct what you want to see.

However, some Internet Service Providers (usually the ones that are also TV service providers) hate this idea. You are almost certainly familiar with how your TV subscription works. You pay a little bit for the basics, a little bit more for the things you want to see often: sports, movies, genre channels, and other niche entertainment, and you pay even more for premier channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, all access NFL, MLB, NHL, or soccer. Effectively, TV providers act as gatekeepers and chop of each finger and toe and arm and leg before you get what you want. And they just can’t wait to do the same thing to the Internet.

You want to check out YouTube videos? That will be an extra $5 a month. Netflix? Make it $10. Our competitor’s content? Lucky for you that is in the unrestricted “premium” package for a low monthly price of $55. Of course that is on top of our “basic”, “social media”, and “entertainment” packages. And if you’d like to view it all without incessant buffering you can add in our “speed boost” service for another $25 a month. If you think your Internet subscription is obnoxiously expensive now – and it is – just wait until net neutrality is done in. For a quick visual of what the above net neutrally free version of the Internet would look like, check out The Open Internet.

So why should you care? Quite simply, because it is your hard earned money on the line. If you are ridiculously wealthy or if your hobby is putting money in a trashcan and lighting it on fire, then protecting net neutrally has nothing to offer you. If on the other hand you invest in the stock market, work in any industry even remotely connected to technology, love using the Internet to watch movies, chat with friends, post pictures of your baby, puppy, kitten, coffee cup, or favorite cactus on Facebook, and don’t want to spend twice what you currently do for the privilege, then protecting net neutrality is 100% in your interests.

There are other reasons that protecting net neutrality is important. There are ideological reasons, political reasons, human rights reasons, and business reasons. At the end of the day though, money talks loudest, and your pocket book is going to be screaming at you if net neutrality crumbles.

What can you do to protect the free and open Internet? (If you wonder if it needs protecting, give “net neutrality” a quick Google.) First, be informed. Inform your friends. Share this post. If you have some cash to burn, give $1, or $2, or $10 to Save The Internet, or the Electronic Frontier Foundation. If you are really concerned, and I hope you are, then give some serious consideration to calling your elected representatives, and politely telling them how much you like net neutrality. Not sure who represents you. No worries, WhoIsMyRepresentative has got you covered, just type in your zip code.

Whether you are young or old, conservative, liberal, socialist, or libertarian, rich, poor, or middle class, CEO, or entry level dreamer, technophile, or afternoon Facebook browser, net neutrality protects your freedom to use the internet however you wish and without any outside entity putting up roadblocks to that content. In short, net neutrality keeps the Internet working for you and the millions of people innovating every day to make your world and mine a tiny bit better. So please, take a moment, share, donate, or call to keep our Internet free and open.