The other day I was cleaning out my bookcase, which housed literally hundreds of movies and some video games I had collected since around 2002. I had amassed this collection of media for a decade and the collection was a point of pride because it reflected my tastes and sensibilities (Do the Right Thing, The Man with No Name Trilogy, Shawshank Redemption, and too many superhero movies – even the bad ones). And the longer I held the collection, the more attached I became to the collection as an idea, an institution, if you will. The movies became a window into who I used to be, it became the vehicle through which I waxed nostalgic and reminisced over high school and college days long since past. I didn’t even watch the majority of the movies anymore, they gathered dust, but it was the idea of a collection that was so appealing.
I had thought about selling my collection before, but always got scared and backed down. Finally I decided to let it go by selling almost everything. I kept a few because they still had some usefulness to me; but for the most part everything is gone. And contrary to what I thought would happen, I actually felt relieved and felt renewed.
Now this is a common feeling; for most it’s called spring cleaning, but I had never collected things as fervently as I collected movies and the feeling went beyond having a less cluttered house. It was a feeling of intense hope and possibility, of letting go, moving on, and wanting to change myself for the better. I’m sure former hoarders can relate to that feeling once they parted with their possessions.
Now why am I writing about this seemingly mundane experience? Because I think it’s analogous to how Millennials must operate in the world. I think it’s analogous to how America must change. Generation Y is uniquely situated to renew this country, but first we must let go of some deeply held beliefs, attitudes, and routines.
Here is a list of three things we must change to renew this country.
1) We must stop walking and start running
Sure this is just a fancy way of saying life is short, but there is a more practical reason I say this. The economic recovery has been too slow for most Americans and especially for Millennials. Youth unemployment and underemployment is an epidemic…but you know all that.
In my last post I talked about entrepreneurship as the vehicle through which we’ll get a youth economic recovery; and the more I’ve thought about this the more sense it makes. The truth is that it could take a decade for youth unemployment to drop to “normal” levels and Millennials must accept this as gospel (even if it’s not) to motivate us to be the change we need.
A lot is made of big government not being a solution to our problems (I wholeheartedly disagree with that) and much of this talk is driven by already successful people within the beltway. Even if we disagree with that philosophy we must accept, as an unfortunate political reality, that a second stimulus will probably never happen; but we also must accept as a practical reality that big business is never going to offer any opportunities that don’t directly make them profit in the short-term.
In order for Millennials (and this country) to not have a lost-decade, as Japan did in the 90s, we must provide opportunities for each other. There is no point in waiting any longer; the longer we wait for help to come the more our knowledge, skills, and abilities will corrode and the more entrenched we will become in lackluster jobs or in chronic unemployment. Our time is now.
2) We Must Modernize Higher Education
Higher education is behind the times in more ways than one. Modernizing higher education does not only mean increasing the use of technology and expanding online classes (although these tools are part of it), it is more about changing the way we educate students and making college more efficient for everyone.
I’m of the mind that college has outlived the need to be four years. I firmly believe that students only actually gain practical knowledge during their college careers for about 2.5-3 years. Beyond that timeframe it seems that students, parents, and the country as a whole, get a diminishing return on investment. I may do some actual research on this particular subject later on, but for now it’s just a feeling.
The four year degree cycle was thought up and was useful in a time before the internet and before cultural and gender diversity. What may have taken an entire semester to learn in previous eras can be learned online or by collaboration in half that time. I know that the best classes I took as an undergraduate were typically summer courses where the intensity of learning so much information in a shorter time period actually allowed me to internalize information better than a drawn out Fall or Spring semester course. I essentially learned SPSS, the data analysis program, while enrolled in a six-week research methods course, and it was one of the toughest (and most useful) courses I ever took as an undergrad.
It’s analogous to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts where short bursts of intense activity can lead to better results. Likewise, during college, short bursts of rigorous and intense academic training may yield the best results for students.
There are dozens of great ideas to fix our higher education system and adopting a HIIT type mentality into higher education is just a possible solution.
3) We Must Tackle Climate Change
While climate change is seemingly unrelated, I think there is a great opportunity and a great space for Millennials to contribute by mobilizing to pressure politicians, by creating green tech startups, and by becoming a mass movement to tackle a single issue that will give our generation a unique purpose. Every generation has a single issue (usually a war) that defines their age; whether it be the Cold war, Vietnam war, Depression/WWII, or the Civil War. What is our defining issue? What has the ability to motivate and mobilize us? I believe that issue is climate change, especially as storms get fiercer, droughts get longer, wildfires become more frequent, and climate refugees destabilize parts of the world. We will need talented young people to tackle these symptoms of climate change and young policymakers to tackle the root cause. The cause of our time will be to declare a war on fossil fuels. Our generation needs purpose, and this is it.
America is on the path to renewal and it will take American leadership to steer this world into a bright century. Like letting go of a prized collection, we must move on from the battles and ideas of the past and open ourselves up to this brighter future, because it will not come on its’ own.
Please Like, Share, or Comment on this post whether you agree or disagree. I’m always open to debate!