Sunday, August 31, 2008

Generation Change Vs. Baby Boomers - Why we don't get each other

It's been awhile guys! I think the last time I wrote I was just starting the uphill climb of workshop season... the roller coaster just left me off. I'm dizzy, exhilerated and maybe had a touch of nausea at the end - but no worse for wear. I've since made many a mistake as a result of the broken heart I wrote about, gotten a tattoo (finally!), become incredibly comfortable with myself, taken a vacation and made some more friends. All in all, standard fare.

Anyway, back at the business at hand. I was moved to write, so let me do just that.

I watched on Thursday as Barack Obama delivered what was to my heart and my head one of the best speeches ever. I was in a room with over 300 people around my age, and literally, you could have heard a pin drop. A lot of young people, some who completely agree with his policies - some who don't, enthralled with this man's words. We want to be led and low and behold, here came what seems like a leader. And low and behold, we are following. None of which, we see any problems with.

I've heard much being said about the "cult of personality" and the very fabric of the "change" message being non-substantive. And I wanted to take a quick second to respond to that. My preface, is that I am in a world of social-change makers, a group that grew up with the words "Social Entrepreneur" in their lexicon and pulled on the word regularly. So my views are most definitely colored by this. I will speak in the we as a member of my generation for the sake of this post, but I am fully aware that we are a diverse set of individuals with many different thoughts. This is my effort to bring some clarity and respond directly to those of you in the Baby Boom who are confused. Now that my preamble is done:

When it comes to this "Cult of personality" or that "Change" is somehow non-substantive. We think its bull. We have grown-up in a world where people younger than us have made millions because of their innovation. Where information and thoughts that used to be held close to the vest are posted online. Where being a change agent went from the picket signs and protests of your generation (which btw, we admire) to the ideas and scalability analysis of ours (which we dread but are willing to do for progress sake). We have watched as one of the richest men of our time retired from Microsoft to tackle programs in the social sector because it was the "exciting" challenge. We've been relatively unscared of failure and fairly entitled when it comes to moving up in the world. We digest information quicker, because it is accessible to us at the touches of a keyboard. We trust more. We don't believe that we are going to be led off a cliff if we let our guard down, and if it was coming, we trust ourselves to be able to spot it waaaay in advance.

We don't get dues paying. We empathize with it on some levels. It hurts our hearts that you had to spend years upon years proving what you knew to people, to only then advance one step. But this generation, it doesn't have time for that. We grew up in communities where people are dying. Dying from gun shots, health problems, and a lack of education. We get learning, we get that its important and necessary, we get the need for professional development - but see that totally separate from paying dues. That is inefficient to us. Your generation has thrust us into a ton of jobs where we were trial by fire, mostly mis-managed, and we exceled. Ya, there are definitely some of us who struggle, and for that, we want to create mechanisms that bridge the gap. We refuse to be sedintary and just watch it happen.

We see the world in this very high stakes light. With every moment we waste, another kid/family/elder is put at risk. So ya, we've got lofty plans, lofty ideals, and we're fairly unapologetic for it. No doubt, we will likely over do it. But we'd rather over plan and over program and then find ways to make things efficient than leave our people out in the wash. Give us ideas and we'll run with them, otherwise, let us create and see what happens.

We know that the way that you got ahead was keeping your head down. Be good, resilient, put up with a load of crap, earn your salt and you will be rewarded. We know that the second you got ballsy about something, there were some mean people around to put you in your place. And really, I thank you for putting up with all of that for me. Very few in your generation wanted to be seen as the rabble rouser past the age of 22. In our generation, we delight in it, and being a true rabble rouser (different from a brat) really starts at that age.

As a result the concept of "Change" is a lot scarier to you, than it is to me. You think its a luxury, and I think its an imperative.

About a year ago, I had a conversation with my dad where he was worried about my success. Now, I thought this was silly. I graduated from college (a luxury to him, necessity to me; required both of us to sacrifice), got a good job, progressively got better jobs, have been around the world and my own country as a result of the life I lead. And he was worried about my future. When we got down to the thick of it, his concern was that I was not settled down. I could own a house by now, have picked a husband, at very least - picked a neighborhood. But those weren't the things that were going to make me happy. Changing, traveling, getting to know, and enjoying my world makes me happy. At the time, he saw my life as dangerous. "What happens," he said "if everything falls apart. " and my response was "Then I build it back up." I hugged him, because I love that he loves me that much. My father spent his life worrying about putting a roof over our collective heads, I spend my life in self-analysis - worrying about how I best leverage myself in the world. He is barely learning how to write email and I update a feeling on my facebook status.

It's a gap of mutual understanding. We grew up in different worlds. Please know that I get that nothing comes without hard work. Which I also know, not every member of my generation understands... but it's more of us than you think. And we're willing to fight; some of us, everyday, all day - to insure not only a secure future but a resplendant, promising one. When I see Senator Obama, my thought is this, "Oh God, someone who gets and is willing to lead me there." I haven't been led a lot in my life. I have trusted only a handful of people to lead me. I think the same can be said by many people in my generation. So when you see us captivated and hopeful, don't tear it down. You don't understand it, but on some levels, you don't need to. Let us be led. Let us lead.