Are Millennials ready for the world? Countless articles have asked this question, but this is the wrong question. Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation by 2018. They are diverse, tech-savvy, and aspirational. Primary information sources for this generation are social media and word of mouth. Milennials want to be entertained by brands and they lack faith in traditional institutions. These facts beg the question: is the world ready for the rise of the Millennial generation?
Demographics – Diverse, Educated, Indebted
Millennials were born between 1980 – 2000. They are highly diverse and very well-educated. They heard “go to college if you don’t want to flip burgers.” This generation is on the tail end of a steep rise in education costs. That is to say, millennials carry a lot of student loan debt. They have experienced 9/11, decades of war, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crises, the Great Recession, and the ensuing slow recovery. The financial slump couldn’t have come at a worse time for them. New graduates entered an employer’s market where temporary was the new permanent and a Bachelor’s degree was the new High School diploma.
Engaging Millennials – Use Technology to Inform and Entertain
Brands that entertain millennials do better at engaging a millennial audience. They will spread the word about brands that they love. In fact, this generation is extremely social, tech-savvy, and influential. If your organization or business is not engaging digitally with millennials, than you simply are not engaging millennials. This generation is mostly leaderless. The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Hong Kong and the Black Lives Matter protests did not have a single leader. Yet, social media was a sounding board and an organizing platform for activism.
Millennials are not just rising, they will begin to take the helm in business, politics, education and other institutions. We need to stop asking if Millennials can adapt to the real world. Millennials are the future, and the future is now.
The world is rife with problems. As of late, issues like war, Ebola, income inequality, and climate change have been on the front page. We live in a complex world with many voices and many points of views. However, there are moments like the Arab Spring, Occupy Central with Peace and Love, and national elections when groups of people can speak with one voice and make a change. Coming together to affect positive change requires recognition of the situation and forces of power, standing up to the status quo, finding common ground, and playing to the strengths of the agents of change.
Occupy Central with Peace and Love
Hong Kong was formerly a colony of the British Empire following the First Opium War. On July 1, 1997, the United Kingdom signed a treaty transferring the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. A professor by the name of Benny Thai had a vision that Hong Kong citizens could move closer to a democratic society by having the right to vote and elect their own leaders. Benny Thai started the Occupy Central with Peace and Love with the intent to use civil disobedience to win the right to vote. I was personally touched and amazed when I saw images of Hong Kong protester’s used the same “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture used in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Desert of the Real
I recently wrote about Ferguson and the challenge of being a black male in America. The reality is although white people are more likely to deal drugs, blacks are more likely to be arrested for it. Stop and frisk, shopping while black, standing while black; and, even following the orders of law enforcement can result in bodily harm or even death. Brutal honesty and critical analysis is necessary prior to building a coalition and facing a giant. The Matrix is my favorite film. Morpheus introduced to Neo to the “Desert of the Real”, the bitter truth hidden from humanity. Accepting reality for what it is can be difficult. Yet, this realization coupled with the urgent desire for change can awaken amazing creativity. It can also reveal the path forward. Thurgood Marshall utilized the law to effect change. Ghandi and Martin Luther King utilized civil disobedience. Analyze the options in the same manner that a war strategist like Clausewitz or Sun Tzu. It is paramount to have clarity of purpose and specific desired outcomes to develop a winning strategy.
I Love My Congressman, I Hate Congress
The United States has many different political groups despite being stuck with a two-party system (for now): conservative, progressive, libertarian, independent, green, etc. I have marveled at conversations between conservatives and progressives that ignore the fact that there are common values. For instance, some liberals and libertarians may agree on same-sex marriage but for different reasons. There is even a Tea Party group in Georgia that teamed up with the Sierra Club to support Solar Energy in Georgia. Having a clear purpose can hopefully overcome persistent dissatisfaction with the US Congress. People hate Congress: 83% of people disapprove of the job Congress is doing while 50% of people think their Congressperson deserves to be reelected. Yes, gerrymandering is an issue but it is exacerbated by having too many candidates in “safe” districts and threats of primary challenges. Effecting change requires focusing on common goals to overcome inertia, build momentum, and prevent divisions from slowing down a movement.
Play To Your Strengths
Don’t strive to be well-rounded. A well-rounded person is average; thus, they do not stand out in anything. Author Malcolm Gladwell goes into detail on the importance of focusing on one’s strengths in his recent book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Gladwell tells a few stories about small, ill-equipped forces battling military giants throughout history. Gladwell pointed out that the smaller forces won over 60% of the time when they focused on their strength. Examples include Toussaint L’Ouverture of Haiti defeating the French army and Hannibal of Carthage defeating Roman forces. Moreover, it is important to be flexible so as to take advantage of Goliath’s weaknesses and miscalculations. Wars, movements, and revolutions have been fought and won with these tactics.
My Fight Against a Giant
I can’t continue writing about all of these important battles without mentioning a battle that my company has been facing for several years. My company, Spendology LLC, started using the Spendology trademark and applied for Federal trademark protection with the USPTO before one of the largest banks in the United States. This bank went on to file a notice of opposition (like a lawsuit in administrative court) that resulted in blocking my company from registering the trademark Spendology. Fortunately, there are common law rights to trademarks, thus my firm can continue to use its trade name. The bank, a recipient of a taxpayer bailout, is PNC Bank. PNC continues to use my firm’s name and they have refused come to the table to negotiate. At the same time, a major trademark case is headed to the US Supreme Court that deals with one of the key issues in my firm’s ongoing dispute with PNC Bank.
My firm does have many available moves left on the chess board. I’m fighting this fight because the danger of corporations establishing Eminent Domain for intellectual property is simply unacceptable. I’m also hoping that this encourage other entrepreneurs, consumers, and citizens to courageously confront the giants in their lives. Rights must be fervently fought for and exercised; otherwise, they are, at best, only hopes and wishes. Make sure you vote in the upcoming national election this November. Your voice is your vote. In places like Hong Kong, people are taking to the streets to fight for the rights we take for granted in the US.