Listen closely and you’ll hear a million footsteps. Change is a-comin’

and it’s being led by the young’uns of this world. Are you ready? or are you are relic?

Last Saturday I heaved myself out of bed and stumbled around to get ready. Friday night with the girls, not too wild, but I was worse for the wear and it showed. I was headed to the Socialight Conference and I had no clue what I was in for.

I waited till almost the last minute, and finally asked my friend Bobby Umar if it was even worth going. Bobby responded in a split second and almost shouted on email: ‘COME!’. So I bought a ticket. And Bobby, if you’re reading-THANKS!

When I got to the venue, the place was buzzing. I’d guestimate the ratio of Gen Y to Gen X at about 3:1. 1000 people showed up. 1000 young people, all got themselves up, got dressed, and came from far and wide in the Greater Toronto Area, in time for a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. event on a Saturday. These young people (and ahem, I’d say Gen X is still young) were all gathered for one purpose.

They wanted to do SOMETHING ELSE with their life than just the ‘9-5 grind’ in a meaningless job, that would get them material wealth but nothing else. They were there to listen to others who had succeeded in doing just the opposite, those who steered their lives with more meaning, more purpose, and who now spent some or all of their time inspiring others to do the same. And they went back energized. When the event ended at 7 pm (people just couldn’t get enough) my head was pounding from excitement and fatigue, but even on the way to the bus and in the bus I was engaged in conversation with two young men who asked me what to do about lack of engagement and leadership in their student organizations. They wanted a change and they were going to do something about it!

The conference flipped in my head and heart the switch that unleashed a million thoughts and feelings on leadership and change, all emerging simultaneously, crashing into each other, reforming into nuggets. If I were writing these my hand wouldn’t move fast enough. But they are still there and will return more slowly as I fill my blog with more leadership posts.

But here are some thoughts I want to share for others, who are desperate to reach Gen Y and who hold responsibility for generations ahead:

For educators: stop teaching students to fear failure. It messes their psyche up in ways you couldn’t imagine. Yes, failure is part of life. So is the ability to deal with it healthily.

For employers: Gen Y sees through B.S. Yes, engaging them in fun activities, giving them more work-life balance is great. But remember-Gen Y wants even more. They’ll push paper and run data analysis for a few years, and then they’ll start to ask: what on earth is this accomplishing beyond securing me a paycheck? To truly retain Gen Y you need to engage them meaningfully-you need to bring them to the decision making table and listen.

For the world: the population of young people worldwide is burgeoning. In many countries, youth unemployment is skyrocketing. And these young people are not ignorant, complacent beings. They can be a force for good or a destructive power. With the challenges the earth is facing in sustaining itself and the beings on it, do I really have to explain what direction is more attractive?

The great news: whether others like it or not, I’m fully confident that young people are going to charge ahead. Question is: how are we going to harness this incredible power for the common good?


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