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The Millennial Manifesto: How 80's Babies Can Save the World

Posted: 09/11/11 07:00 PM ET

It is as ingrained into the fabric of the American success story as the auto industry in Detroit, free market capitalism, and baseball. Go to high school, go to college, get a good job, buy a house, live happily ever after. This, or some variation of this, has been the narrative fed to generations of young people in this country including those of us born in the 1980's. As I look around at those closest to me, those in my everyday social circle, and those in my general peer group -- despite our wholehearted acceptance of this narrative, everyone I know with a day job is unhappy. We're all possessed by some amazing idea or goal that gives us just enough energy to get ourselves out of bed and provides just enough of a distraction to numb the pain of our nine to five's but also leaves us perpetually disillusioned and unenthusiastic about the life we see stretching out into our future.

And then there's the educated and unemployed. The unemployment numbers in our country are bleak. For more than two years the national rate has hovered at about 10 percent sometimes dropping down to 9 and other times jumping up above 12. When you break the numbers down further the picture only gets worse. Unemployment for men and women in my generation -- between the ages of 18 and 29 -- has hovered around 14 percent. And unemployment in minority communities is consistently above 15 percent sometimes jumping all the way up to 20. Tangential to the unemployment problem in our country is our country's inability to create new jobs. As it stands now, if the numbers hold through 2013, Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president since Herbert Hoover to end a term with less available jobs than when he started. As I said, the situation is bleak. We are headed into waters not chartered since the Great Depression -- and like the Great Depression, it's going to take radical, unprecedented action to see ourselves through these difficult times. But I have a plan.

Somewhere between the malignant festering malaise the millennial generation finds itself in and the stagnating unemployment and lack of job growth our country is experiencing there is a nexus -- a small window of opportunity through which great change might spring forth. Every generation has its charge: the Greatest Generation fought tyranny and oppression, the Silent Generation endured the great depression, the size and breadth of the Baby Boomers afforded them the opportunity to remodel everything they touched as they saw fit, Generation X opened the door to the future and showed us what the digital world might look like and now it's our turn. It's our turn to fulfill the promise of our generation and be the people we were raised to be. My plan is simple. Quit your day jobs.

I understand the weight of such a call to arms and do not make this statement lightly or in jest. What we all must understand is that the Millennial generation is truly unique. Baby Boomers were born of hard work and sacrifice so they believe in hard work and sacrifice. But they were also born during one of our countries most prosperous times so they believe that with that hard work and sacrifice comes certain entitlements. Everything the Baby Boomers want they get -- without any adaptation or evolution on their part. It is their unwillingness to adapt and evolve that has created this "inside the box" thinking society we're currently living in.

Generation X was born with a revolutionary attitude and all kinds of ideas around how to break the status quo, but they were too small in number, so when it came time for the rubber to meet the road -- they all went and got "real" jobs. Millennials are different. Millennials were born with the work ethic of their aging baby boomer parents and the non-conformist attitude of their older, Gen-X siblings and with more access to information than any generation the world has ever known. We are also large enough in size to actually create the world we want. What does all of this mean? If you're a Millennial who's sitting at your desk all day, dreaming about something other than what you're getting paid to do, if even the best case scenario of your current career arch absolutely disgusts you, if you believe in your heart that you were meant for something greater and have an idea that might lead you there: go for it. America is not served by your capitulation to previous generations ideologies around what a career and life should look like.

If you're like me, you watched President Obama's jobs speech last night and were transported back to 2008. Back to a time where it seemed like impossible was nothing, where our wildest dreams weren't dreams but goals worth fighting toward. The Millennial generation needs to lead that charge. Last night during the speech, some of the words that stood out to me the most were "innovate" and "create." Obama talked about countries like China surpassing us in infrastructure technology and school modernization. He talked about making sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root right here in the United States. The problem with our country is that we've marginalized the value of our dreams and because we no longer dream, we no longer innovate and because we no longer innovate, we import. We import because we're no longer creative. Our most creative minds are wasted in cubicles at big corporations helping those corporations figure out creative ways to push paper back and forth -- innovative waves to avoid tax liability. With our nation in such dire circumstances, resigning yourself to such a career when you have the capacity to do more is unpatriotic at best, treasonous at worst.

So what exactly am I proposing our generation do? I am proposing that we be the people we were born to be. We have more access to information, a deeper and more ingrained attachment to technology, and more education than any generation our country and world has ever known. Now is our time to use it. Now is our time to step out on our own and chart our own course through the world. It starts with a dream, and then a plan, but most importantly it requires courage. The courage to not be afraid of our potential. The courage to risk failure for the sake of our country. We no longer have the luxury to allow fear to guide our careers. Commit yourself to your dream. Create a plan to bring that dream to fruition. Plan your exit strategy and leave that job you hate. Let our generation take responsibility for our future and begin building the world we want to see. This is charge, this is our manifesto.

 

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