Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Knew Friedman Was Wrong

A few weeks ago, Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, wrote a piece entitled "Generation Q." In it, he chided the young folks of today for not taking more of a stand against major issues.

I usually agree with Friedman on many issues, but this is not one of them. Likewise, the column has been discussed among the younger generations online. But, earlier this week, two articles that ran in his same paper gave voice to the fact that 20-somethings the world over are jumping in and making an impact.

Marci Alboher highlights a series of young leaders as she showcases the differences in the workplace between yesterday and today. Terms like 'career' and 'work/life balance' have taken on new meaning in today's workplace, and thankfully so. More and more young people are choosing to blaze a trail where there isn't one in an effort to prioritize what's important in their lives.

This is the very reason why I'll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin a month from now. Rebecca Thorman, who was profiled in one of Monday's articles, leads a young professional organization. Her group has found that more and more young people are seeking to make something of themselves and their communities. And they're not waiting for an invitation, a promotion, or permission to do so.

Similarly, this past weekend at the Net Impact conference, I spoke to a room full of people interested in the idea of social entrepreneurship. For an emerging cohort of business students and professionals, good and profit are no longer in conflict. You can make a difference and a living at the same time.

In Madison, I'll be speaking to a group of current and aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to turn their passion into a job. They're asking the big questions about meaning and impact light years before their parents might have. They're not waiting until they've had a career to have an impact. Today's generation wants to build both their career and their legacy simultaneously.

More and more, I come into contact with young people seeking community, belonging, meaning, and involvement. Today's young people are more connected than ever. No longer does a broadband connection mean you're connected just to information – it means you're connected to someone else, and a lot of them at that.

As such, today's college graduates are entering a real world where they know a lot about the real world. We can see suffering in countries we can't pronounce and can loan people money we've never met. We can see what great big things a little effort can do. And we know that online activism is just the beginning.

And because we know the difference small actions can make, we're ready to jump in and take the next deeper step. If we don't see such an opportunity where we currently are, we'll forego the baton we're not being handed and run our own race.

Even though we're not trying to 'win,' I have a feeling that this generation will get to the finish line just fine.

Comments (2)

Sam - glad you enjoyed net impact--took 4 years to get started (89-93) and now 15 to be more "mainstream." change takes time -- I call you Generation AND -- you want to make a life and a living (NB: Name of my NYT Best Selling book in monthly e-vine). Keep up the good work and keep disturbing the sleep of your generation.

in service, mark albion
co-founder, Net Impact
Speaking Schedule:

Comments/Videos on Net Impact 11/07 Conference of 1800 MBAs:

"More and more young people are seeking to make something of themselves and their communities."

Here's what I don't get: do you have any stats? Is it the case that there were less young people who wanted to do it before?

By the way, I think that Friedman probably was wrong but for different reasons. He's comparing apples and oranges. When you're going to be drafted during the Vietnam War you are inclined to protest. When you are starving during the Depression you are inclined to protests. When you have no immediate dangers bugging you, most people don't go into the streets.

Why don't you Gen Y types stop trying to prove that you are better than anybody who ever lived. I hope that you're a little better because I believe in progress. But you are hardly the supermen you are making yourselves out to be.