“The Challenge of our Generation”

March 12, 2008

The other night, Paul was dining with a good friend and fellow blogger Tim Tutsch. Tim, currently enrolled at the Rotman School of Business in Toronto, is a political junkie (of the conservative stripe), a keen observer of business trends, and a sporter of fine ties. He’s the kind of guy you love having a pint with in the early, post-work evening, because he can deftly hop-scotch between issues as broad as politics, relationships, and the meaning of life.

Mid-conversation, as Tim discussed his own future plans, he declared that “I think the challenge of our generation will be to find what it is we want to be doing.” It was a grand statement, the kind of statement that can casually sweep aside such pressing issues as global warming, development struggles in Africa, and the long-term effects of information technology without too much care. But he had a good point.

As he and Paul went on to discuss our generation – those just now emerging from post-secondary academic institutions – has been led to expect (nay, demand) fulfillment from their careers. No previous generation (not even our boomer parents) were deluded enough to connect career with happiness in this essentialist way. As people spend more hours at work, and only go home or on vacation with Crackberries chained to their wrists, the line between our personal lives and our professional ones is getting increasingly blurry. We demand our jobs to do what we once asked of churches and natural idylls.

This makes things difficult, especially given the increasing pressures that young people feel today. For the most part (and we know we shouldn’t generalise this way), we have grown up coddled and cynical in a world where everything can be bought. Many are programmed from the age of four – dividing their time between piano, hockey, karate, and ballet. Further, we’ve been allowed to avoid what others call ‘adulthood’ for longer than almost any generation in history.

We are told that University is the holy grail, only to find, upon exiting, that since everyone seems to have a bachelors degree nowadays, it has lost its value in the workplace.

We demand the job of our dreams and sit, listening to the silence of the world’s indifference.

Sometimes, we panic, struggle to go back to school, only to repeat the same pattern again.

When we do get the job, it’s rarely what we expected.

“They want me to work so hard,” we are heard to utter. “I feel like a drone!” “I need to look for something where I can grow and be appreciated; where I can do what I need to be doing.”

‘Yes, yes’, the old folks say with knowing smiles. ‘You better keep those fingers crossed.’

Won’t marriage and the coming of children quiet these demands we make of the universe? Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll be struggling with these issues forever.

This ‘Challenge’ is part of why we set out to write Kickstart in the first place. We wanted to know if anyone had an answer (or at least some hints). The thing we discovered is that, though desiring fulfillment in that manner may be a silly mark of what others call self-indulgence, it’s probably (hopefully) a positive thing.

It may just inspire us to find new ways of working, creating, and contributing to society. Provided our demands aren’t just a shorthand for laziness and indifference. Let’s hope not.

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3 Responses to ““The Challenge of our Generation””

  1. Tim Tutsch said

    Thanks, Paul. I also enjoyed our pints and can’t wait to get my copy of the book.

  2. Tom Tutsch said

    I am looking forward to reading the book and have ordered 2 copies from Indigo. I am hoping that it might tie in with some of the work that I do with Junior Achievement. The role of JA Canada is to educate and inspire Canadian Youth about business and Economics.
    Good luck with this book and whatever else you are planning in the future

  3. Those interested in Junior Achievement should look specifically at the story of GAP Adventure Founder Bruce Poon-Tip, a man who credits much of his success to the organization. He started his third business as a teenager through the JA Program – he sold heat sensitive book marks at local stores in Calgary.

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