As I get older, I am continually impressed by the younger generation, despite the tendency we older folks have to poo poo the entitled, spoiled, 'Y generation' for being lazy, even aimless. Recently I met a 22-year-old golfer, Matt, who hopes to go pro in the next year or two. His focus and confidence were impressive.
Matt is one of many young up-and-comers who I've encountered who genuinely impress me. (I shamelessly also must include my 3 nieces who speak three languages and are at the tops of their respective classes). And I’m impressed mainly because kids today seem stapled to their iPhones and iPads, often not even taking the time to look up, engage, or connect in person. How will they ever make it in this world if they can’t connect?
But indeed, 'being connected' is something this young generation does very well. With access to information, opinion, expression, and history, Matt, my nieces, and their peers are experiencing the world in a way I never could have at their age. The internet - while capable of being many things - is a teacher and a life line.
Many have criticized the younger generation for expecting things immediately - the instant gratification that an on-demand world creates. But with that 'want it now' attitude also comes an expectation to learn from experience and grow from others' wisdom that previous generations didn't have immediate access to. In short, they're smarter faster, and smart enough to take advantage of it.
Here are three things I’ve learned from young people that I will never forget:
1. The world is not going to hell in a hand basket. When I was a young man, blasting “The Who” and bad-mouthing my civics teacher, I garnered some of that criticism from my elders who held their ears and their stomachs at the thought of the new generation destroying everything they built. I actually heard myself say the other day, these kids today have so much, they take so much for granted. I checked the mirror to see if I had become my father!
2. Despite their constant electronic distractions, kids today really care. Kids like Erika and Matt pay attention to what’s going on in politics, education, the environment. They have a fire in their belly for making the future a brighter place for themselves – a fire we older folks may have seen extinguish within ourselves. I for one an inspired by the wherewithal young Americans posses in matters that truly concern their future, not just their present.
3. Technology is our friend. My 3-year-old daughter navigates an iTouch like a nerves-of-steel surgeon, and the games she plays are all learning games – games that will prepare her for the speedy world ahead. My 6-year-old daughter uses an iPad in her class room. She along with her friends are part of an experimental group of kids who will be testing out the usefulness of the tablet as a teaching tool. I can only sit back in awe as I know one day I will be fumbling over the next piece of technology to make my life easier as my child pushes me aside to help me figure it out.
The current economy may not provide hope for kids coming out of college these days, but it is the kids themselves who provide hope that the future will be in good hands because those who are the future demand it. Now.
Be your best,