A generation ago, when my Dad was my age, he drove a truck for a living. Technology was almost non-existent. He couldn’t send an email or an instant message to his brothers. He didn’t have Facebook to stay in touch with old friends. However, the world he lived in did not demand these tools. His siblings lived in the same city – so he could drive over for a Sunday afternoon visit. Although he couldn’t stay in touch with a childhood friend, he knew everyone in the neighborhood and instead of posting on someone’s wall, most times, he sat on a wall to have chat with a real friend.
The intention of this post is not to bemoan how social networking has changed our world (maybe that’s a later post). However, it is to examine how our world has changed – in just a generation and put forward a view as to how we can too.
The world in which we live in today is changing at a far more drastic pace than previous generations and the rules of engagement are constantly evolving. Twenty years ago, I connected to Bulletin Board Services using a dial-up modem. Today, my kids connect to the Internet using a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connection. However, what appears to have stayed quite static is our ability to harness the potential of the opportunities we have today.
The reason my Dad drove a truck was to make sure that his kids could get a good education and hopefully, one day, get a job that did not require driving for 12 hours a day. Thankfully, he was successful in achieving his objective. My siblings and I got a good education and joined the ranks of Chartered Accountants, Teachers and “something in IT” (that’s what my Mum thinks I do).
It is very interesting to note, that some of the most successful people from our current generation didn’t follow that path. Bill Gates is one of the best examples of a “successful dropout”. Dropping out was certainly not an option when I was in university – not unless I wanted to have an intimate conversation with the back of my Father’s hand. Although the previous generation yearned for a good, “stable” job – by today’s standards, and for tomorrow’s generation, it would appear that this holds back innovation and creativity.
Don’t get me wrong – climbing the corporate ladder for some is fantastic. The risk is that once you start climbing, you become so focused on that next rung, you miss the open elevator right next to you. Some of the most successful people I personally know today are those that chose their own path. It must certainly be daunting – and a number of those individuals did so out of necessity, not by choice.
For the man-in-the-street, we’re all terrified of the consequences of the next stock market crash, or being retrenched, not to mention the global consequences if Trump becomes president. But as we deal with this impact and transition through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression on our way to acceptance, we will be forced to innovate and create – to ensure that our children, the next generation, are taken care of.
Which brings me to my “proposal”. Why do we have to wait for a cataclysmic event to innovate? Please do not misinterpret this as a call to quit your job and start tinkering in your garage like Steve Jobs. This is a call to spark the “entrepreneur in you” - innovation and creativity you can use make a difference today. Consider an Accountant who has just been laid off. If it meant putting bread on the table, I’m sure he would consider helping out small businesses with their bookkeeping or tutoring high school students. What stops him from helping out high school students right now?
If you’re doing “something in IT”, you have even more options. Fibre connectivity, cloud computing, terabytes of storage, all easily accessible. Not to mention – blogs you could start, articles you can author, websites you could launch. The possibilities are endless – and are only limited by the constraints that you impose.
Life is tough – but if we compare our generation to the one before, we can definitely draw a conclusion that it is only going to get tougher as more people compete for the same resources. The good news is that innovation and creativity will never be in short supply - we just need to start seeing the world, the physical and the virtual one, as full of possibility.
A generation from now, when my son is my age, I hope he remembers me as a person who inspired him to create and innovate.