Applying Yourself: A Question for a Generation
The other day a friend of mine was telling me about her son, GM. He is highly competitive in freestyle mogul skiing, an individual sport typically not supported in public schools. He’s also a top-notch student. He was recently offered an opportunity to attend an academy that would let him pursue high-level skiing and academic goals.
But before applying, GM had to come to terms with some serious obstacles. Attending an academy requires moving away from home and changing his life. He’d have to agree to a rigorous application and financial aid application process. This meant suddenly writing lots of essays about who he is, what he wants, how he’d make positive contributions to the community, and what is important to him --- all during a time when he was loaded with final exams, research papers, and end-of-year projects. Applications also come with a risk of rejection. And what if he is admitted and offered a financial aid scholarship? Accepting the challenge of pursuing an ultimate goal to your fullest potential comes with the risk of falling short of your own expectations.
This is a lot to think about for a 15 year old kid.
But let’s turn this on you. What this young man is facing is the question for a generation. What is the one thing in life that you would or could do that would justify pushing yourself through a difficult application process? What would make it worth it?
A Question for Millennials?
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to share a presentation on living a meaningful, fulfilling life with a group of about 70 students from State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo School of Business. My observation of these young and budding businesspeople was quite different from the negative stereotypes often attributed to millennials (that of an apathetic, unmotivated, entitled generation).
Two things really stood out to me. First, was how engaged my audience was to the material being presented. It was memorable. They were a sea of attentive, young, soon-to-be professionals. Looking into their faces and eyes, it was easy to see their brain lights were on. I whole-heartedly feel that their reaction was indicative of how much this generation cares about their future. Second, millennials carry a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about their future. Let’s elaborate.
Millennials’ uncertainty stems, in a large part, from recognizing that the path to the traditional American dream (whatever that is exactly,) isn’t the same as it was for their parents or grandparents. They are also faced with uncertainty amplified by the speed and pace of change coupled with the burden of too many choices.
Have you ever stood in front of the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store, unable to choose because an overwhelming selection? It’s like that. Millennials have been told they can be anything. And really, isn’t that a bit of a myth? Seriously. I always wanted to be a 6’7” point person on a professional basketball team. Newsflash. That ain’t happenin’. Making choices requires elimination. Sometimes that’s an alarming realization for people. It’s not what we can’t do that’s frightening … it’s what we can do.
In facing the future, these students want to create a career path that is meaningful to what matters to them.
Millennials are asking themselves what choices are they willing to make in order to open the doors of opportunity? What are they willing to eliminate? They are struggling to make sense of where they are in life and where they would like to be in the future to live purposefully and meaningfully.
Or Baby Boomers?
Discovering and pursuing your personal meaning of life resonates with another crowd: the boomers. Boomers, however, are coming at the same conundrum as millennials but from the other end of the age-related, professional spectrum. Boomers have already hit many the expected milestones – family, house, career. Maybe some travels and a hobby. And now they are scratching their heads, wondering, now what?
Boomers are finding themselves in the same spot as millennials. They are concerned about making sense of where they are in life and making choices that will let them live full of purpose and meaning. While boomers have amassed life perspective and experience they still face anxiety about picking and choosing the right path. But for them, the anxiety is up against a formidable backdrop: a race against time.
Boomers call it the Third Act.
For both millennials and boomers the answer lies in two parts. The first is how you define your measurement of success. Well? How do you? Whatever your life’s stage, every day, you have an awesome opportunity and responsibility of choice. What makes sense to you and gives meaning to your life?
Millennials are facing these questions based on a sense of intuition and a giant reserve of fresh energy. But they lack life experience. Boomers face it with the benefit of experience and conviction. Their challenge is reigniting their energy and pizzazz over a meaningful goal.
Millennial or boomer … it’s up to you to find or create your own excitement. What would inspire you to make a choice and put action and effort behind your commitment?
GM (who is so young his generation hasn’t even been named yet) is paying acute attention to the callings in life that fuel his inner passion and drive. (In case you’re wondering, he’s going for it!)
Remember, you can’t always control the consequences but you can control your choices.
If you choose to do something about identifying and accomplishing what’s important to you in your life and work, contact me for a free consultation. The door is open, now it’s up to you to live up to your commitment.
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Bruce Peters has spent the last 15 years living his own “Third Act.” Based on his personal experience and in working as a guide for hundreds of leaders, he has designed a unique process for getting beyond where you are and into the creation of your own Third Act for you or your organization. It starts with the question of what is the difference you want to make? Learn more at www.beyondteal.com.