Are Millenials Just Lazy or Could They Actually Change the World?

I know.  Our generation has recently been hit with a lot of criticism, with words like “lazy” and “self-centred” being tossed around because we talk about doing “meaningful” work and not just “working hard” the way our parents did.  But let’s take a step back, breathe, and consider.  Is this the whole truth?  Are we millennials really just a bunch of lazy, naïve, narcissistic, “everybody’s special” proponents with unreasonably high expectations of the impact our lives, skills, and careers can make?  Or could it be that, having enjoyed the stability our parents fought so hard to achieve for us, by combining the financial and educational investments that have been made in us with some good old fashioned hard work, we really can change the world?

You see, we understand that older generations grew up in more difficult circumstances.  Some faced war, poverty and other extreme forms of instability.  And the reality is… many of us didn’t.  Because of the sacrifices our parents made and their hard work in whatever career they chose (or was chosen for them), we grew up enjoying relative stability.  And though we may not say it often enough, I assure you we are grateful (most of us, anyway).  But this presents a new reality, one that is different from the one our parents knew: we’re not in survival mode anymore.  We have enjoyed a quality of life and level of education that enable us to choose our own career path, earn money and meet our basic needs without much of a fight.  And having done so, some of us are now looking for something of greater significance, something that makes a more valuable contribution to society than just making some rich guy richer (whether that’s ourselves or the big boss a few floors up).  We recognise that this was not a luxury afforded to our parents, but it is an option that has been made available to us now and some of us wish to take it.  We’re grateful to not have to struggle the way our parents did—for food, clean water, voting rights, education, basic healthcare, religious freedom, racial integration, safe refuge, citizenship, or even to pay our monthly bills (the grocery, gas or rent varieties)—but there are others in the world who still do.  And rather than sit idly by, accumulating wealth for “a rainy day,” we want to help those whose days have been rainy for far too long.  We’re not just being lazy.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite, which is why so many of us feel compelled to do more than cut a cheque or sign up for an annual beach clean-up.

So here we are, a generation full of ambitious, optimistic dreamers, looking to change the status quo—maybe even the world.  But before you criticise us, take a moment to consider.  Maybe our dreams are worth pursuing and maybe, just maybe, circumstances are ripe for change.  Maybe we will be the generation to usher in the day when the word “charitable” can be associated with words like “organised,” “efficient,” and “professional.”  And maybe we will be the generation to introduce more meaningful impact measures than how little was spent on overhead.  After all, we are also the generation that longs for the day when working as a professional in a charity doesn’t have to mean embracing poverty and/or committing corporate career suicide.  In fact, maybe we will be the generation that narrows the gap between “charity” and “corporation” altogether.  Maybe we will be the generation that proves that “social enterprise” and “corporate social responsibility” are just placeholders until a time when transparent, ethical, sustainable, and responsible business becomes the expected (and demanded) norm.  Hey, maybe we’ll even make a considerable dent in poverty, hunger, or illiteracy, or find a cure for cancer.   And though these may sound like impossible ideals, maybe we’re prepared to make the sacrifices and do the work required to get us a few steps closer.   So, thank you, mom and dad, for your sacrifices and hard work.  They have been a great example to us and they have paid off.  Now it’s time for us to pay them forward.

Amanda Y. Fung

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