I question the often heard phrase that the future belongs to the younger generation.
I’m drawn to a new conclusion. It is all people that will save the world, not just young people. As each year passes, we all should be thinking about reaching across generational lines, not passing the proverbial baton of the future in abdication. Youth should also reject being handed such responsibility alone and unaccompanied.
More likely to be the truth: young people will collaborate and work with older generations. Building the future is to accelerate innovation on the strong shoulders of the wisdom amassed by all generations. If the future is to have meaning and be a place that young people (who will inevitably become old people) want to continue to live and thrive!
This perspective that young people inevitably are destined to become an older generation is something worth making a core tenet of future commencement speeches. It should drive a deeper interest in a broader context for what the future really is about.
It’s a perspective that can engage a broader cross section to do more, in less time. Sure, people get old, and leave this earth, but while we’re all here, let’s not inadvertently breed divisiveness and ignorance at the launch of youth into the world after commencement.
Note to speech writers and the media. Don’t generalize that the future belongs solely to young people. It shows lack of thought on your part. It implies that older generations don’t care, can’t influence, or are not interested in the future. Statements, blogs, and speeches with titles and themes “The Future Belongs to the Younger Generation” just don’t make sense.
8 Reasons to Change Perspective
- All younger generations become older generations. One thing about the future that is true and cannot be stopped is time passes. Youth inevitably gets old.
- Older generations know what has worked and failed in the past. Creating a future that all people want to live involves asking questions so as not to repeat the past. Often, the reason “why” something became that way is valuable in building the solution.
- Depth of perspective comes from experience, which is a function of time here on earth. Youth cannot know what they will be feeling and thinking in the future, but a window of perspective exists by collaborating with wiser, more experienced, and yes, older generations.
- The cross section of the population includes generations. Economies are driven by these many generations. Building the next iPhone app, for example, should consider an economy of opportunity across this cross section of potential users with differing age-based interests.
- Older generations care as much as younger generations about the future. And, in one sense, they have experienced the loss of things that were as they are replaced by things that are. Big things, like values, consumerism and service. Restoring these things will take collaborative effort across all generations.
- Older generations are a powerful resource for the youth to achieve their ideas and innovation faster. They have many resources from money to wisdom and experience.
- To say that the future belongs to youth, may even give complacency in our human nature. It can propagate a continuum of allowing younger generations to solve the issues, problems, failures of the past, or that we create today. We all own them, let’s collaborate to all address and fix them.
- Humans now live longer, and younger generations will live even longer. The future can be richer for young generations that will be the next old generations, if young and old alike, collaboratively craft it.
Does it make sense to keep saying that “the world will be saved by the younger generation?” The function of time will inevitably pass control of the world on to others, but owning the future seems too broad. Those generalized statements abdicate responsibility of the speaker. Action is owned by everyone of all ages to participate in creating that future.
The current focus on youthful innovation at incubators and innovation hubs leaves out the obvious participation of multiple generations. (Go visit sometime, you’ll see the ratio.) The desperately needed profound innovation, in areas like disruptive improvement of healthcare, transportation, and government operations, can be improved and accelerated even more through collaboration with the wisdom of wiser generations.
As I am in my mid-life, with 25+ years of experience behind me, and looking forward to my next 25+ years of contribution to this planet we share, I see greatness. Greatness that will come through more focus on inter-generational collaboration.
Image credit: Wikimedia commons: Abhikdhar2009, “Artistic representation of human age. From childhood to old age and ultimately death.”