Letter to Gen X, Y and Z
As a baby boomer, I’ve lived a few more years than any of you in the alphabet generations of X, Y and Z. I’m not saying that makes me smarter, age alone doesn’t give us that gift, though I wish it did.
What life does give us, if we are lucky enough to still partake in the feast that is life, is a rear view mirror, a camera with a long lens, and more years of history. If we are smart, we have learned some lessons from history, both the long history of other countries and peoples and civilizations, and the short history of the lessons learned in our own brief lifetime.
What we know at our age, better than you know at yours, is how truly fast life goes by. When I see friends that I have hung with in life dying, it’s pretty sobering. I think of the phases my generation went through that drove our parents’ crazy; the birth of rock n roll, the Beatles, long hair, Woodstock, Haight Ashbury, hippies, the anti-war demonstrations, free love. Our parents worried for us and our futures as we worry for yours.
As I travel around this country and through other countries and meet so many people both personally and professionally, a question keeps coming to my mind.
If you knew that at some point after high school and before 40, a life changing event would happen, but you don’t know what that is or how it will affect your life or if it may even end your life, would you change anything now?
I see so many of you waiting to start your life, just being a pebble in the waves of life with no direction. You still live with mom and dad or friends into your late thirties and even 40’s. You stay in college long past the time you could be advancing your life, earning a living, making yourself a valuable asset to a business or being an entrepreneur in your own right. Many of you have expectations that life owes you and are waiting for someone to make you happy in a relationship or in a job. Life doesn’t hand us those things, they are for us to earn. To have a great partner, you must be a great partner. To have a great job, you must be a great asset to your employer. Greatness is not gifted to us, and we are not entitled to it. It is a gift we give to others, thereby giving to ourselves. Passion can be found in almost anything because it comes from within, not from without.
Back to my question: If you knew that at some point after high school and before 40, a life changing event would happen, but you don’t know what that is or how it will affect your life or if it may even end your life, would you change anything now?
Here is my answer, count on it. Perhaps it will be a good thing; a great love, a great opportunity, a great success. Perhaps it will be a tragedy; a lost job, the illness or death of someone close to you, or your own.
Knowing that, would you grab life and live it instead of letting it just hit you in the face? Knowing that, would you find a way to experience all the wonder and adventures that life has for the taking? Knowing that, would you be a better son, daughter, husband, wife, parent or friend? Would you find a job in which you can thrive and have passion for? Would you find the joy in giving to others instead of expecting from others?
So many of you seem to be waiting for something to happen to start your life, to get a career, to have your own home (and let your folks have theirs). Stop waiting and get to it. Yesterday is in the history book of your life. Use those lessons, and the lessons from the cumulative history of all people to learn from. Tomorrow is a gift as yet unwrapped and you don’t get to peek. But today… this day, this time, this moment is yours for the living. It is yours to build the gifts you give and receive tomorrow. You cannot waste it. It is and forever will be, a moment in time that is yours to live, to grab and squeeze every bit of human emotion from; joy, empathy, wonder, tears, passion, hope, love and contentment. It is a building block to all of your tomorrows.
Today is not to waste, nor to fear, nor to abuse. Today is a day to live; to move your life and other lives forward. It is a day to plant the seeds for a better tomorrow.
Happiness does not just show up, nor does success, nor does love. We must be in a place to receive them and to reciprocate and grow them. We must be engaged in the world and what will affect our futures and our children’s futures.
To the X, Y, Z generations, that life changing moment will come. If you live your days with gusto, and with honor, and with passion, doing the work of life, life will reward you. Dithering your days away waiting for someone else to give you what you need, or waiting for God only knows what to start truly living a fulfilled life is a waste. Being independent, giving to others, being that man or woman that stands on their own two feet and has gifts to give others younger, older or less fortunate is life at its best.
When that life changing moment comes, will you still be waiting in the wings, or on the stage, fully engaged in life?