Forget Comfort Zones – You Must Dare To Be Different!
My invitations to be the commencement speaker from the prestigious academic shrines must have been lost in cyberspace; so, I will share my thoughts for the graduates from my personal podium.
Congratulations to the class of 2023. Today is the day to celebrate your academic success, leave your educational cocoon, grow your wings and move toward adulthood.
Commencement addresses are to be upbeat and optimistic. Well-meaning speakers, myself included, speak from their hearts offering advice, while everyone looks at their watch hoping it is short and sweet. Some things never change.
My message is easily understood – but difficult to implement:
YOUR GENERATION HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION IN HUMAN HISTORY.
GREAT THINGS NEVER CAME FROM COMFORT ZONES
YOU MUST DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!
Tom Brokaw wrote about the Greatest Generation (1900-1929). Sociologists label you part of Generation Z (1997-2012). Your generation has the opportunity to make the accomplishments of The Greatest Generation pale by comparison.
Each generation moves into the adult world with far different challenges and opportunities than those faced by their elders.
“A message from the Lost Generation” written by a Millennial (1981-1996) provides an example:
“I am a Millennial, a demographic that never had an opportunity to succeed in America. The existential trauma began in middle school when our teachers huddled us into a room to watch the Twin Towers burn down in real time. We do not remember life before the Patriot Act or school shooter drills.
- The Great Recession hit when we were in college, but most of us did not fully grasp what was happening.
- There were no jobs available once we graduated.
- We cannot save for an increasingly uncertain future due to shelter costs and overall inflation.
- We were fed a lie that you could work hard and succeed but life is far different for us than what we were promised.
This caused older generations to have misplaced anger toward Millennials. They called us lazy and shouted how we could have a better life if we stopped buying Starbucks or avocado toast. No one realized that we were experiencing a different economic reality.”
The author concludes:
“I feel more prepared for the upcoming downturn…and seeing that everything has a cycle. There are no once-in-a-lifetime events.”
Each generation graduates into stages of different cycles, presenting unique opportunities and challenges. We have life cycles, business cycles and even “empire” cycles. Empire cycles normally last 250 years, spanning many generations.
While the mighty Greek, Roman and British empires may die, the country and its people still remain. Our American Empire, as we know it, is well past normal life expectancy.
There are many similarities between the Greatest Generation and Generation Z.
Your formative years were during historic boom times. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913, bringing about the roaring 20s, fueled by the expansion of credit. The stock market soared. In 1929, Ladies Home Journal published an article titled “Everybody Ought to Be Rich.” Happy Days were going to last forever…
The economic boom of your childhood was fostered by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act allowing banks to merge with high-risk investment companies. The next decade had a boom and bust of historic proportions. In 2008 the Fed bailed out the casino banks, flooding the system with easy money. Ultra-cheap money fueled borrowing and spending to historic proportions. No worry about repayment, Happy Days were going to last forever…
The industrial revolution parallels the computer age. During the 1920s electricity came to the majority of American homes. Labor-saving devices like vacuum cleaners and washing machines became common, creating more free time for the population.
The computer age repeated the process, from automating factories to daily household chores.
Social values changed. The 1925 Novel, “The Great Gatsby” captured the fun-loving, tumultuous times, wild parties, dancing, drinking (illegal at the time) flappers, short dresses and new freedoms for women.
My mother excitedly talked about all the fun they had sitting in rumble seats of cool cars – and the fun parties when Prohibition was repealed.
Today, recreational drugs, dress styles, hair color, nudity and non-traditional sex preferences are actively promoted.
Meanwhile, older generations wonder if America has lost its moral compass by embracing materialism, individuality and extremism at all costs.
The stock market boomed; the rich got richer. In 1928, the top one percent of families received around 24% of all pretax income.
Today the top 1% hold around 32% of the nation’s wealth; almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%.
Banks failed. The banking system collapsed in 1931, forcing the political class to honestly fix the system.
Today, banks are failing; the system needs to be fixed again.
The government can’t pay its debts. In 1933 President Roosevelt confiscated gold and then devalued the currency. Historians say he bailed out the Federal Reserve.
Today’s government debt is over $32 trillion; plus $183 trillion in “unfunded political promises”. Your generation is left to pay the bills of your forefathers. You will be left with no choice but to default, or devalue the currency in order to survive. Your lifestyle will be affected.
Tough adult challenges are on your immediate horizon. The Greatest Generation immediately faced an economic collapse followed by a war, something they were not prepared for. Cycles remember….
Hey, wait a minute!
I thought commencement addresses are supposed to be positive and upbeat. I’m getting there.
|“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Greatest Generation survived the Great Depression, WWII and then fostered the greatest standard of living in human history. Generations that followed, enjoyed the benefits, and once again squandered the country into bankruptcy.
Some generations break it, some enjoy the ride and some fix it…a great reset!
The empire cycle and economic cycle have concurrently run their course. Perhaps the term Generation Z is more fitting than we realize.
Your generation can, and I believe will, surpass the Greatest Generation by a huge margin.
Why do I feel that way? Many scoff, saying society coddled you, everyone got a participation trophy, no one fails, led you to believe that the solution to every problem is more government, while others may point to declining test scores, lack of motivation, no moral compass, whatever….
One point some miss is Generation Z has not only learned to be different, you have also been encouraged to be different. You will DARE to be different and stand up to those who broke it – and you have the tools to fix it.
Everything today’s doubters say was said by the parents of the children born into the Greatest Generation; they were ill-prepared for going into the world they would face as adults – yet they made America, and the world a greater place.
Do two things, and the rest will follow.
Reinstate Glass-Steagall. In 1933 the Glass-Steagall Act was enacted to keep the banking system safe. It worked well until it was repealed in 1999. Reinstate Glass-Steagall and let the investment banks sink or swim on their own.
Demand congressional term limits. Empires collapse when corrupt and irresponsible rulers destroy their economies. Today’s politicos pay more attention to the special interest groups that fund them, than the people they represent.
Our Constitution provided for a government to serve the people; politics was not meant to be a career. Legislators must be accountable to the folks back home, not selling their vote to the highest bidder.
Each generation leaves footprints along the path of history. The next generation may choose to follow, or blaze a path of their own. Historically, each generation strove to make life better for the generation that followed.
Our country was founded on the principles of The Ten Commandments. While history may question some generational values, their basis was a strong moral compass, knowing RIGHT from WRONG, while correcting many of the wrongs that existed.
Many elders among you have commented the world seems upside down; murder, lying, stealing and corruption appear condoned by a government that is supposed to protect the citizens.
A great deal is written about A New World Order – it is your generation that will define and determine the outcome.
Each of you must use your own Moral Compass, what you know deep down is RIGHT and WRONG, to forge that New World Order. Your challenge is to protect all citizens from harm while allowing future generations to stand on your shoulders, offering a better life without fear of others or the government.
Doubters wonder about your toughness, will you give up, or will you be relentless? Today you’re headed to the deep end of the pool; you must sink or swim on your own!
While an angry, passive millennial complains about not grasping what was happening with little opportunity to succeed, your generation has four things going for you:
- A CLEAR SNAPSHOT of what lies ahead if you follow the current path.
- GREAT MOTIVATION to make positive changes to provide for a better life.
- ANGER which will be relentlessly channeled into action, charting your own path, not accepting a lifestyle of mediocrity.
- You have been raised to be different, and embrace it.
Like your great-great-grandparents, you will fix what your elders broke! In 50 years, the world will be thanking you.
Dare to be different.
Some doubt your generation is up to the task. Your job is to prove them wrong….
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On The Lighter Side
Our trip to Indiana was a bit frustrating. Customer service at the airlines sure has changed over the years. We had a safe trip, but a bit more stressful than it needed to be.
Grandson Braidyn came home with his cap & gown; graduation party is in the final stages of planning, family is coming together, and the milestone will be celebrated appropriately. The lessons of his youth will now be tested as he leaves home and moves toward adulthood.
Indiana weather is cooler than what we left behind in AZ. Cool at night, low 70s during the day with windows and doors open. Grass is green, green shoots are coming out of the ground pointing to the sky, and soon will be blooming. Spring brings about new life and beauty.
Quote of the Week…
“If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this:
Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and, when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me’.”
— Ann Landers
Some clever thoughts from friend Phil C.
- The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”
- I’ve reached the age where my brain goes from “You probably shouldn’t say that,” to “What the heck, let’s see what happens.”
- I spend a lot of time holding the refrigerator door open looking for answers.
- I’m realizing that for some people, the wheels on their bus don’t go round and round.
- When asked to pick your favorite child, you are supposed to pick one of your own.
- I burn about 2,000 calories every time I put on fitted sheets by myself.
And my favorite:
- If a cookie falls on the floor and I pick it up, it counts as exercise, right?
Until next time…
“Economic independence is the foundation of the only sort of freedom worth a damn.” – H. L. Mencken
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Thanks for a great column Mr. Miller – have missed your wit and insights.
Thank you for taking the time to write, I appreciate it.