A Message for the Lost Generation: Start Now

Communications technology – social, mobile, hardware, software – is changing so fast, that when I was 3 years old, there were about 1000 internet devices. Now, there are well over a billion. And I’m not that old. :)

It isn’t just the tools that are changing so fast – the amount of information we’re generating has exploded. There’s more information generated in one year now than the previous five thousand years put together. In fact a week’s worth of The New York Times contains more information that someone living in the 18th century was likely to come across in their entire lifetime.

This makes formal education and ladder-climbing a tricky business. I’d go as far as to say it means everything we’ve all been taught for decades and decades – about working your way through formal education, on a linear path that goes something like: get good school grades, get to college or university, get a good degree and pop out the other end with a great graduate job, then work hard to get promoted and climb a ladder up and up… – it just isn’t true any more. Life in 2012 isn’t really like that.

There are no jobs for life like there were a generation or so ago. In fact studies predict that 18 year olds today will probably have on average as many as 14 jobs by the age of 38.

But don’t worry, because this is a wonderful thing!

Nobody has to know what they’ll be doing in 5 or 10 years time. In fact it may be completely impossible to know, because the top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.

This means, right now, chances are you are preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, to solve problems that haven’t even happened yet!

I am living proof that this is no bad thing. Most of the things I do now did not exist when I was 18. Social business consulting, for one.

School kids, graduates, middle managers, redundant execs, parents… all seem a bit freaked out. Media hyped doom, gloom and pessimism. Rising unemployment stats. Rising university fees.

Over decades everyone has been taught about the linear path; the train tracks to success; if you stay on you’re sorted if you deviate you’re screwed. The thing they don’t understand is that we have something previous generations didn’t have. We have the keys to the kingdom. We are equipped with the same tools as the big guys.

What I mean, is that you can all be publishers. You can be producers. You can be distributors. In fact you probably already are, given 150 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook every single day. More video is uploaded to YouTube every month than it took the three major US TV broadcasters 60 years to create!

You have all the tools you need at your disposal to create, publish, distribute, learn, market what you care about. In fact everyone with an internet connection now has a platform from which they can share what they care about with the rest of the world (which is really freaking out some brands).

There is a massive shift towards lifelong learning. In previous generations, once you were finished school, college or university, that was that – you went into the workplace, might have a bit more formal training, but essentially your learning phase was over, bar the odd course.

Not so now.

The people who commit to aggressively learning, informally, for the whole of their lives have a huge advantage over those who close the books after school or the training course and wait for opportunities to land in their laps.

One way to put it is that education is no longer push, it is pull. It is up to you to pull what you need out of the vast ever-expanding mountain of knowledge that exists out there, within your social networks and beyond.

We’ve generated more information in the past year than the previous 5000 put together; and that information explosion shows no signs of slowing down. How lucky are we?

We can find out almost anything. Do you know how much power that gives us? Power to achieve everything you’ve dreamed of. Power to change the world. Power to change other people’s lives and your own.

The incredible access to information that we’re privy to means we can tear down all the barriers to achieving what we want to achieve.

Say you want to work in film. It’s a popular choice, and I know quite a few people who’ve finished their education at film school and have sat back waiting for an opportunity to come to them. Some of them give up, because they can’t get a job. It’s too competitive. There are no jobs. Then I ask whether they’re making any films and they say no! Why not? They can’t access the right people and equipment. Why not join Shooting People or a whole load of other filmmaking communities so you can meet like-minds and join forces? That’s all very well, but I don’t have enough money to fund it. Well why not put up a profile on Kickstarter, or IndieGoGo or any of the other crowdfunding sites so you can get people to donate to your project? They don’t know if anyone will watch it. Why not build a following online so the community can get involved in your story way before release?

You see, we have an incredible wealth of information and tools to overcome barriers.

The long and short of it is that we all need to become gardeners. Some people might have a pretty clear idea of what they want their garden to look like in 2 or 5 years time, some might not have a clue – and that’s fine – but it’s impossible to predict exactly where every leaf and flower will be. It’s impossible to be sure which parts will die unexpectedly or thrive unexpectedly.

One thing you can be sure of, is the more seeds you plant, the more likely it is something grow. And if you plant nothing, then very little is going to happen.

Start now.

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