Normally I speak to “adults,” but last week there were a bunch of “youth” in my audience.
I spoke with a Kiwanis club on Wednesday, and though there were certainly “adults” present, the local Key Club showed up as well, and stuck around for the whole session (which I’m told is rare). That day we had a crowd that ranged in age from 14 to 94… literally. Then, on Friday, I did two sessions for the Circle of Change Leadership Conference, designed for student leaders who are in college.
What grand enlightenment did I glean from these strange new experiences, you ask?
I learned that I am a curmudgeonly old man.
OK, that’s not exactly true. But by the end of my last talk on Friday night on The Future Of Work, I looked into the sea of eager faces, full of hope and desire and promise… and I found myself telling them the truth.
I told them the world doesn’t care about them getting to work in their strengths.
I told them most business cultures are too screwed up to absorb their great new ideas.
I told them many managers they will have will focus on the wrong things.
To be fair, I also told them that I still believe we can change the world. “But,” I said, “If we’re going to get ‘there,’ we need to get through what’s ‘here’ first.”
That’s the funny thing about changing the world — we can’t really change anything until we know how it is now.
And how it is now ain’t so great.
So at the end of my talks to these promising young leaders, I realized that if we’re going to treat ourselves to this heaping helping of reality, the most important advice I could give was:
PROTECT YOUR HOPE.
Find a way to guard it.
Find a way to keep your optimism.
Find a way to keep the fire behind your eyes.
It won’t be easy, but if you’re going to make it through the harsh reality and arrive on the far shore with enough resilience to still want to change things, it will be essential.
When I woke up this morning, I realized this isn’t just good advice for students.
I think it’s good for us all.